Author Topic: thoughts on biking for a week  (Read 5113 times)

solon

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thoughts on biking for a week
« on: September 05, 2014, 09:00:15 AM »
Based on my recent discovery of MMM and this forum, and my desire to get healthy and save money, I bought a bike and started riding it to work.

Whoo boy!

It's been a rough week. I'm 41, 6'0", 270 lbs. And I haven't biked since I was a kid. Although pleasantly surprised to find that you really don't forget how to ride a bike, I really had no idea it would be this difficult.

I think I'm shifting wrong. I can't shift while pedaling hard uphill. If I try to shift, usually nothing happens at all, and then all of a sudden the chain jumps off the gear. Do I need to stop pedaling before I can shift? I don't want to stop pedaling because I'll lose all my momentum heading into the hill.

I shift all the time. My bike has 21 speeds (3x7), so I'm constantly shifting up or down, based on the slightest change of grade. Is this normal, or should I be using my speed to shift less often?

I have a giant hill I have to climb to get to work. This hill is a real bear. I mean it is seriously steep. I walked to work a few times before trying biking, and it is extremely difficult even without a bike. I wish I had something to compare it to... it's like them hills in San Francisco - a lot of cars even have trouble getting up it. Is there any hope for me? Will the hill get easier as I lose weight and get in shape?

I had to figure out how to carry my stuff. I brought a bunch of protein bars and instant oatmeal to work, because I can't eat breakfast before leaving. Figured that one out pretty quick! I leave my laptop at home and use my work computer and TeamViewer to log into it. All I'm carrying now is a change of clothes and lunch, in a backpack.

My thighs are burning and I lost 2 pounds! Pretty much constant burn. I'm hoping that will go away. But if it does go away, won't I just pedal harder and bring back the burn? My weight has fluctuated between 272-278 for several years. But when I got on the scale yesterday, it read 270! Man, I sure would love to lose 2 pounds a week for the next year or so!

I guess that's enough thoughts for now. I'm sure I'll come up with more later. If you have any advice be sure to chime in!

gillstone

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2014, 09:45:00 AM »
Thumbs up for biking to work - it can be a hard habit to start up and I hope you continue with it.

It sounds like you have a problem with your bike's shifting being either too tight or too loose.  Get the gears tuned up at a local bike shop and ask them to walk you through how to make adjustments in the future.  If you are looking for a DIY then youtube is your friend. 

You should be pedaling while shifting since moving the chain is how you get it through the derailleurs and onto the next gear.  As for the constant shifting, once your shifters are calibrated, try getting into a good rhythm on only one or two gears when hitting a hill rather than running up and down the gears every time slope changes.
 
The hills really will get easier as you get in better shape.  Keep up the work and in a few weeks you'll be climbing it without a sweat.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2014, 10:14:18 AM by gillstone »

frugaliknowit

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2014, 09:53:27 AM »
If you are experiencing serious amounts of soreness, you might want to go two days on, one day off, or something similar for the first few weeks to give your newly looming muscles time to "repair".  Once you are in better shape, daily will be no problem.

Yes, the hills will get easier.  I'ts part power and aerobic capacity, part technique. 

acemanhattan

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2014, 09:55:44 AM »
Based on my recent discovery of MMM and this forum, and my desire to get healthy and save money, I bought a bike and started riding it to work.

Whoo boy!

It's been a rough week. I'm 41, 6'0", 270 lbs. And I haven't biked since I was a kid. Although pleasantly surprised to find that you really don't forget how to ride a bike, I really had no idea it would be this difficult.

Congratulations on making this change!  You wont regret it.

Quote
I think I'm shifting wrong. I can't shift while pedaling hard uphill. If I try to shift, usually nothing happens at all, and then all of a sudden the chain jumps off the gear. Do I need to stop pedaling before I can shift? I don't want to stop pedaling because I'll lose all my momentum heading into the hill.

It is a bit like driving a manual transmission in that there is a definite art to shifting. I do think it is worth your time to go out on some nice long (moderately flat at first) rides where your whole goal is to develop some intuition about how your speed and effort should corresponds to which range of gears you’re in and how to gradually shift across all the gears. A general rule of thumb is that you always want your chain to be, more or less, straight ; this means that while there are 21 speeds on your bicycle, you really only use, I don’t know, maybe 2/3 of them (imagine how not straight your chain would be if you were in what amounted to the easiest gear in the back and the hardest gear in the front; you could find this same resistance by picking some other combination of back and front gears (like both back and front in a moderately difficult position)).  With regards to stopping pedaling when shifting: you don’t actually stop pedaling, but you do need to ease up on your pedaling as you shift; this takes tension off of the chain and allows it to move across the gears without the stress that is causing it to jump off the gears.  The degree to which you need to ease up depends on how good of a job you did setting yourself up for the next gear (in other words, do you have to jump across all the gears because you didn’t gradually move into easier ones? Then you’ll probably need to almost stop pedaling).

