I got a bicycle for my birthday! (n00b questions inside)

For my birthday yesterday (ok, I actually got it on Thursday, but so what?) I got something I’ve had my eye on for a while: a new bike. I wanted a bike I could ride on the roads and paths that abound near me. I live centrally located in Northern Virginia, and with Arlington and Tyson’s Corner becoming more and more bike friendly, I wanted something to be able to run errands with in this area (I hate driving short distances more and more) and to be able to take into DC and spend days off cycling around seeing the sights and sites.

For my needs (“commuting” basically, although I don’t plan to get back and forth to work with it), I finally decided on this:

Why yes, that is a chain guard. And fenders. And a rack. I know that I hate biking with any sort of pack on my back, and I love the rear rack (I got a nice set of panniers already on it, along with lights.)

I love it. Depending on your perspective, it either has a cool, Dutch/Euro thing going on, or a great geeky hipness to it. Not the main reason I bought it, though. I actually test-rode four or five bikes at Performance, bikes that were much more conventional. This sucker was lighter and smoother than anything else near the price point ($600 or under) that I rode.

I have some questions now:

  1. How to best get my ass acclimated to riding regularly again? Since I bought it, I’ve ridden about 7-10 miles per day. My ass is sore–not blistered or anything awful like that–skin is fine–just…muscle/bone sore. I’m told this is normal and I’ll eventually get an “iron butt”. Should I continue to ride and ride through this adjustment period or take it easy to make the adjustment the fastest?

  2. My forearms are also sore between elbow and wrist. Is this from shock absorption, or integrated body motion in pedaling up hills, or both? Gloves help, or is this just getting inactive muscles back into shape?

  3. I know “cross chaining” on the gears is a bad idea–I’ve experienced this first hand when the bike gets ornery when I do it. Help me out here: on the left side shifter, the gears are marked 1, 2, and 3. On the right side, 1 through 8. The obvious thought is that the numbers correspond to the derailleurs, front and back respectively. What front and back derailleur combinations do I want to avoid then? Is it as obvious as when I’m on the third (largest) derailleur in front, I want to try to get to the largest derailleur in the back? Sorry, the bike I retired (and which got zero usage over the last decade) was an old plain-jane 10-speed, so any help with gears and shifting is much appreciated.

You have to mail in a request to change gears to the company and they’ll mail you back the unlock key. Sorry, it’s a piracy prevention method.

  1. Basically yes, keep at it and you’ll get used to the saddle. A pair of proper cycling shorts is a decent investment if you’re going to regularly cycle that kind of distance.

  2. Could be, depends on what you’re cycling over. If you can try and keep your arms relaxed that can help as can gloves and maybe changing the handgrips.

  3. You want to avoid Big-Big and Little-Little gear combinations especially if you’ve got a short arm derailleur on the back as per the picture as you don’t have the length of chain to cope with Big-Big or the derailleur length to take up the slack if you go Little-Little. The middle ring on the front is fine to go up/down the entire gear range on the back but personally I change off the big/small ring once I’d gone 2-3 rings on the back up or down. Hope that makes sense.

Congrats on your new bike Triggercut! I’m afraid that there is nothing to do but ride to get rid of the sore butt thing. I get it every spring when i get back on my bike again after the winter. You might look into getting a gel cushion that you can slip over your seat, that helps a lot.

I would look into getting a shock absorber for your front wheel, your wrists and forearms will thank you. Also, gloves are essential. Mostly for when you fall off. You do not want to use your skin for friction with the asphalt.

When it comes to the gears the trick is to stay as much as possible on the same front derailleur and just use the back one. For my 21-speed i am constantly on the largest front derailleur unless I’m going up a sharp incline.

The gel cover idea sounds like something worth exploring, seems suited for the kind of riding I’ll be doing (urban, multiple 2-5 mile trips with stopoffs) than for dedicated touring/road cycling.

I will say that I just did a nice twilight 6-mile jaunt and:

  1. Did it about 4 minutes faster than I’ve been doing, and
  2. My body isn’t barking about it at all.

That bike is pretty advanced compared to 90% of bikes in Amsterdam or Japan!

I like it. No-one looks hot on a mountain bike.

Your forearms are probably sore because they are fatigued from supporting your upper body weight.

Keep your hands/wrist/forearm in a straight line. Avoid bending at your wrists even though when you are tired, you want to do that.

Cycling gloves are a good idea. Not just because you wont shred your palms when you fall, but because they have padding in the palm area that reduces fatigue on your hands, which in turn helps you keep your wrists straight.

Triggercut don’t feel bad about the fenders and chain guard if you’re using it for commuter type cycling. As a long time cyclist (road bike mostly) I used to look down on the things, then I started commuting with a bike and soon realized their virtues.

Are far as the sore butt goes, you might also consider getting a split seat particularly if things start getting numb down there. I’ve never personally had any problems, but many men do.

I love my fenders and chain guard! I’d have eventually bought them, so having them stock on the bike was terrific.

