Author Topic: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today  (Read 5351 times)

katieboo

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Bought a new bike yesterday, tried to ride part of the route to my work on a four lane road. I'm about 12.5 miles away. Got buzzed twice, but I stayed in my lane. Then disaster struck, my chain came off and got wrapped around, tangled up and stuck. This happened right in the middle of an intersection, which is probably why I tangled it up so badly, I panicked trying to get out of the intersection.

My SO had to come and bail me out and take me home. He's an engineer and good with mechanical things, and after dropping several F bombs, removing several parts and putting them back together he fixed it.

He was astounded how I managed to mess up the chain that badly, he'd never seen anything like it. And sarcastically, he told me, well, Katieboo, when you do something, you really do it right.

I've never had anything like that happen before either. Many years ago when I was in my twenties I would bike to work every day, did that for several years. Never had anything like that happen, but I was on a simple 3 speed. 

No badassity yet, but I'm thinking about trying the bike and ride thing with the city link bus to downtown. We'll see how that goes. 


Rollin

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2013, 05:17:03 PM »
Getting buzzed (by cars/trucks that is) is no fun, but after some time riding you may feel that it really is not as bad as you think.  When I have been off for a while I feel like every car going by is too close.

Have the gears adjusted on the new bike.  You (it) shouldn't be throwing the chain.  If it does that again stop peddling immediately (if you can in a safe place).  If it comes off the front and you have a front derailler you can sometimes shift up to the bigger chain ring and put it back on by pedaling gently - without even stopping!

If it's in the back and you stop pedaling immediately it should help to keep the chain from really getting crammed in there.

As to the ride - AWESOME.  That is a long distance for a beginner's commute so be patient with yourself, but persistent.

Great on you!
« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 07:58:20 PM by Rollin »

katieboo

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2013, 07:33:53 PM »
Thanks for the advice and support. I only rode a small part of the route, as planned. I won't be ready to go the full distance for quite some time, I think. I don't want to overdo it, not in the best shape for riding at this point.

Most drivers were very nice and switched lanes to make room for me. Only a couple seriously got too close. Even got a horn tap from a driver with a bike attached to his trunk. So except for the chain incident, the rest of the ride went pretty well. We'll see how it goes in rush hour traffic though, drivers might not be as nice as they are on Sunday mornings.

« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 07:36:45 PM by katieboo »

Rollin

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2013, 08:00:40 PM »
Pacing is good = patience!

Sundays are much better, but I have had trouble with some rushing to church (seriously, my group almost got wiped out and the guy flew into the church parking lot).  Mostly though Fridays are by far the worse.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2013, 10:20:39 AM by Rollin »

fallstoclimb

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2013, 09:56:16 AM »
You'll be surprised at how soon you'll be able to bike 12 miles, especially if its a reasonably flat 12 miles.  If there are hills, just take them slow. 

Did you drop your chain while shifting in the front or in the back?  Rollin is right, that shouldn't really happen too often -- I only drop my chain when I do something dumb, like shift in the back while the front is still coming down, or shift in the front when I'm already putting a lot of pressure on the pedals.  Take it to a bike shop and see what they say.  Were there any other issues with shifting?  (Stickiness, jumping, etc?)

Re: the buzzing, do not hesitate to take the lane.  Once you get more experienced, you'll learn how to control the traffic behind you.  Iit is much easier that you would expect.  Drivers are very responsive to hand signals, if you tell them to stay back and when to pass.  On a busy 2 or 4 lane road, I would take a whole lane to force drivers to pass, especially if the lane is narrow.  Buzzing is scary, and the only times I've come close to an accident were when I failed to take the lane and force drivers around.  FYI, most car-bike collisions happen in front of the cyclist (getting T-boned, left turning cars, etc) -- its extremely unlikely anyone will hit you from behind.  This was my initial fear about taking the lane but now I believe its much safer.  Especially when a line of cars is passing you while sharing the lane -- the lead car tends to give plenty of space, but they tend to get incrementally closer, and a car 3 or 4 back might not even see you.

