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Watch Out! Fat guy on bike!

Lindsey LohanLindsey Lohan Registered User regular
edited June 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
So we're trying to start bike riding as a family - really simple stuff - around the neighborhood, a few trails at a local park etc. Nothing stressful - just me, the wife and my 6 year old.

My wife got a bike from our neighbor who found after picking one up that it was too tall for her, and I just found one yesterday, cheap, for sale on the side of the road. It's nothing fancy, 18 speed mountain bike looking thing.

A few questions - how exactly should a bike "fit"? I assume that ergonomically there are rules as to how high the seat/handlebars are. I see how to adjust everything, I just don't know what to adjust them to.

Second, what should I be looking to check/clean/oil/whatever before taking my first venture around the neighborhood? I know my bike was in storage for awhile before they sold it, so I want to be as safe as I can be.

Third, how do the gears work? I've never actually had a bike with gears. I went from a BMX kid's bike to a Plymouth Reliant, kind of skipped the grown up bike phase...

Finally, I'm 270ish pounds, 34 years old and last rode a bike my sophomore year of high school. I'm out of practice and out of shape. Is there anything in particular I should be careful of on my new wheels? I'm actually sort of concerned over what to wear in terms of undergarments to avoid the uncomfortable situation I had when I rode the thing home...or is that a seat adjustment that I need to make instead?

Lindsey Lohan on
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  • I'd Fuck Chuck Lidell UpI'd Fuck Chuck Lidell Up Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    I'll try to hit these individually to make it a bit easier to read
    A few questions - how exactly should a bike "fit"? I assume that ergonomically there are rules as to how high the seat/handlebars are. I see how to adjust everything, I just don't know what to adjust them to.
    I think the standard is: so you can have one foot on the ground, but you can adjust it to what you're most comfortable with. Best thing to do here is ride it around the driveway, if it feels uncomfortalbe, adjust and try again. You can usually get it worked out after about 5 mins

    Second, what should I be looking to check/clean/oil/whatever before taking my first venture around the neighborhood? I know my bike was in storage for awhile before they sold it, so I want to be as safe as I can be.
    make sure the gears are lubricated, the tires are full (psi on the side of the tire: please go by recommended and not the max (very common error)) the brakes work(this can be tested by jogging by it and slamming one of them at a time, if the bike stops, they work, if not ajust them till they do (you don't want em too tight or they'll rub the whole time)

    Third, how do the gears work? I've never actually had a bike with gears. I went from a BMX kid's bike to a Plymouth Reliant, kind of skipped the grown up bike phase...
    this is another sort of preference. The lower the gear ratio the less gets done for what you put in, the higher the more work you put in. Though this also becomes a preference thing on the middle ends (what you'll be using mostly) I like to sit a bit higher on gears personally, most people I know go a bit lower than I do. For hills you'll want to switch a bit higher
    Finally, I'm 270ish pounds, 34 years old and last rode a bike my sophomore year of high school. I'm out of practice and out of shape. Is there anything in particular I should be careful of on my new wheels? I'm actually sort of concerned over what to wear in terms of undergarments to avoid the uncomfortable situation I had when I rode the thing home...or is that a seat adjustment that I need to make instead?

    A good pair of gym shorts and don't wear boxers and you should be fine for small rides. if you find there's a lot of rubbing/irritation they sell powder you can pick up to help stop that

    In the words of the ancients, one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break through to the other side
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Good advice above. Wouldn't hills be lower gear, though?

    I like basketball shorts for my riding, as they're a little longer. Gym shoes are fine for casual riding. I did ride in sandals yesterday... Worked fine for the short distance, but not recommended.

    Excision wrote: »
    My girlfriend is going down tonight!

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • I'd Fuck Chuck Lidell UpI'd Fuck Chuck Lidell Up Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    Wouldn't hills be lower gear, though?
    ooh is it? I couldn't remember. I tend to ride it higher cause then every step is getting a ways up the hill. I could see where the other way would prob be better

    In the words of the ancients, one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break through to the other side
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Generally people gear down to go uphill rather than gearing up. You'll discover what works for you quickly enough.

    Lube your gears and chain before you ride if it's been in storage for a while; they make little squeeze bottle dispenser things for use with bikes, but a rag and regular lubricating oil will work fine. It's probably still plenty well oiled to ride around the neighborhood, though.

