An array of questions from a complete beginner

EasierBold Posts: 2
edited February 2014 in Road beginners
Hello bikeradar!


To begin, I am 18 years old, I'm a programmer for a local software company, 5'11, heavy set, 245lbs (overweight), and I don't really know the first thing about cycling. Of course I had a bike a few years ago, but I'm really looking to expand upon the very basic knowledge I have of cycling. I would say I haven't even been on a bike for at least 5 years. Where I live I never have to make a round trip longer than 10 miles, so I'm eventually looking to get rid of my car payment and rely purely on cycling as my main form of transportation.

I purchased my first road bike yesterday: the Schwinn Men's Prelude 700c. This bike came very highly regarded on the beginner road bike reviews I read, fit my height perfectly, and was on sale on Amazon for $268. I assembled the bike yesterday and took it out for its first spin: a trip around my neighborhood of about 2.3 miles (primarily uphill). All in all, I am extremely satisfied with the bike (although I don't have anything to compare it to!).

The Questions:

1. I noticed when I got on the bike this morning for my second 2 mile ride that my butt was very sore. This led to me often standing up on the bike throughout the ride to ease the pressure on it. Is this normal? I have read some reviews of this bike on Amazon where the individual recommends replacing the stock seat with a more cushioned one. Will I become used to the stock seat to the point where I won't notice it (similar to your fingers callusing when playing guitar) or am I best investing in a better seat? I'm okay with the pain if it's something I just need to get used to - my main concern is just longevity and my future. If it's something I'll want to replace in the future, I have no problem replacing it now.

2. As previously mentioned, this is my first time on a road bike and as such I'm still acclimating to the new "posture" of leaning forward much more than the mountain bike I owned a few years ago. I noticed after my second ride that the inside of my left hand had a little bit of pain because of the grip I had been holding the bike with. Similar to the above question, is this something that I just need to get used to as I normally don't use my left hand for anything, or is it possible that I'm not gripping the handlebars in the most ergonomic fashion possible?

Sorry for the huge wall of text, but I'm planning on using this thread as a hub for my questions (rather than creating millions of individual threads) and I wanted to provide a little context! Thanks a ton in advance.


  • sungod
    sungod Posts: 16,544
    edited February 2014
    to some extent it's a matter of getting used to a road saddle, width/shape matters as well, give it a few weeks and see how it goes, if no real change then find a decent shop who can advise on saddle options

    i'd avoid looking for heavily padded saddle, you'll just sink into it and go numb

    wear padded shorts - if you don't want to wear bibshorts, there are other options including padded undies

    leaning on the bars and/or gripping too tight can lead to hand pain/numbness

    if the bike is sized and set up correctly, you should not need to lean on the bars, your body should 'balance' on the saddle, with your upper body position held by the core muscles rather than by your arms

    gripping too tight is just a habit, keep aware of grip and if you notice you're holding tight, relax

    after a while riding without leaning and keeping a light grip become natural
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • ForumNewbie
    ForumNewbie Posts: 1,664
    You definitely need padded shorts if you don't already have them. If you then are really uncomfortable in the saddle after trying a longer ride, you should look at getting a better saddle, although it may still take a bit of time to get used to it.

    Just wondering if you are gripping hard by being down on the drops all the time? Most road cyclists spend most of the ride with hands on the hoods - i.e. where the top of the bars meet the brake levers. Hands can be more relaxed and grip lightly in that position. A few miles certainly shouldn't be causing you any problems gripping the bars.
  • taon24
    taon24 Posts: 185
    Is your saddle high enough?
    You often get sore bottom/ legs if your saddle is too low, as you put less weight onto bent legs and more onto your bottom. In general if you can stand on the floor with both feet and sit on the saddle, then your saddle is too low. I would raise the saddle enough that you can get both tiptoes on the floor just, measure it, then add 1cm more (at least).
    I would keep raising your saddle until you find your hips have to rock to pedal, then back off 1cm.
  • Bobbinogs
    Bobbinogs Posts: 4,841
    Welcome on board. Great to see someone who wants to make a difference to their lifestyle...stick with it.

    Try not to use one thread as a hub of all your questions...use the search feature which works well and then start specific threads if you need to so that you get specific advice from a few folks...cycling is all about personal opinions and only mine appears to be right!

    2 miles is a good start but if it was your first ride for a long time then you just need to be careful about expectations. Given your weight and sedentary job, why not get a good checkup from a doc first? Try and make sure you recover between rides so take a day or two off. I know this may sound overkill for a 2 miler but just build up slowly. Padded shorts and commando are essential for many folks but many folks don't bother and certainly wouldn't for such a short ride. Take it easy, ride when you can, see if you can get a riding buddy who can share a goal, such as losing a stone or riding a 25 miler. Best of luck.
  • philwint
    philwint Posts: 763
    As the others have said you need a good few hours on a saddle before you get used to it. The guitar analogy is a good one.

    And just like with the guitar - if you lay off for a while it's painful all over again when you start.

