New bike commuter with questions!
February 23, 2011 9:25 AM   Subscribe

This past weekend, I purchased my first road bike. My long term goal is to cycle to/from work every day. I’ve taken the bike on a few exploratory rides, been humbled by my general fitness level, and came away with a number of questions I hope you all can answer. (Many more details inside. (This ended up much longer than I thought it would.))

Last week, my cheap, way-too-small, mountain bike collapsed in on itself. The repair shop I took it too basically told me it’d cost about as much to fix as the bike was worth. So I’ve taken this as a sign to finally get off my ass and A. upgrade to a bike that fits me, and B. start using it to commute.

For the past year I’ve been semi-commuting on the old bike: I drive to within about a mile of work (free parking!), and then ride in the last mile. The total commute that I’d be ramping up to is about 7 miles each way. I know this isn’t very far, but A. I’m a smoker (I know, I know), and B. there are steep, mile-long hills to slog through on each side of the commute. So, what are your tips and tricks for hill climbing? Is this just a case of grin and bear it? Get a little farther up the hill each day until I’ve conquered it? Are there specific exercises I can do while on level roads to help with the later hill climbing?

The second major question I have is more about comfort. And appropriate clothing. My immediate concern is the seat. This is the first time I’ve had a hard seat, and man is my ass sore. The day after I bought the bike, I took it for a 15 mile ride. (The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom!) About halfway through, I realized my mistake, but there was no hope for it, I had to ride home. Now, two days later, while still tender, I no longer wince when sitting down.
What are going to be my best options to mitigate that pain until my body adjusts to the harder seat? Will it adjust? I’ve been told that those harder, thinner seats provide much more control and stability, and that yes, I’ll be sore for about a month, but it will pass. What about the padded bike shorts? How much do they help? Do they completely negate the benefits of the hard seat?

Ok. Enough for now. Though if you have any other advice for a new bike commuter, I’d love to hear it.
posted by Barmecide to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
(I should add that there are shower/changing facilities at my workplace, so at least that bit won't be an issue.)
posted by Barmecide at 9:27 AM on February 23, 2011

For hills, go for the low gear and twiddle option over higher gears and standing on the pedals. Don't trash your knees trying to push hard in higher gears! Also, there's no shame in getting off and walking if that's what it takes! There's a really steep hill on the way to my wife's workplace & on my bike at least some of the time I'd get off and walk even though I commuted by bike for years.

Give yourself a week or so for your body to get used to the new level of exercise before making any radical changes to anything; your backside will get used to the saddle in it's own time. Cyclist lore says that hardish seats (which let you sit on your hip bones) are more comfortable in the long run than soft ones. Thin seats on the other hand, are more about speed than comfort.

Bike shorts (which prevent chafing amongst other things) do help, but it really depends how hard you intend to push yourself. I'd build up to it slowly if I were you :)
posted by pharm at 9:35 AM on February 23, 2011

1. When I get back into biking I ride as far up the hills as I can then walk the rest of the way. Over time I get farther and farther and eventually don't need to walk anymore.

2. Gelpad seat covers are your friend, but take them off the bike if you keep it outdoors at night or squirrels will eat them (mind you, the squirrels in my neighborhood also ate the actual seat, so maybe I just have some crazy squirrels.

Good luck! I'm hoping to get back into biking to work myself this spring, been a few years.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:36 AM on February 23, 2011

Just give it a bit of time.

Padded shorts are OK but mostly because they stop chafing on your thighs. Your rear will adjust in a week or so. The trick with a road bike is to divide your weight between your feet, your butt and your hands. Serious riders support most of their weight with their legs because they are pedaling hard all the time. On a casual commute you will be taking more weight on your butt and arms and that will take some getting used to. Having the bike properly fitted to your body is important, hopefully the bike shop you bought it from set it up for you. You will probably want to go back in a month to have them adjust the cables as they stretch, at the same time you should have them watch you riding the bike to see if there are any fit adjustments that should be made.

