Adult novice, just learned to ride
Anonymous 10/13/2012 at 5:33pm #
I’m a 32-year old guy who never learned to ride as a kid. My folks tried to teach me a few times, but I never made the leap from using training wheels to actually keeping my own balance, and it just felt like something I didn’t have the balance and coordination for. I always regretted not being able to ride at all, especially when I was in Montreal a few years back and kept passing bike rental kiosks (their Bixi system). My wife got her first bike in a while earlier this year, and since we’re around the same size, I’ve been trying to learn on her bike off and on this year. Well, last Saturday was so utterly gorgeous I couldn’t stand to stay inside, and so we took her bike over to Frick Park and I finally made the breakthrough I’d been hoping for, going from repeated false starts of rarely more than 4-5′ to multiple laps around the parking lot. I went to Biketek on Sunday and got my own bike, a Jamis Citizen 3, and on Tuesday we went down to the Eliza Furnace trail and rode for four miles! I went down there by myself yesterday and managed another 5 miles, and I find myself avidly anticipating the next chance I’ll get to ride.
Living in Squirrel Hill, it’s easy to drive down to the Furnace trail, and I do like that trail a lot (somewhat less so the Hazelwood extension, but I want to try the South Side trail sometime soon). Where else in town would you recommend a new rider go to practice? Frick Park seems to have some trails that would work well. I’m not yet comfortable enough with my steering to go out in vehicle traffic yet, but I’m hopeful to get there soon.
I have to say, I can definitely see how bicycling can become a big part of someone’s life. I’ve heard a lot of good things about BikePGH, and I am happy to join the community of bike riders.
That’s wonderful, great job. I’m sure you’ll get lots of ideas on here but for now I just wanted to say congratulations!
Ride with others. Since you’re that new, it probably isn’t a good idea to get out in traffic solo, as you said.
A few other ideas I would suggest:
1) Practice evasive maneuvers in an empty parking lot, even if it’s just big figure-8s around an empty can and a paper bag. Get used to the feeling of making quick turns at some speed. The real-world use is dodging potholes.
2) Practice looking over your shoulder or checking a mirror for traffic behind you, while maintaining a straight course of travel.
3) Get used to the difference between your front and rear brakes. Both of them should be able to bring you to a stop quickly, but the front brake has the ability to throw you over the bars if applied too tightly. I also ride a motorcycle, and have been riding two wheels, motorized and not, for decades. I’ve learned, rear brake for anticipated stops, front brake for quick stops, both for panic stops, keeping in mind the over-the-bars thought above. Learning to shift yourself backwards with your arms in a panic situation will help you use both brakes safely in such situations.
These are things you will be doing constantly, so it’s wise to get good at them in a zero-pressure situation.
When you feel up to it, try adding more difficult situations, like trying to pedal through gravel, how to read the road for gravel and other hazards in a curve, and maintain solid control with your right hand while signaling a turn with your left.
Anonymous 10/13/2012 at 8:35pm #
Just wanted to add my congratulations as well. I think that’s fantastic! Never too late to try something new. I’m happy for you that you’re finally getting your taste of freedom on a bike. It’s all good. Don’t rush yourself to get out on the roads. There are lots of great trails in the area to ride. If you want to try something outside the city the Montour Trail is a great local asset. It’s also not too far a drive to go out to the trail head at Boston and get on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) where you can ride for miles and miles on a crushed limestone bed. It’s a beautiful trail. Eventually you’ll be ready to ride it all the way to Cumberland, Md. It goes through Ohiopyle State Park so that’s another good place to drive to and then ride for a bit. Very scenic and you and your wife could pack a picnic and have a really nice afternoon adventure. What ever you do, don’t let anyone talk you into riding in places outside your comfort zone. You know what you’re ready for and the idea is to have a good time — not to get stressed out or worse. Happy riding!
