BIke choice (getting back on the bike)

Discussion in 'Cycling Archive' started by Dan Sheppard, Oct 26, 2013.

  1. Dan Sheppard

    Dan Sheppard Guest

    I used to enjoy cycling from being a teenager to about 30, when I screwed my
    back. I think I'm feeling confident enough to try again now. I don't own a
    bike at the moment, and don't really know how to choose, having previously
    used whatever junk was available.

    I would like to use the bike principally to commute from time to time. But
    the commute is rural. I live on the edge of a rural town, and my place of
    work is in the countryside. The route involves country A-roads and is about
    20 miles. There are some hills but nothing too scary. I've commuted like this
    by bike before, so am aware of the dangers and effort involved. I used to do
    about 20mph and I'm not interested in racing, but naturally want to turn up
    in reasonable time to work! I know nothing about bikes.

    A friend recommended Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op, and looking through the pages
    it seems that the bikes I like are called Road Bikes. I like them because
    they are light. I had one of these once, and much preferred it to the kind
    they call Commuter Bikes or Tourer Bikes. On the other hand tourers seem like
    a more "sensible" choice. I don't want to be stuck with a bike which is only
    fit for timed circuits in an arena! I can't cope without gears, either. But
    I do love both the maneouverability and speed you get from them being so

    Another difference is I'd ideally want to adopt a more upright cycling
    position than typical for road bikes, maybe even with straight handle-bars
    and relatively low seat, because of my back, even though it would slow me
    down: all of which says tourer. But all the bikes I've seen with straights
    are big lumpy things which seem to be designed for vicars cycling slowly
    round a village. I really do like light bikes and nice, thin tyres!

    I'm probably more careless than I should be with my own property, so I'd go
    for towrds the bottom of a price range.

    What do people think? If we take the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op site as
    indicative, which model or group of models do you think would be the best
    match? My guess would be "Revolution Country Traveller '13", but you all
    know more about these things than me!

    Dan Sheppard, Oct 26, 2013
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  2. That's a fairly common reason for people trying again and deciding that
    they are "too old to cycle". I have back problems, too, but that's not
    the reason I need to ride upright.
    Er, you have two misconceptions there. Weight is more-or-less irrelevant
    to both, per se, but weight will be negatively correlated with the factors
    that increase maneouverability (and reduce stability).

    But weight is largely irrelevant to speed, and you are likely to ride a
    lot FASTER on a heavy bicycle than a light one, if the latter causes you
    back or other problems; I know that I do. Let's say that you will need
    to spend 20% of the trip time climbing hills (and you will probably spend
    less), and all other things are equal, then an extra 5 Kg will slow an
    80 Kg rider down by under 40 seconds an hour.
    Bluntly, even the bicycles with straight handlebars will force you into
    a partial crouch. It is damn hard to get an upright bicycle in the UK,
    unless you are very short, and I had to go to Holland to get one. Also,
    the difference between a fully upright position and a racing crouch is
    less than you might think - perhaps 10% on the flat and downhill, and
    nothing at all up hills where you have to drop speed significantly.

    The benefits of thin tyres are even more dubious at the sort of speed
    you are talking about. What you gain in rolling resistance on smooth
    tarmac, you lose in losses on rougher stuff. And, much more seriously
    for your back, are going to hammer your back a lot harder. I find that
    wide tyres, pumped up fairly hard, are often faster than thin ones!

    Depending on what your back problems are like, I would tend towards
    trying to buy a really cheap, probably second-hand model of about the
    configuration you think would suit, and seeing how it does. And then
    buying something that resolves the worst of the problems you have.

