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The spirit is willing, but the legs are weak - WorkCycles Oma

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The spirit is willing, but the legs are weak - WorkCycles Oma

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Old 08-10-11, 04:48 PM
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JaclynMcKewan
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The spirit is willing, but the legs are weak - WorkCycles Oma

Sorry this is so long...

For a couple of years I have been riding a cruiser, as I like a comfortable ride, slow pace, and upright posture. During spring/summer/fall I had been riding it to work 2-3 times a week. Last year I started looking into getting a bike that would be more of a dedicated commuter, and fell in love with "Dutch Bikes," specifically the WorkCycles Oma. Sure, I could have just put fender/rack/basket/lights/etc on my cruiser, but I liked the idea of having a really sturdy, high-quality bike. I sometimes do errands on bicycle and felt that its heavy front rack would be more suitable for grocery shopping, etc. Also I am looking into possibly going car-free at some point, and had heard that this bike worked well in snowy environments, with the addition of studded tires.

No shop near me (Buffalo) sells this bike, and I wanted to try it before I bought it, since I had read some reviews by people who thought it was too heavy. Last month (a year after first hearing about the Oma) I was in Portland, so I found a shop that carries the Oma. I gave it a test ride (around the block a few times) and didn't think the weight was a problem, so I bought it. I had tried some lighter bikes for comparison (like Gazelle and Retrovelo) but didn't care for the fact that they weren't quite as upright.

After it was delivered to my house, I decided to start riding it to work (3 miles each way) just 3 days a week, Mon/Wed/Fri, just to let my leg muscles adjust to the weight. There are 2 moderate hills on my commute but I didn't think they'd be a problem.

The first week, I did Mon/Wed/Fri. So far, so good. I should also mention that I do weight training at the gym, also Mon/Wed/Fri, and have been doing that for about 2 years. My thighs have always been weak. I don't know what it is - maybe it's from years of having been a lazy teenager, but I have never been able to build up much strength in them. It's not unusual for me to overdo the squats or whatever, and then barely be able to walk the next day. Whereas with my arms, they are sometimes a little sore the next day, but nothing major, and I can easily see that they are stronger than they used to be.

So on the Monday starting my second week with the Oma, I was at the gym (at work) starting a new phase in my workout book. After doing some squats while holding a barbell, I tried to get up afterwards and my legs almost buckled under me. As I've mentioned, this actually isn't unusual - not that this happens every time, but usually at least once every few weeks, when I am starting a new stage, I may overestimate my abilities and use too much weight.

I didn't think much of it, but my legs were sore that day and the next. I rode my bike to work on Wednesday, and skipped my leg workouts at the gym. Friday I rode, and tried a few squats, but my legs started really burning and feeling weak again, so I stopped. I was sore all weekend, and I thought "I must have really overdone it on Monday."

By the next Monday morning I was feeling pretty good, but after riding to work, my legs felt all wobbly and weak. That's when it finally occurred to me (yeah, I'm a bit slow) that it was probably the bike ride causing the problems. Maybe those 2 moderate hills were working me harder than I thought.

I considered skipping the Wednesday ride to rest some more, but as I had a day off on Thursday (tomorrow) and wouldn't be going to work then, I didn't want to go too long between rides and risk losing whatever muscle I may have already built. So I rode today. I removed the front rack and switched to panniers to try and save some weight. I rode in a lower gear than usual, and on the hills I rode in gear 1 or 2. I went even slower than I normally go. After I arrived, I felt okay. Still a bit wobbly, but not as bad as before.

Then I rode home. After I got home, I could barely feel my legs. After getting up from the dinner table, one of my legs almost buckled under me.

I don't know what to do. I haven't done any leg exercises at the gym since Friday. I'm still only riding the bike every other day. Today even losing the rack and lowering the gears didn't help. Have I just made a very expensive mistake?

I knew the weight was an issue for some, but figured that it was only a problem if you like to go fast, which I don't. I was swayed by the blog "Let's Go Ride a Bike," where one of the bloggers rides an Oma and raves about it. And in the Copenhagenize/Amsterdamize blogs, they talk about how Dutch people ride these bikes all the time, often with heavy cargo and/or kids on the back rack. I thought, if they can do it, I can. But I guess I hadn't considered that my thighs are possibly beyond help and they just cannot take this weight, unlike most people with normal legs.

