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Advice sought: starting with the right engine?

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Advice sought: starting with the right engine?

Old 08-20-10, 09:31 AM
  #1  
Treebyleaf
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Advice sought: starting with the right engine?

Shalom from Seattle.

I am an uber-low-income middle-aged woman who has been disabled most of her life, just starting classes on scholarship to become a teacher with a specialty in Jewish Education.

I know that there is a family conspiracy afoot to pool money and buy me a laptop.

I am very seriously considering asking for assistance buying my first bicycle instead.

I am thinking that a bicycle will support and strengthen my health, increase my independence and confidence, improve my distance perception / co-ordination / traffic savvy, and save a ton of money and stress on the expletive buses.

I would be riding this bike six days a week up and down the bike lane of the very steep hill to my synagogue, wearing skirts in the Seattle rain, so I am also thinking that I might be dreaming.

I have noticed that the Forum offers an excellent FAQ introduction to choosing the right bike, thank you very much.
I am seeking in-depth feedback on The Other Essential Equipment for riding-- the part that sits on the seat and make things go.


What are the unrealistic attitudes or expectations that spell self-sabotage for a newbie?
What makes the difference between a new lifelong cyclist, and a dreamer?
Under what circumstances is a bike likely to be a vehicle for growth?


Thank you, and safe riding.

-- Tree
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Old 08-20-10, 09:45 AM
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You might seek out a Co-op run bike shop, and they can fix you up with a refurbished used bike,

perhaps even give you a task to do there to help them, and turn volunteer hours into acquiring a bike.

the Barter system ..
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Old 08-20-10, 10:52 AM
  #3  
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Originally Posted by Treebyleaf View Post
What are the unrealistic attitudes or expectations that spell self-sabotage for a newbie?
What makes the difference between a new lifelong cyclist, and a dreamer?
Under what circumstances is a bike likely to be a vehicle for growth?
A quick touch on bikes before the harder stuff.

Wearing a skirt is difficult on a typical American-style bike. Investigate European-style bikes instead. Dutch Bikes Seattle may be a good place to start. Look for something with a chainguard to keep your skirt out of the chain and a coatguard to keep it out of the rear wheel. However, Dutch bikes are not made for hills. You may end up with something else that has gearing for hills, then adding some Dutch features for practicality.

The three questions you raise at the end are probably the more difficult to answer, given huge variables of personal outlook, and physical ability. Cultural upbringing and background play a role as well.

I'll avoid all that and address your questions from only my personal experience.

I too am firmly ensconced in middle-age, and took up cycling only four years ago. I've been car-free since 1999, but relied on the bus until I bought a bike.

I've found that perseverance makes things easier. Cycling has taught me the difference between simple hardheadedness and perseverance. The latter is more difficult to come by, yet pays intense rewards in the joy department.

Cycling is not easy, particularly for the returning cyclist who is not in shape. I had to stop and rest halfway home from the bike shop when I rode my bike home on that first day. It's 2/3rds of a mile. It was weeks before I could ride the two miles to work without stopping to rest.

Accomplishing that first goal--riding to work without having to stop and rest--could not have been done had my head been in the clouds of an idyllic cycling world. It's hard work. (Still is four years and 20,000 miles later.)

What helped me in perseverance were several things. My motivations were
  • to be able to go beyond the bus routes and a reasonable walk.
  • to forestall the cardiac issues that run in my family and took a friend only four years older than I.
  • to save money.
This latter one is difficult to achieve. I initially budgeted one year's bus fare for the whole cycling thing--bike, lights, lock, helmet. I blew through that within a month. There were other things I hadn't considered: a tire pump, fenders, luggage rack, realistic lights, puncture-resistant tires. Shortly after that I gave up keep track of the money.

Why? Not because it was distressing to find cycling was more expensive than the bus, but because I was beginning to see the many intangible benefits of cycling.

My world expanded beyond bus routes and schedules. I could go where I want, when I want. Even if, in those early months, I often arrived sore, hot and ready for a nap. I could also go by the route I want, although it took some effort to go off the beaten path.

Fortunately, I passed safely through the period of self-righteousness over non-reliance on dinosaur juice to move myself from point A to point B.

However, I count that as one of the obstacles I've overcome, right along with going against the grain of American culture, a car-fanatic upbringing, and general personal laziness and couch potato lifestyle.

Along the way I've learned how to set and achieve realistic goals, and the difference between those and dreams. I've learned that even a pie-in-the-sky goal is achievable in increments backed by hard work and perserverence.

It was only 27 months after that first ride (the one where I had to stop and rest after 1/3rd of a mile) that I climbed Mt Evans in Colorado, which at 14,160 feet, is the highest paved road in North America. I take perverse pride in that I did it, not with some fancy hill-climbing wonderbike, but with my everyday commuting and errands bike.