Any attempt at bike commuting counts as badassity - I'm guessing most of your coworkers would be amazed and horrified that you were even trying it  :)

lisahi

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2013, 10:32:19 AM »
What do you do if none of the vehicles know how to drive around bikes? I live in a bike-unfriendly city, am considering biking to work, but after hearing about how vehicles along my commute have responded to other folks in my office who tried to bike, I'm worried. Cars would refuse to pass, bunch up behind the bike, start honking, or they would dangerously move into another lane without regard to vehicles in that lane. One even came extremely close to one of my co-workers (about a foot) and honked repeatedly, angrily looking at her as if she was the one doing something wrong (she wasn't). It's like these people have never driven around bicyclists before (and that could be true).

These folks in my office are now adament that I need to bike on the sidewalk, even if it's not legal. And, sure enough, the two people I've personally seen biking in this city were biking on the sidewalk.

katieboo

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2013, 12:26:57 PM »
Well it's been years since I've ridden and I'm sure my panic caused me to do something stupid to get the chain tangled up like I did. But I don't  remember what I did exactly. I'm definitely not used to a 21 speed. Front and back shifting? Are you kidding? Lol.  I had no idea that existed. I just saw 3 numbers on the left handle and seven on the right, and I play with both sides until it feels right.

All my life I'd get on a bike and ride it and brake when I needed to stop, and that's the extent of my knowledge of how to ride a bike. I am one of the dumbest  people out there when it comes to understanding anything remotely mechanical. But I'm not going to let that stop me from trying to commute to work. And I will try to learn more about my bike so I can be safer on the road.

Yeah, my engineer boyfriend shakes his head in frustration sometimes when he tries to get me to understand something mechanical. My talents lie elsewhere.

And to one poster, I live in a very bicycle unfriendly city that's spread out over a good distance, and public transportation is considered a joke.  I may have to leave early to avoid the cranky morning rush drivers. And the only time I've had real trouble was when I rode on the sidewalk. One car coming out hit me because he didn't see me. I absolutely do not want to ride on the sidewalk. Too many drivers pulling out to the street who are not expecting me. And I could also get buzzed more often I bet.





« Last Edit: July 01, 2013, 12:36:17 PM by katieboo »

fallstoclimb

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2013, 01:00:10 PM »
The 3 on the left are the 'front' shifting -- the big gears.  The 7 on the right are the back shifting.  I am not mechanically inclined either, not in the least, but you will be happy in the long run if you get a little more familiar with your shifting (and, make sure you know how to change a flat).  It's totally understandable that you panicked and got the chain tangled up -- the bigger issue is trying to figure out how not to drop the chain in the first place.  Rollin is right that sometimes you can pick it up successfully while pedaling but I've never managed to do it  :)

Lisahi, as Katieboo points out -- biking on the sidewalk is generally not a good idea.  Cars do not expect a fast-moving vehicle on the sidewalk (are used only to pedestrians who are slow and can stop on a dime) and will pull out right in front of you. 

Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I think the most important issue in biking in a non bike friendly city is choosing your route wisely.  I stick to less-busy roads and roads with wide lanes or bike lanes or slow speed limits whenever possible.  When I get in hairier situations on two lane roads, I take the entire lane, and will hold my hand out in a 'wait' signal if its not safe to pass me due to oncoming cars -- when its clear, I wave cars on.  Drivers tend to respond well to signals like that.  If its a multi lane road, I'll either stay off it if its SUPER busy or aggressively take up an entire lane (and not care if cars get bunched up behind me). 

katieboo

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2013, 01:50:42 PM »
Thanks fallstoclimb. After some reflection I think the chain fell off when I shifted down from 2nd to 1st, going through an intersection after light turned green. Intersection was on an incline so shifted to 1st and the chain fell off right in the middle of the intersection. I kept pedaling and that's probably when I tangled the chain.

