View Full Version : 20 Yrs Away from Cycling - Need Recommendations on Bike Shops, Necessary Equip, etc.

06-03-2012, 04:38 PM
I have not been on a bike in something like 20 years. I need advice on where to start over. Obviously, I need a bike - but what kind? I plan to use the bike for errands, biking to work meetings, and biking to Nationals Park for games. I may take some longer rides, too. I am 5'10" and could lose a few pounds. :( I like in DC, right across the street from the back of the GWU Hospital.

Besides the bike, I know I need a helmet -- but what else? Are saddles designed for women worth it?

If you can refer me to a website or a book that answers these questions, that would be great.


06-03-2012, 05:16 PM
Have you started off by getting a Capital Bikeshare membership?

06-03-2012, 05:56 PM
Congratulations - it's great that you're considering cycling again! You may want to start by looking at some of the forums at a website called "forums.teamestrogen.com" where you'll find many women in your same situation asking and getting answers for the same types of questions. You can also find books on amazon.com and lots of information through google just by typing in the words "women" and "cycling.".

Local bike shops can also be very helpful, and some offer programs just for women. I know Revolution Cycles was doing this. In addition, you may want to check www.waba.org, the website for Washington Area Bicyclist Assn., which has courses for beginning cyclists and also is working on a number of efforts to encourage women to bicycle. Capital Bikeshare is a great way to get started again until you get your own bike. Many people start with hybrid bikes, but that encompasses a very broad range of bicycles. Do some research, take some courses (some of them provide bikes for you to ride), get some experience in safe places on the bikeshare bikes, and talk to people in your local bike shops (sometimes abbreviated as LBS) and friends who ride, and you'll get started in no time. There are lots of articles around about women just like yourself who are re-discovering the joy and freedom of cycling, and getting healthier and happier as a result.

06-03-2012, 05:59 PM
+1 on Capital Bikeshare. There is a bike station about 2 blocks from the Foggy Bottom Metro. There are plans to add another bike station right by the Metro entrance too.

There is a bike station at Nationals Park as well as 2 more near the Navy Yard Metro. But be aware that those stations usually fill up quickly before games. Always check the website or use the Spotcycle mobile app to check how many bikes/empty docks there are at your home station and the destination, as well as nearby stations.

Capital Bikeshare, or CaBi, is useful for errands and short leisure trips. If you want to ride more than 30 minutes at a time, dock at a station and check out the bike again to restart the 30-min. limit. Many people also use the bikes for commuting to work or school, but popular stations downtown can fill up in the morning rush hour. And empty out in the evening rush hour. The system is great but there are some issues with "dockblocking" (empty or full stations).

I'd recommend a pair of cycling gloves, open-finger during the summer months. It helps with your grip on the handlebars. Accidents are pretty rare on CaBi (because the bikes are relatively heavy and slow), but if you happen to tip over on a personal bike, the gloves can help prevent scrapes on your palms.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has cycling classes for beginners (confident city cycling). That's a good place to start. You can do some window shopping at various bike shops, just to get a feel for what's available. Different brands fit differently. One size in Brand A might not suit you as the same size in Brand B. Same thing with saddles. The only way to determine whether a saddle works for you is to try it out for a while.

If you buy a bike, I'd recommend signing up for a basic bike maintenance class. Most bike shops offer them, often for free. They cover routine issues like tire inflation, tire replacement, chain maintenance and simple fit issues. Bike size and fit are important, especially if you plan to do a lot of riding. If you're only riding 20 min. at a time, a few times a month, you won't need to be too precise about the fit, but it will still help with comfort. If you do a lot of riding, bike size and fit becomes more crucial for comfort and preventing overuse injuries.

For a personal bike, you should pick up some maintenance items (not a complete list, just items I can remember right now):

frame pump, patch kit, spare tube, chain repair tool, spare chain link, bike multitool, tire boot (smaller than a credit card), front and rear lights, bottle cages (if you do longer rides), underseat bag to hold most of these items, a velcro bento box (for gels, carb chews, Kleenex, etc.), floor pump for home use

For short trips (10-20 min.), you don't really need to wear bike shorts, especially on CaBi. If you ride more, you should get some quality bike or triathlon shorts. I prefer tri shorts because bike shorts are so heavily padded that they feel like diapers. But this is a matter of personal preference.

