Author Topic: Help me become a bike rider!  (Read 472 times)

Lichen

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Help me become a bike rider!
« on: July 26, 2019, 06:49:27 PM »
I can (probably) ride a bike, but I don't. Back story time!

My dad was a bubble wrap sorta dad, and refused to take the training wheels off my bike until I was 8. Then, instead of taking them off, he just lifted them a bit off the ground so the bike became a wobbly wheeled nightmare. I learned to ride an actual two wheel bike at a friend's house, then promptly had an accident because I didn't understand braking and was banned from bikes until age 13 when I got a crappy 3 speed. I rode it a bit, then went back to my skateboard because I was more proficient at it. I tried biking again about 12 years ago as an adult, but it was terrifying because I wasn't in a bike friendly city at all.

Now I am in an extremely bike friendly city, and bike commuting to my university makes much more sense then driving. Plus it works better into my values to use a bike more than my car for other daily errands. Currently I'm walking as much as possible, but come fall when I'm loaded down with books, computer, etc it will be a pain in the arse. I want to get a bike, probably with electrical assist since my biking muscles aren't in the best of shape and there are some minor asthma concerns. Plus, I'm in a coastal town, uphill one direction and I live on a steep 6% grade hill.

Where do I start? I know I need to visit a bike shop, but I like to research things to death first. Especially things I have zero knowledge about so I know what questions I need to ask. Tips to get over the childhood fear of being on a bike? This is a big one. I'm not scared of many things, but this makes my heart race a little. Best techniques/types of places to practice and gain confidence? Best affordable bikes for beginners, particularly beginners that may not stick it out and can't afford to throw money away? E-assist tips -- can someone with only basic tool skills install one of these on their own? How to avoid helmet hair (joking, kind of)?

I am a vessel, fill me with knowledge, oh ye wonderful bike gurus!

nereo

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Re: Help me become a bike rider!
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2019, 09:37:50 PM »
Quote
Where do I start? I know I need to visit a bike shop, but I like to research things to death first. Especially things I have zero knowledge about so I know what questions I need to ask. Tips to get over the childhood fear of being on a bike? This is a big one. I'm not scared of many things, but this makes my heart race a little. Best techniques/types of places to practice and gain confidence? Best affordable bikes for beginners, particularly beginners that may not stick it out and can't afford to throw money away? E-assist tips -- can someone with only basic tool skills install one of these on their own? How to avoid helmet hair (joking, kind of)?

Where to gain confidence:
Find a place near you that has dedicated bike paths and go for a few rides on the weekend when you can just enjoy being on the bike and not worry about being late or how fast you go.  Such paths often exist around parks or water. Chances are if you google "your city + fun bike paths" someone will have made a website.  Note: bike paths are not the same thing as bike lanes.  A bike path does not have cars next to it.

E-bikes: 
Honestly I'd skip them if this is your first bike in a long time, and just concentrate on learning skills.  Don't worry about not having a lot of 'bike muscles' - you don't need a lot of specialized muscles to commute to work in a bike-friendly city, and you'll develop those just by biking. e-bikes will add cost & weight & complexity - IMO better just to spend the extra money an e-bike costs on a nicer bike.

Best bike to get:
Here a reputable, independent dedicated bike shop is going to be your friend. Find out what fits you, and start from there. People who work at these stores genuinely love bikes and will go out of their way to fit you to an appropriate bike. If I had to guess I'd put you on a bike with flat-bars and a relaxed geometry, with medium-wide slick tires (less effort) and no suspension (not needed on city surface streets). But the only way to know for sure is to try out a bunch of bikes with someone who knows about bikes.
I would AVOID big-box stores and those cheap bicycle-shaped-objects (BSOs) sold in many chain stores.  They can give you more sorrow than joy over the long run.

Other tips:
Commuting on a bike is mostly just about committing to do it.  Give yourself ample time and go slow on your first few rides. Ideally, do a 'practice run' on the weekend so you know where you are going and you can judge how long it will take to get to work on a real workday. Get a set of panniers that can hold your bag(s) so you don't get a sweaty back. If you can, bring a set of clothes that you can change into at work.  Wear a helmet, and get a light for your bike (they are cheap and the BEST way of being seen from dusk until dawn)

Finally, there's a cycling for newbies thread here with tons of info.  Read up on that for loads of first-hand tips from other people in your shoes.
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/start-biking-to-work-cycling-newbies-chat/
G'luck!

dodojojo

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Re: Help me become a bike rider!
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2019, 12:37:42 AM »
Biking is so much fun, I'm really grateful I can do it.  I still remember learning how to ride as an older kid (9ish).  I went on vacation and didn't ride for a couple of weeks after I returned.  Tonight was the first time I got back on my bike (1 of 3) and even though it was just a short jaunt to my friend's place, I really appreciate being able to get there faster than walking.  I really enjoy walking too, but it's just so great to have the option to get somewhere faster.

I bought my first adult bike back in 2002 for $500 and I was stressed over such a big purchase.  And honestly, it wasn't a great bike for me--had to do a lot of adjustments.  I was frustrated and had buyer's remorse.  Well, I still ride that bike and $500 over 17 years doesn't seem all that egregious now.  It's a Trek btw, and though it seems like every other bike out there is a Trek, they are solid bikes.  Sure they may not  have the cool hipster factor but they do the job.

Long story short, worth it to go to an actual bike store or dealer and buy something a step or two up from the big department store.  Some may advocate buying used, but back in 2002, as a newbie, it would have slightly intimidating to research and buy used.  After riding a the Trek for a couple of years and getting into the sport/hobby, I have since bought used off Craigslist and Ebay.

dodojojo

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Re: Help me become a bike rider!
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2019, 12:44:21 AM »
A bike or multi-use path is great place to practice.  Especially one where you have little to no contact with cars.  The MUP nearby can get crazy busy with bikers, walkers, joggers, etc on the weekends.  If that's true for your area too, recommend going really early or during a time when it's quiet and tranquil and you have room to practice, wobble a bit, etc.

Before I do a work commute for real, I practice ride it on a weekend and do some reconnaissance work.