Boyfriend thought the shifting mechanism near the gears might not have been placed high or low enough. Can't remember. Maybe that's why the chain fell off so easily in the first place. But not sure.  So he adjusted it and the bike seems to work fine for now. But I'll test it some more later. I think with more experience I'll have fewer mishaps like this.

lisahi

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2013, 03:37:42 PM »
Lisahi, as Katieboo points out -- biking on the sidewalk is generally not a good idea.  Cars do not expect a fast-moving vehicle on the sidewalk (are used only to pedestrians who are slow and can stop on a dime) and will pull out right in front of you. 

Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I think the most important issue in biking in a non bike friendly city is choosing your route wisely.  I stick to less-busy roads and roads with wide lanes or bike lanes or slow speed limits whenever possible.  When I get in hairier situations on two lane roads, I take the entire lane, and will hold my hand out in a 'wait' signal if its not safe to pass me due to oncoming cars -- when its clear, I wave cars on.  Drivers tend to respond well to signals like that.  If its a multi lane road, I'll either stay off it if its SUPER busy or aggressively take up an entire lane (and not care if cars get bunched up behind me).

I get all that -- I'm frightened nonetheless. I've looked at all the routes--none are great. The route I drive to right now is the most direct route. The only other reasonable route would take me on similar roads for a longer stretch. (The final route is not reasonable -- I would have to bike on a 60mph highway, and it's the longest route).

I did see two more bikers today (I guess because I'm looking out for them now). One was actually riding correctly, in the street, near the sidewalk. The other was riding in the turning lane. So, not correctly. He finally left the turning lane when a bunch of cars crowded behind him trying to turn into a restaurant, while I was in front of him, trying to turn into my work building.

What about crossing traffic? That also scares me. Biking legally on the street would require me to cross two lanes of traffic going my direction to get into a turning lane, and then crossing two more lanes of opposing traffic to get to my building. Cars are going 40-50mph. Is this typical for most?

Joet

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2013, 03:45:02 PM »
throwing the chain isnt really a user issue so much as it's a derailleur adjustment issue. pre-emptory kudos for badassity. I'm no bike maintenance guru or anything, but if the front derailleur (the big ring) has the 'stop' set properly for the smallest gear, you pretty much cant throw the chain. Also practice downshifting into your starting gear as you slow to a stop/crawl for an intersection. Generally speaking shifting under heavy load is best avoided. I try to get moving from stopped to cruise speed with 2-3 shifts max (on a 27 speed, heh)

now a broken chain is a bit more fun, I seem to do it every now and again on my mtbike, always on a climb, and always near a gearshift. Grabbing the link/punch tool and still getting where you're going with a busted chain is badass too :), throw in a flat and you're cookin. heh. no just kidding that stuff rarely happens. But be prepared! know how to fix basic stuff like this or your career as a bike commuter will be limited imo
« Last Edit: July 01, 2013, 03:50:14 PM by Joet »

katieboo

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2013, 04:06:25 PM »
Thanks Joet! I'll start studying because I won't have anyone to bail me out in the mornings.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2013, 05:30:17 PM »
What about crossing traffic? That also scares me. Biking legally on the street would require me to cross two lanes of traffic going my direction to get into a turning lane, and then crossing two more lanes of opposing traffic to get to my building. Cars are going 40-50mph. Is this typical for most?

If you can look behind you and see its clear, it's safe enough to move over into the turn lane, and you can safely hang out in the turn lane until the oncoming traffic clears.  If it's really busy, I would probably pull off to the right and cross with the light (if there's a light) or when you can easily see its clear in both directions, but that's not really ideal.  If this is a very busy road with cars going 40-50 and there's not a wide shoulder, I personally wouldn't ride on it.  That sounds dicey.  Others are braver than me though. 

fallstoclimb

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2013, 05:31:56 PM »
Also, to clarify -- if there's no shoulder and there's a sidewalk on the right  (and no ramp), I would NOT stop to get up on the sidewalk and then turn to cross the road.  In that case it would be better to merge to the left.  But again if this is a super busy 40-50 mph road, that leaves my comfort zone...