    Nick Maclaren.
    Nick Maclaren, Oct 26, 2013
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  3. Dan Sheppard

    Owen Dunn Guest

    The difference in weight is probably not going to be enormous, and
    something like a light touring bike is going to be much more practical
    if you're not going to be the type to swathe yourself in lycra and
    travel as light as possible; you'll have such luxuries as mudguards
    and pannier racks so you don't get a muddy stripe up your back and can
    carry luggage if you want to.
    Do you know that a lower position would be bad for your back or are
    you just guessing that? I was dubious when I moved from a more
    upright position to a slightly more crouched one (though still much
    more upright than most `road bike' riders) but more crouched seems to
    be slightly better for my back than an upright position.

    If you get a tourer you might be able to arrange for them to leave a
    lot of the steering tube still there so you can have the handlebars
    higher than would be `normal', and then you can play with adjusting
    things up and down as you discover what works for you.

    If you prefer straight bars you might want to think about butterfly
    bars which still give you a bit of a choice of where to put your hands
    (and thus a bit of variation in how bent over you are).
    Looks nice. The Country Premier has butterfly bars which may give you
    an idea of comparative positions. (But it also has other fancier
    components and is made of steel and is more expensive, so may not be
    what you're after.)

    Another question that springs to mind is what your attitude is to bike
    maintenance, mechanical things going wrong, and getting covered in
    grime of one sort or another. The less you want to get mucky or do
    maintenance yourself the more you might want to consider things like
    chaincases (stop trousers getting mucky) and hub gears.

    Owen Dunn, Oct 26, 2013
  4. The odds are that way though, as you say, either is possible. We
    have been upright bipeds for 3 million years, and any crouch means
    that you either have to carry weight on your hands or use your back
    as a derrick. The standard advice for computer use, washing up etc.
    is to keep your back upright - hah, bloody hah, if you are 6' plus!
    Yebbut, that's a choice between semi-crouched and more crouched.

    If you want to get more upright, you have to go in for raised and
    swept back handlebars, like the old North Road Raised. My current
    bicycle has my hands 3.5" above the saddle and 8" behind the stem,
    and it's still too crouched to be entirely comfortable over a
    period of hours. But it IS a big bicycle, and hence the stem to
    seat distance is rather more than on (all?) UK bicycles. For fully
    upright, you probably need 6" up and 6" behind, but may need more
    if you have short arms.

    Nick Maclaren.
    Nick Maclaren, Oct 26, 2013
  5. Dan Sheppard

    Dan Sheppard Guest

    I think you're probably right. And I'm not 18 any more, either, :).
    I'm kind of guessing. From knowing what sets my back off (repeated sway and
    roll of the full weight of my upper body or more at the waist), I know
    cycling won't be "good" for it, so I'm trying to be very conservative. Pitch
    doesn't seem to affect me much (eg I can lift well as long as the lfited thing
    is rigid), so maybe it would be ok to crouch, but then take corners carefully.
    Interesting point.

    I'm lazy, and messy. I'd probably take it to a guy every six months to do oil
    and tighten things, replace worn bits, and the like (there's a profesisonal
    guy comes to work), but not really want to do anything else and am
    badly-equipped for spanners, wrenches and the like.

    Guards which protect moving components would be good if they helped preserve
    their pristineness. I'm guessing that a chain guard would be good for that as
    bits of mud, leaves, wildlife, etc, probably get entrained and cause failure
    down the line? I'd probably not notice that happening.

