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tl-w.gif (842 bytes)tr-w.gif (841 bytes)Frank 'N Fred

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 problems with?

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 and...

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 standing still.

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 skill, Fred.

I know. I'm supposed to stay vertical.

You've got it, buddy.

-  Frank Krygowski

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By Frank Krygowski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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08/16/11
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