The seat is a split-seat, so I’m already covered there. I also think I probably overdid it the first day, which influenced my ass-soreness through the weekend. Like I said up-thread, I just took it out for a quick, easy ride earlier, and now that I’m heading to bed I have much less in the way of aches and pains.

If you’re just sore, suck it up. If there’s a real problem, go ask about it in a bike shop. There are various things you can do about it, but I’m pretty sure the ideal solution depends on your particular situation.

  1. My forearms are also sore between elbow and wrist. Is this from shock absorption, or integrated body motion in pedaling up hills, or both? Gloves help, or is this just getting inactive muscles back into shape?

If it’s fatigue, try raising the handle. Like adding shock absorbers, it takes more energy to move the bike if you do it. But it might make getting back in shape a bit less of a nuisance. Padded gloves are always a good idea.

  1. I know “cross chaining” on the gears is a bad idea–I’ve experienced this first hand when the bike gets ornery when I do it. Help me out here: on the left side shifter, the gears are marked 1, 2, and 3. On the right side, 1 through 8.

You’re right. If you need a rule of thumb, simply avoid 1-2 & 7-8 on the 8-switch. That should be fairly easy to remember.

Good for you! I’d love to have D.C. available for casual biking, that’s my favorite way to see any city.

Soreness: If you’re still sore, take a couple of days off. You need to toughen up, but you also need time to heal.

Gel Seats: I’m older, and I love mine. Older butts just aren’t as tough, and you probably aren’t as skinny as you used to be. A 140lb avid biker has an entirely different type of bone/flesh/muscle ratio on his hips than a 190lb computer jockey.

For the arms, experiment with seat height and bar height, or get someone who’s knowledgeable to look at your position on the bike. It’s very important for comfort.


Thanks for all the advices. It was definitely easier to haul myself up hills 20 years ago when I was 155 pounds than it is nowadays at 185…and even though I probably walk 3-5 miles a day on my job it sure feels good to have dormant muscles put to use in my quads and arms.

One more question: After reading, I think I may need the gears or chain adjusted. The bike still seems to like to re-gear itself or change gears by itself without me doing anything when the chain is on the middle derailleurs. It really seems to like to do this when I change my pedaling cadence (which I’m trying to keep as constant as possible). It sucks, because I’ll be starting a gradual climb and be able to adjust and keep cadence in the gear I’m in, but then it’ll “miss” and re-gear itself and I lose a little momentum in the process. That’s not normal, right? It should stay in the gear I put it in until I change it right?

Make sure the front & rear dérailleurs are exactly in line with the sprockets, and adjust the rear dérailleur until the chain is properly taut (that’s when you can back-pedal in the middle of shifting gears and still get smooth transition). It’s typically 3 screws in all. Nothing major. And it is, of course, easiest to do if you take the chain guard off and turn your bike upside down.

The place you bought it from should be happy to tune that stuff up for you. The cables and so on will stretch a bit from new, for example.

What Alan said, they should offer a tune service for free a few months or weeks after purchase, it’s expected. If not, there will be a very small adjustment screw on the derailleur. To use: (and more knowledgeable folks please correct me)

Suspend the bike. easiest way is to get something straight and rigid on a flat surface above the bike, weight one end, put bike on other end.

Turn pedals. Note the relative distance of the chain from either interior side of the derailleur arm. (may have to remove your chain guard for this)

Give adjustment screw a half turn.

Turn pedals a bit.

Shift up.

Shift down.

Turn pedals a bit.

Which way did the chain move, relative to the derailleur arm?

Turn screw back. (you can also determine this by reading the manual)

Now that you know which way is which, put the bike in the troublesome gear, and you’ll see that it is closer to one side than the other.

Give the screw a slight turn in the appropriate direction (less than 1/4 turn,) to move it towards the center. Like a guitar’s frets, nothing really lines up as you move up and down the gears, so everything is a compromise. Make very small adjustments and test, test, test.


$6 at Lowe’s. Best chain lube/cleaner ever.

I keep wanting to make a comment making fun of your bike, with it’s fenders and chain guard, only thing missing is a banana seat, an orange flag and a bell on the handlebars…but God help me, I like it…This makes me sad…

Save me typing an essay, check out http://sheldonbrown.com/derailer-adjustment.html for the necessary principles in sorting out the rear derailluer :)
On a new bike it’s common for the cables to stretch a bit once you’ve put a few miles on the bike. A few tweaks to the adjusting barrel where the cable meets the derailleur should be enough to sort out the shifting.

It is possible that the derailleur has been knocked slightly out of alignment but if you have problems getting onto the largest gear on the back as well as the gears shifting on their own then it’s probably cable stretch.

Doh, that’s right, the recent ones adjust at the cable sleeve, sorry.


I’ll also throw in a link to http://www.parktool.com, which also has good step-by-step instructions if you’re mechanically inclined. They shamelessly plug their stuff too, but since their stuff is good it’s forgivable.