You don't really need a bike jersey if you're just running errands or doing short recreational rides. I usually wear a tech running shirt when I ride. Jerseys are nice for races and long rides when you want to minimize wind resistance. Otherwise, a comfortable polyester/bamboo fiber running shirt will work just fine.

Sunglasses are useful too, to block out the sun and the wind. If you pick up some speed on a bike, you're going to get bugs flying into your face, and eyes. The wind can irritate your eyes at faster speeds.

A Halo headband (worn under your helmet) can help to keep sweat out of your eyes on hot Washington summer days. It doesn't keep all the sweat out, but it helps a lot.

06-03-2012, 06:02 PM


http://www.waba.org (But Google is currently showing that the WABA site may have been hacked.)

06-03-2012, 06:34 PM
BicycleSpace on 7th Street (near the convention center) specializes in the urban, commuter, and recreational biker (as opposed to more roadie oriented shops). They also offer "nice and easy" group rides on Saturdays 10:00-11:30 to show you how to bike in DC traffic and also offer the chance to try one of their bikes out for the entire group ride which is a big bonus since most shops freak out if you disappear for more than 15 minutes on a test ride.

Bike and Roll (various locations in the area) offers a wide arrange of bikes to try as well. Trying different styles out (roadie, hybrid, mountain bike, etc) will help you narrow down your preferences (each style has its pros and cons). For city travel and errands, you will surely want a rack of some sort on the back to carry stuff as well as a good U-lock.

I do recommend Capital Bikeshare for where you live. It is great having one's own bike but I find the CaBi membership does come in handy at times for very short trips. I still wear a helmet and gloves while riding them.

Buy from a proper bikeshop (or outdoor shop like REI, HTO) and not from a mass distributor like Target, Walmart or Sports Authority. The latter bikes are of poor quality, usually only come in one size, and don't offer the adjustment, tune-up, and repair services of a local bike shop (LBS). Also, all the LBS shops in the area offer 6-12 months of free adjustment (and most repairs) with the purchase of a bike.

I've heard good things about Proteus in College Park when it comes to fitting but have never personally been there.

06-03-2012, 06:54 PM
All awesome advice above. Having just recently come back to cycling after a 10 year break, I can't add much except my perspective of recently buying a bike. Although it's an awesome bike and was a great deal (last year's model, $400 off), I probably could've used a better commuter-appropriate bike. One with rack mounts, etc. Definitely ride some bikes and consider it's main type of use, all the bike shops should let you take a free test ride.

06-05-2012, 11:12 AM
I have not been on a bike in something like 20 years. I need advice on where to start over. Obviously, I need a bike - but what kind? I plan to use the bike for errands, biking to work meetings, and biking to Nationals Park for games. I may take some longer rides, too. I am 5'10" and could lose a few pounds. :( I like in DC, right across the street from the back of the GWU Hospital.

Besides the bike, I know I need a helmet -- but what else? Are saddles designed for women worth it?

If you can refer me to a website or a book that answers these questions, that would be great.

First off, congrats for making the decision to get back on the bike!

Second - everyone has already provided some great advice which goes to show that this forum is a great resource. But for some more personal and detailed information I would highly recommend our (BikeArlington) Two Wheel Tuesdays (http://www.bikearlington.com/pages/two-wheel-tuesdays/) get togethers that we hold in Arlington. I know you live in DC, but this month the sessions are taking place in Courthouse which isn't too far from Foggy Bottom.

Our TWT sessions cover 3 main topics - all of which you have asked about. The main topic is riding in traffic safely and confidently. We discuss lane and intersection positioning, avoiding crashes, and the rules of the road to name a few. Our second topic is Equipment, Clothing & Gear where we feature a local bike shop representative to answer all of your questions about bike selection, bike fit, equipment and tools for your bike, maintenance, as well as a fix a flat tutorial. The last topic is called Routes and Directions where we bring in a local and experienced rider to help you map out your trips by bike.

Our Two Wheel Safety tips session is tonight - check our website for our full schedule and locations. We will continue the classes into the fall, but they will all be in Arlington. I hope you can make it to one of these - sounds like they will answer all of your questions and get you back on two wheels!

Best of luck to you! :)

06-05-2012, 11:42 AM
Here's a website that has lots of information about bikes using for transportation -running errands, commuting to work and the like.