Anonymous 10/13/2012 at 8:39pm #
Just thought of another idea for you as far as getting practice… When I was first learning to drive I used to go to the parking lot at North Park Pool when it was closed for the season. Places like that where you have room to do all the turning and maneuvering you want to. Another good place to ride is in a cemetery. However with both of those ideas you still may encounter occasional vehicle traffic so I’d still go with trails until you feel more confident.
Anonymous 10/13/2012 at 11:47pm #
The South Side trail is nice–it’s narrower than the Jail Trail and doesn’t have great sight lines in places, so you’ll just have to be ready to avoid other trail traffic coming around turns.
Another nice city trail is the trail from Millvale to the North Side–I haven’t been on it in a while, but last time I was, it was nice and smooth, without too much traffic until you get down toward the North Shore.
Hope to see you and your wife at a ride sometime!
Congrats! Check out the map, it’s a good resource. http://map.bike-pgh.org/#c=trail
Be aware of the dogs off leash in Frick, less of a problem if you’re riding the singletrack.
I will add my congratulations to you also. You have just learned a skill that is fun, practical and will serve you well for much of the rest of your life. It’s amazing how the brain suddenly figures out this riding thing at some point and off you go.
You have also found the best place in the area for information, cameraderie and encouragement. Lots of knowledgable, good folks here.
I’m going to jump ahead a little bit. I’ll just ask you to file this away for future. WHen you are ready to try road riding (and I bet it will be sooner than you think right now), consider going down to the BikePGH office (shameless plug for the management here) and pick up one of their maps. It’s really well done, and it will show you a plethora of streets in the East End as well as all over the city that are low traffic so you can comfortably learn and practice street riding.
Anonymous 10/14/2012 at 12:47am #
The trail heading east from the Hot Metal Bridge on the Soithside (heading toward Keystone Metals) is probably the best choice after the jail trail. Usually less traffic than other segments and no blind bends or seriously rough spots. North shore between Millvale and town has a lot of large potholes/mud holes and right now there are many construction vehicles where they’re working on the 31st St bridge. Nice section of trail when the construction is finished – and when the holes get filled in again.
Anonymous 10/14/2012 at 1:31am #
^Ooh, I’m glad you posted up-to-date info on the Millvale/North Shore trail–knowing Pittsburgh’s ever-changing pothole/construction scene I probably shouldn’t recommend trails I haven’t ridden in the past year…
Seeing as you live in Sq. Hill, consider heading down to the Waterfront, and picking up the new section of the Great Allegeny Passage. Just head towards Eat N Park, and look for yhe trail between there and the river. Then head east/south (towards Lowes). A nice wide paved trail extends all the way to Mckeesport. Only about a year old, so in great shape.
Oh, and my congrats to you as well!
I rolled video for the trip in a couple days ago, including the section between Millvale and the 9th St Bridge. A beginner isn’t going to be flying along at the speed I’m traveling, but it would be helpful to see what the trail looks like, and how to navigate through the very active work area at the 31SB.
When I get the video ready, I’ll post another link.
Anonymous 10/14/2012 at 6:15am #
since you live in Sq. Hill
a good place to ride around might be Homewood Cemetery.
it is not flat, so you can start to get used to hills
there is little or no traffic and you can get used to riding on “open’ roads
If you try the trails in Frick park – stay to the main trails, at least for now. The smaller trails will be too advanced for a someone just starting.
Anonymous 10/14/2012 at 10:39am #
@joanne I was hoping you wouldn’t be offended by the update. When you said you hadn’t ridden it in a while I guessed that you weren’t aware of the 31st St bridge mess. You were right, though – it’s another nice trail segment.
Anonymous 10/14/2012 at 3:51pm #
^Not at all, @srpit–I appreciate it!
Here is the video of riding the trail inbound from (just this side of) Millvale, down to the 9th Street Bridge.
Anonymous 10/15/2012 at 2:17am #
Thanks for all the tips, everyone. I’m hoping the rain tomorrow waits until the evening like the forecast currently shows – been working all weekend and I am off tomorrow and anxious to ride. My goal is to start at the Eliza Furnace Trail’s Greenfield lot, bike all the way downtown, and return. I’ll let you know how that works out!
