Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bike Riding for Fat Baby Boomers

Or What I Wish I'd Known Before I Became an Overweight Middle-Aged Cyclist

I had so much fun riding my bicycle this week...Sunday and Monday.

Tuesday was another matter.

Tuesday I could hardly move, and I had...err...other problems as well.

So for all of my friends who are considering buying a bike, and for everyone else who reads this who is considering buying a bike, I have some hard-won advice for you. If you're still young (the younger the better) then you can laugh and be glad you're starting earlier. If you're not overweight, you can rejoice again and have even more motivation to stay healthy. If you're like me--overweight and over 50, then you need to read this!

1. Buy a fat-friendly bike.

This would be what is now called a "comfort bike"--strong, comfortable positioning, and possibly super-sized for your body. Do not buy this bike at a department store, but at a bike shop where the employees seem knowledgeable about your bike riding experience, and do not want to just sell you a bike. You need a sturdy bike, sturdy enough to support your weight. As a newbie, you probably don't know how sturdy that is, so you need expert help. You want to invest your money in a bike that will hold up well and be safe.

Obviously, you'll want your bike shop to adjust the bike to fit your body measurements as well. And add on an odometer or other accessories, unless you're handy (I'm not).

2. Test ride your bike.

Don't buy a bike somewhere you can't test ride it and make sure you like how it rides. Test ride several bikes and compare them. I thought I wanted a cruiser with no gears until I rode one; my bike has eight gears, which is perfect for me. I found out I liked really big wheels, too. Big thin wheels, not balloon tires. Test ride it on a day where the weather conditions approximate the weather you'll be riding in, too.

3. Make sure that the seat works for you.

This isn't as simple as being comfortable on the seat in the store or during your test ride. If you are sore after a few minutes of riding on the seat, consider a different seat (XL, extra-wide, gel seat, or dual-pad seat) or at least a gel cover for your seat. Don't just ignore it because you're just "a little sore" or you can take it.

I will tell you why here. If you are a fat baby boomer and you ride on a typical seat, you may get very, very sore. Like days later. Too sore to sit down. Picture your private parts being mashed around really, really, really hard for the duration of your bike ride mash mash mash hit ker-pow! mash around some more and you can imagine the problems. It feels a little uncomfortable at first but wait and see what you're in for in a couple of days. The possibilities are endless. Everything from expected soreness to excruciating soreness (the kind that interferes with walking, sitting, sleeping, and existing), urinary tract infections (for women), and prostate problems, urethral strictures, increased PSA's and impotence (for men). This is straight from the urologist's mouth. Don't ask.

4. Check bike before each ride.

Be on top of bike maintenance and perform regular checks for warping, cracks, and other forms of stress damage. If you don't know how to do this, your bike tech person at the bike shop will. Visually inspect the bike each time before you ride it. Listen to your bike, too. It may make unusual light groaning-type or moaning-type sounds (that's what my tandem did). If you notice anything unusual, including the sounds, don't ride it until you have it professionally checked out.

5. Go very, very slowly. Think of what this means to you. Then go a much, much slower pace than that.

I thought that a 30 minute ride two days in a row was slow. Wrong. After I recover, in a few days here (no I'm not giving up...I had WAY too much fun) I'm going two minutes---up and down my driveway. Then three. Then four. Like everything else when you're over fifty, it's way slower than I thought it would be.

That safe...have fun...and ride!

~Written with frequent breaks due to Fat Baby Boomer Bike Riding Syndrome

~Photo of my bike by Electra Amsterdam Townie and Sign by Signapalooza


Journey Through Life said...

Ah yes, I have experienced the sore bike bum. I know what you are feeling. So sorry it is so bad though. I hope you feel better soon. Do you have a better seat now?

thailandchani said...

This is really helpful! Those are things I hadn't considered - but have considered getting a bike. I like the idea of not having to use a car for everything - or even a cab - especially here in the neighborhood.

Olivia said...

Thanks, Annie. Yes, I have a gel cover. Peace to you, O xxoo

Olivia said...

I'm glad, Chani! I think you will love it, if you do it with wisdom, unlike my efforts...Peace, O xxoo

GreenishLady said...

Thank you for this. I admire you greatly for your bike-riding, but since I've never successfully stayed up on a bike in my life, I think I'll limit myself to stationary exercise-bikes (when I'm ready for it, that is!)

Olivia said...

Thanks, Imelda. I'm feeling a little better, but nowhere near getting up on the bike again. I think if you learn as a child it's easier :) Peace, O

Anonymous said...

Olivia, I rode my bike into Walkerville today for Art in the Park and I know my bum is going to be sore tomorrow. But gosh, it's nice to dust off the old helmet after such a long, wet, grey winter.

Olivia said...

Kelly, don't you know it! Summer is not yet here, but it's still great to be outside. xxoo, O

mermaid musings said...

oh my bike....
i promise to go back to it.

Olivia said...

Okay, Carmen, let me know how it goes! xxoo, O

Liz said...

I'm really thinking about getting back on a real bike (I've been using an exercise bike in the house intermittently the last couple of years). I'm a little nervous about getting a bike with gears because in the past I've seemed to be "gear challenged" as in I can't seem to figure out when or even how best to switch gears. In my twenties I threw the chain off my derailler (sp?) several times while trying to learn and finally gave up in despair. I got a 3 speed after we got married, but that didn't help as much on our hills as I'd hoped, and then my husband rode it into the ground. Don't ask me why he chose to use a lady's bike to take the grain and hay to our far flung sheep, but a couple of years of that and the bike was toast. There's a ten speed that used to belong to my daughter (when she was 10 -13) in the basement. It may or may not be too small for me (I'm only 5'3"). However, I definitely need advice on the gear thing. How does one learn to shift on a bike? In a car the instructor can hear what you're doing wrong, is there anyway for someone to be able to tell you when to shift and how far on a bike?

Olivia said...

Liz, I wouldn't worry about it and would just get a bike that automatically shifts FOR you. My husband got that kind. It's just like a car.

I shift when it feels "good" or "right"'s very hard to explain, and I'm sure it's hard to learn as well.

Maybe if you just keep it in one gear for a while and that switch it and see if it is easier and feels better or not. You know, learn two gears and then once you're comfortable, do another and another and another...

Blessings and hours of happy riding,