Unfortunately much of the information about biking (found in bike shops and online) is focused on the sports aspect. You'll see lots of discussions about bikes with skinny tires made of carbon fiber that are almost totally useless for running to the grocery store. Bikes that are best for errands have baskets or racks, fenders, chainguards and the like, but they're not for riding long distances or very fast. There are lots of "commuting" bikes that are somewhere in the middle between fast road bikes and utilitarian city bikes. Ride a bunch and see what feels right.

I would also recommend blogs like these that focus on bicycling for transportation:


Otherwise some great advice above -- +1 for Bicycle instruction/classes and finding a local bike shop that understands your needs

06-05-2012, 12:12 PM
You've gotten some great advice so far, I just wanted to add that I find a great investment, even though I commute on my own bike. Sometimes, it's nice to be able to take CaBi one-way (like when meeting friends) and have the freedom to Metro or cab or whatever in the other direction. Sometimes, it's nice not to have to worry about adequately locking up your own bike. I've found the CaBi annual membership to be a great investment.

There are tons of CaBi stations around Foggy Bottom. If I were you, I'd buy a helmet, gloves and the CaBi membership, and go from there.

06-05-2012, 02:09 PM
I'm glad CABI is there. I dont have a CABI membership. First, there is no station convenient on either end of my commute; but more importantly I would rather ride my own bike.

Bikes have changed a lot in 20 years. I just replaced a 25 year old steal frame fuji hybrid. Loved that thing; but the new bike is sweet.

What you need

* Bike. Think about a used bike to start with. Phoenix bike is a source for rebuilt bikes. WABA has bike swaps. Look in yardsales. There is craigslist, but as many here will say, its a safe bet a lot of the bikes on CL are stolen. A used bike will give you time to look at what other people have and develop ideas before dropping $1000
* Gloves - its more than grip and comfort. Gloves protect against nerve damage to your hand from the constant banging against the bar. I wear two layers of gloves, and have foam raps on my bars.
* Lights. Rear and front. On always (at least I always have my headlight on, and on flash). During the darker seasons I use two planet bike 3-LED lights on the front bar.
* Side reflectors - usually in the spokes
* Clips or clipless pedals. If you are not ready for clipless, at least put clips (cages) on your pedals. Even if you dont strap them (I never did) they will dramatically increase your efficiency.
* Bike shorts.
* Hi viz bike top - summer time that is a shirt, winter that might be a jacket / shell. Hi viz means bright yellow, orange, or lime green.
* Windshield, ie glasses. I carry clear glass and sunglasses. You can get cheap clear glass at the hardware store - look for safety glasses. They will sell them for a fraction of bicycle glasses cost.
* Sunblock
* Helmet - I choose one that is well ventilated, is white to reflect at least some solar, and is Mount bike style (flat back protecting more of the back of your head, not those stupid aerodynamic point fins on the back, which are not aerodynamic and can cause your head to torque if you land on your helmet there)
* Bags - I use panniers. I dont like backpacks on my back. People say using one pannier makes the bike unbalanced. Reality is its just a different balance. Its no big thing. What bag you choose depends on how much you carry.
* Bike rack to carry the panniers (look for a bike that is built for a rack)
* Lock. A good U lock. If you dont ever stop during your commute you can leave the U lock at work and not carry it with you. I like to stop on my ride so I lug the damn thing around with me.
* Multitool or equivalent. This is a pocket knife type thing with various tools: allen wrenches of various sizes, screw drivers, some other things. I use mine all the time to adjust my seat which never seems to want to stay put.
* Bell for signalling - see other thread on curmudgeons
* Water bottle - for me this is a must - even on a relatively short ride - with pollen and pollution, its good to have some water
* Tools - tire irons, patch kit, spare tube, tire boot, spoke wrench. I dont carry these; I have them at both ends of the commute and my commute is such that if I had a problem, I would just hop on a bus. Many people carry these.
* Quick link - can put the chain back together in case the chain busts on the trail
* Oil and chain cleaner - keep at home. I think I read its good to clean your chain every 100 miles. Interesting to see if people chime in on that.
* Pump - get one with a nice readable gauge on it. Optional is a mini pump that goes in your bag.
* Camera - if you need it, you will need it. Hopefully you wont. Taking pictures of an accident scene is the best way of dealing with insurance and any further problems. Fortunately most phones have cameras built in. Oh, and carry your phone.
* ID - always carry an ID. See bullet above
* Trash bag (optional). I has almost no weight, and if you get caught in a rain storm, you can wrap your laptop or whatever in it.

Now repeat after me: "bicycling saves you money!" ;-)

Be patient. Be predictable. Watch what other experienced cyclists do.

