This woman has skills. Please share this with all those fixie riders who think they are really great riding around dangerously. Riding around without brakes and cutting through traffic as if you’re indestructible is not a skill. Respect!
I am assuming by this time, you would already have an idea of what type of bike perks your interest. If you are not sure or simple didn’t know there are options,read this article first.
Next you need to figure out how much you are willing to spend on the bike, however, you need to first have a little understanding in choosing a bike. A good price tag does not necessarily mean a good bike and a great bike in the hands of a beginner is just a bike. Imagine giving the keys of a brand new Ferrari to a 16 years old. If you don’t know how much you should fork out, simply read on and maybe by the end of this article you might have a better idea.
Generally though, I advice beginners to put out around RM3,500 for a road bike, RM2,500 for a mountain bike and you can get a decent folding bike for around RM1,000. If you just want a simple commuter bike just to get around the neighbourhood, then park aside around three to four hundred.
SECOND HAND BIKE
I just have to put a word in about second-hand bikes. There is always somebody trying to get rid of his or her bike. For a beginner, considering a second hand bike might be a good idea. Firstly, you will only spend a fraction from the cost of a new bike. Second, you can test it and trash it and not worry too much about the bike’s survival. You will learn more about the sport and as you grow into it you will learn more about what bikes are good, where to get deals and most of all, what exactly you want in a bike. More importantly, will you still be cycling 6 months down the road or would you have moved on to something else.
In fact both my first and second bikes were second hand bikes. Both times the owners were upgrading and sold their bikes for a good price. My Cinelli came with a Shimano Ultegra groupset that would have set me back 7 to 8 thousand, but instead I only paid RM3,000 plus.
NOT JUST THE BIKE
The bike is just the first part of your purchase. The other essentials don’t come with the bike. I’ll do a quick rundown now and get into more details in the future. Here’s a list of things that you will also need to buy:
- Safety helmet
- Front headlights
- Tail lights
- Bicycle lock
- Cycling gloves
- Cycling glasses
- Cycling apparels
- Cycling shoes
- Repair Kit (Spare tube or patch kit, multi-tool, tyre levers)
- Emergency pump
- Cleaning equipment and tools
These accessories will easily set you back RM1,000. The good news is you don’t have to buy them all at once. The most important of the lot are your safety helmet, lights and lock. A decent helmet will cost you around RM100, a set of lights (front & rear) will cost about RM50 and a simple bicycle lock will only cost RM30.
There are generally two types of cycling gloves – one for road bikes and the other for mountain bikes. Road bike gloves fit snug and comfortable without compromising on movement. They are also thin so that it can wick sweat off faster. It provides you little padding and only in specific areas to relief stress off the palm of your hands. Mountain bike gloves are stiff, have thick padding and protection around the knuckles.
You might wonder, “Cycling Glasses”?
Well, a cyclist is general exposed to the environment around him/her. You need cycling glasses to protect your eyes from flying insects and pebbles from passing vehicles.
Cycling apparel is not necessary but it does add to your comfort and also the look.
For road bikes; the top is usually snug fitted and has 3 pockets at the back and in arm’s reach where you can store your wallet, phone, a small towel or even some snacks. The shorts usually don’t have pockets and are usually very snug.
For mountain bikes; the top is usually a long sleeve and worn a little loose. These also have back pockets. The short look like regular khakis shorts except they have sewn-in padding.
All cycling shorts have padding on the inside to provide you comfort when sitting on the bike for extended periods. The shorts also prevent chaffing of your skin in the crotch area.
Cycling shoes is not a must but if you have ever had your laces caught in the chain of a bicycle, you will know why there are shoes for cyclist. Also, if you get serious into the sport, cycling shoes will help with performance drastically as they clip onto the pedals so that you can add power by pulling the pedal up and not just pushing down.
If you plan to do long distance cycling, a repair kit is vital. The repair kit is usually packed into a small bag under the seat and usually consist of a spare tube, tyre levers, a patch kit and a multi-tool for cycling. Along with this, you will need an emergency pump that is small and serves only to temporarily inflate your tyre till you can get to a shop.
Last but not least, cleaning equipment. In order to prevent your parts from coming apart or deteriorating to natural element, you need to clean your bicycle on a regular basis. Soap and water alone is not enough. You will need the right tools and cleaners as well as lubricant to keep everything in tip-top condition.
This sums up the first part. Next we will get into the things that affects the cost of a bicycle.