    You want the seat raised until your knee is just barely bent at the bottom of crankshaft, then align the handlebars wherever's comfortable from there. That way you're getting the most work out of every rotation. At rest you can either balance or just lean over a little bit. A mountain bike frame may not be large enough for you to comfortably do this depending on how tall you are, but get as close as you reasonably can.

    I regularly ride mine in regular shorts/boxers and I don't have much problem with manly comfort, but obviously ymmv. Sometimes mountain bike seats aren't the best for sustained city riding.

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    stand up! It was the smallest on the list but
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  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    Wouldn't hills be lower gear, though?
    ooh is it? I couldn't remember. I tend to ride it higher cause then every step is getting a ways up the hill. I could see where the other way would prob be better

    You'll get more of a workout on higher, but yeah, it's easier to shift lower for going up - just have to find the balance between peddling furiously and heart attack, :)

    I tend to ride at 7-2 on my 24 speed. It's a "fitness" bike, so get a good workout.

    Excision wrote: »
    My girlfriend is going down tonight!

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • DeusfauxDeusfaux Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    I think the standard is: so you can have one foot on the ground, but you can adjust it to what you're most comfortable with. Best thing to do here is ride it around the driveway, if it feels uncomfortalbe, adjust and try again. You can usually get it worked out after about 5 mins

    so that your leg is extended on the downswing of the pedal, that is, when it is furthest from your body. like you'd be standing in place, not rising off the seat.

    in the past, this may have meant you could lean the bike slightly to one side and be on your toes on the ground, but that's not necessarily true these days.

    lots of bikes have the pedal crank higher up off the ground, mean you'll be higher off the ground, and quite possibly unable to touch it easily.



    here's another way of thinking about it. If you find yourself standing to pedal a lot, your seat isn't high enough. you'll never maximize the power of your legs if you're in more of a sitting position on the downstroke of the pedal

  • BlindZenDriverBlindZenDriver Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    MichaelLC wrote: »
    Wouldn't hills be lower gear, though?
    ooh is it? I couldn't remember. I tend to ride it higher cause then every step is getting a ways up the hill. I could see where the other way would prob be better

    You'll get more of a workout on higher, but yeah, it's easier to shift lower for going up - just have to find the balance between peddling furiously and heart attack, :)

    Sounds like there is some confusion here.

    First of all lets agree that higher gears with open gears refers to a gear where one revolution on the pedals drives the bike further than in a low gear.

    Pedaling in high gears with low rpm's may seem easier to control and also require less effort but unfortunately it's neither efficient nor recommended. High gears put more strain on the knees and that is the main error of sports injuries on bikes. For casual riding something like 80-90 rpm is a good thing and certainly better than lower rpms, if it gets to hard then it's a indication of moving into a lower gear.

    Bones heal, glory is forever.
  • BlindZenDriverBlindZenDriver Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    So we're trying to start bike riding as a family - really simple stuff - around the neighborhood, a few trails at a local park etc. Nothing stressful - just me, the wife and my 6 year old.

    Great idea. Do remember helmets and consider bike gloves (comfy for longer rides plus if you crash it's MUCH better to scratch them them than the hands.)

    My wife got a bike from our neighbor who found after picking one up that it was too tall for her, and I just found one yesterday, cheap, for sale on the side of the road. It's nothing fancy, 18 speed mountain bike looking thing.

    Okay. Mountain bike looking can mean a lot of things as tech in that type of bikes have been moving really fast. Being an 18 speed I assume it's either pretty old or a real cheap one. Old is not bad as long as the bike is in relatively good condition, cheap is also not necessarily a problem only it's likely to be heavy and requiring more maintenance plus the ride may be less good. Either way the main thing is riding and as long as it goes it is a good start.



    A few questions - how exactly should a bike "fit"? I assume that ergonomically there are rules as to how high the seat/handlebars are. I see how to adjust everything, I just don't know what to adjust them to.

    Exactly is a matter of taste as you will see from the posts above plus purpose/terrain also comes into play. With mountain bikes the idea is to put the saddle a little low and the distance between saddle and handle bar must not be so far you're arms are stretched. The whole idea is you want to be able to move back and forth to balance when going down step stuff and up steep hills. Since you're not doing anything crazy the #1 thing is to be comfortable and if anything the bike must rather be a little to small than to big.

