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September-October 2005 Newsletter

Letís Talk Bikes ó Itís Not About the Bike

by Nita Bernat


What happened to the times when an individual would buy a nice bike, ride it, enjoy its bells and whistles so to speak, learn from it, (learn is the key word here), get strong, knowledgeable and efficient, then perhaps at a later time move up to a bigger, higher tech, faster, more advanced bike. Why is it every Tom, Dick and Jane thinks that they need the lightest, tightest, fastest, thinnest, most expensive bike known to man?

Part of the problem here lies in us baby boomers. We now have the lightest technology out there as far as equipment. We grew up riding our 1-speed everywhere we went. Then we rode our 10-speeds through high school so we had somewhat of a base in life as to what cycling was about. We may have carried some of this into our adulthood but we never let technology get the best of us because we rode for the sake of riding ó kickstand and all. No role models like Lance Armstrong at that time, and who knew about the Tour de France.

What I see happening now with many folks of all ages, who are just starting to ride or getting back into riding after many years, is they immediately get the latest and greatest in equipment when they may not be ready for it or need it. Rather than coming up the ranks ó building a strong riding foundation, getting their body strong, getting their mind and confidence strong for dealing with riding on the outside and the situations that one encounters when learning how to ride, they just want to ďclip inĒ and all will be right with the world. Surprisingly enough, I have known many riders encourage new riders to go with clip-in pedals upon getting their bike. To this day, I canít figure that out. The theory is that since you will eventually get them somewhere down the road you might as well take your falls now, get used to it and learn to ride with them ó like it or not.

There are also too many new riders who have been advised to purchase the latest 28-speed, hi-tech bike because they can and there it will sit in the basement because it may be just too much for them to attempt when they might have been able to find a good quality used bike to start learning and sharpen their skills. Iím a real advocate of recycling bikes, starting at a level that you can feel comfortable at and soar from there. New riders are misled into thinking that a new bike will make them strong and fast.

I recently heard someone talking about having ridden the cancer ride from the Discovery Center in Indiana and how difficult the course was. I also heard him say that he will be bike shopping because his triple chainring, late model Trek was not making him go fast enough or with the greatest of ease up those southern Indiana hills. This was from a fairly new rider, but this is typical of new riders. They expect instant gratification and if they donít get it, they think it is the fault of the bike. They are being ill-advised about what it takes to be a strong rider ó itís not about the bike!

Donít get me wrong ó Iím not totally against the latest and greatest, lightest and fastest. Iíd like to have one myself, but there is a time and a reason and a season for every purpose unto a new bicycle (isnít that a song?). I think we need to encourage new riders from within, not necessarily from without. Letís put them in a shoe they can learn to walk and be steady in so that when they start to run they wonít fall and hurt themselves. Oh, did I say shoe? I meant bike.


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web posted: 15 September 2005
last updated: 16 September 2005