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 4or 5 PM.