    So get our regularly for two to three weeks and see how it goes.
  • Schoie81
    Schoie81 Posts: 749
    Hi, and welcome to the world of cycling and this forum! I got by first road bike last summer and experienced exactly the things you have. The rear end problems clear up after a few rides, you just get used to it. I wear padded shorts now, but I found that until I was cycling 15-20miles, after the first few rides, normal shorts were fine, its only the longer distances that take their toll.

    Similarly with the hands/wrists. I found mine hurt quite a bit after long rides when I first started and this was down to both the things mentioned above - too much weight on the arms/hands and gripping too tight. The weight thing sorted itself for me as my core strength improved but I had to consciously grip less tight on the bars - I'm a nervous cyclist so I tend to grip very tight, especially down hill, but I just try to keep telling myself to ease off a bit. Don't have problems too often now, only on very long descents.

    Good luck and just get out there as much as you can!! :D
    "I look pretty young, but I'm just back-dated"
  • ai_1
    ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    +1 for all comments above.

    With regards the saddle pain. Everyone will have some pain for the first few rides. Wear padded shorts and see how you go after a few weeks before even considering a new saddle. Bibs shorts are definitely the most comfortable and I think they're even more of an advantage if you're a bit overweight because they eliminate any waistband that can become uncomfortable.
    Saddle pain can be caused by a few factors and you shouldn't consider changing the saddle until you've ruled out the others. It's the most expensive change, it won't solve any of the other problems and you won't really have a good idea what you need until you've got a little more experience. The most common causes of saddle pain I can think off are:

    Saddle too high - you may not notice you're doing it but if the saddle is too high you'll rock on the saddle to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke. This will cause pain but it will just feel like the saddles uncomfortable. this rocking can also cause back, knee and hip pain over longer distances. If in doubt, err on the low side. Your leg should never be straight when you're pedalling. At the bottom of the pedal stroke your knee should be 25 to 30 degrees off straight.
    I had my saddle a bit high for the first few months when I started cycling and thought the saddle was the problem. I went to the local bike shop enquiring about saddles. To his credit the guy I spoke to didn't just flog me a saddle but asked to see me on the bike and suggested dropping the saddle about 10mm (3/8"). This felt a little wrong for the next ride but then I got used to it and I was fine with that saddle for rides of 100km (74miles) and more. I continued to use it for the next 2.5 years. More recently I've changed my position on the bike a little and started having different saddle problems - I now need a saddle with a bit of a cutout for nerve relief but that's a different issue and probably not the one you're having.

    Saddle tilt
    The saddle should usually be set very close to level. Tilted down at the front you'll tend to slide forward which will mean you're often out of position and you'll also put more pressure on your hands to hold you in place. Tilted up at the front it'll put pressure where you don't want it on soft tissue when you lean forward to the bars.

    Bad shorts - Don't get a more padded saddle, get good padded shorts. Harder saddles are often more comfortable, especially on longer rides. Lots of padding on a saddle often prevents you taking the load on your bones and transfers a lot of it to the soft tissue which can become very uncomfortable.

    Saddle fore/aft position
    Fore/Aft position can be a bit tricky but I don't think it's likely to have much to do with your saddle problem.
    However if you want to check it, I think the starting point is to sit on the bike and put your foot on the pedal with the crank in the 9 o'clock position (i.e. fully firward in the middle of the down stroke). I think it's recommended that your knee should be above the pedal axle if the saddle position is correct. I'd suggest double checking this in case I'm wrong or maybe someone else can chime in and confirm?

    General positioning on the bike - bike positioning is a tricky sublect. If it's wrong it can make your ride rather unpleasant. The saddle height, tilt and fore/aft position are only a small part of this although probably most relevant for the problems you're having.

    Sore hands:
    I'd agree with the comments above. This is probably the result of gripping the bars too tightly or leaning too heavily on them.
    Where are you holding the bars? There are 3 main positions people hold road(drop) handlebars and it's good to move around a bit rather than sticking in a fixed position for long periods.
    Most riders will spend the vast majority of their time on the "hoods". As mentioned by a previous poster, that's with your thumb on the inside of the housing for the brakes and gear shifters at the top front of the bars and the your fingers reaching down the outside of the housing. This gives you a comfortable grip and nice, stable and slightly upright position where you can reach the brakes and gears without moving your hands. When you want to sit up or when you're climbing hills some people spend time on the "tops". This is the straight piece of the bar either side of the bracket attaching the bar to the rest of the bike. This gives you a more upright position but it's not that stable and you have to move your hands to reach the brakes and gears. Generally you only use the "drops" when you're going fast and/or pushing hard. This with your hands on the lower part of the bar on the U bend. This puts you low down so it's most aerodynamic and it gives you the best leverage on the brakes but may not be comfortable for long periods depending on your flexibility and the height of the bars. I'd normally use the drops for descending, sprinting and when I'm at the front of a fast group ride.

    Stick with it for a little while before you start making major changes to equipment (except for shorts!).
    Read up a bit on bike fit and make sure the bike is the right size and set up about right. If you have some cash lying around you could get a bike fit but you'll be able to get set up pretty well on your own with a little research, especially for shorter rides.