Don't feel like you need to compare yourself to anyone else - this is your commute and you should do whatever feels comfortable. There is no shame in walking when you need to or in going slowly. You will gain confidence and ability quickly so don't worry about that. The important thing is that you are riding.
posted by ChrisHartley at 9:39 AM on February 23, 2011

I've been commuting 3 miles each way for a while with conditions similar to yours, it took me about a month to adjust.

I don't know what to tell you about the seat issue, and as far as clothing I just shower when I get where I'm going.

As for the hill, a proper bike is key! A crappy badly-fitting mountain bike sounds like hell to me, the bike can really make a huge difference. Make sure your bike fits you, and make sure the seat is sufficiently high to let your legs get as straight as possible when pedaling. The bike should be as light as possible, that means no cheap suspension. Actually, for commuting, I think you should avoid suspension whether its good or not, to retain as much power as possible. Then, make sure the chain is in good condition and greased, I was surprised how much of a difference this can make.

And lastly but not leastly, use your gears smartly. Use them to make sure that you're always expending pretty much the same amount of energy on pedaling, regardless of the terrain, only then can you really pace yourself for the entire commute.
posted by tempythethird at 9:40 AM on February 23, 2011

The padded bike shorts make a huge difference, and don't in any way negate the advantages of a firmer/narrower saddle.

Not sure if you're using them already, but clipless pedals (or at least toeclips) and bike shoes will allow you to transmit more energy from your legs to the pedals, which can help you get up those hills.
posted by zombiedance at 9:49 AM on February 23, 2011

So, what are your tips and tricks for hill climbing?

Gear down and spin your pedals. Idealy, you want to be spinning the pedals around 90 times a minute---this number is called cadence. If your cadence is too low, it means you're pushing too hard and are at greater risk of injury: blown knees are the most common, but hamstrings are also a big possiblility. To get your cadence up, 90 rpm is much faster than you might think, you need to gear down. Try to stay seated when you climb too. It will be hard at first, but will help develop leg strength.

What are going to be my best options to mitigate that pain until my body adjusts to the harder seat?

Padded bike shorts will help a lot. You can wear them as underwear if you don't want to parade around in spandex, though that is more comfortable.

Seat fit is important, but it can take a bit of explaining to understand what the best fit should be. It's normal to go through a bunch of seats before you find one that suits you.
You want a seat that supports the bony, hard parts of your pelvis (the 'sit bones') but also one that doesn't push or chafe on the soft bits. This is why narrow seats are popular. The best way to do this is to work with your bike shop and find a solution that works for you. It might take a few returns to get this right.

Though if you have any other advice for a new bike commuter

Try to carry an extra tube, a pump/CO2 cylinder and a tire lever or two at minimum. They've saved my bacon a few times in the morning.

Learning to dress for the weather is also important. My rule is that you should be slightly chilly when standing still. That way, when you're warmed up, you'll be at the right temperature and biking is more fun.

When you get more into it, consider shoes and clip pedals. Best upgrade to biking ever.
posted by bonehead at 9:49 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

So I do about the same commute but I have the advantage that's it's pretty much dead flat. 7 miles will become pretty easy after a while.

For the hills, just do them in low gear and try to maintain a steady pedaling pace (aka cadence). If you gotta walk, walk. You'll work up to it in time.

Can your bike handle a rack? Especially in summer you may find a rack more confortable for carrying clothes & stuff versus your back.

For clothes I am fully in favour of buying total bike nerd clothes. Buy padded shorts. Get a cycling jersey. They don't have to be flashy but I find riding in cycling clothing to be much, much more comfortable versus street clothes. As soon as I get off the bike I feel like a dork, but whatever. In the winter a proper cycling jacket makes the ride much more pleasant.

For your sore ass, simply keep riding and it will get better. There's no way past but to go through it.
posted by GuyZero at 9:55 AM on February 23, 2011

You'll probably get used to the seat once your ass gets broken in a little bit but bike shorts are really nice to prevent chafing. Bib shorts are the best bike shorts (built in suspenders hold up the shorts, it doesn't seem like it would make a huge difference, but it does). They don't negate the benefit of a hard seat.