So, does anyone have any thoughts? Should I expect things to get better eventually and keep up with the Mon/Wed/Fri rides? Or should I try to sell the bike and get something lighter? (And if you have suggestions for a Dutch-style bike with fenders/internal hub/chain case/dynamo lights/etc. I'd be interested.)

I just feel like such an idiot. I've been gushing about this bike to my family and friends, posting pictures of it on Facebook, even starting a blog. Ugh. Maybe I was so caught up in the idea of having a really nice bike that I didn't fully consider the possible issues.
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Old 08-10-11, 05:00 PM
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Have you consulted a fitness trainer at your gym? It might be that you're just not giving yourself enough recovery time between workouts, considering that your commute is also a workout.
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Old 08-10-11, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Dan Burkhart View Post
Have you consulted a fitness trainer at your gym? It might be that you're just not giving yourself enough recovery time between workouts, considering that your commute is also a workout.
Thanks, unfortunately the gym is at my office and there aren't any trainers, just machines and free weights. I guess the recovery time is possibly an issue, but if I haven't done any leg exercises in the last 5 days, I had figured that would be enough of a recovery. Unless, because I've been continuing to ride, I've still never fully recovered from the last time I did squats.
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Old 08-10-11, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by JaclynMcKewan View Post
Thanks, unfortunately the gym is at my office and there aren't any trainers, just machines and free weights. I guess the recovery time is possibly an issue, but if I haven't done any leg exercises in the last 5 days, I had figured that would be enough of a recovery. Unless, because I've been continuing to ride, I've still never fully recovered from the last time I did squats.
Try changing up your routine. If the gym has a seated leg press machine, try alternating between that and squats. Targeting specific muscle groups in your workouts should rotate such that each group only gets one heavy workout per week. At least in the opinion of this non expert.
I like a workout that leaves me weak, cause it means I've done what I set out to do, but I expect to be stronger the next time I tackle it.
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Old 08-10-11, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Dan Burkhart View Post
Try changing up your routine. If the gym has a seated leg press machine, try alternating between that and squats. Targeting specific muscle groups in your workouts should rotate such that each group only gets one heavy workout per week. At least in the opinion of this non expert.
I like a workout that leaves me weak, cause it means I've done what I set out to do, but I expect to be stronger the next time I tackle it.
True, but I guess I was hoping not to feel weak each time I rode my bike. If I were trying to be the next Lance Armstrong, and pushing myself to go really fast, I could see feeling sore (and wanting to feel sore because I would have been using the bike as a workout). But bicycling used to be something I enjoyed, and that was the only reason I did it. There was an occasion on Saturday when I had an errand to do, and my husband was surprised to see that I wasn't bicycling there. It was because I was still sore and just the thought of riding made me hurt - I don't want to end up in a situation where each ride leaves me dreading the next one, and then I end up just driving everywhere instead. As for the squats, yes, you're right about that - I do rotate workouts actually. I was referring to squats because that's the exercise I did when I first noticed the problem, but I'm actually doing a book ("The New Rules of Lifting for Women") that has a pretty varied workout.
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Old 08-10-11, 05:36 PM
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Maybe some more info might help.... some of these are a bit direct.

Does your Oma have gears? The one I see has a nexus 8 spd. If it does, do you know how to use them?...meaning do you know how to shift and that you are better off pedaling faster and not pushing hard (lower gear) than pedaling slow and pushing hard. Also if you have gears are you shifting down to a lower gear as you go up hill before it gets hard?

What do you mean by moderate? any idea how tall or long they are?

What is your overall fitness level? It kind of sounds like you are pretty focused on working to get into shape.