I recently got into a conversation with a friend about hear rate monitors or in short HRM. For the newbies, a HRM does exactly that; it monitors your heart rate as you exercise. Generally a HRM consist of a chest strap and a wrist unit with which you can monitor your heart rate. If you went out hunting for a HRM today, you will get so confused you might just drop the idea of getting one or worse still land with a unit you might not like or waste too much money on something your don’t need. There are units that cost under RM100 and you will also find HRMs going well into the two grand zone. So, what are the differences between the various HRMs?
I won’t go into brand specifics however I am most familiar with the Polar RS300X and the Garmin Forerunner 305 that I am currently using. I have also tested the Garmin Forerunner 310XT. My objective here is to cover the device in general and what to look for. To start with HRMs have evolved into computers that can measure everything from your workout time to distance, intensity and connect it to your PC or laptop where you can record and monitor your progress.
Before I walk you through what a HRM is, I want you to understand why you should get one.
A heart rate monitor will help you to monitor your heart rate so that you don’t stress your body more than you need to. It also ensures that you are doing the right amount of exercise. When I first started cycling, I would feel stressed out by the time I hit two kilometers. My heart was pounding and I felt exausted. After I got a HRM, I discovered that it was all in my mind. At the two kilometer mark, my heart rate had barely hit 55% of my maxHR. It was then that I realised that it was all in mind. Once I understood that, I started pushing five kilometers and then ten almost immediately after. When initially I could barely make a two kilometers run, I was suddenly going five kilometers with easy. The HRM also helped me to run more consistantly as it measured my speed. If I start to overexert myself, my HRM starts beeping so I know that I need to slow down a little. It is a really great device to know your limits with and how hard you can push yourself.
Now that you know this, let’s break it down and understand what HRMs can do.
The first and most important function of a HRM unit is to monitor your heart rate (of course). Most HRM require a basic setup before you start using the unit. It would ask you to enter information such as your age, height and weight. Based on this information, the computer will calculate what your maximum heart rate should be. An added feature that HRMs have is sound alerts that will notify you when you drop below a certain percentage or when you climb to a higher percentage. I can set up to 5 workout zones on my HRM and it notifies me every time my heart rate moves from one zone to the next. At the end of your workout, you can view your average heart rate and how you progressed throughout your workout period. A HRM computer can also calculate what you burn as you workout. This is particularly useful if you have a calories target for your workouts.
Another features you may find useful is the interval timer. This is a great tool for focused training where you switch through several types of workouts. You can, for example, set your interval timer for a three minutes high intensity workout and a one minute low intensity workout. This way you can manage your energy levels while you push your limits.
The next feature is what bumps a basic HRM to an advance level; training software. The more costlier HRMs can be linked to your computer or mobile phone where you can upload the data into a training software and monitor your progress. This is also a great way to keep track of your training schedule and your performance.
One thing you have to take note on is if you want to use your HRM for swimming workouts, check if the device works under water. My Polar RS300X can function under water but the manual said it will not give accurate readings as the optimal distance between the chest strap and wrist unit is short and it does not connect as well underwater. The dealer should be able to provide you with this kind of information.
Now, when you start to look at something that can monitor your heart rate but also track your distance and cadence; you will be looking at what some may call a sports computer. Sports computers are heart rate monitors with additional features such as a Global Positioning System (GPS) and a foot pod or something similar. Sport computers can cost above RM500 a set but they do a hell of a lot more than just checking your heart beat. You can track your distance, monitor your speed, analyse your performance and even map your route. These are sometimes categorised as ‘multi-sport’ devices as they are commonly used by tri-athletes.
More and more day-to-day equipment are GPS enabled that soon you will even be able to track the movements of your toaster. The HRM has not been left out of this technology. A GPS enabled HRM allows you to track your distance. speed and timing; particularly useful with outdoor activities such as cycling, running and tracking. There are different types of GPS units; some are made for cycling, others for running and tracking and then there are those designed for swimming. Ask the dealer if you will be able to add on a GPS device to your HRM as not all HRMs are GPS enabled. Some HRM such as the Garmin Forerunner® series or the Timex IRONMAN Run Trainer has a built-in GPS system. A built-in GPS only last eight hours or so as it consumes a lot of energy from a small rechargeable lithium battery and you don’t have a bulky strap-on GPS unit like my Polar RS300X. The new Polar RCX5 has a much lighter and smaller GPS unit. The plus side is that I can wear my Polar wrist unit as a watch without having to charge it up daily. Other brands like the Garmin, Suunto and Timex have built-in GPS in the wrist unit but you will need to recharge them regularly.