    Dan Sheppard, Oct 26, 2013
  6. Dan Sheppard

    Dan Sheppard Guest

    I probably shouldn't splash out, then, until I can see what works, so should
    go second hand by the sound of it.
    I should probably rewind a little, then. Basically, when I think back to the
    bikes which I liked and got on well with, seemed to zip everywhere, they were
    light "road" bikes. That might not have been lightness that caused it, maybe
    they were better maintained or just good quality? What is it that makes some
    bikes a chore to ride at any speed along nice roads, and others a real pain?
    I tried a few things described as "mountain bikes" (though they weren't real
    ones) in the 90s, even new ones, and they were a real pain in the bottom to
    get going and keep going, even trying aout all the various gears. To be
    honest, they were a chore to ride. Other bikes I've ridden were I guess I'd
    call them "town" bikes, big cumbersome things with baskets and the like, and
    it was really hard to get any speed in them as well. The most obvious
    difference to me was the lack of weight between these bikes, but maybe it was
    something else?
    I'll do that. The main reason I was reluctant to buy second hand is that the
    second hand market seems to be full of rogues and charlatans selling rusty
    lumps. I've ridden some really bad bikes in my time. I also don't have much
    time to spend in bike shops or rooting in sheds. With a new one, I could
    just get one delivered. Also, I think bike people see me coming, as I always
    get a bad deal, probably because, as you've seen, I know so little about them.
    I'd much rather choose without a salesperson present, but have some good
    advice from someone disinterested. Are there ways around this with a second
    hand bike? A bit like the way some car places do approved second hand?

    The problem is with the small of my back, and is mainly triggered in
    situations where there's a lack of lateral stability, what in ships you'd call
    roll and sway, in the waist area. So naturally, I'm reluctant to cycle again,
    even though my back seems completely better.

    I really want a recumbant trike, to be honest, but they cost a fortune, I
    literally don't have enough money! I'd really like to get out of the car as I
    miss actually being a part of the world I'm travelling through. I used to
    like cycling, despite my complete ignorance of bicycle engineering, :).

    Dan Sheppard, Oct 26, 2013
  7. That is an argument for hub gears and chaincases.
    Chainguards will protect your trousers to a great extent, but will
    do damn all to protect the chain etc. Only a chaincase will. A
    chainguard doesn't cause significant extra trouble by capturing

    Nick Maclaren.
    Nick Maclaren, Oct 26, 2013
  8. Either that, or they felt faster because they were more unstable,
    but weren't actually any faster! That's a major effect, incidentally.
    The only reliable test of a bicycle's speed is the time over a run.
    Quality and maintenance of drive train and rotating parts, and
    appropriateness of tyres. Which can mean either road racer or
    roadster, according to taste.
    Quite likely inappropriate tyres or tyre pressures too low.
    More than likely. A 20+ Kg roadster is not a slow bicycle, but it
    feels slower than it is. On the other hand, a roadster is a
    traditional upright designed and set up for travelling long
    distances on roads.
    That may argue for a more stable bicycle, such as the one I have.
    I can guarantee that it will not feel fast, nor will it actually
    be as fast as a road racer ridden by someone who can do so.

    The trouble is that crouching reduces wind resistance, and that is
    the main expenditure with a reasonable bicycle and faster rider
    (i.e. above 12 MPH). That is why the road racers ride arse over
    tit, why they wear skin-tight clothing, why their tyres are narrow,
    and why recumbents are faster.

    Nick Maclaren.
    Nick Maclaren, Oct 26, 2013
  9. Weight is pretty likely: any 'mountain' bike under about £400 will be
    a great heavy thing, and those apparently cast-iron 'shoppers' often
    are as well. Feh to bikes over 20kg.

    And of course poor maintenance: not just in the chain department, but
    mountain bikes allow a lot of range in tyre pressure before calling
    attention to themselves as being flat - but when used on the road will
    want to be at least 50psi, even 90psi, not squeezable at all. Same
    with shoppers. Flat tyres make a bike feel heavier.

    Also being badly sized to you, it's amazing what just an inch or two
    change in seat height and handlebar position can do.

    Probably best to go with Nick's recommendations - I think with the
    back trouble you are an ideal candidate for a Dutch style upright with
    hub gears. They're often still heavy, but get it sized and adjusted to
    you and keep the tyres pumped, and you're good. They resale well, too.

    Cheers - Jaimie
    Jaimie Vandenbergh, Oct 26, 2013
  10. I'm not sure if you want to sit bolt upright, with back issues. A few
    years ago I had back problems and discovered I was best leant forward a
    bit, so any jarring was not transmitted straight up the spine. Maybe
    good ol' fashioned drop handlebars would be good for you? Then you can
    vary your position an find what works best.

