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Hi,
I'm Lilly and I am hoping to start biking for exercise and commuting. I want to do this correctly and safely. I could really use some help and advice.

1. I'm 5' 2", 275 lbs.
What kind of bike should I be looking for? And what features should I be looking for? Also, what will hold my weight well in a bike. I'd be on the roads and bike trails mostly.

2. What kind of seat should I get for the bike. I'm hoping for a big butt seat that would offer a little more support than the little seats.

3. What do people use to carry their things too and from places? Basket, bags?

4. I've been looking at bike shops and Walmart for bikes. And I'm just lost. Where should I go for a bike and how do I talk to the seller without sounding like a n00b and end up buying things I really don't need.

5. My biggest fear of all of this is being hit by a car. I will be crossing two of the busiest streets in the city. I've seen people use the crosswalks and also people riding like they are in a car and using the left turn lane and such. What would be correct for me to do? Do people still use arm signals?

6. Besides reflectors on my tires, what else can I do to be safe and make sure cars see me?

7. Safety gear - helmets - what is a strong reputable helmet to have? Is there a special way to choose a helmet other than a piece of paper measuring your head? What other safety gear - if any - should I have?

8. Is there anything else I should know or do for having a bike?

I think that's it for now. I so hope you all can help.
Thanks :D
 

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First thing to do is don't go to a department store. Find a local bike store in your area. It should have a repair department and carry all the accessories that you will need. Tell them exactly what you just told us and then listen. They should have some ideas for you and a good bike store should even let you test ride them. Bike stores don't care if you are new. In fact they are glad you are new and getting into the sport and if they are not happy to answer your questions find another bike store.

First thing is helmets. Make sure you get one, but all must pass the Consumer Product Safety Commission Standards. Some will cost more than others, some are vented better and others are lighter, but they all offer the protection you need. Pick on within your budget that feels comfortable for you.

It is good you are cautious about traffic, but no need to fear. Be alert and though accidents can happen, on a bike you can stop far faster than most would expect. If you are on a bike, in most places you are considered a vehicle just like a car and expected to follow all the rules of the road any car would be expected to comply with. You have the same right to a lane that a car does, but having the right doesn't help if there is a disagreement between a 30 lbs bike and 3000 lbs car. Yet to answer your question, if you get off the bike and walk, you are then a pedestrian and expected to comply with the rules anyone else walking would. Sometimes that is a good and valid way to get through a really busy intersection. As a general rule ride on the right side of the lane, but many will say don't get too far to the right. Sometimes that encourages cars to pull the old squeeze play, which you really don't want. You also do not want to unnecessarily block traffic.

Start in relatively low traffic areas for a few rides and you will find your confidence grow. Once you KNOW you have total control of the bike, your confidence will allow you to go places and do things that right now seem unimaginable.

As far as things you can do to help be visible, they all help. Now there are battery operated tail lights that help attract a drivers attention. Most have a mode where there is a flashing, and a steady mode as well. Many might say they should be on at all times on the road. Motorcycles do this and not because they need the light to see, but to help drivers see them. Hack is a motorcycle guy and I'm not, but most place recommend that lights are on at all times on a motorcycle and it wouldn't be bad advise for a bike either.

What to carry stuff in, well thats a bit dependent on what you need to carry and how much. They make all sorts of things from baskets on the front handlebars to bags that attach to a rear rack on the bike called panniers. They look like saddle bags and can carry a lot of stuff. Some people will even pull trailers.

Most important of all remember to have fun. We all were new once. People here are more than happy to help and odds are someone here has been there done that. One thing you will learn about other cyclist is that you will find for the most part they are some of the nicest people you will ever want to meet and more than willing to help if you ask.
 

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Spend a little extra to get yourself a decent bike. If you get a WalMart bike that's got crappy brakes and shifters, riding will be no fun. A good shop will help you choose a bike that fits and works for you. You'll be more likely to stick with it. As far as seats, keep in mind that the seat is designed to support your sit bones. A really big seat is no better than a small one, and none of them are terribly comfortable until you get accustomed to having your weight on those bones.
 

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spin... spin.. spin
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Lilly,
first don't be intimidated by cycling people or terms, we were all noobs once.

