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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I'm hoping you can answer some questions and offer some encouragement for a complete and total newbie! :)

I bought a bike on Monday (a Giant Cypress ST) to use for commuting to/around/from campus. I consider myself fairly active, I spend a lot of time walking around campus and go to the gym 3-5 times per week. I thought I would adjust to the bike easily, but boy was I wrong! The (small) hill of my morning commute is very difficult for me and makes me dread getting on my bike as I am practically gasping for air the whole time. Even on flat surfaces I feel like I am going extremely slow.. other cyclists have passed me and this is really discouraging.. will it get easier?!

I did some reading online and think I figured out how to use the gears, I have left the left shifter on 2, and am just using the right shifter. However, I'll take any advice on this as well.

As for braking... what brake should I use? I read to use both the front and rear break, with slightly more pressure on the front wheel.. is this correct? I'm terrified to break too hard that I might go flying off the bike! Also, should I be hearing the tire break?

My biggest issue though, is my knee. My right knee really hurts when I am riding my bike. While walking, it does not bother me. I don't know if it is something I am doing wrong, or just my body adjusting to this new activity. I don't know if I should stop riding for awhile, or if I can ride through it.

I also just need some encouragement.. I feel like a fool riding my bike because I am so slow and a little clumsy, and also because any slope at all (even small) is difficult for me.

Basically, any words of wisdom you have for me would be great!! Thank you so much!!
 

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We all feel clumsy when first starting out. It will get easier. My husband has the same bike and loves it :)

1) yes, it will get easier as you ride. Cycling uses different muscles and works your body in a different way. We went riding with some friends of ours who are 10 years younger and "look" more fit. They jog, hike, but don't bike. We damn near killed them on this bike ride! They thought if we could do it, they certainly can. They were wrong :)

2) What gear you use depends on how hard the hill is, and whether or not you're a masher or a spinner. To spin, go to the easiest gear needed at that time and spin the pedals to go up. Uses more of your cardiovascular system than your muscles (and isn't typically as hard on your knees). To mash, you're in a harder gear using your leg muscles rather than your heart. You should shift just before you start to climb, and you'll learn to anticipate what gear you need to be in as you ride more. It's best not to go all the way down into the easiest gear right at the beginning of a hill because then you have nothing to shift to. Start going, shift into an easier gear and pedal some more; when you get tired or it gets harder, shift into an easier gear, and so on. When you're on a steep hill, be careful that you "let up" the pressure on your pedaling when you shift otherwise you can throw your chain. For me, on short hills I may not even shift - I'll just stand up and power over the hill. On long hills, I alternate between sitting and standing while I pedal in order to stretch my legs and work different muscles (this is Colorado, and we have some LONG hills!). If you're standing, you'll want to have a harder gear as your body weight "helps" you some...so I may be going along spinning, and I want a rest so I'll go maybe two clicks into a harder gear for standing, then back down when I sit again. That bike has a triple up front, and you don't want to "cross chain" - meaning don't be in 1 on the left (smallest ring in the front) and 8 on the right (smallest cog in the rear), or 3 on the left (largest ring in the front) and 1 on the right (Biggest cog in the back). This puts too much stress on your chain.

3) if you're braking hard, you will hear noise. Depends on what kind of noise you're hearing as to whether or not it's normal. It's a new bike, so the brake pads need to break in some. Use both brakes, front and back, and feather them. The geometry of that bike is going to make it VERY DIFFICULT for you to go over the handle bars on it. Unless you're going downhill at 35+ mph and hit a rock or something out of the ordinary, you'll be fine!!

4) did they do a bike fit when you bought it? Where does the knee hurt - in front, in back, on top in the quad, below in the petallar tendon? Where it hurts can help determine many things, like maybe your seat needs adjustment. It could also be that you were using too hard of gears when climbing that hill.

5) don't feel like a fool! We're all clumsy at times, and it gets better with practice. Just ride! And welcome!
 

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JK13,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response!! :) I really appreciate it. Hearing about your friends does make me feel a little better.. hehe.