For going up the hills make sure you get down in an easier gear early and spin (fast pedaling cadence) up the hill. The only way to get better at riding hills is to do it a lot (and losing weight would probably help too) but I bet you improve quickly.
posted by ghharr at 9:59 AM on February 23, 2011

Thanks for the link on saddles, bonehead. I'll be shopping for a new bike soon (my old one weighs about as much as a small truck), and that will really help.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:05 AM on February 23, 2011

If you want to get into serious biking -- i.e., more than just commuting -- don't get a seat cover or cushier saddle. You will get used to it even quicker than you expect... IF it's a saddle that matches your anatomy.

Absolutely definitely clipless pedals and shoes. There are lots of standard-looking shoes that take SPD cleats, like this Shimano pair and these from Chrome. (I've had a Shimano pair for 2.5 years that's still going strong.)
posted by supercres at 10:06 AM on February 23, 2011

I've had a pair of Shimano SPD pedals & Cannondale SPD shoes for, uh, 13 years that I still wear every day.

In fairness, I didn't use them much for the first 8 years or so.
posted by GuyZero at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2011

Hills - There is no shame in gearing down. Go all the way to the granny gear if you gotta, and ride up the hill for as long as you can. If you bonk, just hop off the bike, and walk up the rest of the way. You'll need to walk less and less each time... it will be a great measure of how much fitter you're getting every day. Soon, you won't need to get off the bike for any hill.

Butt - You don't need padded shorts for 14 miles roundtrip. A comfy seat will take care of that, time and toughening up will do the rest. Brooks saddles are always highly recommended - I'd actually go a step further and recommend a sprung Brooks saddle, and a week or two's worth of breaking in. (You =and= the saddle.)

Clothes - These should be worn on your body. That's about the only requirement for a 7 mile ride twice a day. Maybe roll up the pant leg closest to the chain so it doesn't get greasy.

Tips - Get a city tire with serious puncture protection, and make certain it's inflated properly once or twice a week. Fenders are your friends - just because it's not raining doesn't mean there's no liquid on the road. Attaching your bag to the bike's rack is more comfortable and stable than wearing it: panniers are awesome. Use as bright a light as you can afford in the back as soon as it starts to turn dark.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:12 AM on February 23, 2011

Racks & panniers are awesome for commuting, especially if you're dealing with hills. Keeps your back less sweaty, and even if there's a shower at the other end it just feels nicer.

For those hills: shift down asap, get some momentum going into if it you can, and don't be embarrassed to get off and walk. It should get easier as you go, but there are some hills that are just always tough.
posted by epersonae at 10:15 AM on February 23, 2011

I’m a smoker (I know, I know)

Sounds like you've started to answer your own question. *Nudge* *Nudge*

Also, there are bike shorts that have padded linings (and hence look like a pair of plain old nylon gym shorts) if you don't want to parade into the office wearing spandex. If you've got a long ride, I'd recommend these.
posted by schmod at 10:17 AM on February 23, 2011

Oh! And if you have a smartphone, and want to turn this into a game (ie. to beat yourself), download RunKeeper, and record each commute to keep track of how you're doing.
posted by schmod at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hills are what gears are for. Knowing how much speed to take into the hill, when to shift, what gear to shift into, when to stand, and all that are matters of technique that you'll need to experiment with to get right. Eventually you'll figure out "I want to be in my 39x15 at the bottom, shift to the 17 right after that pothole, and then stand as I pass the fire hydrant."

Your seat and your bike's ergonomics in general will take a little getting used to. If the shop didn't fit you and get your position dialed in before you left, have them do it now. Then give it a couple of weeks of regular riding before you make any adjustments or replacements.

Try to get used to pedaling in a lower gear and higher cadence than you may think is natural. 60 RPM should be a minimum on the flats. This will save your knees. Clipless pedals are great, but toeclips at least will help a lot if you don't want to step up to cleats.

Bike shorts are more comfortable than street clothes for riding.
posted by adamrice at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2011

Tracking your progress is a great way to keep momentum day to day. You can track with MeFi's group here (also linked in the sidebar on MeTa).
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:20 AM on February 23, 2011

Slap a Maxie Pad in the crotch of your undies and Voilà!... padded shorts ;-).

