Jul 182011
 
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I received an email from a reader and it was a wonderful question! I referred it to my biking expert: Michael.

“Cycling is something that has always appealed to me but like many, I am pretty scared of road bikes. I’ve never owned a road bike but have had good quality Specialized Mountain Bikes in the past. I hear what you are saying about the weight of the bike making a difference, but my question is this:

“Like many I want to cycle to lose weight, yet it seems that I never, and I seriously mean NEVER see chubby or overweight people on road bikes. Mountain bikes yes, road bikes – no. This may be because they have burned their fat or have always been skinny, but my issue is – if there is a vast difference of a bike at 20lbs and a bike at 35lbs, thats basically a difference of 1 stone (14lbs to a stone here in the UK).  But if I am 16 stone (224lbs) how hard is it to get going on a road bike? The size of the saddles looks painful enough for people of 140lbs, let alone me being 224. So this is my concern. Lisa, you say you were 250 lbs, did you get straight onto a road bike at that weight and how did you find it? I would like to cycle and your web page is inspiring, but getting on a road bike at my weight  is rather terrifying.”

 

This is such a good question because I think a lot of readers are wondering the same thing. I’ve never done a study of my reader’s demographics but from emails and comments I’d guess that most people read my blog for inspiration on losing weight. The common misconception is that “I’m too big to exercise”–I had the same misconception, which is one of the reasons why swimming appealed to me. I didn’t think as a 250+ pound person I could run or ride a bike. That is not the case!

Here is Michael’s helpful response:

This weekend was one of the largest organized rides in the area, the Seattle to Portland ride. For most people, this is a 2-day ride that covers approximately 200 miles — a serious trek. As you’ve seen, Lisa and I are often on bikes riding about town and saw a few of the riders that participated in this event. Sure, some of them looked like emaciated pro-cyclists, but many of them looked like average people that would love to be able to lose 50-ish lbs and they were perfectly capable of riding a road bike 200 miles! Don’t let your weight discourage you from getting started, everyone has a first day.

I don’t think your decision comes down to your weight or even what type of saddle to buy but it comes down to how long/far will you be riding. To sum it all up as simply as possible, if want to be on the bike for over an hour, you should be considering a road bike. If you don’t think you’ll be doing that, you should be considering a hybrid bike. It’s as simple as that. The reason for the aggressive riding position of a road bike is to help divide your weight between the saddle and the handlebars. Hybrid and mountain bikes tend to have a slightly more upright riding position which results in more weight being carried over the saddle and therefore the potential exists to become fatigued quicker. That being said, there are plenty of hybrid bikes out there that are light like traditional road bikes so don’t think that you’re sacrificing quality if you decide not to get a road bike. Just be sure to get something of quality. If you buy something you don’t like, you will not want to ride it. Take your time, try out a lot of bikes and make an informed decision. You’ll know when you find the right bike for you when you find it. Do not rush this decision.

It’s also worth pointing out that all saddles feel weird at first. There is a breaking in period that you can expect with them similar to that of a baseball glove. Your goal when shopping for a saddle is to find one that lines up properly with your “sit bones” that doesn’t create numbness. Any good cycling shop will allow you to try out a variety of saddles in the shop before you commit to purchasing one. It’s not uncommon to buy a new bicycle and swap out the saddle immediately either. You can find a wealth of great info on saddles here — http://www.sheldonbrown.com/saddles.html

One last thing you can do which may make this easier for you is to consider purchasing a bicycle trainer. These devices will convert your bicycle into a stationary bicycle. These will help you break in the saddle and build up cycling stamina in addition to allowing you to ride when the weather is poor. This is how I keep in shape during the off season. One final thing to point out is that pedaling on a trainer is less comfortable and more fatiguing than pedaling on the road because you’re 100% locked into a stationary position. If you can do it on the trainer, you can definitely do it out on the streets!

Let us know how your bike shopping experience goes.

-Michael

 

Lisa’s Note: I am happy that I made the decision last year to buy my road bike. I had limited funds and I too was nervous about buying a road bike. Growing up I always had mountain bikes, and for awhile I used Michael’s old hybrid for our rides. It was such a HUGE difference when I got on a road bike. I am so glad I made the switch.

Because I didn’t have a lot of money to spend and I had a deadline (Reach the Beach) I did rush my purchase. While there’s nothing wrong with the entry-level bike I bought it’s definitely heavier than I would have liked. Had I been able to wait and save more money I would have bought something else.

