My regular readers know I have Issues. Lately, I've been talking about the ones involving bicycles, and cycling culture, particularly of the go-fast competitive crowd. Periodically, I think, hey, maybe I'm harshing it up on these guys a little too much. And for a while there, I was thinking I should give my LBS a chance to impress me. Googling Acton bike shop, turned up this place:
I'll just say upfront, I haven't been there. I didn't even call them on the phone. Part of that is because they have a very short list of lines they carry, and, to be honest, some of it is because of all the exclamation marks on their website. But I am Not That Petty. It took more than a few too many exclamation marks and not carrying any of the makers I'm interested in to stop me from calling them.
The title of this gem is We Love Beginners! / Welcome to the Wonderful World of Cycling!
They promise a lot: " We can help you get the right equipment and ensure you enjoy it fully. We can show you how to avoid the common mistakes we made as beginners." and "What’s more, we’ve loaded this website with information about us, our products and cycling so that you may access what you need even when our store is closed."
Okay, then, let's see what they have to say about common mistakes.
The first time I ran across this gem by Lisa Myklak, I blamed the shop. Turns out that's just not fair. Ms. Myklak probably has nothing whatsoever to do with Pedal Power Bike & Ski. She's a mountain biker and that essay gets posted at every third bike shop on the web (unscientific estimate -- might be closer to one in two).
But Pedal Power should still be held accountable for this, because I'm going to assume that they wouldn't include it if they didn't agree with her that a seat low enough to put your foot on the ground inevitably is a bad riding position (and no other considerations are relevant), riding inevitably involves copious amounts of sweating and therefore street-normal attire is inappropriate, and that not only do you really have to wear padded spandex bike shorts, you shouldn't be wearing anything else under them.
Given my goals and constraints and expectations, and their idea of cycling, I don't think these people are going to help me avoid mistakes. I think these are the kind of people who'll helpfully sell me something that won't work for me. I think I would not do business with any shop that posted that essay by Ms. Myklak, even tho I think it's kind of nice they bothered to include something written by a woman.
I've been trying recently to get the whole family out riding, all together or in various subgroups. A. is still a little young, but we've got the gear for when she's a bit older. The trick right now is trying to manage the transition for T., who is resisting riding in the seat and/or trailer and wants to ride his own bike. I keep landing at Sheldon Brown's extensive website:
Unfortunately, Mr. Brown had his own ideas about What It Means to Cycle. I'll state up front that I agree with his assertion that a tandem is a fine idea for a kid and parent (we're planning on buying one) and then I'm off to pick pick pick.
"Adults and children can ride together on solo bikes, but it is not much fun for either. The child is likely to feel pushed and overworked; the adult will want to go farther and faster than the child, and get tired of waiting up.
An adult cyclist will find that a 10 mile ride at 6 miles per hour with a child is harder than a 30 mile ride at 18 miles per hour, even though both take the same amount of "saddle time". The the slow pace will cause less of the adult's weight to be borne by the legs, and more by their tush and hands. Although the slow, short ride is easy on the legs and lungs, it is more likely to cause saddle sores, sore wrists, hands and necks to the adult members of the group."
First off, I'll absolutely attest to the idea that a slow, highly interrupted ride with a little guy is pretty exhausting! The panic attacks when a teenage driver approaches. Worrying about whether to ask T. to stop to let the pre-adolescent boys go by, knowing they're going to turn around and come back and we'll have to do this again and again and the more I make T. stop the longer it lasts. Trying to avoid ditching the bike when T. cuts across in front of me unexpectedly. Again.
However, with the correct bike, it's not tiring or injury-inducing in the way Mr. Brown says it is. You need a cushy saddle and an upright riding position that takes the weight off your wrists and you are in business. Unless, that is, you were on some kind of schedule and now you're late. Best of all, you'll arrive perspiration free, so you can wear whatever you like. Hopefully, something stylin'. If your seat is low to the ground and you have a slack tube or a crank forward bike, you can put a foot down and just hang whenever things are going a little too slowly to continue pedaling. Or when T. has decided to go check out another driveway.
I won't quibble with Mr. Brown's remarks about the relative endurance of adults and children, other than to note that he's completely wrong. I will, however, quibble with this:
"Children lack the experience to know their own limits. They may start out like gangbusters, leaving the adults in the dust, until they suddenly bonk, and it becomes painfully difficult for them to keep up any kind of speed at all. At this point, you may have to call for a sag wagon."
Tough to know about the knowing their own limits. I know plenty of adults who screw up there, and plenty of kids who know when to take it easy. The real problem in this scenario is the adult who is all goal oriented, go fast, get through 30 miles, blah blah bleeping blah. Family cyclists do recognize that kids will often decide enough is enough and stop (or won't want to go home); one of the rationales for the Xtracycle is the TrayBien, which lets you drag the kids bike along while they ride on a PeaPod or just on the back rack. Henry has a lovely picture of a WorkCycles Fr8 with a loopfiets and its rider both sitting on the front rack.
The remainder of the article I would leave alone, other than to note that Mr. Brown chose not to contemplate giving that poor kid a freewheel to coast on while the adult is Going Places and Pedaling Like Mad, except for this bit:
"Even the youngest stokid's pedals should be equipped with toe-clips (or clipless pedals), even for stokers who don't use toe-clips for solo riding. Since the stoker can get clipped in before the bike starts up, it is very easy for even very young children to use them. Toe clips improve the child's ability to spin, and also keep the child more securely attached to the bike.
If the child looses contact with the pedals while the adult continues pedaling, the whirling pedals may bang up the child's feet or shins fairly badly."
So, basically, ya gotta clamp your kid into this machine. For their own good. Doncha know.
Fuck that nonsense. Get a freewheel for the stokid.