In my past experience the chain would come off when I found my legs grinding to a halt on some tough hill causing me to make a drastic shift across a bunch of intermediate gears trying to find the easiest one; instead of doing that you need to be anticipating the difficulty that your legs will face and preemptively (but gradually and successively) shift to gears that allow you to maintain the pace you were keeping in a tougher gear. 

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I shift all the time. My bike has 21 speeds (3x7), so I'm constantly shifting up or down, based on the slightest change of grade. Is this normal, or should I be using my speed to shift less often?

The slope of a street can change a bunch in a short period of time, and if you don’t yet have much leg strength then each new gradient will be difficult for your legs (since they’re probably weak from not cycling in a long time) and you’ll want to shift a lot.  As your legs get stronger you’ll be able to achieve the same effect of shifting just by pedaling a little harder for 20 seconds or so; in other words, shifting your level of exertion will become something that’s easy for you to do and you’ll shift gears a great deal less.  The best thing to do is use this time where you feel the need to shift a lot to figure out how to shift artfully.

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I have a giant hill I have to climb to get to work. This hill is a real bear. I mean it is seriously steep. I walked to work a few times before trying biking, and it is extremely difficult even without a bike. I wish I had something to compare it to... it's like them hills in San Francisco - a lot of cars even have trouble getting up it. Is there any hope for me? Will the hill get easier as I lose weight and get in shape?

The hills will become a lot easier. Since we don’t know whether the stretch you’re talking about is actually a mountain or if your legs just think it is a mountain, it is hard to say if it will ever become a trivial thing to pedal up it or not.  Either way, it will become easier and you will become stronger because of it. There are techniques to climb really steep grades (think tacking in a zig zag pattern (that is as large or small as you need it to be) like in sailing).  But, in a physics sense, the lighter you are and the stronger your legs are, the faster you will go and the easier it will be come. So you can count on things getting better.

Quote
I had to figure out how to carry my stuff. I brought a bunch of protein bars and instant oatmeal to work, because I can't eat breakfast before leaving. Figured that one out pretty quick! I leave my laptop at home and use my work computer and TeamViewer to log into it. All I'm carrying now is a change of clothes and lunch, in a backpack.

If the cycling is something that sticks, you can justify purchasing some panniers which will allow you to carry quite a bit of stuff with very little increased effort.  Also, there are creative ways to add carrying capacity.  Just look up DIY panniers. As a matter of fact, look up something like "how to shift properly" on youtube, you'll def find tutorials that will help you out.

Quote
My thighs are burning and I lost 2 pounds! Pretty much constant burn. I'm hoping that will go away. But if it does go away, won't I just pedal harder and bring back the burn? My weight has fluctuated between 272-278 for several years. But when I got on the scale yesterday, it read 270! Man, I sure would love to lose 2 pounds a week for the next year or so!

I have traveled the same 10 mile round trip on my bike 5 days a week for the last two years and I can still get as intense of a burn as I did the very first trip—provided I push myself hard enough.  You can guarantee that even with no burn you’re doing your heart a huge favor, but the big hill that you have to ride up will always give you an opportunity to give your body a fat-blasting/muscle building type exercise if you want it.  Or you can just casually ride up it sipping coffee and laughing about the days you used to have to walk up it.  I imagine that if you are eating well (depending on the distance) you could easily lose two pounds a week for quite a long time.

« Last Edit: September 05, 2014, 09:57:15 AM by acemanhattan »

domustachesgrowinhouston

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2014, 09:55:57 AM »
I've recently begun biking to work as well.  I've been using my mom's bike that she has stored in my garage for forever and my kid's bike which is a fairly recent acquisition.  Mom's bike has 21 gears, kids bike is a road bike with 1 gear.  I actually like the 1 gear bike better, seems I can go faster on it with less effort than the gear bike.  Usually I use the gear bike cause the kid wants to use her bike.  I only ever switch gears on the pedal sprocket, and then only between the 2nd and 3rd gear (I guess the 14th and 21st gear?).  That seems to work much better for me.  Edit: I live in a flat city, that's probably why.

I've found that when I'm crossing a busy street, I tend to get excited and pedal really hard, usually from a standstill.  I hurt my back the first day out.  I try to stay calmer now.  Watch out for that, especially if you haven't exercised your back in a while.

It's been a bit scary, but a lot of fun.  Good luck!  The security guards where I work have been really supportive, coming out to greet and encourage me and even occasionally cheer; I feel like a bit of a celebrity sometimes!
« Last Edit: September 05, 2014, 09:58:41 AM by domustachesgrowinhouston »

solon

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2014, 10:49:41 AM »
Thanks for all the encouragement guys! Checking out youtube for shifting and panniers now...

solon

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2014, 10:53:36 AM »
If you are experiencing serious amounts of soreness, you might want to go two days on, one day off, or something similar for the first few weeks to give your newly looming muscles time to "repair".  Once you are in better shape, daily will be no problem.

