How to ride a bike?

harkins
harkins Posts: 25
edited September 2008 in Road beginners
Hi, I’m 32 years old and of course I can actually ride a bike, but it seems I can’t ride a road bike ‘properly’.

I bought my first road bike 4 days ago and yesterday set off for the first time riding aimlessly around Cheshire.

As I was nearing home after about three hours cycling, a fella overtook me who was a few years my senior and riding with apparent ease. He also had very thin but very muscular calves. He stopped at a set of traffic lights where I caught up and we started chatting. When I told him this was a new pastime for me he gave me a few helpful tips; the most significant being “get out of that top chain ring”. He rode with me for a while and sorted out a better gear for me to be in and I must admit that it made riding much easier. He was a very nice bloke.

So, the thing is, I now feel like I actually need lessons or coaching on how to ride ‘properly’ as I clearly have no idea of the appropriate gears to be using.

So can anyone offer any advice or tips?

ps. I did look into local clubs but was put off when I read that they all insist that you have mudguards fitted to ride with them. It seemed to drastically reduce the number of bikes I could choose from. Plus (rubbish reason) I haven’t seen a picture of Eddy Merckx with guards on his bike!

Comments

  • Touring clubs do like mudguards as they ride in groups and it's bad manners to splash your companions.
    Try posting your area and there may be someone near you who will be happy to give a few tips. The correct gear is an important tip but also the correct fit of your bike would be up there also.
  • fizz
    fizz Posts: 483
    Just ride how you feel natural, theres no set gears to use or when to use what gear. Some people like to spin where the turn the pedals quickly, some people like to grind where they use a larger gear and turn the pedals slowly.

    If you've only just started I wouldnt worry to much, just try and keep the pedals turning at what feels like a reasonable rate. One thing to do is to keep a straight chain, so dont use the big chainring on the front and the big gear at the back and vice versa.

    Generally thought I feel that usinga lower gear and spinning is easier on my knees... its up to you though really.
  • harkins
    harkins Posts: 25
    Cheers for the replies. I think my bike is the correct size. They seemed quite concerned with that in the shop and even had to order in the bike I chose in the correct frame size.

    I guess that fitness and body type do make a difference to what type of pedalling you find easiest. I just figured that a higher gear made for less effort and more speed. But now I’m aware that grinding can actually be very energy sapping.

    One other thing that makes it difficult to know how to ride is that I don’t really have a specific point to riding. I just figured it was a pleasant way to get/keep fit. But I don’t really know if I want to be going fast, up hills or down hills, for a long distance or whatever.

    Anyway, I live in south Stockport, in case anyone does know of a club or anything that could be helpful. As I mentioned above, I am aware of some local clubs but was deterred by the (understandable) mudguard rule.

    I the meantime, I’ll just keep getting out there and work out what I find comfortable for myself.
  • i myself found that just keeping your legs moving at a good rate helps and makes it easier, i normally stay in the middle cog and adjust the rear gears and that noramlly works for me
  • gandhi
    gandhi Posts: 187
    harkins wrote:
    ps. I did look into local clubs but was put off when I read that they all insist that you have mudguards fitted to ride with them. It seemed to drastically reduce the number of bikes I could choose from. Plus (rubbish reason) I haven’t seen a picture of Eddy Merckx with guards on his bike!
    There's no shame in mudguards for Sunday club runs. I only go on Sunday rides over the winter, and even in the fast group, most people use them. It's much nicer to be able to see when you're following someone in the rain.

    You can just get some clip on race blades (SKS seem to be the standard) that go on to any bike.

    Riding with a club will let you improve a lot more quickly than you would riding on your own.
  • mididoctors
    mididoctors Posts: 16,860
    harkins wrote:
    Cheers for the replies. I think my bike is the correct size. They seemed quite concerned with that in the shop and even had to order in the bike I chose in the correct frame size.

    I guess that fitness and body type do make a difference to what type of pedalling you find easiest. I just figured that a higher gear made for less effort and more speed. But now I’m aware that grinding can actually be very energy sapping.

    One other thing that makes it difficult to know how to ride is that I don’t really have a specific point to riding. I just figured it was a pleasant way to get/keep fit. But I don’t really know if I want to be going fast, up hills or down hills, for a long distance or whatever.

    Anyway, I live in south Stockport, in case anyone does know of a club or anything that could be helpful. As I mentioned above, I am aware of some local clubs but was deterred by the (understandable) mudguard rule.

    I the meantime, I’ll just keep getting out there and work out what I find comfortable for myself.

    fit some mudguards and hang on for dear life..there is no pressure.. your the new guy
    "If I was a 38 year old man, I definitely wouldn't be riding a bright yellow bike with Hello Kitty disc wheels, put it that way. What we're witnessing here is the world's most high profile mid-life crisis" Afx237vi Mon Jul 20, 2009 2:43 pm
  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    My club only has the mudguard rule for winter - and even then - its not enforced rigidly - but you'll make no friends if its wet and you are spraying people.

    Sounds to me like you're making the classic beginners mistake of pedalling too slowly, in a big gear. If you go out on a sponsored bike ride - and the field is mainly beginners or just recreational cyclists - the cadence they turn over is 50-60. Its a bit of a strain.

    Now if you get to see professional racing - the cadence is more like 80-90. I'd try and work on that to get the gears turning over.

