You have decided to give bicycling a try, again. Do yourself a favor and put out of your mind re-uniting with your childhood bike. Kid’s bikes are for kids! Your adult bike is an investment, and you should take time to investigate which bicycle makes the most sense for your needs.
This is a mountain bike, and if you are re-introducing yourself to the sport, this is exactly the bike you DO NOT NEED!
Mountain bikes weigh in at 28- 32 lbs. Whatever the weight of your bike, that is how much you have to drag up hills. Not only that, notice the thick heavily treaded tires. These are great for dirty and gravel but really at to the effort you have to put into moving it on paved surfaces. And get away from the thinking that they are more sturdy than other bikes, they are not! Much lighter bikes are equally as sturdy.
The bicycle below is your standard road bike with straight handles.
Below is a road bike with drop handles.
The difference is simple, they dictate the position of your body while riding. Bicycling is by its nature very easy on your back, and very good for lower back muscle development. But in terms of comfort while you are riding, most of us over-40 types do better in the more upright position. I recommend that you get the straight bar.
You can buy a good starter bicycle new for between $650 and $1100. If that sounds expensive, let’s put some perspective on it. If you buy into an inexpensive gym, $30 per month, a year is going to cost you $360. And I can assure you, from experience, you are much more likely to exercise longer on a bicycle than at a gym. Good exercise is more about “how long” than how much you exert in a short time. An hour in the gym might seem like forever whereas on a bike it is almost fleeting. A good bike ride will last nearer to 2 hours and will be mostly cardio.
This may sound a bit strange, but bicycles come is several common compositions. The most common type is the steel bicycle. Don’t let the name fool you. Steel bikes are not any heavier than aluminum bikes. Either one, steel or aluminum, can weigh in around 25 pounds, a good starting weight. Then there are titanium and carbon fibre bicycles. Both these frames are much more high end which translates into dollars, of course. Still, you can buy a good carbon fibre bicycle for under $2000. What you get in return is a much lighter bike. The really high end bikes can weigh in at a paltry 14.5 pounds. But then these bikes, the Fuji if particular, can cost upwards to $15,000! Don’t let the name “carbon fibre” fool you. The technology behind these “composite” bikes is not new, although new in the sense of bicycle history. They are equally as strong as any steel bicycle, and reward you with less weight to deal with.
– The cassette
The above is the rear set of gears on your bicycle. This one has 8 gears but they can also have more or fewer gears. The cassette will wear out after about 3000 miles.
The front set of gears, known as the crankset, contain either two or three driving gears. I recommend the one with three. The lowest gear, also known as the “granny gear” is almost vital when climbing a big hill.
The padded brake is the most common brake used on bicycles today and provide a good braking medium. Brake pads should be replaced about once a year depending upon how much you ride. It is good to get your bicycle tuned up about once a year and you can have the shop check your brakes at that time for wear.
Above is an example of the bicycle disc brake. The difference is simple. Rather than using a rubber on metal, side of the wheel, to stop the bike uses a pneumatic ceramic on metal system. The biggest difference is in how much less pressure you need to use to engage a disc brake over pad brakes. Like pad brakes, these brakes wear out too and need replacement.
Bicycle wheels, like frames, come in many styles. The above is the most common. But these days, wheels are measure not only by rim diameters, 26 inches being the most common, but wheel width. (see below)
The width shown above is good for road bicycles. While the thicker the width the tire, the more comfortable the ride, you also invite more friction, something that slows you down, with the wider tires.
You should check your spokes at least once a month to insure they are in good working order. Spokes can loosen up or even break. This, of course, lends to the overall safety of the bike. Each spoke should be firm, allowing no play at all in it.
Also, learn to fix a flat! You can buy repair kits, but for my money, about $5 a tube, I find simply replacing the tube not only more expedient, but more sensible. All you need, besides the replacement tube, is a small portable pump which can either be attached to the bike or put in your backpack.
Lights not reflectors
If you expect to be out on your bike after dark, but certain you bike is equipped with a rear red light, at the very least. Reflectors really do little for your safety and are best left off the bike. The rear lights are inexpensive and keep you visible to traffic coming up from behind you. Today there are rear lights with rechargeable batteries included. You simply connect the light via a standard cable to your computer and allow it to charge up. But also consider a good front light as well. These days, both lights come with a standard “flashing” mode which attracts the attention of others on the road, which you want!
Bicycle chains do wear out! I put over 7000 miles on one once and could not understand why shifting gears had become difficult. The man who checked my chain pointed out to me that over time bicycle chains stretch. I had added nearly an inch of length to mine! No wonder I was having trouble. Chains are very inexpensive. Change them at roughly 3000 miles. Keep your chain, and other friction points, lubed. Use a very light lubricating oil. All bike shops sell such oil but you can do just as well with WD-40.
The above seat is your typical racer’s saddle. But some shops seem intent on selling similar saddles to everyone who comes in. It’s a fashion statement but not too smart when you are starting out.
This saddle is a “gel saddle” and maximizes comfort. I highly recommend this, or similar, saddle if you are starting out.
Shoes & clip ons
Most bicycles come with peddles similar to the one shown above. These are fine for bikes strictly used around town, not for exercise.
Shown above is the standard “clipless” peddle and its associated shoe wear, the cleat. These provide a stable platform for long bike rides. While you are attached to the bike peddle, a small twist of the ankle quickly slips you from the peddle, a very easy release.
I hope what I have offered gives you food for thought in your bike purchase. It is probably most important that you find a dealer, preferable a small businessman, to buy your bike from. He will also prove to be an invaluable source of information about your bike, riding, and just about anything else you can think of. Such shops also frequently have riding clubs. These clubs are great places to learn the ropes, and you do not have to be an experienced rider. The generally accommodate people of all levels.