It is very possible that your are over doing things. One suggestion would be to just do the bike for 2 to 4 weeks and forget about other legs exercises (although squats get a lot of muscles that just biking doesnt) in order to build up both your leg strength and a bit more of an aerobic base......
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Old 08-10-11, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
Does your Oma have gears? The one I see has a nexus 8 spd. If it does, do you know how to use them?...meaning do you know how to shift and that you are better off pedaling faster and not pushing hard (lower gear) than pedaling slow and pushing hard. Also if you have gears are you shifting down to a lower gear as you go up hill before it gets hard?
Yes, I have the 8-speed one. I admit that the first several times I rode, I may have been using too high of a gear, possibly because I was trying to prove to myself that I was strong and could handle a heavy bike. Today was the first day I made a point of using low gears for most of the ride (3-4 for most of it, and using 1-2 for the hills). Maybe I'm just expecting things to happen too quickly, but I felt very discouraged after I got home today, after using low gears the whole time, and feeling more sore than I did this morning.

What do you mean by moderate? any idea how tall or long they are?
To be honest, I'm not really sure. I just tried looking at the "terrain" view on Google Maps, and they don't look any different from the surrounding area, so I guess they're not too high. But I can definitely get to a fast coast when going down them. But I've never felt the need, for example, to get off my bike and walk them instead (although I did with one of them this morning, just as a precaution).

What is your overall fitness level? It kind of sounds like you are pretty focused on working to get into shape.
I would say that aside from my perpetually weak thighs, I am in very good shape. I am 5'6, 120-125 pounds, and I eat pretty healthfully. At the gym, I am able to work my arms pretty hard, to the point where I've actually got compliments on my muscle tone. I do push-ups on my toes (rather than knees), and I recently felt pretty good when I was finally able to do a chin-up.

It is very possible that your are over doing things. One suggestion would be to just do the bike for 2 to 4 weeks and forget about other legs exercises (although squats get a lot of muscles that just biking doesnt) in order to build up both your leg strength and a bit more of an aerobic base......
Yeah, I'm thinking maybe I'll hold off on the gym entirely for the next week or so, and hold off on cycling for a few days, and then try to take it a bit easier.
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Old 08-10-11, 06:20 PM
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Ok, here is my opinion....keep up your twice a day, 3 mile each way with moderate hill commutes. Focus on not pushing hard on the pedals and pedaling at a faster pace. if you have a hard hill do it in the lowest gear, if you have been doing the flat parts in 3-4 use 3. Don't be superwoman....the leg stength and speed will come faster than you think. Then you will start thinking about longer rides on the weekend

Also make sure you have your seat adjusted correctly. with the ball of your foot on your pedal you should have a very slight (few degrees) bend in you knee (another quick check is to place your heal on the pedal and lock your knew to get about in the right place. This may mean that you can't put your foot on the ground when you are in your seat. but if your seat post is too low you will work your legs way to hard in a not good way
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Old 08-10-11, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
Ok, here is my opinion....keep up your twice a day, 3 mile each way with moderate hill commutes. Focus on not pushing hard on the pedals and pedaling at a faster pace. if you have a hard hill do it in the lowest gear, if you have been doing the flat parts in 3-4 use 3. Don't be superwoman....the leg stength and speed will come faster than you think. Then you will start thinking about longer rides on the weekend

Also make sure you have your seat adjusted correctly. with the ball of your foot on your pedal you should have a very slight (few degrees) bend in you knee (another quick check is to place your heal on the pedal and lock your knew to get about in the right place. This may mean that you can't put your foot on the ground when you are in your seat. but if your seat post is too low you will work your legs way to hard in a not good way
Yup. Lots of good advice here.
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Old 08-10-11, 08:46 PM
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Jaclyn,

How about you keep riding to work three days a week, but only do core and upper body exercises at the gym? I'm not a trainer, but I've found from personal experience that riding a bike strengthens the legs really well. That's even more true if you're doing cardio work involving your legs (elliptical? running?).

Once you are stronger, then go back to leg work. Oh, and yeah, run lower gears and spin faster. It'll hurt less.
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Old 08-10-11, 08:48 PM
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I agree with squitdad that you need to make sure the bike is set up for you to pedal efficiently and use the mechanics of your legs properly. It may be a sit-up, leisure type of bike, but you still need the right seat to pedal distance for good(fun) riding.

Also, do away with the squats with free weights. Your knees will thank you when you are old. Getting into that kind of weight lifting without a good trainer present is asking for trouble.

