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CHOOSING A BICYCLE AND SUGGESTED EQUIPMENT

 

Copyright 1987, by Bob Soetebier



BUY A HARD-SHELL BICYCLE HELMET BEFORE YOU PURCHASE A BICYCLE!

Helmet use can prevent more than 75% of all bicycle deaths and serious

head injuries.  A good bicycle shop will recommend a bicycle helmet

and show you its proper adjustment.  They can also provide free advice

and assistance, along with manufacturers' guarantees, and service for

necessary adjustments after the initial wear-in period.  Be sure to

check their follow-up service policy and repair rates, and the cost of

annual overhauls or Spring tune-ups.


     At first you'll probably be interested in riding for recreation,

and/or regular exercise.  Later you may be interested in longer day

trips or even overnight motel or camping trips.  You might even

consider commuting to work as a healthful, non-polluting,

energy-efficient, economical alternative.


     The sport touring bicycle is where you'll probably set your

sights.  They range in price from $200-$300, and up, for excellent

models WITH aluminum wheels.  When combined with strong,

straight-gauge spokes (#14 or #15), aluminum wheels have virtually the

same strength as steel, BUT with much better braking efficiency.

They're also lighter

, making for easier pedaling!  (To prevent most flats, get tires made

with Kevlar, which is used in bullet-proof vests!)


     Fitting a bicycle to your body and riding style is where the

bicycle shop's experience and advice begins, especially if you're

outside the "normal" size range.  Frame size?:  The top tube should

just clear your crotch within an inch or so, with your feet flat on

the ground.  While sitting on the saddle with one foot on the ground

with only toes touching, and the other on the pedal, can you easily

reach the handlebars and brake levers in all positions?  Different

length handlebar stems are available, and seat position is adjustable

up/down and fore/aft.  Upright handlebars are generally not

recommended as they do not allow you to vary your position for relief

from road shock, arm/shoulder/neck/butt fatigue and headwinds.  For

women, it's best to stick with the stronger "men's" diamond-frame

design, or the "mixte" style.


     It's not the number of "speeds" that's important, but rather the

gearing range.  "Spinning" the pedals, NOT grinding your Knees, is the

key to aerobic conditioning!  Give your knees a break on hills and

headwinds:  Get the LOWEST POSSIBLE gearing!  (Example:  A 24 or 26

tooth small gear cog up front, AND a 32 or 34 tooth large gear cog on

rear.)  Toe clips (no straps, at first) keep the ball of your foot in

the proper position on the pedal.  (Be sure they don't overlap the

wheel WITH full-length plastic fenders on, which keep you cleaner!)


     DON'T FORGET ACCESSORIES:  A kickstand so you won't have to lay

the bicycle down.  Thick handlebar padding (not just cloth tape).

Rear view mirror, water bottle(s) and holder(s).  Frame pump, spare

inner tube, patch kit, tire levers, and tools.  You'll also want some

spray dog repellent, a front handlebar bag with plastic map case, a

rear rack and rack pack.  Get an anatomic butt-pad gel saddle, mileage

odometer or computer, rain gear, bicycle lock and cable.  Padded/lined

bicycle touring shorts (with side pockets) and special bicycling shoes

you can also walk in are highly recommended.  Also, be sure to get as

an added safety feature:  A fluorescent AND retro-reflective (for day

AND night) 18", horizontal (NOT vertical), spring-mounted,

bicycle/traffic-spacer safety flag!


    All these things are best considered and added to your bicycle

before it's paid for, assuring correct fit.  A few may even be thrown

in as part of the deal, if you bargain a little.

 

     A final note:  For better service and personal attention, avoid a

bicycle shop's busy times, like Saturdays, the noon hour, or after 4

or 5 PM.