Aside

The Healthy Bear’s Guide To Buying A Bike

Hey there Guys,

Some of you may already know that I am a big fan of cycling. Not that this was always the case. Due to a back injury and a problematic neck issue I had avoided bikes for many years, they were just too painful.

When I arrived to Melbourne I was in awe of the amazing cycle paths and really wanted to get some physical exercise into my day so I went in search for a solution to making cycling an option again.

Today I wanted to show you the solution I found that helped me “get back into the saddle” so to speak 🙂 .

Before I go into choosing a bike for a big bloke I just want to talk about why cycling was a good choice for me.

What are some of the advantages of cycling?

If you are looking for a way to incorporate some simple movement into your day, cycling may be a very good choice. For me the advantages included:

  • Low impact: Given my weight was over 100kg I was not keen on jogging; it made my knees hurt, my back injury worse and it was very difficult for me to do. Cycling was able to offer the advantage of a low impact solution that did not make my joints hurt or my back and neck painful.
  • Self paced: The great part of cycling for me was that I was in control of the pace. I could choose whether to have a challenge day with a few hills or to take the pace a little slower with some longer flat sections. I was able to choose a pace that suited my fitness and could increase as my energy levels started to increase.
  • It wasn’t boring: Each session I was able to choose a different route, and if I was heading to an appointment and the weather was good I would take the bike instead. The traffic can be pretty crazy in town and there is a smug satisfaction I get when I know I am travelling faster then the people in the cars beside me 🙂 .
  • Cycling was easy to incorporate into my life: Currently my  job is about 5km away from my house which is a nice distance to take the bike to work. I’ve found that once I was organised I was able to get to and from work fairly rapidly without the hassle of packed out trains or getting stuck in traffic. I found the ride would clear my mind, allowing me some time to think though my day after a tough one.
    Most of the places I need to visit are in cycling distance  so it’s pretty easy to just jump on the bike rather then have the hassle of driving and finding a park.

Of course it’s not going to be the perfect solution for everyone, there are some disadvantages…

Some of the challenges of cycling.

  • The weather: Some mornings it would be 3 degrees as I headed out to work. You have to be pretty committed to be able to head out when your hands are aching and you have icicles hanging off your nose. That said I found that I would be pretty warm after 5-10 min and as most people are still having their morning coffee it can be pretty serene on these mornings.
    The other problem with the weather is rain. While it can be clear when you leave home, rain can come fast and riding in soggy clothes can really suck, especially if you are on your way to work! With planning tho I now have emergency clothes at work for this very occasion.
  • Cars: Before I got into cycling I could never understand why some cyclist were so bloody grumpy. It wasn’t until I hit the roads that I started to understand why cycling can be a pretty scary sport at times. Unfortunately not everyone is aware of bikes on the road with cars doing sudden left hand turns or opening of car doors leading to potential accidents. I’ve learned to keep a eye on what the other cars are doing but despite this I have managed to be caught on a car door twice now. I hope that with more people getting onto bikes that motorist education, and the cyclist doing their part to let the car drivers know their intentions, we can increase the bike/car harmony on the road.
  • Choosing a bike if you have a pre existing injury: The biggest hurdle I needed to tackle with starting to ride was finding a bike that did not make my back sore or give me headaches from the hyper extended position of my neck. Thankfully bikes have come a long way from the standard 10 speed racer so for the rest of this article I will be talking about a couple of bike solutions that might be a good choice for guys that a heavy boned.

My problem with traditional bikes.

Given my size and the fact I had a bad lower back and neck, traditional bikes were very uncomfortable for me to ride. The flexed position at the hips combined with the extension of my neck to see lead to me avoiding cycling for many years. Thankfully times have changed and with the introduction of new “hybrid” and “comfort” bikes I have been able to find a solution that enables me to enjoy cycling without the days of pain I used to endure.

Introducing The Hybrid Bike

hybrid city bikeHybrid bikes, also known as city bikes, are a combination of the best of road bikes and mountain bikes. Built with thicker tyres and frames designed to absorb shocks you can have a smoother ride that can be easier on the back. Complemented with the full range of gears of a road bike, these are well adapted for city commutes but also longer rides across different terrains. Not as fast as a road bike you can still work up some impressive speeds on these bikes.

For me the advantage of a hybrid was that the frames are very adjustable and getting a fit that was right for me was not too complex. In the photo below you can see that there is minimal extension in my neck and the flexed position of my hips is not too harsh.

