It’s a pleasure for me to introduce a new guest poster to Bike Noob readers. Don Blount has been reading this blog for well over a year now, and has contributed a number of ideas for posts (You may remember the occasional reference to “Don, of California”). Now Don, who is a newspaperman by trade, has agreed to author posts of his own, rather than just send along ideas. Here’s his first opus:
It’s been a little over a year since I became a recreational road cyclist. I don’t run because of my knees and I tired of doing the elliptical trainer and treadmills in the gym. I ended up on the bike. I got sucked in slowly, starting by riding my mountain bike around town. I had fun and thought “hey, this isn’t bad.” Going 12 miles on that bike was about all I could take. (It’s a bike best suited for riding around with my kids.) After about a month I upgraded to a road bike. I came to this activity as a complete novice, knowing how to ride a bike but not knowing anything about road biking.
Here is what I’ve learned and would share with anyone looking to get into this sport:
It is about the bike
I ride a Scattante CFR Comp. For a first bike I did OK. It has a carbon frame, Shimano 105 shifters and front derailleur, Ultegra rear derailleur. I recently upgraded to Michelin Krylion tires. The bike works for me. I was actually going to buy a less expensive bike but an experienced cyclist who looked at the bikes I was considering advised me to buy this one because it had better components than the others, a carbon frame instead of an aluminum frame and would be a bike I could ride for years without getting bored with it. I spent a lot more than I had planned, but I did get a much better bike than the one I would’ve purchased without direction.
Get a professional bike fitting
I rode my bike for about five months with the setup that I received at the LBS where I made my purchase. During that time I slowly developed pain at the back of my left knee and in my lower back. My original set up wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t right on either. I went for a professional fitting and discovered that my seat was too low and too far back. I have a copy of my measurements, which I check monthly or if something doesn’t feel right to ensure sure my set up remains right. Riding without getting a fitting is akin to wearing a suit without getting it tailored. Maybe some people can wear right off the rack but not many. It’s worth the investment.
I had sticker shock when I first looked at something as simple as a pair of shorts. That was before I understood the difference between good cycling gear and not-so-good gear. I have a friend who has no problem going into triple digits for bib shorts, tights or any other piece of bike clothing. Yet he wouldn’t dream of spending nearly as much for regular clothing. I’m a big Pearl Izumi fan because I know that brand will fit and will wear well. It took me awhile to come to this conclusion. It wasn’t until I returned a set of bib shorts three – yep count em three – times to an online retailer and paid about $15 in postage that I drove an hour to a Pearl Izumi Factory store and got the things I wanted.
Dealing with your local bike shop
I like my LBS and enjoy going in there. But one thing I noticed was that it seemed the clerks were always trying to sell me something. Well, it is a store and not a library and the clerks get commissions on their sales. They weren’t pushy and were quite nice but I’m not the kind of guy who likes to be sold. I like information. I’ve been in that shop enough now that I know just about everyone who works there by name. And I’ve learned enough and they know me well enough that they no longer try to sell me and I can go in just for the discussion. Now I spend more time talking to the mechanics about repairs and talking to others about riding. And I’ve learned a lot from them by doing this.
Wear a helmet
I’ve worn a helmet for the better part of 16 years, including just riding around with my kids. I have a hard time understanding those who say they want to be free or don’t like the feel of a helmet or give some other reason for not wearing one. I recently had a cast removed from my left hand as I took a tumble on the first day of fall, seems appropriate, and broke a bone in my left wrist. I also bruised my left hip, knee and shoulder. I’m probably lucky that I didn’t break my collarbone judging from the way I went down. I was moving out of the way of an oncoming car and my front wheel got caught in a gap between road surfaces. I was 23 miles into a 46 mile ride. The only injury to my head was a bump. But my helmet cracked in about a half dozen places. If I had not been wearing a helmet, I doubt I’d be writing this. However, I finished the last 23 miles of the ride.
Don is back on the bike, recovering nicely from the fall, and promises to send along a more detailed account of his recovery, and an unusual side effect the fall triggered.