Advice please-new cyclist

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
Posts: 3
Joined: 22 Jul 2020, 8:52am

Advice please-new cyclist

Postby Dooper » 22 Jul 2020, 9:03am

Hi All,

Just joined the forum to have a read and for some advice.

Im mid 50s and i think im pretty fit for my age. I have a steel framed raliegh mountain bike,,the typical thing youd buy in the shops. Its been in the shed for a few years . It has three rings on the front and several on the back. Its heavy with knobbly tyres which ive blown up to the max. I usually go out early weekend mornings and do a defined road circuit. The circuit is about 8 miles.

I do the same circuit so that i can measure improvements in performance which has improved dramatically.

I am at a stage were the front chain ring is always in the top spot (highest) and i just swap the rear cogs to keep moving. On higher speed sections (strava says max 20mph) i run out of gears so i end up free wheeling.

Strava average speed on the 8 mile circuit is just a bit over 10mph.

So clearly my heavy bike offers a fair bit of resistance which is good for fitness because it requires effort?

So what are my goals?

Well id like to keep fit and get fitter via cycling. I know an 8 mile circuit twice a week isnt massive but its better than being a couch potato?

Clearly the limiting factor with regard to distance is my bike.

I cant see myself on a head down,high tech fibre bike with all the kit on. I'd just like to travel longer distances comfortably

I also dont want to spend an absolute fortune on a bike.

I'm thiking i need some kind of touring bike thats lighter weight,comfortable and higher geared that can travel faster,further and more comfortably.

I think its probably not worth spending money on upgrading my steel bike? At minimum i think it would need new road tyres and a different cassette on the back to give giher gearing ?

Thanks for any advice/thoughts..

Posts: 7999
Joined: 31 Jan 2007, 6:46pm
Location: Horwich Which is Lancs :-)

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby eileithyia » 22 Jul 2020, 9:39am

Certainly a higher gear on the back might be beneficial..... but again if it's an older bike you might have problems with out of date kit.... ie if you only have 7-8 sprockets you will find many cassettes now have far more and do not fit older spindles..... then you will need to up grade the gear levels to accommodate the greater span of sprockets.... can't run a lever designed for 6-7 sprockets with a the extra sprockets.... so it can be quite complex.

Might be worth asking at local bike shop for their opinion... how to upgrade etc..... but they are quite busy at present.

It be worth looking at a hybrid style bike.... that might be lighter, has the more upright postion of the MTB, and give you the modern upgrade you need...
I stand and rejoice everytime I see a woman ride by on a wheel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. HG Wells

Posts: 2175
Joined: 4 May 2010, 10:20pm
Location: Cornwall

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby peetee » 22 Jul 2020, 10:18am

Bide you’re time for a bit. Get some knowledge on what might suit you from forums such as this and ask as many questions as you like. I predict that in a couple of months there will be (Barely) used bikes being sold in their hundreds as the return to work ethos takes hold and long warm days reduce. By then you will have much clearer view of what you want and hopefully enough gen to spot a bargain.
Current status report:
Back on two wheels in deepest Pastyland and loving every minute. Mission: to enjoy big, bad hills again.

Posts: 3
Joined: 22 Jul 2020, 8:52am

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby Dooper » 22 Jul 2020, 10:38am

I think you could be right Petee.. Getting started in cyvling involves hard work,dedication and a bit of pain and discomfort. I well rmemeber when i first set out on my 8 mile circuit. I thought i was lean and fit but i was suprised at how soon i ran out of steam and had to stop. Fast forward to now and i can push my old hacker of a MTB around the circuit non stop with the front chainring on top notch and not stop or really break too much sweat. I've clearly got fitter, refined my cycling technique and built up stamina. As you say ,when furlough is over and the pressures of normal work and family life plus a few showers of rain and a nip in the air come along,a lot of bikes will be in the garage doing nothing..

Posts: 7999
Joined: 31 Jan 2007, 6:46pm
Location: Horwich Which is Lancs :-)

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby eileithyia » 22 Jul 2020, 10:41am

Sound advice there from Peetee.
I stand and rejoice everytime I see a woman ride by on a wheel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. HG Wells

Posts: 355
Joined: 24 May 2011, 1:42am

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby DevonDamo » 22 Jul 2020, 10:44am

Dooper wrote:...So what are my goals?

