In which Fred gets off to a good start.
How are you doing, Fred? Seems like it's been a long
time since we talked. Have you been riding your bike?
Aw, no, I been kind of busy. But I did see you
riding with your bike club last week. You guys were looking good out
there. And the gals were looking even better! Man, I tell ya...
Fred, we're supposed to be talking bike safety here.
When did you see us?
You know, Sunday when the old green Rambler went
by you laying down on the horn? That was me saying hi!
Oh, boy. Yes, I'm sure we all remember now. Luckily,
nobody recognized you.
But no kidding, I can tell you guys really know
how to ride a bike! I mean, you guys just looked so good!
I don't think I can get that good.
Oh sure you can, Fred, if you try, and if you
practice! Hey, I'll try to give you some tips - because skill on the
bike is an important part of bike safety. What are you having
Shoot, you want to know the truth? I'm having
trouble just getting started! I mean I wobble around and I
can't get going and I can't get my feet in those toe clip things
Whoa, Fred! OK, let's talk about starting out from a
stop. First, before you stop your bike, be sure it's in the
right gear. That means you have to plan ahead. It's very hard to
shift when you're stopped - you have to lift the rear wheel and turn
the cranks - so get in a good medium gear before you stop,
every time. If you pay attention, you'll learn exactly which gear is
best for you.
So that's the trick, huh? The right gear will keep
me from wobbling...
Oh, that's not all. Make sure you're standing over
the bike - save the cowboy mounting tricks for later - and put one
foot in the toe clip as you stand there. If you have snap-in pedals,
like Look SPDs, snap one in.
Oh yeah, I guess that would be easier when I'm
Now get that fastened-in foot up and forward.
You don't want it at the bottom, or you won't get good leverage to
start. Lean forward a bit, and stand right up on that forward pedal
while you push off with the other foot. You'll rise up, the bike
will start forward, and you can scoot right onto the seat. You
should now be moving fast enough that you won't wobble.
But I can never find that other toe clip.
The trick is to not even try to get your
other foot in until you've pedaled several times! That way you get
through the intersection, and you get up enough speed to ride
straight. After that, you can look down and get the other foot in.
You can even hold the pedal with your hand, if necessary. Fred,
practice this in a flat, empty parking lot. You'll be off to a good
start in no time.
Well, it sounds like it makes sense. But you know
when you talked about a medium gear? All those gears confuse me. I
don't know which one to use. Once I almost fell off the darn bike
'cause my legs were spinning so fast!
It takes practice to be an expert, Fred, but I can
tell you a little bit. First, you'll find you can ride best if your
legs keep spinning at a constant, brisk speed - whether you're going
uphill, downhill, into headwinds, or whatever. Watch good riders,
and you'll see them spinning about 80 times a minute. You should
shift gears to keep that spin up.
But which gears?
It's probably best to hang your bike on a repair
stand or car rack to check this out, but here goes: the left lever
(or buttons, if that's what you have) shifts the front sprockets.
The right lever shifts the back. Anything that moves the chain to
the left puts it in a lower gear, either in front or in back. A
low gear means you don't push so hard, and your feet spin faster.
Now you need to try out your bike, while it's
hanging, and remember which way you move things to get a
lower gear. Once you're riding, you shouldn't have to strain at the
pedals. Instead, shift lower until you can spin easily. And if it
gets too easy, don't spin 200 rpm - shift higher instead. Anything
that moves the chain to the right puts it in a higher gear.
On almost all bikes, you can do a good job by just
leaving the front on the middle sprocket, if you have three of them.
(If you have just two, keep it on the smaller one.) Do most of your
shifting in back, because that shifter makes finer adjustments and
shifts easier. Once you get that mastered, use the front shifter for
bigger changes. Just think about this and practice, Fred, and you'll
get it in no time.
So tell me: How do you guys ride so straight?
I'm glad you noticed that we do. A good rider will
never weave more than six inches, and usually a lot less. It makes
sense, because riding crooked slows you down, and can cause you to
run into another biker or a car.
How do you ride straight? Practice! It helps to scan
the road a good distance ahead to find a clear path through any
bumps or road hazards - don't look right in front of your wheel -
but just keep thinking "straight".
If there's a wide shoulder, you can even try riding
on the white side stripe of the road, just to see if you can do it.
Then try it with only one hand. Then try it as you shift gears, and
signal turns, and even as you look behind you or drink from your
water bottle. Riding straight is important!
Yep, starting out well, using gears well, and riding
straight are important basic skills. And you know there's one other
I know. I'm supposed to stay vertical.
You've got it, buddy.
-© Frank Krygowski