May is Bike Month and in north-central Texas, cyclists have enjoyed ideal pedaling weather to celebrate! The area rallies have seen strong or record attendance, the area group rides are consistently collecting new members, and trails have been bustling with fitness enthusiasts and families alike.
As a new sales employee in a bike shop, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the steady stream of new riders, young and old, male and female, fit and unfit, both excited and petrified, come in to find their new ride. In many cases, friends or family are already riding, and these individuals were invited to join in on the adventures. Or, even if they weren’t invited, they were tired of watching from the sidelines on social media.
There is one main question that you should think about before you begin to shop for a bike: where do you want to ride? Do you want to commute to work? Will you hit some road and some trail? Do you just want short, comfortable rides? Or do dirt, rocks and tree stumps sound good? Think long-term. Yes, right now comfort sounds good to most of us, but how soon will your goals change? Do you dream of fast and racy or of steady distances? If you already know you’ll always be a comfort rider, then stick to comfort. But if you think you’ll have new goals once you get into gear, buy for the future you.
Everyone feels nervous when getting reintroduced to the bike. While we don’t “forget” how to ride, we are shaky, lose our balance and feel out of control. Shoppers are invited to ride inside the store, and not a day goes by that I don’t hear “I haven’t been on a bike in years!” And, as uneasy as they might be, these shoppers can’t fight the smile that hooks their lips into that wild grin. When shoppers are really serious about testing a bike, we’ll put a helmet on them and send them to the parking lot. The smiles, of course, continue.
A few adults have confessed to me that they never learned to ride a bike. My heart sinks for them, but it’s never too late to learn. I am certain there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube, but the simplest way to learn is to find a mild slope in an empty parking lot, lower the seat on the bike all the way down so the rider can touch the ground, and let the rider walk, then scoot the bike down the slope to begin to learn balancing on a bike. Once the rider can lift their feet and balance all the way down the slope, they are ready to add pedaling, then steering.
Obviously, for anyone, the more you ride, the more confident you become. The basics become natural, and you begin to wonder what else you can do on the bike! Welcome to the addiction!
Another concern for hesitant riders is weight. There are bikes for most sizes and yes, those skinny tires hold up more than you think if you’re interested in a road bike. I personally weighed over 200 pounds at one time and was still able to pedal my Specialized Ruby Comp. My larger male friends are also able to pedal road, sometimes investing in stronger wheels and tires, but yes, weight is not a disqualifier. I will never forget the day a special couple came by to window shop. They weren’t sure they’d find anything for their size. She jetted around in a beautiful red recumbent bike that she test-rode at the shop, and he was elated to find the Specialized Roll, a sturdy comfort bike with wide tires and a step-through for ease of mounting that fit him perfectly. They loaded their small SUV with two bikes and giant smiles. Window shopping became a jackpot of a find! You don’t know until you ask!
Another great equalizer has also made its way into the bike world. E-bikes have hit the scene and changed the game for those who want or need a little extra push. Pedal-assist bikes power your ride up to 28 mph (legal limit). You can set it on Turbo to head to work without sweating, and turn the pedal assist off on the way home to get your workout in. Or, leave it on a mid-range setting and get the best of both worlds. The Specialized Como is offered with the step-through and hydraulic disc brakes. Plug it in to recharge.
Recently, two retired “Cool Cats” I know came and test rode the Specialized Como and Vado. One placed an order in her choice color and rode the Tour de Norway (Clifton, TX) in style! (Note: There are even S-Works carbon mountain versions of this bike—crazy!)
So maybe you already have your bike and you just haven’t dusted it off, or that chain looks kind of rusty, or the back brake is hanging off and you have a flat. Load that bike in your car and head to your nearest bike shop for a basic tune-up. Ask the service or sales reps about beginner shop rides.
If you have friends who are already out there riding, tell them you’re ready to do some pedaling and ask them to show you a few safe places for beginners to pedal. Once you learn and meet with one or two groups, the opportunities will spiral from there. You will find like-minded people that truly become your bike family.
As a Fort Worth cyclist, I’ve had the privilege of pedaling all over Texas, racing endurance, participating in countless rallies and simply enjoying the trails our beautiful city has to offer. I love sharing these possibilities with new riders. The looks on their faces when they realize they, too, can pedal the Cotton Belt Trail to Grapevine and have lunch on the back porch at Farina’s Winery and Café, or take a day trip to Bullard and pedal the Beauty and the Beast rally with hundreds of other cyclists…whole new worlds begin to open up!
The beginners I’ve talked to each experienced some sort of “spark” to get them interested in pedaling again. It was that invitation to ride, a pinch of envy, a desire to get fit or lose weight…if you’ve been waiting, NOW is the best time of all! Find your spark and grab a friend or two, head to the bike shop and get rolling!
Lisa Tilley is a contributing writer for Wheelbrothers, is a member of Fort Worth based MBBC, and is in sales at Bicycles Inc.