Hamster

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2013, 06:44:35 PM »
What about crossing traffic? That also scares me. Biking legally on the street would require me to cross two lanes of traffic going my direction to get into a turning lane, and then crossing two more lanes of opposing traffic to get to my building. Cars are going 40-50mph. Is this typical for most?
In some scenarios, especially when you have to cross several lanes with a lot of traffic to turn left, it will be safer to turn right, then make a U turn (where it's safe), come back to the intersection and cross straight when you have a signal. 

Or, stay to the right side, and instead of turning left, go straight through the intersection hugging the right side, then ease into the crosswalk and onto the sidewalk/curb on the far side of the intersection.  Dismount, and press the turn signal to cross and walk your bike across.

You can also do a "hook left turn" (see the first diagram) which is a variation on these, but isn't legal in most places. In Taiwan, this hool left turn is marked on the road and is the only legal way for motorcycles to turn left.

The knitter

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2013, 06:33:49 AM »
What do you do if none of the vehicles know how to drive around bikes? I live in a bike-unfriendly city, am considering biking to work, but after hearing about how vehicles along my commute have responded to other folks in my office who tried to bike, I'm worried. Cars would refuse to pass, bunch up behind the bike, start honking, or they would dangerously move into another lane without regard to vehicles in that lane. One even came extremely close to one of my co-workers (about a foot) and honked repeatedly, angrily looking at her as if she was the one doing something wrong (she wasn't). It's like these people have never driven around bicyclists before (and that could be true).

These folks in my office are now adament that I need to bike on the sidewalk, even if it's not legal. And, sure enough, the two people I've personally seen biking in this city were biking on the sidewalk.

This problem exists in my hometown, but the city where I work is more bike friendly. When I first started driving in the city, I was at a loss for how to drive around the bikes, especially at intersections. I was scared I would hurt someone.

I think it's a chicken and egg problem. If I (the driver) never see bikes on the road where I live, it's hard to know how to act when I finally see a bike on my road. And if drivers don't know how to act, it makes bicyclists more reluctant to ride on those roads.

There's also the infrastructure problem. If the roads you want to ride on have no room on the side for a bike, it complicates things.

I'm trying to ride my bike more on the road in my hometown to get used to it. I like to think I'm teaching the drivers a little something when they see more bikers out on the road.

lisahi

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2013, 08:40:16 AM »
Thanks for the suggestions fallstoclimb, Hamster and The knitter -- and sorry for somewhat hijacking this thread katieboo!

Unfortunately, some of the suggestions won't work -- the turn I have to make isn't at an intersection (no light, no crosswalk). It's a middle turning lane (yellow-lined) between 4 lanes of cross traffic (2 going one way, 2 going the other). The traffic isn't heavy all the time; depends on the time of day. The speed limit is 40, but folks go faster. I'll have to check out what the shoulder looks like. I have a feeling this is why the biker I saw the other day was riding in the turning lane instead of one the proper side of the road.

Rollin

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #17 on: July 02, 2013, 07:23:37 PM »
Thanks fallstoclimb. After some reflection I think the chain fell off when I shifted down from 2nd to 1st, going through an intersection after light turned green. Intersection was on an incline so shifted to 1st and the chain fell off right in the middle of the intersection. I kept pedaling and that's probably when I tangled the chain.

Boyfriend thought the shifting mechanism near the gears might not have been placed high or low enough. Can't remember. Maybe that's why the chain fell off so easily in the first place. But not sure.  So he adjusted it and the bike seems to work fine for now. But I'll test it some more later. I think with more experience I'll have fewer mishaps like this.

Unless you have some big hills to climb I'd just leave the left shifter alone - keeping the chain in the middle chainring.  The little one is for climbing steep hills, and the larger one is not necessary at all for recreational riders!  (IMHO)  If you are going fast enough downhill to use the big chainring its just as easy to coast : )

I'd just use the back gears with the right side shifter.  In fact, I have a beautiful set of gears on my bike, been riding for a long long time, but am ready to change out the front (two gears as opposed to your three) and go with a single.  Much simpler.  I have yet to use the large ring in about 2,000 miles on this new bike.