Well id like to keep fit and get fitter via cycling. I know an 8 mile circuit twice a week isnt massive but its better than being a couch potato?

Clearly the limiting factor with regard to distance is my bike.

I cant see myself on a head down,high tech fibre bike with all the kit on. I'd just like to travel longer distances comfortably...

You can ride a surprisingly long way on the flat without much effort which therefore won't be doing much for your cardiovascular fitness. I don't know what sort of terrain your 8 mile circuit involves, but if it's on the flat, I'd be looking for any options to include some climbing if possible. That way you're getting much more of a workout from your existing bike without having to worry about upping the gearing.

Two other suggestions for maximising your fitness gains from riding:

1. The best exercise we get is the stuff we don't realise we're getting. There was an excellent Horizon programme called 'The Truth About Exercise' a few years back which demonstrated a woman working on her feet all day in cafe was burning significantly more calories than an office-based guy who did some pretty hardcore running in the evenings. Therefore, making your bike your main form of transport could be significantly more effective than doing a challenging exercise regime 3 times a week. To do this, you'd want to make sure your bike was as comfortable as you could get it (right size, adjusted correctly, decent saddle, decent grips, fattish tyres etc.), fitted with big enough panniers for carrying shopping etc and with good lights, mudguards and waterproof clothing. If you're just using your bike as your regular transport, higher gearing might not be that important as you wouldn't be aiming to set any records - just get to the shops or the pub etc. However, there'd be no harm in changing the gearing (or the bike) so you don't run out of gears too soon. If the surface you're riding on allows, slick, high-pressure tyres are usually better for a daily workhorse.

2. I've recently started mountain biking on my local trails and have found it's the best form of exercise I've ever done. The reason is that you're constantly riding back up the steep slopes to do each descent and keep trying to improve whatever skill you're learning. Each ascent will involve pushing yourself, but you don't really notice because you're focused on having another go. If you do a bit of Googling, you'd be surprised at how many trails are hidden away in scrubland near you. Even if they're only small, you still get a workout: I recently spent an evening messing around on a small slope leading up to a jump which was perhaps a 30 metre ride in total but was still knackering as you were constantly pedalling back up.

Posts: 1801
Joined: 13 Sep 2008, 10:38am

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby gbnz » 22 Jul 2020, 11:13am

peetee wrote:Bide you’re time for a bit. Get some knowledge on what might suit you from forums such as this.

+ 1, again I'd agree. That said, for the sort of riding you're doing I'd look at a flat barred, road bike (NB. Effectively what used to be known as a road racing bike, but designed and built around a mountain bar type flat handlebar arrangement). It has all the benefits of a light weight road "racing" type bike, yet I've found them fantastic for fitness, commutting, general riding etc. They'll all have higher gear ratios, suitable for pushing speed & fitness and 700mm light weight wheels (NB. Which can easily be fitted with wider and heavier duty tyres for more general use)

It's worth checking to see if any bike you're looking at has attachhment points for a rack and mudguard

Not a bike recommendation, purely an example of the type used to be the Giant Rapid. Such bikes are normally around the £500.00+ mark. That said Halfords have had a fantastic looking bike (Falcon Monza Mens 20" Hybrid Bike) for about £239.00 online. Have to admit I don't need another bike, but am waiting for Halfords to open to see what it's like!

Posts: 1466
Joined: 7 Jul 2017, 10:37am

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby slowster » 22 Jul 2020, 11:15am

Dooper wrote:On higher speed sections (strava says max 20mph) i run out of gears so i end up free wheeling.

You may be pretty fit for your age, but you are probably not 'bike fit'. Experienced cyclists tend to pedal at a higher cadence, and consequently would not run out of gears at only 20mph.

Similarly, as long as your bike is comfortable, it is unlikely to be the limiting factor with regard to distance.

You are almost certainly still at a stage where the biggest changes and improvements that can be made are you getting fitter, by which I mean increasing stamina rather than speed. All you need to do is keep increasing the distance a bit and increase the frequency. So try to get out 3 or 4 times a week, and for one or more of the rides try and go a bit further each time.

You will probably find that without trying your cadence will increase and you go a bit faster, as your body adapts more to the exercise.

As for your bike you are probably better sticking with it, at least for the time being. Steel framed MTBs can make very good touring bikes (as a search of this forum would show). If you do end up buying a new bike, you will be in a better position to decide what you want/need if you wait until you are riding further.

