Friday, November 19, 2010

Robert asked ...

Irregular riding partner Robert, 62-years-young, who began his adult cycling career April 24th this year when he was still only 61, asked:

Martin, I would like your advice as there is still is a lot about this sport I do not know.  I know a young man that would like to try cycling and it would be good for him.  Any ideas how he could get started?  I was thinking about sending an email out to the IRs asking if anyone could loan him a bike for a few weeks or month so he could determine if he likes the sport, before he actually buys a bike and gear.  I would take him out for a couple of rides and then bring him as a guest to a couple of IR rides with your permission (and stay with him).  Any suggestions? 

"Young man"?  Guess that could be anywhere from 20 to about 55, eh?  (Robert has informed me that the "young man" is ... actually a young man -- 21 years old.)

Ok, serious now. The following are just my opinions -- probably ill-informed opinions. 

 1.  This could be a tough time of the year to "take up cycling", with the chilly and cold weather coming.  Getting the amount of clothes right can be a problem.  Not enough --> cold.  Too much --> sweaty --> too cold.  Wrong type of clothing might not block the wind -- you have likely noticed that cycling clothes are designed to have a much higher "wind-stopping-power" than running clothes.  Shorter rides starting at 12 +/- might be a good idea as one can usually avoid the chillier early morning temps (although there is usually more wind later in the day). 

 2.  Need a bike that is the correct size.  Too small or too big can be real pains.  Your bike is actually a bit too big for you -- Gary worked with you to get it comfortable, but I've heard that sometimes you've gotten a bit tired late in longer rides and I've wondered if a better fitting bike would help you on that score. 

 3.  Road bike for the road.  If you / he can, try to find / beg / borrow / steal a road bike.  The road ride from a road bike is better than from a hybrid or "comfort" bike.  Many people on some forums will say "start with a hybrid, and later upgrade to a road bike".  That just seems a waste of time to me.  If one is not ready to "bend over all the way", one can ride on the hoods (which is what most people do most of the time -- unless they are a "racer-boy" or "fighting a dreadful headwind") or on the flat section of the road handlebars.  Definitely try to stay away from a mountain bike (even with slicks) for road riding.  I started on a mtn bike, first with knobbly tyres, then with slicks.  Started with "clips", then went to SPD "clipless" pedals.  I did pretty well on that 28 or 29 lb. bike, and in the end, was almost as fast on that bike as I am on the Pilot, and, in the end, I rode almost as far (just not as often), but most people are not as satisified with just exercising and "seeing the sights" as I was. 

 4.  Helmet.  A helmet won't help (much) if a car hits you, but they are not designed for that; they are designed to keep you from breaking your head if have a small fall -- such as forgetting to unclip before stopping.  All us "older folk" grew up learning and riding without a helmet, but a borrowed or inexpensive helmet will help if you have that "oops, I forgot to take my foot out of the pedal moment".  Gary can address the studies comparing the inexpensive vs mid-range vs expensive helmets -- the inexpensive ones apparently do just as well as the expensive ones at giving protection.  One does need to wear the helmet properly. 

 5. Borrow a bike.  Definitely try e-mailing the IRs.  Also CBC -- Lee ought to be able to help you there.  Just try to get one that is the "correct" size.  Gary can probably tell from just a look what size frames are likely to fit best. 

 6.  Pick less busy roads, and try to keep the "hillwork" within reasonable bounds.  At first, anyway. 

 7.  Saddle and "sore butt".  Even with the perfect saddle for the "young man", it is likely that he may experience some "sore butt" issues when he first takes up cycling.  Proper bike fit and the perfect saddle can help reduce the "butt" issues, but ... it may take a little time to "train the butt to be happy in the saddle for long-ish periods".  Again, proper bike fit, the proper saddle, and sitting on one's "sit bones" and not on some other part of the "butt" help SIGNIFICANTLY.  Regarding saddles: the perfect saddle for one might not be even tolerable for another.  Skeleton size and amount of "padding" around the skeleton make a huge difference.  There is so much variability on how each person interacts with the saddle that ... there is no right answer.  But bike fit and sitting on the "sit bones" will help a lot. 

 8.  Shorts with a "diaper".  A chamois helps a lot.  A little with padding the tender bottom, but mostly with the sweat and "rubbing" issues.  You might not need to use a "chamois butter / cream", but the "young man" might need to.  Better to feel "slippery" than to develop an abrasion that turns into a serious saddle sore and turns him off. 

I've already written more than I know.  Good luck.
Comments / advice from readers VERY WELCOME.

Robert thinks I'm an "expert" about cycling, but that is only because he is so new to the (for lack of a better word) sport.  Those that know me, be they a long-time Irregular or a Randonneur or my mechanic, know better.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to Robert and you for mentoring.

    Curmudgeon speaks: The important thing is to get him riding. Don't sweat the equipment.

    I am encouraging a new bike-commuter at work. I keep telling him everything will change in six months: his fitness, comfort, skill, enjoyment, and preferences. Therefore, invest slowly, address pain-points steadily, and just ride.

    Evolution not revolution.

    Good luck.