Back to you - you sound enthusiastic and have a great attitude.  Keep it up!  Just remember you are out there to enjoy riding.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2013, 07:27:49 PM by Rollin »

The knitter

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2013, 06:54:39 AM »
@katieboo I saw a link to this bike website in another thread (can't remember which one):

http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/

It's a great resource to learn more about your bicycle. I'm also not very mechanically inclined. But, I have the capacity to learn, so I'm determined to become more knowledgable about my bicycle. There are articles and how-tos on every imaginable topic.

I've had the exact same chain problem when shifting from second to first. It seems to be getting worse. DH thought I was just being dramatic, but he tried it and had the same trouble, so I'm thinking of taking the bike for a tune up.

Rollin

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2013, 08:31:58 AM »
@katieboo I saw a link to this bike website in another thread (can't remember which one):

http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/

It's a great resource to learn more about your bicycle. I'm also not very mechanically inclined. But, I have the capacity to learn, so I'm determined to become more knowledgable about my bicycle. There are articles and how-tos on every imaginable topic.

I've had the exact same chain problem when shifting from second to first. It seems to be getting worse. DH thought I was just being dramatic, but he tried it and had the same trouble, so I'm thinking of taking the bike for a tune up.

Okay, I've held off on talking about doing your own work on your bike, but your post has now got me to respond.  It'll be hard for me to type exactly what I mean so others with better words please chime in.  It's really not too difficult to do your own maintenance.

Try this first before you take it to a shop (which can be very expensive):

1.  There is what is called a "barrel adjuster" somewhere along the cable that shifts the rear derailliur - it is either at the shifter, at where the cable meets the frame, or more likely where the shifting cable enters the rear derailer.  Turn this slightly one way and see what happends when you shift from gear to gear.  If the shifting gets worse then go the other direction and see if it gets better.  This is mainly for "indexed" shifting which most bikes have now, but may improve the shifting;
2.  Check to see that the chain has the proper length as it could be too long.  While in the middle chainring upfront and the largest cog/gear in the back the two "jockey wheels" that are part of the rear deraillier (these are the little wheels that the chain runs through) should be just about vertical (one lined up on top of the other).  If the lower one is more towards the rear of the bike you may have too much chain and need to remove a link or two;
3.  Adjust the "stops."  While the chain is in the large cog/gear in the back tighten the "L" screw until you feel resistance.  Look underneath/inside the derailiur and you'll see how this works against a tab on the derailliur.  Do the same when in the smallest cog/gear, but adjust the "H" screw.  These are designed to keep the chain from coming off the gears and hit the spokes on top, or come off and get caught in the frame at the bottom.

As I said earlier, keep the chain in the middle up front for the majority, if not all of your riding.  What happens often is riders shift to the little chainring up front and to compensate for the faster pedaling they shift to the little cog/gear in the back.  This is called "cross-chaining" and causes a lot of chain slack at the same time that the chain is on a more drastic angle (take a look from the top and you'll see this bad angle).  This can cause the chain to get sucked up into the gears and prematurly wear your chain and gears.

katieboo

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Re: Baby Steps -- Bought new bike, rode first time in traffic today
« Reply #20 on: July 03, 2013, 11:18:07 AM »
@the knitter:  I checked out the link and thank you, I would never have found that on my own. Definitely need a beginners guide.

@rollin:  appreciate your post. I'm taking a ride tomorrow morning and I'll take a look at the bike tonight and try to identify the parts you mention. And I agree. If I'm going to become a serious commuter for a good distance, like 12.5 miles each way, then I need to become more knowledgeable. There will not really be any good alternatives if my bike fails and I can't fix it myself.

@lisahi: no worries. I'm happy if my posts inspire other discussions, I enjoy reading them.