In fact, you said that you had just started a new phase of training that included these squats and that you tend to over do squats and it hurts to walk the next day!. I would guess that you strained some muscles doing squats and they have been trying to recover ever since, but you don't let them. "It's not unusual for me to overdo the squats or whatever, and then barely be able to walk the next day" That statement leads me to believe you really need supervised weight training. You are hurting yourself and you can do long term damage.
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Old 08-11-11, 03:02 AM
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My "little" commuter bike weighs in at a touch under 48 lbs and has only 3 speeds. My previous commuter weighed only 22 lbs. It took some time for my legs to adjust. Now I am doing well. in fact, when I get on a light weight road bike I feel like I am riding a kids toy and end up manhandling the thing. I would say as others have pointed out you need more recovery time.
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Old 08-11-11, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by JaclynMcKewan View Post
Maybe I'm just expecting things to happen too quickly, but I felt very discouraged after I got home today, after using low gears the whole time, and feeling more sore than I did this morning.
This may be the case. I know that when I moved from a flat, 1-2 mile commute to a 7 mile commute with hills, I was dismayed to learn that I really wasn't in good shape at all. Two hills in particular were a challenge to get up, and one wasn't very big. I just pedaled up them as far as I felt like, and then I walked. If I was feeling stubborn, I could make it up those hills, but I would be beat at the top, so I just hopped off the bike most days as soon as I hit a certain level of effort that I knew was going to leave me exhausted if I kept it up. One day I found that not only had I biked to the top of my small hill, I was unable to remember the last time I had walked up it. Then I noticed that I was making it up the tall hill more often then not. I haven't walked up either hill in longer then I can remember. But it happened so slowly that I didn't even notice, so it may be that you just need to stick with it and focus on enjoying the ride. If you focus on progress that seems to slow, it can be discouraging, but if you find a way to enjoy your rides regardless of your fitness, you will keep at it and the leg strength will come.

Other things to look into are bike fit, your saddle, and maybe even your gearing. A bad fit can make the ride a lot more work than it has to be. I've found that a bad saddle can make it feel like my circulation is compromised, which means I'm effectively starving my legs while trying to get more out of them. And lowering the gearing to the lowest possible option (and I mean changing out the physical cog/chainring if it's not already at the lowest possible set-up, not just downshifting) will make certain you have every option to pedal up the hills if that's what you want. When you find that the lowest gears are being neglected, you can switch to a higher geared set-up.

And if you really feel like you may be physically unable to gain leg strength, it might be worth consulting a doctor, physical therapist, and/or trainer. I suspect that if this is an area that you've traditionally neglected, then it's more a matter of time and perseverance then ability, but if you suspect otherwise, you should examine those options because a professional will likely have advice for addressing or working around any physical issues.

But I wouldn't worry about the weight. A lighter bike would be easier, sure, but you will acclimate to the heavier bike and be stronger for it. Here on the utility forum and in touring, you will routinely find people pedaling up hills on bikes that are heavier than yours once they've been loaded up. The important thing is that you like your bike enough to want to ride it. I have an old, heavy, upright, 3 speed bike that I picked cheap on Craigslist that used to get out a lot more then my shiny, new, aluminum hybrid. It was just more fun to ride, and if you can keep the fun parts outweighing the work parts, you can't help but become a stronger rider.
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Old 08-11-11, 07:11 PM
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tips

hi jaclyn - i'm from clever cycles.

i think the weight thing is overrated. it's not irrelevant, but not nearly as significant as widely supposed. after you take your weight and any cargo into account, the energy requirement difference between a light and a heavy bike (let's say a 25lb difference) is almost negligible cruising on level ground, and still pretty small in acceleration and climbing contexts. the steeper, the worse, but on common grades the difference is often less than 1mph. there are calculators for this kind of thing if you're skeptical (e.g., http://bikecalculator.com/).