The foot pod is another luxury of the sports computers. The foot pod tracks how many steps you take and measures it against your speed and distance. There is a similar unit for cyclists that measures cadence (pedal rotation). Triatheletes commonly use these for training.
This may seem insignificant while you are standing at the store looking at the wrist units and everything is readable. However, it is a whole different story when you are bobbing up and down while cycling or running. The bigger the characters are displayed, the easier it is to read. However, you may want it to display more information. I have set my sport computer to display my heart rate, speed, distance and duration of my runs. I even have a preset display that I use for cycling. My friend’s touch screen enables him to switch views without trying to press small buttons while on the run.
The more advanced units have a backlight so you can read the display should you workout after sundown or before sunrise. Some have an energy saving mode that it will automatically light up only when you lift your arm to look at the display.
What Suits You?
So, what should you pick?
That comes down to what kind of workout you do and how serious you are. If you simply want to monitor your heart-rate for simple daily indoor workouts, then just look for a simple HRM. This should cost you under RM150. If you want to do some serious indoor training, get one with an interval timer. Should you want to get serious with exercise and you do go outdoors, then you may want to get something with a GPS and track your distance and speed. If you are on a budget and not concerned with size and design, spend about RM300 to RM500. Should you have a bigger wallet, then by all means hit the high end units; they are better designed, lighter and has more features.
It is importantly that you scout around first. Checkout the various brands and their models. You can find them in fitness stores, running outlets, cycling stores and some fitness centres. Go online and read reviews so you can get an idea of how each HRM or sport computer work. If you really have no patience, then you can either go straight for a top of the line model or start with a basic HRM first.
Below are some links you can checkout. This should get you started.
Remember though, have fun exercising.
The Year has started off on a good note for me. At 9:24am on Friday the thirteen, my friend Keni texted me “I got a deal for you”. Mind you I was all frantic and chaotic in the office arranging last minute changes for an event the very next morning. If you have had any experience in organising events (birthday parties and office dos don’t count), you will know how that final twenty-four hour count down can send you from the Grand Canyon to the South Pole in a matter of seconds.
Turns out Keni found a buyer for my bike. I thought that he had gone mad, as he was the one who made the arrangements for my Scott not even four months before. Then came the good news – nay, great news; in return he found another second hand bike to replace my Scott S30 and all in the twenty hours or so before. The story is, a mountain biker wanted to try an entry level road bike and Keni’s brother wanted to upgrade to a triathlon bike and sell his Cinelli in the process. Keni just had to find someone with the entry level road bike who wanted to upgrade. I was just open for negotiation. So messages flew back and forth between buyer, seller and the inbetween all via Keni, ‘The Broker’. By 16:16hrs the deal was closed over instant messaging. I would collect my new bike and say farewell to my Scott S30 forty-eight hours later. Just imagine, barely four months ago I was in jubilation over the purchase of a second hand bike. Now my second hand was being traded off for a second hand Cinelli Unica in all spending a total RM3k plus between both bikes and some accessories.
On Sunday afternoon, I met with Keni, his wife and the buyer of my bike who turns out to be an old college mate of mine that I have not spoken to in almost 2 decades. A small world. See, if you get the right connections, you might just get a good deal for a second hand bike. If I had gone on to upgrade my Scott near to the Cinelli’s specs, I might have spent an additional two to three thousand Ringgit. Or I could have walked into a store and bought something similar at about five or six thousand Ringgit. Either way I would have spent at least three times more than this deal was costing me. In the end four people walked away happy – James rode off with my Scott, I took the Cinelli home, somewhere in between Keni’s brother upgraded and Keni himself went home with a Topeak top tube bag and a free lunch. Actually, if you count the original seller of the Scott, that’s five happy people.
In short, if you are looking for your first bike or maybe even your second; take your time to hunt. Pass the word around, go online and check out some forums or ask the local bike stores. You might just find a Keni along the line and couple of deals along with it. I am extremely happy with the Cinelli. It is in excelent condition and after 2 hours, degreaser, lubricant, soap and water; the Cinelli not only looks brand new; it is AWeSOMe!!
The last time I left you off with some safety tips and what you should wear for your rides. If you haven’t read the first part click here.
You can use any comfortable shoe you want when you go out cycling. However, if you have clipless pedals or toe straps, you need to consider cycling shoes. There are several types to choose from depending on the type of cycling you do – road, off-road or casual. Ask the store to recommend a few that will suit your pedals For the casual riders, you can just purchase a basic cycling shoe that you can walk around with rather comfortably.