1. if i were helping you buy a bike i would suggest a Trek 7.2 FX WSD (stagger) this is a bike designed for bike paths and commuting. it has good components is priced at $550, not cheap but a good bike for the money. the stagger frame will be easier to get on and off of.(they make this without the "stagger" so ask for it specifically) remember you can change the seat(saddle) and many shops will do this at no cost at time of purchase.


2. sit on as many as you can and get the one you like

3. i like backpacks, as long as the ride is under thirty miles. but racks fit most bikes including the one i mentioned, then you can strap items to the bike.

4. GO TO A BIKE SHOP! ask riders you see to recommend a shop. go talk to them if they try to push items try another shop. be honest with the salesman, so he/she can help you. things you need: BIKE, LOCK, HELMET, MAYBE A RACK,

5. be cautious and attentive but not afraid... i have never driven and commuted by bike everywhere i go since i was about thirteen. traffic is no were near as bad as dogs. i ride in the car lanes, left turn and such... but at first i would recommend at a busy intersection get off your bike and use the crosswalk.

6. Besides reflectors on my tires, what else can I do to be safe and make sure cars see me?

7. all helmets are equally safe, get the one that feels right in your price range(this you can get at walmart) i like cycling gloves but they are not a must. sunglasses and sunscreen are!

8. talk to other cyclists...
if you would like private message me and i could possibly help more. i am not sure where you live but if in AZ i would be willing to go to a shop with you and or recommend one. research is a helpful tool check out bike manufacturer sites, of course remember they are trying to sell their bikes.
glad you are here, hope you find a bike and get cycling soon.
 

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spin... spin.. spin
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by the way all the advice earlier posted is great and photosbymark and Industry_Hack are great guys who have helped me a lot... they know a ton about bikes.
 

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Lilly I hope you are excited about what you are to undertake. Just be patient with yourself. For me that is one of the hardest things to do. In a way its natural. The better we get at our chosen field, the less we want to be a beginner at something new.

One thing I can promise you. There will be problems, but there usually is a solution. Something is annoying, something starts to hurt a bit, something doesn't work right or fit, but don't let that cause you to give up. Ask. Odds are someone here has had the same problem. Experience is just another word for I fouled it up first.
 

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I want to accentuate the advice to find a local bike shop to help you. Now I am someone who purchased his latest bike online, but getting a good entry level bike at a shop that will pay close attention to your proper fit (and not just the day you roll it out of the store) a few days, weeks, or months later, when you bring it in because you're experiencing some joint pain in your ankles or knees. (I'm 5'9" and weighed 275 a year ago) I now weigh 235. And I know that being heavy, if I overdid exercise and experienced pain, I would stop. The thing is with a bike, if you experience joint pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, etc, while part of it might be your body's reaction to exercise, another part of it might be due to improper fit and alignment. Seats and handlebars can be adjusted by height, angle, and even distance from each other to help reduce stress on body parts. Pedals can also be a factor in foot, ankle, and knee pain. If you don't know how to adjust a bike when cables stretch (and they will, from use, not because of your size) or if you don't know someone who is knowledgeable about fixing/adjusting a bike, you are absolutely going to want to have found a good bike shop.

But don't be scared about the potential for pain. I have found biking to be one of the most enjoyable and low-impact forms of exercise I can do. And if I am enjoying myself, I will do it more. I think that is true for most people.

Two main things to consider up front. 1) What is your budget for a bike (actually to be spent on the bike)? Remember that you will need money for a helmet and lock, possibly a small bag to carry your wallet, keys, cell phone, etc. Most of us can load you down with all sorts of accessories that are "must have" ;)

2) What kind of riding you plan to do will dictate what kind of bike to zero in on. My wife doesn't like road riding, wants to do more casual and comfort oriented riding, but she didn't feel real comfortable riding a Jamis Boss Cruiser, because the real upright riding posture bothered her. As a younger woman she was used to riding around on drop bar bikes. So the type of riding will help guide you to a particular bike style. Do you want raised handlebars? Flat bars? Or drop bars?

In regards to safety, you can google search for the bicycle Safety laws in South Dakota, and find out the mandatory rules for reflectors and lights. It's good to have a small first aid kit when riding.
 
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