It's the daily joys that keep me going, and they're all small ones, difficult to enumerate here at the keyboard.

Yet, I still almost never look forward to lugging my bike down the stairs from my third-floor apartment. I almost never look forward to riding on a rainy, windy or snowy day.

Still, I never have a problem carrying my bike up those same stairs when I get home, and there's no feeling quite like that after a rainy, windy or snowy ride.

But I never forget that it's hard work that gets me there. That's where newbies seem to go off the rails. They seem to expect that like six-year-olds, they can just hop on a bike and ride. You can, but trust me on this, for returning cyclists in our age group, it takes many months and a few thousand miles to get there.
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Old 08-20-10, 11:17 AM
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There will be a few weeks' period where you will be unable to accomplish tasks that seem extremely simple. All I can say is, keep at it. Bicycling is low-impact, and your body builds up to a place you won't recognize.
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Old 08-20-10, 11:34 AM
  #5  
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Excellent response, tsl.

I've never actually heard anyone say this, but one attitude seems to be the "easier exercise" trap. I need to walk 5 miles every day, that's too hard, so I'll buy a bike and ride 5 miles, thinking somehow I'll get the benefit without the effort, and that's just not the case. If you live where it's flat, you can coast around on a bike at 5 or 6 mph and have less effort than walking. But if you want to accomplish anything in the way of fitness, it takes work, whether on a bike or not.

A bicycle makes forward motion more efficient. It doesn't help a lot for moving upwards, though. If you have trouble walking up that hill, or have to walk slowly because you're out of breath, then don't expect to ride up it much if any faster (and maybe slower, because now you're also moving a 20 or 30 or 40 lb bike up the hill.) That doesn't mean don't do it, just means to anticipate some effort involved. I used to walk up a steep hill near my house, and have actually passed mountain bikers riding while I was walking.

The key to going up hills is getting the gearing right where you can turn the pedals at a reasonable speed, instead of turning them very slowly with great effort ("mashing"). When you go bike shopping, keep that hill in mind. It may mean a triple sprocket up front, or mountain-bike gearing or whatever it takes- but it does take some consideration. You also want some first-class brakes, too!

An attitude that brings about defeat: When your legs get all rubbery the first day, you can either say, "Dang, that's too hard" and give it up forever (like my wife) or say "Dang, I'm weak, I'd better keep doing this and build up my strength!" (like me).

Another attitude that brings about defeat: The perfect weather trap. It's too hot to ride. Now it's too windy. Now it's too cold. Now it's too rainy. Now it's too dark. You can never run out of excuses to avoid exercise. Here in North Texas, there's about 2 months a year where it's actually pleasant, so if you want to actually do anything outdoors, you just have to do it anyway, instead of waiting for a cool/sunny/warm/still/dry day.

Another attitude that brings defeat: "I can't go anywhere new, because I might get lost." I'll see a street, wonder "Where does that go, anyway?" and go down it. But my wife can't do that because she's afraid she might get lost. I get lost, too, just I've done it enough that I'm used to being lost and it doesn't bother me anymore. Ride, explore, learn to use maps.
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Old 08-20-10, 02:37 PM
  #6  
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You have one of the most bike friendly cities in the nation. That's your vehicle for growth.

http://www.cityofseattle.net/transpo...bikemaster.htm
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Old 08-20-10, 03:17 PM
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You might investigate a folding bike. While you do get a little less bike for the money, folders are well-suited for city life. You can take them on the bus, on transit, and into a restaurant, shul, or apartment. The design of most folding bikes also makes them suitable for skirts, and you can get one with the hill-friendly gearing you want.
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Old 09-01-10, 11:05 PM
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Follow-up and thank you, especially to tsl and StephenH.

After thinking about these replies, it became very clear to me:
I needed to stop thinking about getting a bike and start thinking about becoming a cyclist.

That was... a lot more than I expected to bite off.
It took actually wobbling around the dirt yard of the Hub in Bellingham to really understand that, no matter what research I do, no matter what buying decisions I make, I'm not going to come home with a bike that I'll hop on first morning and take up that hill in traffic with no sweat.

Today I did ride a bike unsupervised for the first time in 25 years.

I learned that the more momentum you build up, the easier it is to keep going straight.
And that two good ideas-- like sitting up straighter and looking around more, and pedaling harder to get going faster-- may not be good together.
And that the best part of the path is the part that isn't paved.

At some point I realized that this was the first time I'd been alone on a bike since I was twelve years old, and had my first bike-car collision only two weeks after I learned to ride.
Same bike, too. My mom's.

I can't wait to get on it again.
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Old 09-02-10, 12:04 AM
  #9  
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Wow, those Dutch bikes were pretty expensive, perhaps this might be a more affordable alternative ?

http://www.republicbike.com/shop.asp..._category_id=4

But the Seattle Dutch bikes are 3 and 8 speeds, the Republic Dutch is a single speed.

