New Cyclists FAQ

This page is devoted to new cyclists who may have questions about types of bikes, cycling clothing, where to ride, etc. If you have questions that are not answered here, please feel free to contact John Wente.

How do I get started?

All cyclists are very welcome to come to any OBS meeting and join us on any of our weekly rides. Look carefully at the ride listings on the website to see what the distance and pace is. Don’t select a ride that is not suited to your abilities. The BEST place to start is at the Donut Ride. It’s specifically designed for newbies or anyone that just wants a relaxed, social type ride. Also, it goes through some very interesting old parts of OKC and stops at Brown’s Bakery, one of the BEST donut and pastry shops in the Southwest (makes Krispy Kreme look like a bunch of rank amateurs).

Many experienced riders ride the Donut Ride often for the sheer enjoyment and social aspects of the ride. These folks are a great source of good advice for new riders. Don’t hesitate to ask them any question you may have.

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I have a bike. Do I need to buy a new one?
You can start out on the Donut Ride with the bike you have. In fact, that’s a good idea to get a feel for what road cycling is about and to see what others are riding. After you ride a few times, and perhaps ask a few questions, you’ll have a much better idea whether you need a new bike and if so, what kind.

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I’m thinking about buying a bike. What kind should I buy?

If you plan to ride mostly on streets/roads, a mountain bike would NOT be your best choice. That’s a common mistake many new cyclists make. A mountain bike takes more effort to maintain the same speed as a road bike due to the increased weight and rolling resistance (due to the wider tires with aggressive treads). This is especially a factor when going uphill. Mountain bikes are excellent for what they are designed to do–go off-pavement–but not especially well suited to road riding.

There are basically three types of road bikes: full-on racing bikes, “recreational” and full-on touring models. Unless you plan to get into serious racing or long-distance loaded touring, the best choice for you would be the “sport touring” type. These are a little more relaxed (you don’t bend over as far) than racing bikes and they have more gears (to help get up hills or pull into that famous Oklahoma wind). A good starter road bike will be in the range of $600-$800. Make sure you select one with a triple crank (three chain rings in front).

Another type of bike you might want to consider is the “hybrid” or now sometimes called “comfort bike”, or “city bike”. There is a huge variation in this type of bike. For longer distances (over 10-15 miles) you’d want one with narrower tires and a lighter frame (I prefer 700c tires as opposed to 26-inch–ask the bike shops to explain). You should expect to pay about $300-$400 for a decent bike of this type, and prices can go on up over $1500 for fancy models with lightweight frames and high-end components.

One final type you may want to consider is the recumbent. This is a bike that allows the rider to sit back in a reclining position with the pedals out in front. These are a little harder to learn to ride, but can be mastered by anyone with a little patience. The primary disadvantage to recumbents is the inability to stand on the pedals to get up a hill, but ‘bent riders will tell you the advantages (comfort, less wind resistance, etc.) far outweigh the disadvantages. In the end, it’s a matter of personal preference. Recumbents are more expensive than “regular” bikes. There are one or two entry level recumbents that can be had for around $700 but most will cost over $1000.

If these prices seem high to you, remember that these are quality bikes and very well made. They’ll last for many years with appropriate care. It is not unusual for someone to have a bike for 10 or more years and put over 50 thousand miles on it. However, most of us just get to hankering for a shiny new model long before our current mount is close to being worn out.

The MOST important thing about choosing a bike after you’ve determined the type that best suites your needs is SIZE. You wouldn’t expect a runner, for example, to just grab any pair of shoes without regard to size. Same is true for bikes. If it doesn’t fit properly, it will HURT your body. Any good bike shop will make certain to help you select a bike that fits properly. Also, here is some very good info on bike fit.

The best way to select a bike is to visit the bike shops and tell them the type of cycling you plan to do. Ask questions. Look at the bikes. Visit several shops to get an idea of what each offers. As far as brands are concerned, ANY bike sold in a bike shop will be of good quality. Some people prefer one brand over another for various reasons, but all the bikes in a good bike shop will be of good quality and will serve you well. Here’s a complete list of local shops.

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How much will a new bike cost?

Expect to pay around $300-$400 for an entry level hybrid or comfort bike. Prices for these will range on up to over $1200 for high-end models.

A decent entry level racing or sport touring road bike will cost in the neighborhood of $750-$900. Make sure you get one with a triple crank (three chain rings in front). Prices for these range on up to $10,000 and more for the more “exotic” models.

If these prices seem high to you, remember that these are quality bikes and very well made. They’ll last for many years with appropriate care. It is not unusual for someone to have a bike for 10 or more years and put over 50 thousand miles on it. However, most of us just get to hankering for a shiny new model long before our current mount is close to being worn out.