    - .. -- Tim .-., Oct 26, 2013
  11. In uk.rec.cycling.moderated on Sat, 26 Oct 2013 17:42:25 +0100
    OK, so had you considered a recumbent?

    You can get some very nice 2 wheeled 'bents, ranging from the very low
    to ones like my Bacchetta Giro which is designed for commuting. My
    bike has the rider's seat about the same height as a car driver's

    They are harder to find than diamod frame bikes of course, but there
    are places to try them out in the UK I believe or you can do what I
    did and find a club whose members will be happy to hook another fish.

    THe advantage of a 'bent is your back is straight ad supplorted, your
    head is straight not bent, you have no weight on your wrists or hands.

    THey cost more than diamond frames because they are a much smaller
    market. But you can get them at affordable prices!

    I'm totally a Bacchetta fan, but I understand they are rare in the UK.
    Take a look at specifically which is a very good
    starting recumbent for commuting and touring. (It's the one I have
    although I put a 24" front wheel on it as the slightly bigger wheel
    makes for slightly better handling at speed.)

    I think HP Velotechnik are more common in the UK being European made,
    so check

    Hopefully someone can chime in with a suitable dealer for

    If you have a bad back then a recumbent should be high on your list of
    possibilities. Overcome your upright cyclist "too weird" reflex, this
    guy did!

    Zebee Johnstone, Oct 27, 2013
  12. Dan Sheppard

    Tosspot Guest

    On 26/10/13 13:32, Nick Maclaren wrote:

    Tosspot, Oct 27, 2013
  13. Dan Sheppard

    Rob Morley Guest

    Rob Morley, Oct 27, 2013
  14. Dan Sheppard

    Danny Colyer Guest

    The OP mentioned in another post that ideally he'd like a recumbent
    trike, but that funds were limited.
    I don't think he's mentioned whereabouts in the country he is, but if
    he's anywhere near Cambridgeshire (and I have noticed that he has a
    Chiark address) then D-Tek has to be worth a look for second hand machines.

    They don't have an online presence, but their advert in the latest issue
    of Velovision gives their contact details as:

    Main Street
    Little Thetford
    CB6 1BR

    tel: 01353 648 177
    e-mail: dtekhpvs at btconnect dot com
    Danny Colyer, Oct 27, 2013
  15. Dan Sheppard

    Phil W Lee Guest

    Where in the country are you?
    And how tall?

    It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that you may be able to
    borrow some different styles of bike, so get some idea of what fits
    your needs.
    Phil W Lee, Oct 27, 2013
  16. <snip>

    Having read through the thread so far, and seen plenty of good advice, I
    would offer the following:

    (1) My main commuter for years (9.6 miles each way across country) was a
    steel frame no suspension mountain bike. Fitted with very wide slicks
    which had almost a V profile, you actually rode on a very thin strip of
    tyre (you could see this by the difference in colour from the rest of the
    tyre) but you had a reasonably soft ride (good for backs) plus a lack of
    terror when cornering (unlike square profile mountain bike tyres with
    chunky tread). With added bar end grips to heave against whilst climbing
    this gave a very flexible set up where you could change your riding
    position from bar centres to bar grips to bar ends and back to keep
    comfortable. All in all a good commuter which with the added rear rack
    could carry anything needed at work. The only down side was the relatively
    low gearing with a small(ish) top ring. Low gearing though was wonderful
    for steep hills.

    Did the London to Brighton on it with no major problems.

    Did a few 20 mile+ commutes on it as well, but not many.

    Leisure rides of a couple of hours are also usually above the 20 mile mark.
    lower top speed may be enough of an irritant to put you off.

    If you are tempted to a mountain bike variant DO NOT buy one with any
    suspension whatever. Waste of weight and energy unless you are doing
    serious off roading.