You can also notice that the handles are higher and closer to the body then a standard road bike. This helps bring the body more upright which increases comfort for the bigger bloke. If you are heavier there are also styles that include shock absorbers on both wheels and even the seat post which really helps reduce the forces being sent up the arms and in the back.

Hybrid bikes can be a good choice for many, however if you are keen to really take it up a notch when it comes to taking the strain out of cycling you may be interested in looking into comfort bikes.

Introducing comfort bikes

Comfort bikes are really like the Rolls Royce of bikes. Built to ensure maximum comfort they have high handle bars that are close to the body to bring the upper body into a very upright position. The pedal position is usually set more forward which may feel unusual at first, however it’s certainly much easier on the body.

With the torso in a more upright position the seat is a little wider and more padded as your weight is more supported on your butt rather than through your arms as on a traditional bike.

As you can see in the picture below because of the more upright position, the neck is in a very neutral position which ultimately lead me to choosing this style of bike.

The bike in this photo is an Electra Townie. You’ll notice the tyres are fatter which really adds to the smoothness of the ride.

The main disadvantages of the comfort bikes is that they are not built for speed. The forward position of the pedals is also less efficient which means that you may need to work a bit harder if you are going up some steeper hills.

For me these bikes are perfect for my commute to work although I think my butt would be pretty sore after an hour or so on this bike as pretty much all my weight is going directly through the seat. Certainly fun and comfortable, but if you are thinking about cycling for longer distances you may be better choosing a hybrid bike.

Recumbent Bikes and Trikes

Greenspeed recumbent trike

For many reasons not everyone is able to ride a regular bike. This may be due to loss of limbs, balance issues, or in my case severe back pain.

For this reason I have recently traded in my current bike for a GreenSpeed Maxum Recumbent Trike. Finally I am able to enjoy cycling again with my back gently cradled enabling me to put all my energy into my legs for the ultimate leg blast.

Certainly a head turner some of the advantages include being able to stop without removing my feet from the cleats, I can go up hills at any speed and even stop to rest if I wish and interestingly I seem to have less issues in traffic with cars giving me a wider berth. I do make sure I am wearing bright colors and never go without the flag as it’s vital to be seen, helping reduce accidents.

If you suffer with back problems this may be a great solution for you!

Thinking about looking into a bike?

If you are starting to think about buying a bike I highly suggest the following tips.

  • Make sure you buy from a reputable seller: When I went to buy I ended out visiting over 6 shops before I found one I felt comfortable. The people I ended out buying from were able to make sure the bike fitted me perfectly and even included tune ups for the first year I owned my bike.
  • Take each bike you are considering for a decent ride. You really need to have a decent ride on a bike before you know if it fits you well. If the shop you are visiting is only letting you try it out in the back yard you are not going to have a good idea of what it’s like on the road. When I bought mine I was able to take it out for a 20 minute spin to make sure I was 100% comfortable with the ride.
  • Try a variety of different bikes: You just never know, you may be surprised. I certainly never thought I would end out with such a retro styled bike but once I felt just how comfortable it was I was sold.

I suppose the moral of the story is to not be afraid to shop around and try lots of different styles. You just never know what is going to fit you perfectly until you try it.

On a final note if you end up buying a bike, don’t forget these important accessories:

  • A decent helmet: Guys, protect yourself. Helmets save lives. Having looked after injured cyclists I have to say that a broken wrist heals much faster than an acute brain injury.
  • Nice  bright lights: Lights when riding at night are vital to enable cars and other cyclist to see you. There is nothing scarier then having a cyclist popping out from nowhere when you are riding at night. Protect yourself, make sure as many people can see you as possible.
  • A Quality Bike Lock: It’s a fact of life that there are some people who are just going to steal. Having a decent lock will at the very least make thieves keep on looking if your bike is locked up securely. I have a Kryptonite D style lock and I’ve never had a problem. Check out this video on how the elite lock their bikes up in New York -> Hal Grades Your Bike Locking
  • A light weight jacket: Perfect for throwing into the bottom of my bag, I can whip this out if the rain kicks in. Try to get one that is wind resistant as for me cold wind is the killer when it’s raining.

Guys I hope you found this post helpful. Cycling is a great way to get fit and can be a fun way to spend an afternoon.

If you found this helpful, please feel free to hit the like button below to help share the love.

Have a great day!

Dr George

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