    Where abouts are you in Cheshire - theres lots of clubs to choose from - keep at it - cycling isnt something you can pick up in a week or two, but its well worth persevering at.
  • alfablue
    alfablue Posts: 8,497
    If your bike has no mudguard fittings you could fit SKS raceblades, they clip on - I guess just a rear one would do if you are reluctant. If it is very wet you do tend to get a faceful of dirty water on a group ride so I think it is a sensible rule.
  • Thanks again for the responses. I did mention earlier that I do understand the mudguard rule – it does make a lot of sense. I just wasn’t too happy about the way it seemed to limit the bikes I could chose from. In the independent bike shop I bought from I basically had a choice of four manufacturers. Only one of them, Giant, offered MG compatible bikes and they were at the cheap end of the road bike scale. I wanted to spend a bit more as I was advised to make sure it had a reasonable ‘groupset’.

    I really am new to this and I’m struggling a bit with sorting out the various and often conflicting advice I’ve been given. The guy in the shop said that mudguards just act as wind breaks – ride alone. An e-mail from a club said riding in a group is good motivation (and mentioned that MG’s are mandatory and that race blades are inadequate). My boss (a keen cyclist) said Sunday ride groups are slow and are held back by the slowest – ride alone.

    Also as I mentioned earlier, I haven’t figured out exactly what my aim is in cycling. All I know is that I like it and the team jerseys are fantastic.

    I’m considering doing the Manchester 100M on Sunday. Even that is causing me some angst as to whether 100 miles is too much too soon. I reckon I did at least 40 odd miles in 3.5 hours on Saturday so I like to think I could manage it.

    Another thing is that I get the impression that a bike computer is essential. Are they?

    Sorry for having so many random questions but I’m afraid that I just kind of jumped into cycling with little or no planning.
  • alfablue
    alfablue Posts: 8,497
    Mudguards are going to increase wind resistance, though minimally, and riding in a group will mean you achieve higher speeds anyway.

    Clubs often have different types of ride, so for example a mid-week one were you might wait for slower riders, or have groups depending on ability, or Sunday morning rides where no-one waits, so everyone's needs and aspirations may be covered. You could even ride with two different clubs to get the sort of rides you want. I wouldn't rule out mudguards or club rides on the say-so of the LBS guy, that is just his personal preference, give it a go and see what you think.

    I don't think not planning is an issue, just try everything and see what suits you. Bear in mind as your fitness increases, what you want to do may change as new possibilities open up.

    Computers are good for monitoring your performance, it is good to see average speed increasing over successive rides.

    If you have a phone like the Nokia N82 you can also use Sports Tracker (I got my phone free).
  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    I'd not jump up to 100m from 40. Thats too much. Do they offer a 100km version instead ?

    Find out where the local cyclists meet or refuel. No clubs that I know insist on mudguards through the summer - nobody would ride their race bikes ! And yeah - some club runs are slower than others, but some are bloody ferocious ! Nobody will whinge about no guards if its a dry day. If it rains, go to the back of the group like a badly behaved child - sorted.

    Mudguards dont act as sails as far as I'm concerned.
  • i think 100m would be too much and riding in a group does help your speed, it means you are not setting the speed all the time and its easier, if your looking for bike parts have you tried www.wiggle.co.uk
  • mididoctors
    mididoctors Posts: 16,860
    cougie wrote:
    I'd not jump up to 100m from 40. Thats too much. Do they offer a 100km version instead ?

    Find out where the local cyclists meet or refuel. No clubs that I know insist on mudguards through the summer - nobody would ride their race bikes ! And yeah - some club runs are slower than others, but some are bloody ferocious ! Nobody will whinge about no guards if its a dry day. If it rains, go to the back of the group like a badly behaved child - sorted.

    Mudguards dont act as sails as far as I'm concerned.

    what this guy said
    "If I was a 38 year old man, I definitely wouldn't be riding a bright yellow bike with Hello Kitty disc wheels, put it that way. What we're witnessing here is the world's most high profile mid-life crisis" Afx237vi Mon Jul 20, 2009 2:43 pm
  • pneumatic
    pneumatic Posts: 1,989
    It takes a long time for your body to get used to cycling long distances, especially when you are past the invincible flush of youth.

    I had a 20 year break from cycling and, since taking it up again, I would judge that over the last 10 years, my legs, lungs, heart and fuel system have gradually and progressively got stronger.

    I can remember 10, 20, 30, 50 mile rides all being achievements that left me drained for 3 days afterwards. Then 100k became a good ride but the step up to 100 miles was still a big one. Now I am trying to get to 200k.

    My advice would be don't rush the build up, you'll spoil the enjoyment.


    Fast and Bulbous
    Peregrinations
    Eddingtons: 80 (Metric); 60 (Imperial)

  • One thing I was doing wrong (badly?) was that I was locking my arms, possibly because of the mountain bikes I've always had before (and I actually do the same on motorbikes). Not sure if you do the same. The guy in Condor showed me how I should relax and lean forward more with more of a bend in my arms (not sure if I've explained that particularly well).

    If you look at the pictures on BikeRadar, you might see what I mean - the road testers look much more relaxed and comfortable than I did! :?
    Never be tempted to race against a Barclays Cycle Hire bike. If you do, there are only two outcomes. Of these, by far the better is that you now have the scalp of a Boris Bike.
  • Aidanw
    Aidanw Posts: 449
    good god Hundredth... you are me!

    I came here with exactly the same story :) the Condor Guy I had seemed to think that most people hold their arms to straight.

    It feels a bit weired to start with because your muscles are having to do a bit more work, however it means you are in a much better position to react to bumps etc in the road and in the long run it makes you a better cyclist.

    I am sure there are loads of little things like that that most people are not aware of that do cumulatively have a large effect on cycling efficiency.