This may seem trivial but socks are very important. Get a comfortable pair that can absorb your sweat and for heaven’s sake, please don’t wear the same pair again and again without running it through the wash. If you are truly that lazy, rinse the sock in running water, wring it out and hang it to dry after every cycle. Socks will protect your feet from fungal infections, blistering and smelly feet.
Lights and Reflectors
It doesn’t matter if you cycle only in the day; lights and reflectors are just as important in the day as it is in the night. You have to acknowledge the fact that you are on a small vehicle and can just as easily be missed. You will need a headlight, a rear light and reflectors. The headlight is mainly for evening and night cycling. The rear lights should be used every time your take your bike out. Most front and rear lights have at least two settings – normal and flashing. I personally prefer to use the flashing mode on my rear lights as it makes me noticeable on the road day or night.
You don’t have to spend on branded set as those can burn a small hole in your wallet. For beginner’s you can get one of those China made ones for about RM15 to RM25.
As an addition to lights; reflectors are vital support too. It is especially useful in night rides to alert motorists who not directly in front or behind of you. Most cycling jerseys come with sewn in reflectors. It is still good to add a few more on your bike itself, around the frame and on the rims of your wheels. You can get reflector strips from your local hardware store.
Before we can talk about shoes we have to talk about the pedals. When you buy a brand new bike, you have to pick out your own pedals. There are three basic choices here – the traditional platform pedals, pedals with toe clips or straps and clipless pedals.
The platform pedal is probably the most common pedal and can be found on almost all types of bikes. It is a good beginner’s pedal. These used to be made from a resin base but you can find them in various materials and colours.
Pedal straps are basically platform pedals with toe clips or toe straps attached to it. You basically slip your shoes (toe-first) into the strap and pedal away. This keeps the pedals attached to your feet so you don’t have to spin the crank around into a “start” position. Similar to this are hold fast straps that your can adjust to a position of your foot that is to your liking.
In 1895, Charles Hanson invented the clipless pedal. It is the most common pedal amongst cycling enthusiast particularly with road bikes. Clipless pedals require a specific type of cycling shoes. A cleat is attached to the sole of the shoe which locks into the pedal’s mechanism. This is a lot faster and more efficient than toe straps.
With clips, straps and the clipless, a period of adjustment is required. In the beginning, it may be easier to get your foot in than it is to take it out as you come to a stop. Practice with the new pedals at a stationary position first before heading out into a ditch or a tree.
There are many designs and qualities of tyres that it is difficult to determine what works for you over an article. Instead we will cover three things that will help you understand your tyres and maintain them better.
Types Of Tyres
A relatively common tyre type is the tubular. This bicycle tyre is stitched closed around the inner tube and then glued onto a tubular rim.
Clinchers are the most used tyre type. Clinchers lock in with the flanges in the rim much like a car tyre. A separate inner tube made of butyl rubber or latex that provides a relatively airtight barrier inside the tire supporting and maintaining the tyre itself. The advantage of this is that the inner tube can be easily replaced or patched up when a puncture is encountered.
Tubeless tires are primarily used on mountain bikes due to their ability to use low air pressure for better traction without getting flats. Tubeless, as the name implies, does not have an inner tube resulting in a reduction of excess heat.
Inflation Not Deflation
Inflation is extremely important. If you are under optimal pressure, you risk having the rims bite into the tyre, you risk damage on your rims and the wheel and you won’t have optimum performance. If your tyre is over pressured, you will have less control and you risk damage to the tyre. Always check your tyre’s pressure before you ride out. Road bike tyres start losing pressure within a couple of days. Mountain bike tyres take a bit longer but if you had just taken it out for a heavy trashing on an off-road trail, you might want double check it before your next ride. Whatever the case is, get a decent stand pump with a pressure gauge from your local bike store. I got mine for RM50.
Wear And Tear
As you spend more time on your bike, your tyres will eventually wear down. For road bikes, you will need to change your tyres once you see flat surface areas appearing on your tyres. It takes a lot more for mountain bike tyres to wear down.
You will also need to keep your eyes out for splinters the tyres pickup along your rides. I recommend that you rinse down your tyres at the end of each ride and brush it with a soft to medium bristle brush. Using your hands, feel the tyre surface as you inspect it visually. This way you keep the tyres clean while checking for possible surface damage.
Well, this just about covers all the basics you need to get started. We will talk about your Emergency Patch Kit in a future article.
May your fortunes reach beyond the stars,
And your passion, bring joys from afar;
May your life find enlightenment,
And may your soul attain contentment;
As we now greet the year celebrating,
May you be ‘ever showered with blessings.