that said, your oma (i ride one too, living on a volcano) isn't a great climber because it's so darn upright. while this is what makes it so comfortable at lower riding intensities, the lack of an appreciable forward bend between torso and legs prevents you from using your largest muscle groups most effectively: the glutes. climbing, you want to be able to "put your back(side)" into it, and to do this you want a bit of a forward lean. on my oma, when trying to keep up with somebody uphill on a sportier bike, i lean way forward, resting my elbows on the grips and grasping the bars near the stem. think "amish triathlete." you will actually see triathlete bars on omafietsen in holland, useful in headwinds not just for aerodynamics, but to let people use their glutes. i tried to get into this "torso angle" thing here: http://clevercycles.com/2007/06/26/dutchness/

squirtdad is right when he emphasizes the importance of enough saddle height. especially if you feel like your quadriceps are burning out before other muscles or you're winded: sounds like saddle is too low. if in doubt, set it so it feels *definitely* too tall by about an inch, but ride it anyway until you can't stand it, and then lower it only in 0.25" increments until you can get used to it. moving it up will also move it back, helping with the torso angle thing. contrary to common notion, these bikes have rather high bottom brackets, so don't count on especially easy access to the ground when the saddle is at full height: it takes a ballet dancer's toe for me to balance at stops.

and part of it is just conditioning, built over time. these bikes don't reward furious effort. they reward judicious leisurely momentum management, slowly, with strength and stamina.
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Old 08-11-11, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by tfahrner View Post
.think "amish triathlete
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Old 08-11-11, 07:41 PM
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Thanks everyone for the comments. Sorry for coming across as whiny in the beginning. I was just feeling very discouraged at the idea that my "dream bike" may not be all that I had expected. After reading everyone's comments, I'm feeling a bit better about my chances of getting stronger over time. I was starting to think that maybe I should have looked at a Secret Service instead, but now I'm thinking that it might not have made much difference, as it doesn't seem that the weight is significantly less anyway.

I will check my saddle and see if it's possible to ride with it higher. I'll also cut back at the gym, and continue riding at a very low gear. Hopefully if I take things more slowly, I should be able to work up more strength. My goal is to eventually be riding to work every day, as well as using it for all local errands.
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Old 08-11-11, 08:19 PM
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Another thought...The Oma may be using a slightly different set of muscles than your cruiser, so you are kind of starting all over on that set of muscles. I know years ago when I was doing extensive training rides and then decided to run or walk longer distances it really put a hurt on me due to having to use a different set of muscles as well as using the regular muscles in a different manner.

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Old 08-12-11, 06:55 PM
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Listen to Todd.

This is not intended to be mean but you are not in nearly as good a shape as you think you are. Ride more, sit on the bit properly, do it day in day out.

A year from now all will be clear.
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Old 08-21-11, 12:07 AM
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I think there's a lot of great advice here. Though I'm no expert, I've always found stretching helps my legs (I've always had knee problems), especially when I'm biking a lot, so I do yoga. Don't know if it would help you but it might be something to consider.
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Old 08-29-11, 06:37 AM
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Thanks to everyone for the comments. I'm not really sure what to think right now. I stopped riding and working out at the gym for the last 2 weeks. My legs were still in pain for a long time, so I decided to go to a doctor (specializing in sports medicine) to ensure that I hadn't injured something. He took an x-ray of my knees, watched me take a few steps and some other movements, and at one point he did say that I had "weak legs." But he couldn't see evidence of any other problems, just muscle soreness. He said that raising my bike seat sounded like a good idea, an that when my legs felt better, I should try riding for a mile to see how it felt. And if my legs felt okay, to try riding to work again.

So yesterday, over 2 weeks since I had stopped all exercise, I thought they finally felt better. I had to get something from the grocery store 1 mile away, so I raised the seat on the Oma and rode there. There are no hills on this route, and I rode slowly and at a low gear. I shopped around the store for about 30 minutes, then rode home. And again, my legs felt sore and wobbly, and continued feeling sore for the rest of the evening.

I'm sure I come across like a big wimp. But believe me, I had been riding my 36-pound cruiser to work 2-3 days a week (except winter) for 3 years, without any problems. And as a gym rat, I am fine with muscle soreness after a workout. But I'm not fine with being sore every time I ride a mile, or having 2 weeks of soreness from riding for just a few days. I've already lost 2 weeks of riding, and if the only way I can get used to the Oma is to ride it once every 2 weeks, and then not ride the rest of the time, then that's an effort I don't think I'm willing to make.