If you have cycling questions for Michael, email me at 110pounds at gmail.com and we’ll try and help!

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Jan 102011
 
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Lisa’s Note: Michael’s first post was so popular he’s back! He has a lot of really good information on how to buy a bike and since I’m a newbie I defer to him. You may not be on your way to Tour de France, but read this post with an open mind before you buy your bike.

How to Buy a Bike – Part 1

by Michael

First off, thank you for all the wonderful feedback on my first article How To Watch More TV. Your responses have encouraged me to write this follow up piece which is rather long, so I’ll break it up between two or three posts.

A few of you said that you love TV but you didn’t have a bike. This is a problem. How are you going to watch your favorite TV shows without a bike? Allow me to help. Here is how to shop for and buy a bike, part one.

Road Bike

As an adult, there are basically 4 types of bikes to choose from:

Road - Intended solely for riding on paved roads. (including single speed and fixed gear)
Mountain - Intended to primarily be ridden on unpaved roads.
Hybrid - Intended to be ridden primarily on paved roads but can handle some off-road duty.
Cruiser – Intended to look cool. But let’s be honest, this is not exercise equipment.

Your first decision is to figure out where you intend to ride your bike. This is really important. Do not buy a mountain bike if you’re never going to ride it in the dirt. A mountain bike is not cycling’s version of the SUV. Unlike SUVs, these vehicles are not fun to operate on paved roads. They are more difficult to ride on pavement than road bikes or hybrid bikes.

Mountain Bike

If you have preconceived thoughts about cycling or the way people look riding them in your head already, you need to forget them. You cannot go into a bike store thinking, “I don’t want to wear that skin tight clothing or ride a bike with road handle bars on it”. You’re shopping for a bike. Not the clothing, not the lifestyle, just a bike. And beyond that, I’ll bet that most of your thoughts about features that you’d want in a bike are actually the things that you don’t want in a bike. Seriously.

We’ll start with cruisers. These bikes are for people that want to look cool riding and are lying to themselves about exercising. They think they’re getting exercise without looking like they want to get exercise. Every time I see someone on these bikes they look miserable. They’re either struggling or out of breath — always. If you buy a cruiser, you will hate it, trust me, you will. Why?

Cruiser Bike

Well first off they’re heavy. Really, really heavy. These bikes tend to weigh in at around 35 lbs. Now that might not sound like much, but you’ll feel all 35 of those pounds on the very first hill you encounter. As you’re walking your bike up that hill, you’re going to get tired fast. Your arms will hurt. Your lower back will hurt. And obviously your legs and rear end hurt because you couldn’t actually ride up the hill in the first place and now you’re pushing it up the hill!


Second, these either have only one gear or have a limited set of gears. These bikes are not made for performance. You cannot go very fast on them, nor can you ride them up any hill of noteworthy size. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but the roads around here are filled with hills.

Third, you sit totally upright. This sounds good at first, right? I mean, you already know that you can sit upright for hours on end and who wants to be hunched over? That can’t possibly be comfortable. The real problem with sitting upright on a bike is that the bulk of, if not 100% of your weight, rests solely on the saddle (some of you call this a seat but that is not what to call this. It is a saddle. If you call it a seat at a bike store, they will think you’re dumb. So don’t do this. Unless you want them to think you’re dumb, which I can’t think of any reason why you’d want someone to think that.) Anyway, if you sit in a very upright position on a bike, you’re going to be sore. Let’s say that you weigh 200 lbs. That’s 200 lbs of weight solely planted on the saddle. And every time you hit a bump, you’re going to feel it and you’re not going to like it.

Anna Paquin on Cruiser

Maybe you think I’m wrong about reason number three or that you can get a big cushy saddle which will offset any discomfort related to sitting upright. Well, you’d be wrong again. These large cushy saddles are going to increase the amount you bounce which is going to lead to back pain. Since they are wider, they’re also going to increase the amount of friction on the back of your thighs and rear as well as the inside of your thighs. And as you pedal at an average of 90 RPM, you’re going to experience a lot of friction which will lead to saddle sores and bouncing, which will lead to back pain.

Simply put, cruisers will make you miserable. When you’re out and about, look for people struggling on these things and be happy that you’re not someone that owns one.

Lance's Bike

I’ll write about what you actually want in a bike in my next post.

QUESTION: What kind of bike do you have? If you don’t have a bike, what kind were you looking for before you read this post? Has your opinion changed?

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