Seriously, you DO have to harden your ass, so to speak. Just ride a little bit at a time and don't over-do it.

I ride a Titec El Norte Expert saddle on all my bikes including my road bike.
Technically it's a downhill mountain bike saddle, however here is my theory on bike fit ergonomics...
Bikes are static and somewhat rigid, the human body is not. So don't try to force anything and give yourself options. That said, the El Norte is a long saddle with padding along it's entire length. This gives you the option of scooting back and forth along it a centimeter at a time or so to provide varying positions and to work different muscle areas (little things like a centimeter or a degree in angle make HUGE differences on bike fit). It's a common misconception that a wider saddle helps, however it simply interferes with the pedaling motion and creates sore spots.

As for hill climbing...
I've heard it said that your quadriceps (thigh muscles) are the strongest in the body.
I'm not sure about that but I do know that when you isolate that muscle group while riding it makes you instantly more efficient. Here's how to do it...
"Quiet" your upper body as much as possible while riding, then concentrate on bringing your knees as close together while pedaling, even grazing your bike's top tube with every stroke as a measure of how close you are getting. You are now pumping using the muscles right above your knee caps.
Try this and then try pedaling as bow legged as you can and you'll instantly feel the difference in efficiency. Then, when you need the power on a hill or any other time, bring those knees in.
(If you observe other riders for this aspect you can almost always tell the difference between a cyclist who trains and positions and one who just lolly-gags along).
posted by No Shmoobles at 10:20 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

60 RPM should be a minimum on the flats.

OK, so I don't really know where you're at and you have to work with where you're at. But 80 RPM should be what you're aiming for on the flats. And if you want to work it up a bit you can sprint at 100 RPM for a few blocks. Gear down to do this - you don't even have to go faster. Just pedal faster. But I personally would say 60 RPm is the bare minimum and that 80 is a better target.

But you'll need a bike computer with cadence to asses your RPM easily and there's no rush to do that until you feel more comfortable turning your commute into a workout. Until then, simply try to ensure you're pedaling fast and not "mashing" the pedals.

On the good side, you can buy a cheap bike computer with cadence for less than $50 probably, so it's not a huge deal. Eventually you will discover that bike stores are fantastic places to spend money. Lots of money.

Also, I didn't see anyone mention it - carry a spare tube and a pump. Because eventually you will get a flat at the 3.5 mile mark which is a very long walk.
posted by GuyZero at 10:30 AM on February 23, 2011

If you are in your lowest gear and still feel the need to pound the pedals to get up hills you can look at getting larger front gear (Granny gear) in order to make this easier. A traditional "road bike" (like the kind used by slightly more hardcore riders for longer exercise rides) sometimes aren't geared in a very friendly manner for commuting. If your bike is a designed for commuting this shouldn't be a problem.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:44 AM on February 23, 2011

"B. there are steep, mile-long hills to slog through on each side of the commute."

When my husband started bike-commuting and had to conquer a hill, our Dutch friend looked at him like he was crazy and informed us that when commuting and faced with a hill, the bicycle-loving Dutch jump off and walk. There are no awards for conquering hills in a commute setting, and they may make you stink when you get to work.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:03 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

A granny gear would be a small front and/or a large rear gear. A larger front gear will make it harder to pedal.
posted by Carbolic at 11:03 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Re the butt pain problem. The key here is to remember that a bicycle seat is not a chair. You should not be resting all your weight, or even most of it, on the seat. The majority of your weight should be shifted to your legs/feet on the pedals, as well as your arms. The seat is really just a sort of shelf to keep things balanced and moving efficiently.

Example - assume the powerful 'standing pedal' pose, where your butt is lifted way off the seat and all your weight is on your legs; see how you move more powerfully, but with lots of inefficient side-to-side motion? Think of the seat as a tool to prevent the inefficient side-to-side motion. Not as a chair for your ass to rest in.

Not only will you get less soreness with this approach, but you'll also pedal more efficiently and increase your endurance in general.