It breaks my heart because I wanted this bike so badly, and I have not yet seen any bike that has all those features yet lighter in weight: dynamo lights, fenders, mudflaps, internal hub gear, full chain case, upright positioning, front & rear rack. It has everything I want except for being painful to ride.

In a fit of anger last week (because my legs were taking so long to recover) I put the Oma up on eBay (the listing is in the For Sale forum) although I doubt it will sell this time of year. My plan now is to put fenders & lights on my cruiser to make it more suitable for riding in the rain, and then just ride it MWF, working my way up to every day eventually. At that point, I may do a day with the Oma once a week and see if it's possible to work my way up to doing more. I'm just getting very antsy at not being able to ride to work, so I think this is the best solution for now. Hopefully by spring, if the Oma still hasn't worked out, I will be able to sell it (even at a loss). Then I'll decide if my cruiser is working okay as my commuter bike or if I want to get something else.
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Old 08-29-11, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by JaclynMcKewan View Post
It breaks my heart because I wanted this bike so badly, and I have not yet seen any bike that has all those features yet lighter in weight: dynamo lights, fenders, mudflaps, internal hub gear, full chain case, upright positioning, front & rear rack. It has everything I want except for being painful to ride.
The Breezer Uptown looks pretty close: http://www.breezerbikes.com/index.ph...es/66-uptown-8
They make some other models, too.

My plan now is to put fenders & lights on my cruiser to make it more suitable for riding in the rain, and then just ride it MWF, working my way up to every day eventually. At that point, I may do a day with the Oma once a week and see if it's possible to work my way up to doing more. I'm just getting very antsy at not being able to ride to work, so I think this is the best solution for now. Hopefully by spring, if the Oma still hasn't worked out, I will be able to sell it (even at a loss). Then I'll decide if my cruiser is working okay as my commuter bike or if I want to get something else.
Sounds like a good plan. Sorry the Oma didn't work for you.
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Old 09-05-11, 11:07 AM
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Have you talked to a neurologist?

Assuming that are working out with an appropriate regime, I am not sure that your legs should ever "buckle" while doing squats. That sounds like a good way to damage your knees or you back.

I am not a doctor - I only suggest this because I encountered some unexpected weakness in my foot, and it turned out to me a very minor and easily correctable neurological issue.

About two months ago, I started experiencing weakness lifting the front of my left foot - I couldn't raise my big toe on that foot. I had no symptoms or other pain, just an unexplained weakness. It was weird, and sort of scary.

The cause turned out to be laughably simple. I have lost over 85 pounds in the last year (diet and yoga), and had gotten more comfortable sitting with my legs crossed. It turned out that when I crossed my left leg over my right, I was compressing some nerve that ran under my left knee. Compressing that nerve was doing some nerve damage, and that's why I couldn't raise my left foot.

The solution was to stop crossing my legs when I sat. When I stopped doing that, my symptoms cleared up.

As a person completely unencumbered by any actual medical knowledge, it seems like your symptoms sound more like nerve compression issues than actual muscle weakness to me. Given that you have been working out for a couple of years at the gym, I am skeptical that the root cause is muscle weakness.

I wonder if you are sitting differently on the new bike and/or doing something different at the gym, and compressing some nerve?
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Old 09-28-11, 12:58 AM
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I know I'm sort of digging up an older thread- but I'm curious about OP's diet. Especially considering gym workouts are in the mix, are you getting enough protein? I'm not a nutritionist or anything, but I did find when I started running long distances that I had really crank up the amount of protein I was taking in or I would be sore and miserable.
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Old 09-28-11, 10:19 AM
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As you know the problem isn't the Oma.........it's you.

At this point it would be smarter to find out why your legs are so weak rather that fuss about the bike.

I, too, have leg issues that I now know are due to poor circulation caused by hereditary issues. I ride my heavy Cruiser when I can and my trike when I must as long as I can ride.
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Old 09-28-11, 04:36 PM
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The problem is not you, it's that boat anchor of a bicycle. Get a real bike. You're not Dutch and it's not 1950. Why torture yourself?
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