Enjoy the ride.

06-11-2012, 01:24 PM
My wife and I just also got back into cycling after a 20 years absence. I commute to work (40 minutes there, 55 back). One the weekends, we explore DC on 5-10 mile trips.

What bike to get: we got mountain bikes as I hope to do some trails even though I have yet to do so. I would highly recommend hybrids or comfort bikes as they are designed to do what you describe. I see no reason to get a road bike unless you plan on frequent 2+ hour rides or really want to go fast (I accept the flames for that). It seems like you just want to ride. I got both of ours on Craigslist; I am fairly sure they weren’t stolen.

As a newbie here, I hate to contradict the senior member above, but I feel a long list of requirements may discourage you and others. Don’t worry about gloves, clip pedals, clipless pedals, or bike shorts. If you will ride in traffic, I would recommend lights, reflectors and a hi viz top. For a hi viz top, I use an orange reflective safety vest so I did not have buy many new clothes. I use the same vest everyday and it works in all weather. As for shorts, I wear the same kind I would work out in—synthetic fabric that will dry quickly and wick away moisture. I have not had a need for any padding although I have bought non-cotton athletic underwear for my commute and long trips.

As far as tools and such, I did invest in them but have yet to need to use any of them. I could probably get by with not having them.

Get the basics, a bike, helmet and lock, and just start ridding. You can figure out the rest as you go.

06-11-2012, 02:12 PM
I generally agree with Nuke on everything except bicycle selection. Understand the tradeoffs between different bicycle styles and pick the appropriate bicycle for how you ride. Personally, I would only buy a mountain bike if I were going to do a lot of biking on unpaved trails (or perhaps playing in the snow!) The paved trails around here are fine for any type of bike. If you want an upright ride choose a hybrid. To me a cruiser is like a hybrid, but with no gears, a heavier frame, and a wider seat. To each their own. If you want drop bars, get a road bike, which come with different geometries, tire widths, frame strength, and different gearing. The term "road bike" is not limited to carbon-fiber, expensive racing bikes, but also includes touring bikes. If you do not value new equipment (brifters, 10 speed cassettes, carbon frame) sufficiently to pay their expense, I would suggest looking at used road bicycles or hybrids.

The choice between hybrids and road bikes should be based not merely on how far you plan to bike, but whether you prefer an upright seating position or not. This comes with tradeoffs, namely the upright position may allow better ability to see traffic, but is also less aerodynamic. A similar fundamental tradeoff involves tire width, with wider tires being more comfortable, perhaps more flat resistant, but harder to push.

06-11-2012, 03:25 PM
A similar fundamental tradeoff involves tire width, with wider tires being more comfortable, perhaps more flat resistant, but harder to push.

More fundamental than the width is the design. A smoother tire will have less rolling resistance, and less traction off-road. A two inch deep-tread MTB tire is going to be more work to pedal at a given speed on pavement than a two inch invert-tread with a smooth contact patch intended for on-road use. (You'll also have a nifty buzzing coming from one tire at speed and not the other.) There is a good correlation between width and tread design, but you're not locked into an off-road tire if you want something wider.

09-05-2012, 11:57 AM
I was googling biking DC and noticed that the waba.org is the victim of a google hack. I do Internet security for a living and would volunteer to to fix this; it's a common attack and very insidious. Does anyone know whom to contact at waba?

Tim Kelley
09-05-2012, 01:05 PM
I was googling biking DC and noticed that the waba.org is the victim of a google hack. I do Internet security for a living and would volunteer to to fix this; it's a common attack and very insidious. Does anyone know whom to contact at waba?

You can contact Greg Billing: greg@waba.org. I'll pass along this posting as well too.

09-05-2012, 09:09 PM
Please wear gloves when you ride, even on CaBi. Trust me, if you ride enough you will have a minor (or not so minor) fall and the gloves will protect your hands against road rash or possibly worse. I learned this the hard way a couple of years ago when commuting to work one beautiful morning. I remembered when riding that I hadn't put my gloves on but didn't want to stop to get them out of my bag. 10 minutes later a little snot of a kid decided it would be funny to jump out in front of me at the last minute. Well long story short, I did a slow-mo splat and gouged out a chunk of skin out of my palm thanks to the pebbly nature of the trail around the Jefferson Memorial. If I'd had my gloves on I would have walked away unscathed.

Always wear gloves.