Re hills and your commuting distance - damn! I'm a pretty dedicated bike commuter, but I probably wouldn't be willing to take on a hilly 14 mile round trip on an everyday basis. You don't have to do this if you don't want to. The Bike Police are not going to come for you if you only ride once a week, or continue to just ride the easy last mile. Sorry I have no advice for you about hills. My usual technique is "avoid riding uphill a lot, because it sucks balls."
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 AM on February 23, 2011

If you want to hit a certain cadence but don't want to invest in a bike computer that tracks cadence, use a song! When I'm not sure what my cadence is, I sing "Santeria" by Sublime, which has about 90 bpm, and adjust accordingly.

I am not a crackpot.
posted by mskyle at 11:18 AM on February 23, 2011

Thank you all. I'm ok with walking up part of the hill, I'll certainly need to for a few weeks.

And yes, the shop did fit the seat, handle bars (I forgot to mention I'm new to drop down handle bars as well), etc. I don't have clips, but I do have the foot cages for my toes.

I hadn't thought about the knee stress from trying to power along in too high of a gear. I'll definitely change that.

My large (for me) ride on Monday was very casual, I sat mostly upright, slowly traveling in a low gear. So, new, hard seat plus upright relaxed position, plus long ride seems to be a perfect recipe for a sore butt. I do feel like I'm getting more used to it already.

(better response in a bit, maybe I shouldn't have asked this on such a busy day!)
posted by Barmecide at 11:20 AM on February 23, 2011

One thing that took me a while to figure out was front/back saddle adjustment. There are specific pains associated with an improper fit that are easy, at the beginning, to assume are fitness related. Keep reading and keep adjusting until things feel right.

Fenders are the next purchase you should make. Rain will sneak up on you. I've got a set of SKS Raceblade (or something?) that are temporary fenders that work pretty well if your bike doesn't have the proper braze-ons for mounting permanent full fenders.
posted by clockwork at 11:34 AM on February 23, 2011

You're at the stage where as long as you ride regularly, you're going to make rapid gains in fitness. No training tips - just ride. As long as it's difficult, you're improving. Just keep riding.

The saddle issue - make sure your weight is being borne by your sitbones and not the area between them. Bib shorts (worn without underwear underneath) with a chamois will help. They don't negate the benefits of a firmer saddle - they're the proper clothes for cycling. More comfort for your rear, less friction for your legs, and they're tight so when you get up and sit back down, you don't have loose clothing getting snagged.

Additionally, make sure that it's set up properly. If it's tilted up or down, it'll be very hard to get comfortable on it. Also, really, it's not always easy to get comfortable on a certain type of saddle. Many shops have a saddle demo program where you can try out a number of 'loaner' saddles. Try and find one that works for you.

Another thing that works is core exercises. Ten minutes a couple times a week is all it takes - it will let you not need to sit upright. Upright means more pressure on your rear end. Core exercises help support your upper body so that you're more comfortable reaching to the handlebars.

I'd disagree with one of the posters recommendations about gelpads. The way gel works is that your sitbones push down into the gel, and, like squeezing a balloon, there's an increase of pressure aimed at the more tender places.

As far as other tips, I'd echo getting fenders for when the weather is foul, learning how to dress for the weather, and having a basic flat kit. Knowing how to do other basic repairs might come in handy, too.
posted by entropone at 11:46 AM on February 23, 2011

You have almost the exact same setup as I did when I started commuting in Maine a few years ago! You will be taking this route in stride in no time. You've already had a bike fitting and that is a great first step I wish I had taken vs. just drag old bike out of basement and start riding. Your legs and butt will adjust in a couple of weeks.

Other people have the hill advice covered well, so I'll talk about clothing. When I started riding I just rode in my (business casual) work clothes. This is fine and I still do it sometimes but mostly I like to wear other clothes. First, it is more comfortable. Second, I found I was wearing out the seat of all my work pants.