Does Seattle have something like this program ?

http://www.decobike.com/

That way you get a laptop and bike to see whether the bike thing is going to work out for commuting to work ?

As for a notebook, this might be all you need ? It's actually a Netbook ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netbook

I have an MSI Wind:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSI_Wind_Netbook

Some think they are weak, but mine is maxxed out for memory and I'm running MS Office Professional and MS SQL Server 2005 on it. Should be more than capable.
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Old 09-02-10, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Treebyleaf View Post

I can't wait to get on it again.


Thats what I say whenever I get off of mine. I cannot add to much to the comments above as they are all spot on. However, I will say that as a middle age man (I just wilted a little typing that) who decided late to get my degrees and become a high school teacher for at risk kids, good luck with becoming a teacher. Even on my worst days, and as a new teacher you have plenty of them, this is the most rewarding, soul satisfying, and fun job I have ever had.

Andrew...


p.s. If folks are still wanting to buy you a laptop, let them. You will need it in school
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Old 09-02-10, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
You might investigate a folding bike. While you do get a little less bike for the money, folders are well-suited for city life. You can take them on the bus, on transit, and into a restaurant, shul, or apartment. The design of most folding bikes also makes them suitable for skirts, and you can get one with the hill-friendly gearing you want.
In Seattle, you can take your "normal" bike on the bus. Every Metro bus I've seen here has a bike rack on its front.
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Old 09-03-10, 02:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Treebyleaf View Post
...stop thinking about getting a bike and start thinking about becoming a cyclist...
It's not really about the bike. As long as it fits and it's reliable, and reasonably suited for the type of riding you think you want to do, then it's good. As your abilities and interests change, you'll want more bikes.

Originally Posted by Treebyleaf View Post
...I'm not going to come home with a bike that I'll hop on first morning and take up that hill in traffic with no sweat...
It took me YEARS to go from an out of shape lardo to being able to hang with the club riders for a couple hours. But don't be discouraged by that. Improvement is easily made in small, steady steps. Expect as much as 10% improvement (with effort!) every week or two, but don't ask your body for more, to avoid risk of injury. And don't be discouraged if improvement doesn't come on every ride. It's not always linear, but improvement will come with effort. Challenge yourself to make small gains, and celebrate them when you do.

Originally Posted by Treebyleaf View Post
...pedaling harder to get going faster...
Pedalling faster, rather than pushing harder, is both more efficient and better for your body. It can be counter-intuitive, as you feel like you're working harder in the bigger gear. Gear down until you hit one that you can spin uncomfortably fast with a good effort. Then move up one gear, and start working on spinning your way out of that gear and on to the next.
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Old 09-03-10, 06:38 AM
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Treebyleaf, you are ON YOUR WAY!

Your can-do (and READY to do) attitude is exactly what will carry you through the tough times (sorry, there are some of those, too).

I've been a fanatic cyclist for over a decade now; car-free for over 6 years. Every day I wake up is a mix for me -- not crazy about getting up as early as I have to, or going where I'm going to work, but GETTING THERE... OHHHHH, BOY!

My kids are all that bring me more joy than the bike.
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Old 09-03-10, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Treebyleaf View Post
Follow-up and thank you, especially to tsl and StephenH.

After thinking about these replies, it became very clear to me:
I needed to stop thinking about getting a bike and start thinking about becoming a cyclist.

That was... a lot more than I expected to bite off.
It took actually wobbling around the dirt yard of the Hub in Bellingham to really understand that, no matter what research I do, no matter what buying decisions I make, I'm not going to come home with a bike that I'll hop on first morning and take up that hill in traffic with no sweat.

Today I did ride a bike unsupervised for the first time in 25 years.

I learned that the more momentum you build up, the easier it is to keep going straight.
And that two good ideas-- like sitting up straighter and looking around more, and pedaling harder to get going faster-- may not be good together.
And that the best part of the path is the part that isn't paved.

At some point I realized that this was the first time I'd been alone on a bike since I was twelve years old, and had my first bike-car collision only two weeks after I learned to ride.
Same bike, too. My mom's.

I can't wait to get on it again.
Fantastic, you're an enthusiast already. I agree with all that has been said, and of course, getting up that hill will be hard work at first, but it isn't that hard to persevere because cycling is FUN. There is something about a bike that gives one a sense of self-sufficiency and independence and just plain joie de vivre that no motor vehicle can match. You're going to love it, and who cares that it'll be a while before you can beat Lance Armstrong.

(Actually, 30 years ago I could beat Lance Armstrong, so I know what I'm talking about. Of course, I was 25 years old and he was nine. I'm pretty sure I could have taken him, though...)
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Old 09-05-10, 12:16 AM
  #15  
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Just a to the OP for committing to the journey. It takes a while, but you do get somewhere.
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