In the meantime you can use your current bike as a 'test bed'. If it has flat pedals, you are likely to find as your cadence increases that it will help to fit either toeclips and straps or switch to clipless pedals and shoes (I can only use flat pedals without toeclips comfortably if I pedal at a lowish cadence). Toeclips are out of fashion nowadays and the vast majority go clipless, although that also requires buying shoes as well. If/when you decide that you are ready to go clipless, the benchmark pedal is the Shimano M520.

However, it is likely that the first thing that might be worth doing is changing the tyres. Knobbly tyres are best for off road riding, and are likely to be slower/draggier on the road. If your MTB has 26" wheels the choice of fast rolling slick tyres is not great, but the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme is available in 26" sizes, e.g. from SJS, and is a very good tyre.

User avatar
Posts: 88
Joined: 21 Feb 2017, 9:48am
Location: Cumbria

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby printedland » 22 Jul 2020, 11:20am

Hi Dooper

I always think that the first and most important thing is to enjoy cycling. It sounds like you're doing that, which is fantastic
Well id like to keep fit and get fitter via cycling. I know an 8 mile circuit twice a week isnt massive but its better than being a couch potato?

Absolutely! Celebrate the fun you're having.....

If you get really hooked, then a new bike may be a revelation to you. I agree with you that a touring bike may be an ideal next step: slightly higher gears, a comfortable posture, and ideal for longer rides. Depending on your size/height, there are a few lovely ones for sale on this forum. However, I do agree with @peetee that you could give it a while before committing

If your starting point is to improve the efficiency of your current bike, I would say:
Make sure your position on the bike is at its best. Elsewhere on this forum, there is an excellent thread on getting properly set-up, including saddle height, saddle forwards/backwards, length of reach, height of handlebars etc. This can make a huge difference
New tyres are a good starting point. If the wheels are the usual MTB 26", the something like these would feel a much smoother ride: ... Plus-HS348 (in the 26X1.35 size)
A track pump (like this one ... _54356.htm) will really make sure you are getting the best possible pressure in the tyres
Have you starting experimenting with clip-in pedals yet? They take a bit of a leap of faith to start with, but of course can be transferred to any new bike in time

Most of all, enjoy!

Posts: 4126
Joined: 8 Feb 2007, 12:37pm

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby tatanab » 22 Jul 2020, 11:53am

Dooper wrote:Clearly the limiting factor with regard to distance is my bike.
Not really. Just think how posh your bike is versus one your grandfather rode. A great improvement would be to fit slick or relatively slick tyres. You do not need tractor tyres on a hard surface, although as you say it will be more of a workout.

You very probably do not "need" higher gears either. Beginners often think they have to feel resistance so push or stamp on the pedals at quite low rpm. As you gain experience and fitness you will probably gain what the French call "souplesse" and turn the pedals more quickly. Yes, I know that some very experienced people are happy at a low cadence because they have found what suits them through years of riding.

Change your tyres - continue enjoying yourself, then think about getting your ideal bike when you have enough experience to define ideal.

Posts: 3
Joined: 22 Jul 2020, 8:52am

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby Dooper » 22 Jul 2020, 2:33pm

Thanks all for the replies which have been informative and inspired me to press on. I think ill seek out some road tyres and make that my first swap and see where i go from there.

User avatar
Posts: 2454
Joined: 1 Jun 2007, 9:12pm
Location: Nottingham

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby TrevA » 22 Jul 2020, 4:05pm

A mistake a lot of new cyclists make is to pedal in too high a gear, thinking that cycling is a strength exercise and that you mash the pedals round. Experienced riders know that it’s better to spin the gear and get used to pedalling at a higher cadence. Whilst your max speed is impressive, your average speed is not that fast yet. Get some road tyres, stick with your routine and try and increase the frequency of your rides. You are doing 16 miles a week, many on this forum, will be riding 5-10 times that amount of miles each week.
A cart horse trapped in the body of a man.

Posts: 4
Joined: 2 Jun 2020, 4:34pm

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby qwerty360 » 22 Jul 2020, 4:41pm

New smooth tyres is a good shout as this can make a huge difference on the road. (Tread on bicycle tyres is for mud; It doesn't matter on tarmac, as you won't aquaplane below a hundred miles an hour... Based on research that we know underestimates the speed needed on convex bicycle tyres...)