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What kind of special clothing do I need?
The only ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY item you’ll need is a good helmet. I’m sure you don’t need to be told how important this is. Please don’t get on your bike without your helmet. The world may need organ donors, but your family needs YOU! Here is an article on how to properly fit and adjust a cycling helmet.

Cycling clothing is very much a matter of personal preference, but you are STRONGLY advised to invest in a couple pair of good cycling shorts if you plan to ride more than 10 miles or so at a time. NOTHING is as comfortable as a good pair of cycling shorts on a long-distance ride! Jeans or cut-offs will become VERY uncomfortable after only a few miles.

You can get by with t-shirts for summer riding although cycling jerseys are more comfortable when it is extremely hot and/or humid. These are made of modern high-tech fabrics that wick the moisture away from your skin, which keeps you cooler. They also have handy pockets on the back so you’ll have a place to stash your keys, wallet, a power bar or whatever.

If you are interested in cold weather cycling, you will find two articles on cold weather cycling gear here.

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I don’t feel safe riding on city streets.  Where can I ride to avoid traffic?
Oklahoma City is in the process of developing a network of walking/cycling trails all around the city, but it will be many years before that project is completed. There are several trails already completed. Here’s a link to the OKC trails website. It’s not always right up to date, but most of the pertinent information is there.

Once you become comfortable riding, it is completely legal and actually quite safe to ride on the streets and roads. Obviously, some common sense is useful here. Don’t ride on major thoroughfares and avoid high-traffic times (rush hour). It is quite possible to ride many miles in OKC (especially the older parts of the city) without ever encountering any significant amount of traffic (the Donut Ride is a good example of that). There are routes, for example, from Yukon all the way to downtown OKC or to the capitol area that utilize residential streets and involve very little traffic. The same can be said for most parts of the city, but one must do a little investigating to find good routes. That’s where experienced cyclists can really you help out. They have already discovered the best routes.

Beyond city streets, there are many, many paved county roads in central Oklahoma. Many of them are very lightly traveled, especially on weekends. There are a number of maps that OBS has developed for some of our recurring rides, but don’t feel limited to these. Get out and explore the countryside.

The League of American Bicyclists (LAB), a national organization that promotes safe cycling, has produced an excellent series of articles about how to ride safely on streets and roads. You can read many of those articles here. Please read them, they offer some great advice from cycling experts.

Some years ago, the State of Oklahoma published a Bicycling Manual. Thanks to Scott at Desert Rose Design, you can now view an on-line version of of that manual. Very informative–please take a look. By the way, all new members of OBS receive a paper copy of this manual (while supplies last).

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What do I need to carry on my bike?

Every cyclist should be prepared for minor road-side repairs, especially repair of flat tires. Even though you might be riding with others, you should carry your own spare inner tube and pump or inflation cylinders (small cylinders with compressed CO2 for airing up tires). Changing a tube is not a difficult task. Ask a cycling friend or your bike shop mechanic to show you how, then practice at home so you won’t be doing it for the first time in the middle of a ride.

Beyond tire repair essentials, you should also carry at least one water bottle or a hydration pack (“camel back”). To avoid becoming dehydrated, you should drink about one water bottle (20 oz.) every hour you cycle regardless of the temperature. You’ll need even more in very hot and/or humid conditions.

One other item you should always carry is some change in case you need to make a phone call on a pay phone. (If you carry a cell phone, you can skip this one.) It’s also a good idea to carry a couple bucks in case you want to stop for a Gatorade or something.

Since cell phones have been mentioned, it’s best to keep them turned OFF while cycling unless you have stopped to make a call. Otherwise you may be tempted to try to answer the phone while cycling–an act which could endanger you and those around you. Please don’t do it! You’re on your bike–phone calls can wait until later. Why spoil the ride? It’s probably a nuisance call anyway.

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Links to other sites with some good tips for new cyclists

Gear Shifting An introduction to gear shifting, and the basics of how a derailer works. How, why and when to shift gears.
Bicycling and Pain Riding a bike isn’t supposed to be a painful experience.
Adjusting Handlebar Height If your handlebars are at the wrong height for your riding style, you’ll be uncomfortable or slow.
Starting and Stopping Proper technique for safe starting and stopping.
A Comfortable Saddle What you should know about saddles and seatposts. << Be sure to read this one!!
Braking and Turning Braking and turning technique.
Standing to Pedal Most cyclists spend too much time out of the saddle…do you?
Sheldon Brown’s Bicycle Glossary An encyclopedic listing of bicycle lore, technical data and opinions.
Bicycling for Beginners Lots of good stuff including some good, fundamental descriptions of bike technology.
Why Cycle? A U.K. site, but much of the info applies on this side of the Atlantic also.

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