You are in a warm climate. That is good news because you can wear shorts all the time. I start wearing shorts when it gets to 50F degrees. As noted above you might be chilly at first but once you get moving you generate some nice heat. I wear old street shorts for the most part on commutes. I also have padded shorts for longer rides, but once your butt adjusts to riding I think you'll find street shorts are fine for 10-mile hops. Shirts - ideally something breathable (it doesn't even have to be a bike jersey per se, just look for "performance wear"), but I just wear old tshirts for the most part. I add a cycling jacket in colder weather. Sneakers for cooler weather but my best find has been these sport sandals for warm and wet weather riding. If you go with sandals, definitely get something closed-toe.

I keep my work shoes and belt at work - much better than dragging them back and forth! I have a small bag that fits my work clothes and lunch which I carry on a rack. I much prefer using the rack to a backpack/messenger bag because even in moderate weather backpacks make you sweat a lot more. I also keep a spare pair of socks and a shirt at work, just in case.

I've been tracking my rides on the site linked above and it is motivating to see the miles add up and the overall improvements in performance over time. Feel free to email me if you have any follow-up questions later on!
posted by mikepop at 12:17 PM on February 23, 2011

I commute 9 miles a day, round trip. After much comfy-seat research I finally settled on Spiderflex about 5 years ago. It's pretty expensive ($120 with S&H - about $30 more than I remember paying for it), but looks just like the day I got it, and has made my commute immeasurably more enjoyable. I've also been spared the need to wear padded shorts. Highly recommended.
posted by subajestad at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2011

Tips - Get a city tire with serious puncture protection, and make certain it's inflated properly once or twice a week. Fenders are your friends - just because it's not raining doesn't mean there's no liquid on the road.

I just wanted to support this advice. The single greatest improvement in my cycle commuting experience happened when I replaced the crappy tyres that came with my bike with a pair of puncture-resistant ones. They're heavy and hard to put on, but I've been riding on them almost every day for more than a year and not had a single puncture (before I'd have a puncture every couple of weeks). Mudguards are invaluable as well, to avoid both water and also those stupid trails of dirt you otherwise get from the wheels spinning.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:58 PM on February 23, 2011

No matter what the weather, clothing that wicks makes a huge difference, especially as a base layer. This can be proper cycling gear, or just whatever cheap exercise or hiking gear you can find. I don't wear padded shorts for my commute, but without wicking underwear I get swamp crotch and saddle sores. REI has a nice selection.

Your tires probably take Presta valves (the skinny kind). It's a good idea to replace one of your valve caps with a Presta/Schrader adapter so if you're out without a pump you can fill up at a gas station or a bike shop's free air hose.

If I'm sweaty when I get to work I clean up with a washcloth at the sink if I can. Otherwise, I use Rocket Shower. Or actually, I used up my bottle so I just made my own mix of ethyl alcohol, witch hazel and a little water.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:23 PM on February 23, 2011

For more tips and ongoing support, check out Bike Forums and the Commuting sub-forum.
posted by attercoppe at 2:24 PM on February 23, 2011

Back again. (Someone save me from meetings!)

The soreness I have is definitely on the flesh right underneath the two lowest bits of my hip bones, which, as I understand it, is the correct place for the seat to be supporting me. Though I'm clearly resting too much weight there, that's something I should be able to focus on and change.

I did pick up an extra tire tube, a little CO2 injector, and those two little plastic bits to help remove/replace the tube. I *didn't* pick up a little baggie to attach these under the seat though, so they're still sitting in my trunk. (The cadence meter sounds very interesting. I'll definitely check them out in a month when I take my bike back for it's free 1 month checkup.)

You have all definitely made this seem a lot more do-able than it felt like it would be a week ago.

I'll report back Monday on how the ride in actually goes!