    (2) After many years with my main bike, and feeling limited by the top
    speed when I was reasonably fit, I was tempted to buy a venerable Dawes
    Galaxy off eBay. Steel frame, drop bars, mudguards, front and rear racks.

    This had been extensively worked over in the drive train department but
    was still essentially a touring bike, not a 'road racer'.

    However, I have found it a joy to ride. Effortless, higher top speed,
    precise handling (reminds me of Italian motor bikes vs. Japanese motor
    bikes of the 1980s) and generally all round nice ride.

    My son bought a decent entry level road bike for a triathlon, and it was
    O.K. but I preferred the Dawes.

    (3) My Lady Wife and I bought a pair of Giant aluminium Dutch bikes from a
    place in Suffolk (byways not highways) so we could meander the country
    lanes together when away from home in our camper van.

    Very nice bikes, fully enclosed chains, 7 speed hub gears, hub brakes. So
    no worries about getting dirty or constantly cleaning and adjusting
    components. Very comfortable to ride and a very upright riding position.

    However if I tried a 20 mile commute on this it would drive me up the
    chuffing wall! Given that I bought a Dawes Galaxy because the mountain
    bike wasn't really fast enough for longer rides the Dutch bike (supremely
    comfortable at 11 mph but a pain to get to go very much faster) is just
    not suitable.


    concerns I would think that a touring bike which these days would almost
    certainly have the shifters integrated into the brake levers or on the end
    of the drop bars would be most likely to suit you best.

    Touring tyres are also more likely to absorb a bit more road shock than
    skinny racers.

    [However CTC magazine reviews seem to place 'tourers' with either flat or
    drop bars in the £700 - £1200 range which is way above the price range I
    expect you are considering. I have no idea what a 'budget' tourer would be

    If you want a more upright stance then a hybrid of some sort (which used
    to be mountain bike style frames with mudguards etc. and higher gearing)
    might fit the bill.


    I would suggest that if you have the bike set up correctly then swaying of
    the body around the hips should not be a major feature of your riding -
    this is supposedly a sign that your saddle is too high.

    Also, cornering should not place a greater strain on your waist as you
    should be able to lean easily and have the centripetal force hold you
    gently in place. As long as the bike is well balanced with a good stiff
    frame. :)

    Best of luck!


    Dave R
    David.WE.Roberts, Oct 27, 2013
  17. Dan Sheppard

    kimble Guest

    Agreed. D-Tek is independent, and has an astounding range of second
    hand machines in stock. Kevin, while a bit of a character and
    notoriously sluggish at the business side of things, really knows his
    stuff, and an afternoon trying out various bikes/trikes is generally
    well spent.

    kimble, Oct 27, 2013
  18. Dan Sheppard

    soup Guest

    Is 20mph your top(ish) speed or average? 20 miles is a long commute and
    if you are going to do it in a reasonable time you will have to 'motor'
    so will need full shower facilities etc at work. Maybe on the Monday
    car with the weeks supply of changes Friday take all the dirty washing
    home in the car so three commutes by bike a week
    Doesn't really say tourer to me more a flat barred hybrid

    Cheapest of the ones I can see is the "Trailfinder" this has the bonus
    of adjustable handlebars these may be better for your back.

    soup, Oct 27, 2013
  19. Dan Sheppard

    Tosspot Guest

    They have all sorts of 'interesting' stuff tucked away on their website.
    I was looking when I had to pedal to keep up with some BMXers on about
    a 3% slope. I had 622x28, they of course had 20xEEEK! and were coasting
    faster than me, how does that work I wonder? So, Big Apples for me :)

    Oooh! or Fat Franks <rofl>
    Tosspot, Oct 28, 2013
  20. My belief is that it is because the wider tyres take up the usual
    irregularities rather better, but I have no proof. Schwalbe's
    analysis is interesting, but I don't think it is the main factor on
    ordinary roads, as it is still an analysis of rolling resistance
    assuming a planar surface!

    Nick Maclaren.
    Nick Maclaren, Oct 28, 2013
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