    As for adjustment it may not be as easy as you think. Unless the bike has some special parts it's likely all you can do is raise and lower the saddle, move it forwards and backwards plus tilt it a little (as rule of thumb it should be level, not pointing up or down). For bike to really fit replacing parts may be the only way to go, but unless the bike is all wrong then worry about that later. My quick suggestions:
    • Saddle height should be so when sitting on the bike you can reach the ground with the toes with the one leg (while wearing shoes) - a little lower may be good for safety until you're getting the routine back. While pedaling your knees must always stay bend,else the saddle is to high, and it should be an effortless motion.
    • The handle bar should be a little higher than the saddle but not much. You're arms must not be stretched out and you're knees should not hit the handle bar unless really try while standing up.
    • Small adjustments can make a huge difference. Be patient and do one thing at a time.

    Second, what should I be looking to check/clean/oil/whatever before taking my first venture around the neighborhood? I know my bike was in storage for awhile before they sold it, so I want to be as safe as I can be.

    Clean it, look for cracks, rusty cables, grab all the spokes to feel if some are loose, test the brakes as the others suggests. Oil the chain, the gear parts, the brakes (the parts the move not the pads) and so on. Here is a great site that tells all that you need to know: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/ Also there are lots of instruction videos on youtube

    Third, how do the gears work? I've never actually had a bike with gears. I went from a BMX kid's bike to a Plymouth Reliant, kind of skipped the grown up bike phase...
    Check the video above.

    Finally, I'm 270ish pounds, 34 years old and last rode a bike my sophomore year of high school. I'm out of practice and out of shape. Is there anything in particular I should be careful of on my new wheels? I'm actually sort of concerned over what to wear in terms of undergarments to avoid the uncomfortable situation I had when I rode the thing home...or is that a seat adjustment that I need to make instead?

    If you're very out of shape then see your doctor before you start riding (remember we don't know your height only your weight). As your description did not make it sound like you were dying you're properly fine just don't overdo it.

    Start with small trips and be prepared to get sore. If you do get numb then adjust the saddle and/or the saddle height. If you ride regularly getting sore should soon be a thing of the past plus you'll find yourself getting in shape pretty quickly. Replacing the saddle may also be an option but if you do then do not go for something wide and soft like a sofa - that is only good for very short trips.

    A final tip for safety. The front brake is much better for stopping than the rear but be careful until you get a feel for it else you can end up going over the handle bar.

    Enjoy.

    Bones heal, glory is forever.
  • Lindsey LohanLindsey Lohan Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Thanks for all the info folks - on the last one - I'm out of shape, but not enough to have to go to my doctor. I've been trying to get in some exercise a little at a time, walking, treadmill, soccer with the kid, etc. I guess we'll have to pick up some oil this weekend - neither of us have oiled any of the parts of our bikes and I know mine's pretty old.

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  • Ashaman42Ashaman42 Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    One thing I didn't see mentioned is when/if raising the saddle take a look at the seat post, they normally have a mark indicating the minimum amount of post to leave in the tube. Leave too little and it could snap which would not be a good thing.

    Also whilst it costs a bit more it might be worth picking up a chain wax rather than oil, oil can have a tendancy to pick up dust and muck and stick it to the chain as a nice grinding paste.

  • ParielPariel Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    To address the last bit of Ashaman42's post: wax is more durable, but much harder to remove from the chain when you want to reapply it. Oil on the other hand, needs to be applied more often because it's not durable. If there's stuff sticking to the oil on your drivetrain, chances are you either a) using too much (this applies to virtually any lubricated item) or b) leaving it on too long.

    You should probably go with the wax for now.

  • Ashaman42Ashaman42 Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Good points there Pariel. And I can hardly talk as I lost my wax so have been using motorbike chain lube that is sticky as a sticky thing. And I haven't been cleaning the chain just adding more lube on top of the old stuff.

    That is not to be recommended, I'm only doing it as am soon to be replacing both the chainrings and cassette.

    Another thing to consider is getting some wraparound glasses as part of your safety gear, a bug in your eye is rather painful particularly at speed and if in traffic could cause a wobble at an inopportune moment.

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