Having an older bike (preferably with a pannier rack and some panniers, something else to consider adding) is very useful, even if you do decide you want a nice road bike for longer fitness rides. You can add up a lot of milage taking it shopping/commuting/pub trips which you may not want to do on a more expensive bike as where do you lock it up. If my £50-£100 pub bike gets nicked, I am more annoyed about the lock bought based on 10% value of the good bike...

One short commute and a shopping trip; 4 rides all less than 15 minutes each, yet you have now done more than the 8 mile circuit. Probably spent no longer than driving those journeys in most places.

Also low gearing is then potentially beneficial (It may be slower, but you can still get around easily with panniers with 10+kg of shopping in them).

Unless you have tight storage limitations, I would tend to add tyres and think about luggage for the existing bike as those are useful upgrades even if you then discover n+1 applies. For everything else wait a while, as it is likely to be expensive and/or difficult for the benefit gained.

As others have said or implied,
1. Currently bike shops are short on stock; you may be sold what they have rather than what you need.
2. There will probably be a fair chunk of barely used bikes around soon. Either because people give up riding, or they realise they bought a road bike designed for racing, or a mountain bike intended for muddy trails, when they actually needed a city bike more suited to day to day travel. (luggage capacity, low maintenance, correct gear ratios etc).

Posts: 777
Joined: 7 Aug 2013, 8:31pm

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby LittleGreyCat » 23 Jul 2020, 5:01pm

I'm strongly identifying with you and your bike. :D

My MTB is mid '90s all steel no suspension, and I have ridden it for years.
I have exactly the same issue - hit around 20 mph and my little legs are twinkling as fast as they can go.

Long ago I changed to tyres like this.
It made an amazing difference, especially going round corners.

I recently bought a touring bike with higher gearing because of the "spinning out" issue, but it doesn't seem to have increased my average speed much, just my maximum recorded speed (by a little). :lol:

I am currently considering a slightly larger big ring on the front to increase the gearing but haven't got very far with that yet.

My recommendation would be to fit fat road tyres (when you are riding you will realise that only a thin strip of the tyre is in contact with the road) and then extend your ride beyond 8 miles. 20 miles is good, which should take you around 2 hours. If you can ride the whole 20 miles in top gear without effort at 18 mile per hour average then you are ready for an upgrade!
Edit: fitting bar ends for a change in grip might help as well. as an example.
I find it allows me to vary my hand position on longer rides.

Noting that I used to commute 9.6 miles on my MTB and my target was to complete the trip in under 30 minutes which meant an average speed of 19.2 mph including traffic lights and junctions. I was younger then, though, so an average of 10-12 mph is fine for me at the moment.
Last edited by LittleGreyCat on 24 Jul 2020, 1:28pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 602
Joined: 10 Feb 2018, 8:42am

Re: Advice please-new cyclist

Postby David9694 » 23 Jul 2020, 6:30pm

Try and get out once in the week if you can during the longer days. Try and increase the “change” you get from spending an hour. +1 on extending the 8 miles standard route, and getting some climbing in there too.

I’m a life-long office worker with an awful core - as you progress, you may find it starts letting you know about this on a ride, sooner than your legs start packing up, so working the core, which doesn’t get exercised in cycling, Is important.

If you regularly do over 90-120 minutes, you may find you want to vary your riding position, which is where drop handlebars May come in - don’t worry, no-one is trying to turn your unwilling body into a Bradley Wiggins! You may want to progress to another bike - and there’s no need to go mad, money-wise. Put Dawes Galaxy into Ebay - it’s a long-standing model, so gives you an idea.

A clean drive-train will help, along with those tyres. The width of your wheel rims determines the range of size (widths) of tyre you can run - post back if you need more advice on that. As I’ve improved, my legs have (seemingly) got longer - keep your saddle height under review - eventually, you want at 6 o’clock, to be just off straightening your knee.

There will be good and bad days at our age, there will be good and bad weather (e.g. wind direction/velocity) which affect your ride, enjoyment and time. You need your bike to be on your side more often than not: I’m going to get a bit mystical on you now. Are you always having to slog that old Raleigh along? A bike that’s saying “c’mon, let’s go”, as mine do most, but not all of the time, will improve your experience.