Anonymous 10/15/2012 at 2:59pm #
I just got back from a morning ride from the Greenfield parking lot on the Eliza Furnace Trail to 1st and Grant downtown, and back. 5.8mi, and my odometer app says I managed about 13mph – definitely my best ride yet.
Now I have noodle legs!
Great job nlesgold! I concur with trying out the GAP at the Pump House trailhead in the Waterfront. Just drive past Lowe’s and look for the parking lot to your left. You can ride the trail from there either direction. If you go towards McKeesport you can challenge yourself with a few ramps and small rolling “hills”; could be a good way to test your skills once you work up to that.
Way to go! And don’t worry about the legs, they will get strong really quickly. I love this thread – keep the updates coming.
Two traffic exercises I recommend for doing in parking lots.
1) Looking over your shoulder without swerving (Important even if you have mirrors).
2) Emergency braking. Usually best on a slight downhill to get your speed up. Just stop as fast as you can.
I third riding the Steel Valley trail from the pump house. Beautiful views and a few small hills and some turns to practice on.
Anonymous 10/15/2012 at 10:37pm #
Excellent job today! I’m no expert, but in my experience making sure I get some protein helps with the “noodle legs”. Chocolate milk asap after the workout was recommended to me. Really does seem to help me whenever I push myself to that point.
chocolate milk is one of the world’s most wonderful post-workout drinks.
My favorite recovery drink ever: smoothie of hemp milk, chocolate powder, banana, vanilla, and sweetner. amazing. sometimes add some frozen raspberries.
@sarapgh2 My favorite recovery drink ever: smoothie of hemp milk,
I’ve had some amazing hemp, too!
Anonymous 10/17/2012 at 5:24pm #
I just got back a bit ago from a ride that went a lot farther than I meant it to! My intention was to start at the Greenfield lot, ride the Eliza Furnace Trail to Hot Metal, cross the river over to the South Side, ride down to Station Square, cross over at Smithfield to Downtown, and ride back on the Furnace Trail to Greenfield where I started. That went more or less smoothly until I got to Station Square. Regarding the South Side Trail, I will agree with those who say it is a really pretty ride, especially with the Fall colors abounding. It’s a little more winding and uneven in some places, and the detour to Carson was a real pain. Since part of my goal in riding is to just build up strength and conditioning, I think I get a better ride on the jail trail, but I did appreciate getting practice with different road conditions and circumstances.
The challenge when I got to Station Square is that I missed the turnoff to go up to the bridge! I ended up biking along all of Station Square and getting very confused. When I paused to look at my trail map, I met up with a very pleasant older gentleman who had been riding the same route with a yellow recumbent reverse-trike (very cool ride), and he offered to lead me up to the Fort Pitt Bridge and over to Point State Park. I ended up following him up to Carson and around to the bridge, which honestly was not at all a ride I was comfortable with – I mostly walked/ran the bike on the Carson St. sidewalk in order to keep up with him. Then the bridge crossing, and… that pedestrian walkway is really not meant for bikes! Also the downhill part was tough for me to control along the narrow walkway. The view was fantastic, however!
I got off at the Point and separated from my guide, and proceeded to try to figure out how to get back to the Furnace trail. I was laboring under the misapprehension that there would be an easily biked connection between the park and the trail, and so explored nearly every path out of the park, including riding down to the riverbank, somehow finding my way to the Mon wharf parking lot, riding all the way to the end of the lot and back when I realized there was no outlet, riding around the Point several times, and eventually giving up and walking the bike along the Boulevard of the Allies to Grant which apparently is the “trail connector” despite having no bike lanes. Yow!
It was such a relief to finally get back to the trail. I knew I had it easy from there, except that I’d already biked and walked close to 8 miles, further than my furthest ride before today. I made it back to Greenfield without anything eventful happening, thankfully, though that last mile was tough.
