I WANT MORE!
So you considering learning how to ride a bike. That is great news! The beauty of cycling is that your never too old to start learning. Now that you've made the decision to start, the next question facing you is where and how do I start?
First, do you have a bike? If not, you need to consider what type of riding you are planning to do. What is it that has you interested in learning how to ride? Do you want to be able to calmly cruise the park roads or in your sub-division? Are you interested in the health benefits? Or, do you want to build up to where you are able to ride at faster speeds and for longer distances?
Next, how much are you willing to spend to get started? Cycling gear can get very expensive and can add up with the more gear you buy. There are many options for getting the most out of your money. If you do not have a bike, let's discover what things you need to consider. First, what type of riding are you planning to do? This will help dictate which bike is best for you. There are several categories of bikes you need to know about: road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, cruiser bikes, recumbent bikes, tandems, and tricycles.
Once you've decided on the type of riding you want to do, make a list of the local bike shops in your area and visit each to learn which bike brands they carry. I would recommend not going to your local retail stores (stores that do not specifically specialize in bicycles). These bikes are generally very cheaply made and although they may be inexpensive, you will not be happy with the feel and enjoyment of cycling with these bicycles. The drivetrain components are cheap (in both price and quality) and do not perform like the higher quality gear-train components you find on a bicycle from a bicycle shop.
These "commodity" bikes also have low quality tires and tubes (tubes typically have Schrader valves instead of the higher quality Presta valves). Most "good" bicycles have Presta valves. There are several reasons for using tubes with Presta valves. They allow the tires to be narrower; the hole in rim can, therefore, be smaller; they have a locking nut to keep the valve from moving and releasing air; and they are able to hold higher tire pressures. Most quality bike tubes have Presta values. Coincidentally, most bike pump heads are configured for Presta valves.
It pays to do the research and visit your local bike shops and talk with the staff about exactly the type of riding you have decided upon. There are many bike brands to choose from. The best way to determine which bike brand is the best is to test ride bikes at each bike store. Most (I would expect all) bike shops allow test rides prior to purchasing a bike. Most should help you determine the frame size that would best fit your anatomy (torso length, inseam length, arm length, etc.). Bikes are very adjustable and are generally "fit" to an individual. This involves more than adjusting the seat up and down. For a comfortable ride, there are many things that can be tweaked to make the riding experience more pleasurable. For example, the seat angle can be tweaked. The seat can also be adjusted forward/backward. And, there are many different seats to choose from. For individuals with shorter torsos, a shorter stem might be recommended. Conversely, individuals with longer torsos may need a longer stem. [If you are unsure about what the terminology is for bikes and components, click BIKE PARTS, or BIKE GLOSSARY.]
I found a link on bike sizing, check it out: BIKE SIZING. This should give you guidance on what size bike you should consider. It is good to have an idea before going to a bike shop. Most bike shops will provide general idea of sizing. Some bike shops may even take measurements. Either way, it's always good to be informed prior to making any decisions. After all, a properly fit bike is more comfortable and will provide a better cycling experience.
There has been a resurgence of cruiser bikes in recent years giving many new options for new and experienced riders.
Cruising casually on a bike is very relaxing, healthy, and a great way to get outside to enjoy the fresh air.
Okay, now that you have a bike, how do you ride it?
THE NEXT STEP
For those who are currently riding and would like to take it to the next level, read on. Yes, I'm speaking to those who have been riding casually or a step up on the intensity scale and would like to ramp up the effort, distance, increase skills and/or efficiency. If this sounds like you, then section is for you.
First off, have you developed basic riding skills? Are you comfortable riding in a pack of riders? Can you take a drink from your water bottle or eat food during a hard effort? If the answer is no, then the next step in your cycling evolution is to learn how to ride with multiple riders. There is a dynamic that happens when riding two abreast with multiple rows. A good way to get started is to join your local bike club and look at the ride schedule. Typically, rides include slow, medium, and fast rides. It is best to start our with the slower group so you can learn the basic dynamics of how the pack moves, turns corners, changes speed, and how it stops. It is important to use your peripheral vision and know where the other riders are. In addition, listen for rides toward the front who call out obstacles, debris, pot holes, or other hazard. Once you are comfortable with the pack, concentrate on riding as smoothly as possible and making your actions predictable to the other riders around you. Keep a constant distance from the bike in front of you and try not to overlap your front wheel with their rear wheel. Overlapping wheels can be dangerous if the person your overlapping decides to swerve for some reason. Making contact your front wheel may cause you to loose control and go down (crash). To maintain the constant distance, a technique called "feathering" your brakes - lightly squeezing and pulsing your brake levers to maintain your following distance.
Okay, you've been riding in local bike club weekly rides, your used to pack riding and have the desire to ride in competition. This section will give you a starting point and some tips on getting started.
First, the questions:
1) Have you mastered the questions and skills in the previous section?
2) Do you have a desire to monitor your calorie intake?
3) Do you have a burning drive to compete?
If you answered yes to these questions. Then it is time to move to the next level: competitive cycling.
There are many ways to get started. First, grab a cycling license at www.usacycling.org. The license structure allows you to advance as you gain more race experience.