posted by Barmecide at 2:30 PM on February 23, 2011

Oh yeah, other stuff.
  • Kevlar beaded tyres have worked wonders for me: I hardly ever get punctures, even though by the time I wear them out the outers have been shredded by broken glass on the road. A nail or long flint will still go through them of course. Yes, you pay in extra weight, but your time is probably worth a lot more than the tiny amount you'll save with a lighter bike.
  • Mudguards: Want to arrive at work without a wet dirty stripe up your back? Fit mudguards. Trust me on this.
  • Panniers: No sweaty back on hot days, plus all the weight is low down over the back wheel so it moves your center of gravity down and back which means you can brake harder (should you ever have to) without going over the front.
  • Spare socks in the panniers: Sometimes you'll get wet feet.
  • If you don't want to go clipless (more efficient, but equally more hassle) because you want to ride like a normal person who just happens to be going to work on their bike (which is my attitude, but I don't commute quite as far as you're planning to) then a pair of strapless toe clips do make a difference. I can wear slippy leather-soled shoes which don't grip my pedals at all & ride quite comfortably thanks to the toe clips, without any faffing about with straps. Zefal do a pair that work fine.
  • 7 miles is far enough to want a puncture repair kit, a few tyre levers and a small hand pump (of the right sort, or just get a universal one) just in case.
Can't think of anything else right now!
posted by pharm at 2:53 PM on February 23, 2011

Kevlar belted not beaded. Sigh.
posted by pharm at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2011

Cycling shorts with a chamois liner are a god-send. Helmet, of course, and don't forget the full-finger gloves, for when you fall down, as you will.

Sounds like you bought a road bike. You will want to replace the smallest inner chain-ring to get a lower gear if your front derailleur will take the range. bitdamaged has it backward, Carbolic has it right. Ask the shop where you bought it, or post a link to the bike here.

Spinning at 90 rpm is your goal, its' called getting on top of your gear. You'll be doing it no time, and starting to look for bigger hills. Yay for you!

Now as to the flat repair. Do your self a huge favour. Get a floor-pump, and practice this in your house this weekend, on the back wheel. Do it two or three times, so that you are good at it. You do not want to be learning this skill on the side of the road, in the rain, on your way home, as it's getting dark.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:07 PM on February 23, 2011

Mudguards, Panniers, and eventually clips have now all been added to my shopping list.*

*Provided I stick with this for at least 2 months.
posted by Barmecide at 3:09 PM on February 23, 2011

Forgot the wheel removal link thingy.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:12 PM on February 23, 2011

If you're locking the bike up outside, you're going to want to have the wheels secured, not just the frame. You can run a cable through everything and then through your u-lock, or you can replace your quick release levers with anti-theft skewers. Some lock down with a standard hex key, which will deter a casual thief or a crackhead but not a thief who has any knowledge of bikes. The best ones are keyed individually.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:39 PM on February 23, 2011

As someone who velo-commutes and, since giving up my car 2+ years ago, bikes everywhere, I approve of all the advice above.

I have a only a few things to add:

1. I totally re-affirm that the most important thing is to just keep riding; your body will adapt. A lot of advice you've been given is a wee bit technical and in-depth. The thing with bikes, if you keep turning the cranks, you keep moving forward; everything else is commentary.

2. My trick with dealing with hills is to remember the advice my Dad gave me when he started dragging me out on 60 mile rides when I was 12 (thanks Dad, sorry I complained so much), "Throw yourself at hills." The faster you are going at the bottom of a hill, the faster and easier you go up it. So when you're in rolling hill territory, the trick is to never ever coast down a hill. Pedal your damn heart out so you have all the momentum you need to make the next hill your bitch. Dad also used to say, "I like hills, they give me something to do," but that's just because he's an insane masochist.

3. Ride bikes. Have fun.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:52 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I swapped the QR skewers on my wheels for ordinary locking ones too.

Also, get decent U-lock that takes a higher-security key. The ones that look like these can be picked very easily, as can ordinary cylinder locks. Ideally lock the bike through the rear triangle to something solid that is bolted into the ground. Lock it in such a way that the lock can't be moved so it's against the ground (otherwise it can be shattered with a hammer) and so that there isn't room to insert anything large (specifically the arms of a hydraulic jack) inside the U of the lock: get the frame of the bike & whatever you're locking it too in the way.

(You don't buy a good lock because your bike is costly to replace, you buy an good lock because the cost of the lock is almost certainly worth less than the hours of time you will waste getting home and getting hold of a new bike if your bike gets stolen.)

Oh, and like Panjandrum says, enjoy the ride!
posted by pharm at 3:22 AM on February 24, 2011

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