I've started my bike a little more seriously, and I have a few questions for the more experienced cyclists of the green.
I ride a heavy Gitane road bike (super high tech in the 1980s!) with friction shifters. I bought it for $150 three years ago, and it definitely doesn't owe me anything. It's not a bad commuter bike, but it's limited in it's use for recreational/more sporty cycling. But I am also a weakling, and I think that riding on a heavy, pain in the ass bike might toughen me up. I'm planning on buying a new bike a few months from now (birthday!), but until then, please help me with the following:
There are no hex screws on my bike, and for whatever reason, the bike shop I visited yesterday couldn't mount a water bottle cage to my seat post. They suggested putting a water bottle cage on my handle bars. I didn't like that idea, and I rode around with two water bottles in a backpack and now my neck feels weird. Are there ways to mount water bottle cages to super old school road bikes? I've been thinking about getting a camelbak for non-bike reasons for a while, but if there's a cheaper solution, I'd love to hear it.
Down tube Friction shifters
: Hate them, but LA is flat enough that I usually just bomb away in one gear. But trying to shift going uphill is so, so hard. Like, I lost concentration and almost fell off the bike trying to find the right gear. Is there something wrong with my shifters, or is this just the nature of the beast? I ended up walking my bike uphill (shame alert!) because I couldn't deal with shifting in traffic. I assume the solution is just to build up mad leg muscles and not have to shift, but until then . . . any suggestions? I find that standing up on the pedals on a longer climb uphill just sort of ruins my rhythm, but I can't stay seated if I can't shift.
Riding in the drops: Love it on a bike path, hate it in traffic. I just feel like I can't really see what's going on around me, but it's definitely the most efficient way to ride, and it gives me the best access to the brakes. Advice?
Equipment: I'm planning on maybe buying some gloves and getting some squishier bar tape. I don't want to spend money on a new seat, and the current seat is surprisingly comfortable. How can I make my bike more comfortable without spending much money? Any duh-obvious fixes that I haven't thought of?
Starting and stopping: Any tricks for smooth starting? I'm getting better, but if you have a technique that gets you moving in a straight line and quickly, I'm all ears!
In sum: How do I improve my bike handling skills and get the most out of my forty pound beast?