Your advice on using gears is very helpful. To be clear, what is easy/hard for flat surface and hill riding, is different, right? For instance, the higher I gear I have on a hill, the harder it will be, the lower the gear, the easier it will be. But on a flatter surface, it will be harder with a lower gear and easier with a higher gear. Do I have it right?

As for my break sound, I am squeezing the breaks only lightly, so it's not a loud sound, I'm not sure how to describe it.. maybe like skimming the pavement? This may be a stupid question, but what do you mean by feathering the brakes?

When I purchased the bike, the guy had me ride it down the street to try it out. When I came back, he said I probably needed to raise my seat (which he did for me). Today I noticed that my seat was pointed left somewhat.. I adjusted it, but is it normal for it to move like that? I also noticed that while riding, I feel like I am constantly having to "readjust" myself.. kind of scooting back. The seat doesn't really seem tilted though...any thoughts?

My knee hurts in the front, but I haven't paid attention to exactly where. I did a little jogging on the treadmill today, and it didn't bother me, it seems to be only during biking. I am going to take a break from riding my bike tomorrow and maybe the next day.

Anyway, sorry for all the questions, I really appreciate your comments and help! :)
 

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Not a problem! We all have questions, even after you've been riding a while.

For gears, a lower gear is easier to pedal, but you have to pedal faster to move the bike at a good speed. Going up hills makes it harder to pedal, so you use a lower gear - you have to turn the pedals faster to move the bike further, but it's easier to get there. On flats, it's not as hard to pedal, and if you're in a low gear, you'll just be spinning along moving your legs like crazy, but not going anywhere - so you'd use a higher gear towards the middle. Going down hills, your wheels are rolling faster so you need a higher gear in order to "keep up" with that. Check out this site: Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary L it has a lot of info on gearing and explains it a lot better than I can. It gets kind of technical, but he explains it well.

Feathering breaks means you lightly squeeze and release them multiple times - you don't want to just grab and squeeze them all the way in unless you're trying to stop on a dime to avoid something. Be aware of what's going on around you, anticipate what might happen, and adjust your speed as needed. You'll do this most frequently if you're going down big hills and want to slow down but not stop - you wouldn't grab the brakes hard, just squeeze them a little and release until you slow down as much as you need to. You wouldnt slam your foot down on the brake of your car as you go into a turn, you would ride it a little to slow down some. Same thing.

Most "good" bike shops will put the bike on a trainer and have you sit on it and pedal. They usually get a plum line and check your knee angle and seat height, your reach to the handlebars, and handlebar height. That's a pretty basic bike fit. Some shops do even more, or you can pay to have a pro bike fit done. At the very least, you should have a basic fit - more than "your seat should be a little higher"..... Your seat shouldnt be moving around, either. If it is, it's not tight enough.
If your seat is all over the place, you're going to be readjusting yourself to get comfortable. Once that's set, the men folk on the forum can talk to you about other things you can do to stay comfy ;)

Check out this site for knee pain. There are lots of different reasons why your knee could be hurting you, and even why one does and not the other (many people have one leg longer than the other, or a past injury that they favor - I have a dominate leg that I push harder with, so I try to remind myself to pedal evenly). Hopefully this describes the different kinds of pain well enough that you can say "Oh, yeah, that's what it feels like". Cycling Knee Pain | Natural Health Answers to Joint Pain Problems | www.steveshealthanswers.com

With your seat trouble, and learning how to use gears, there are quite a few things going on that could be causing the problem.

Hope these help!
 

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Yesterday tired old man, Today retired old man
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JK13 A big :thumbsup: All I will add is it gets easier the more you ride I ride 25 miles just about every day, when I started 2 miles was my limet that was a year and a half ago. O yea I am 65 allmost 66 and the hills get easyer too :D.
 

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My knee hurts in the front, but I haven't paid attention to exactly where. I did a little jogging on the treadmill today, and it didn't bother me, it seems to be only during biking. I am going to take a break from riding my bike tomorrow and maybe the next day.
You came to the right place for encouragement, and you really should keep plugging along because your fitness will improve.