Then it was a quick drive to Squirrel Hill, where I got a red bean milk tea at Rose Tea Cafe and took the bike back to Biketek to get it tuned a little – I bumped into a pole partway through the ride and later realized my wheel and handlebars were slightly misaligned. Now I am relaxing at home, glad to be through with that crazy ride… and looking forward to the next! I plugged the route I took into a google maps pedometer as best I could and it came up with about 10 miles of distance, not including a lot of the riding around the point and the riverbank. So, previous distance record is shattered rather handily! No points for speed, though – it was more than 2 hours between when I left and when I made it home.
Sounds like a great ride. The city just recently started adding signs on the trails, so eventually there should be a sign for the turn you missed to get up to the Smithfield Street bridge. (It’s too narrow to be a proper bike path, which makes it easy to miss. But you can walk your bike through it easily enough.)
The bike connection from Point State Park to the Eliza Furnace Trail is some years in the future, still awaiting construction funding.
I love your story and predict that at this time next year, you will have crushed all your previous records!
New territory is always hairy the first time and some of the trail connections are kind of crummy. Pat yourself on the back for not letting the unfamiliarity stop you.
Anonymous 10/17/2012 at 9:30pm #
That’s terrific, nlesgold! I think navigating the Ft Pitt bridge for your first time was probably an event in itself. Sorry you ended up stranded at the Point without any guidance on how to get back. I think you were wise to walk through town at this point. While Blvd of the Allies usually isn’t too hairy (outside of rush hour stuff) I’ve had a few close encounters on it and I don’t think that’s the place to get initiated into road riding. Not that I’m any sort of expert at road riding. I feel comfortable giving you advice only because I’m not that far removed from my first road riding session and I completely understand where you’re at. You did very well today! I think the speed thing is irrelevant. Worry about that later – or not at all. Ride to enjoy it and forget the artificial measurements of success. The success is achieved simply by being out there and having fun. You probably did closer to 11 miles and whether you rode it all or walked part of it I think it’s all good. Congratulations!
You might want to consider the October Flock. It might push your boundaries a little, but I believe you’ll find it worthwhile. (And I’m the guy that advises super granny gears and gloves inside of mittens and stuff.) It’s a very protected, secure way to get out on the streets.
nlesgold — That’s quite a tale. Sometimes biking hands you an adventure/challenge when you weren’t expecting it. That’s just part of biking.
The thing I’m seeing is that you rose to the challenge, worked your way through it and came out the other side successfully. Yes, you rode further than you ever have, but that’s because you rose to the occasion.
The important thing is that you weren’t put off by this little baptism under fire. You are still looking forward to the next ride.
Sir, I salute you! You have beome a cyclist. I think that’s why Ken Kaminski said above, welcome to the fold.
I too would suggest the Flock ride on Friday. Since costumes are going to be the rule, the attention will likely be focused on them, and Flock rides are never fast. You’ll fit in well. Looking back, I see that the first words I said in my first post to you were “Ride with others.” Since you’ve now gotten a taste of riding, getting together to talk and ride with some of the people you’ve been conversing with would be a logical next step.
Anonymous 10/18/2012 at 3:22am #
Lordy. That sounds stressful, but very cool, too. I swear stuff like that happens to me almost every time I try a brand new route, no matter how well I try to plan. I think it makes me love cycling even more (once I’m safely back home, that is). Getting into a hairy spot with a car is a giant pain in the arse. With a bike, though? Hop on the sidewalk and walk for a while…pick it up and haul it up a staircase…even shove it in someone’s care if you need to have someone pick you up. Sweet freedom.
That’s a cool story, congrats. BTW I don’t like riding on the Ft Pitt bridge, being that close to a low rail, ugh. Glad you managed though, sounds like fun and hope you keep it up!
That sounds like a great little mini-adventure!
Some people are faced with challenges and vow never to to X thing again. Others faced with challenges can’t wait to get out and face the next one. You seem to come down on the right side of that fence. Before you realize it you may be setting out for Tierra del Fuego.
Check out some of the ride ideas that have been outlined on the “help me devise a fun bikey adventure…” thread.
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