Yes, the hills will get easier.  I'ts part power and aerobic capacity, part technique.

Yeah, this is happening naturally. I have to drive to work one day a week for scheduling reasons at home. I'm taking Sundays off, and on Saturdays I'm taking some more leisurely rides that don't lead to my office.

Grimey

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2014, 11:19:06 AM »
I'm a bigger (250#) guy and I've been riding all my life... so this shifting thing is intuitive to me.  My girlfriend, however, just started riding lthis year. She has had the same (steep) learning curve. 

I have always used power over cadence for pedaling... 

What helped my girlfriend learn was riding a few hills with me and watching when I shifted.

She said I shifted WAY earlier (before slowing) than she had been (after slowing).  I also would take a temporary momentum loss to be 'light on the pedals' while shifting.  In this way, you shift into a higher cadence before you lose all momentum and put too much pressure on the chain to shift efficiently.  It takes a little practice to feel natural (versus how you drive a car), but the more you ride, the easier it becomes.

It will take some time, but you'll find yourself chewing up the hills and moving faster over-all the more you bike.

Also, make sure you get properly fitted with the seat and geometry for your body.  Subtle changes make a huge difference... My GF can attest to that... but that is a story for another day.

Keep at it.  You've got this.

-Grimey

jda1984

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2014, 11:30:44 AM »
I had sore lower quads (right above the knee) when I first started biking regularly.  It turned out my seat was too low.

domustachesgrowinhouston

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2014, 11:33:31 AM »

Also, make sure you get properly fitted with the seat and geometry for your body.  Subtle changes make a huge difference... My GF can attest to that... but that is a story for another day.

Keep at it.  You've got this.

-Grimey

REI had a video on adjustment.  That made a BIG difference for me.

http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-fit.html

MayDay

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2014, 12:37:14 PM »
Our neighborhood has an evil giant hill. I can't come close to riding up it. I just ride as far as I can, then walk the rest. I do have a much longer option to loop around the hill, which I sometimes take.  They take exactly the same time, since the hill is so slow.

I miss the Midwestern town I grew up in. Everything for miles was flat as a pancake.  Great for biking.

johnny847

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2014, 03:13:23 PM »
She said I shifted WAY earlier (before slowing) than she had been (after slowing). I also would take a temporary momentum loss to be 'light on the pedals' while shifting.  In this way, you shift into a higher cadence before you lose all momentum and put too much pressure on the chain to shift efficiently.  It takes a little practice to feel natural (versus how you drive a car), but the more you ride, the easier it becomes.

+1.
When I started learning how to shift properly, I got this wrong and would pop the chain off on occasion. As Grimey mentioned, you want to shift down before, not during an impending loss of speed.

Something that can help with the chain popping issue is a chain catcher: http://www.cellbikes.com.au/cb-images/19825_Gunmetal-01.jpg. Basically it's a piece of metal that will help keep the chain from popping out. My dad installed this on the bike he gave me, and it definitely helped when I was starting out and not shifting all that well. I think now I'd be okay without it, but it does give me some peace of mind.

And finally, you could buy clipless pedals and cycling shoes. I'd probably hold off on this until you think you will cycle regularly, but with clipless pedals and cycling shoes, you can clip your feet into the pedals (it's weird to call them clipless, I know. There's a reason for it I won't get into right now). This means that you will also use a different set of muscles to actually pull your pedals upward! I just ordered them and they haven't arrived yet, so I can't attest to their effectiveness first hand, but I've had friends tell me it can be a 10-20% boost in efficiency.
Traditionally, cycling shoes are awkward to walk in because they have the clip mechanism on the bottom. However, there is a growing category of shoes that get around this problem (I'm expecting mine to come in soon, so I'm not quite sure how they're accomplishing this, I couldn't quite tell from the pictures. But, reviewers say they're plenty comfortable for the office, walking, etc.)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004UMF6K8/

Jessa

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2014, 02:45:07 PM »
I just started riding my bike to work in July! I have three "big" hills on my way to work, they were brutal at first, I ended up walking my bike up them most of the first week. I still struggle with them, but it does get easier. I learned that its better to start downshifting before I think I need to, it helps a lot with both getting up the hill and making shifting easier. As I get stronger, I find I dont need to shift as often through the flatter sections, and I go faster because I stay in a higher gear.

Yonco

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2014, 03:10:55 PM »
Simple thing to remember.   Always pedal while shifting.   Never shift while pedaling "under load."   Ex.1   Speed up, then coast and pedal slowly and shift.    Ex.2  Shift before you start the hill.

2ndTimer

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Re: thoughts on biking for a week
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2014, 12:03:15 PM »
Sierra Trading Post is offering some nice panniers for the end of summer sale.  I am looking hard at their waterproof ones since I live in the Pacific Northwest.