As for your knee pain, the front of the knee usually indicates that your body is too far forward. This is something that would be checked by your lbs if you got fitted. You may want to try and slide your seat back a little and try it out, see if it relieves some pain. You have to be careful with this type of pain though. Don't just try to ride through it because it could quickly end up tendinitis which is very difficult to get rid of. Trust me, I know. I ignored my pain and road through it and I ended up off the bike for several months to let the knee heal. Had my bike fitted and found out I was sitting way to far forward. First ride after fitting and BAM....no knee pain.

Of course I am no doctor, so please don't assume that your ride position is the exact cause. You could simply be over training. It may be that you just need to take some time off the bike.
 

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Turn the cranks Dude.

It's got to get better!
 

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YAY BAIKS!
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The most important thing is to never get on a bike unless you're going to get that same thrill you did when you were 10 years old.
 

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I had the same problem with my knee hurting...after I took my bike in and had the seat raised (it was two inches too low), knee problem went away. I am very new to this as well and I am sticking to relatively flat trails and trying to increase my endurance, strength etc. Thanks for starting this thread! I have learned a lot...
 

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As others have already said, knee pain is likely bike fit. Just so you don't feel alone, I'm working through the same issues myself. Yes fit likely caused mine.

In my case I have the seat all the way back, but its still too far forward. The geometry of the bike could have been better for me. The fix is an off set seat post.

The doctor told me, "Make sure you don't put any pressure on your knee when its bent more than 90 degrees." I was. Looking for the seat post online now. Suggestions welcomed
 

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As others have already said, knee pain is likely bike fit. Just so you don't feel alone, I'm working through the same issues myself. Yes fit likely caused mine.

In my case I have the seat all the way back, but its still too far forward. The geometry of the bike could have been better for me. The fix is an off set seat post.

The doctor told me, "Make sure you don't put any pressure on your knee when its bent more than 90 degrees." I was. Looking for the seat post online now. Suggestions welcomed
There are all kinds of formulas out there for saddle height. Obviously when it comes to road biking you want it as high as possible for all the reasons of physics which Im not getting into here. The point is, if your knee hurts its almost ALWAYS due to saddle height or saddle placement which are related. Simply stated, if your knee pain is on top of your knee your saddle is too low. You leg is coming up too high and out of you normal range of motion. If knee pain is behind the knee your saddle is too high and you are "reaching" with your leg. Id also like to add here that I have been riding half a century(50 years not miles!) and have never had a knee problem after figuring this simple thing out.
 

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In my case senecacyclist it wasn't too low but too far forward. Not by much. It was so close, but my knee was just forward of the pedals. It was so close I could ride the bike for 20 minutes without a problem (ie a quick test ride) but any longer and I began to hurt. Raising the saddle didn't help. Seat was already all the way back. Price of a set back seat post was too costly to just hope I could ride it. I experimented and actually made one with a $20 seat post, a pipe bender. I got it back about 4 inches then had to modify the slot to keep the point of the seat from making me want dinner after a ride. It was definitely not the average project for a bike, but it worked. I got the seat back far enough, but that changed everything else. Needed to raise the handlebars, but not by much so I just rotated them up rather than trying get a riser.

The custom bike for me would have likely been closer to a crank forward, with totally different geometry and a stock bike probably would have been larger if it had been available. Still it was so close, not sure I would have noticed the difference.
 

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I understand completely.And your body is always changing. Whats a good fit today might not be in the future. I have been tweeking my position thru the years and notice that I'm just not as supple as I used to be. Stem comes up, reach shortens. My saddle position though has remained the same once I figured out that I needed a 73 degree seat tube angle to get the right position over the pedals. I have long upper leg for my size so finding a small frame with a 73 angle isnt always easy. With a setback seat post i can get the right position from a 74, and my TT bike is a 75. Still TT for fun!
 
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