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Not Just for Beginners…

I’m honored to share with you all my first book which was just released this June: Bicycling Magazine’s Big Book of Cycling for Beginners.

It was a joy to write and I’d love to share a bit of it with you for a few reasons. One: If you’re a beginner cyclist (or you know one) this is a great place to start. Two: If you’re not a beginner but have enjoyed my regular ORBike columns, this is like getting ten years of columns in one sitting. Three: No matter who you are, there’s always a little something we can learn.

This book covers everything, from how to figure out what kind of riding you want to do, to how to buy a bike, how to dress, take care of yourself, take care of your bike and how to be a great rider – in terms of skill and in personal interactions.

Please enjoy the following short excerpts and if you like them, you can find my book online through my website (which will get you an autographed copy by the author!) or at other online and brick and mortar (my favorite) book shops.

Everything in Balance: Beginning Riding Position

Whether it was the Karate Kid or Luke Skywalker, the wise men of 1980s movies learned that to do anything well, you have to start from the basics. “Wax on, wax off” and “feel the force” were the building blocks—without them, your opponent would handily beat you down.

First off, remember that the bike is on your side—although gravity may be your foe, your bicycle is not. Its spinning wheels naturally create a gyroscopic effect due to their centrifugal force. This effect makes it extremely difficult to tip over while in motion. So the first key to balance is having enough momentum to keep upright. As long as you’re moving around 5 to 6 miles per hour (which is a very average walking pace), your bike will keep moving forward, usually in a straight line.

When it comes to balance, three is a magic number for points of contact with the bike. Your body contacts the bike at the handlebars, the seat, and the pedals. Of these, the handlebars and pedals are the most important part for staying balanced and in control of your bike—which is why it’s easier to stand up and pedal than to ride with no hands.

Your handlebars are a no-brainer because they obviously are used to steer. The body weight resting on your pedals through your feet is just as important though, because that downward pressure—especially when it’s applied evenly—will also help to keep your equilibrium. Just like in the movies where the heroes spend countless, mindless hours getting the basics down pat before they move on, you’ll want to practice these skills often if you’re just learning to get comfortable with a road bike.

Pleasantville: The Nod, the Finger, the Wave, the Smile

You’re riding a long and you spy an oncoming cyclist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know him, or that he’s in full pro kit, or his bike is an upright clunker, or it’s just a kid riding to her neighbor’s house. The friendly thing to do is say hello.

The road is an unruly place sometimes, so add a little brightness to your day and hers by acknowledging her existence and the shared joy of being on a bike at the same time. A long held cycling adage is that it’s always better to have a crummy day on the bike than no day on the bike at all, so keep this in mind when you
see others on two wheels.

If you’re in a pain cave and can barely make out that a bicyclist is in your field of vision, a gentle nod and smile will do. Hands need to be on the bars for safety? Just lift your index finger and flash those pearly whites. Riding along on the flats? Go ahead and give a nice friendly wave and a grin. It helps not only to connect but is always a good reminder that we should never take cycling (or ourselves) too seriously.

After all, at the end of the day we’re really just big kids on bikes.

Lubrication Equals Love

There are a lot of moving parts on your bike, but nothing gets put through the ringer like your chain. You’re entirely dependent on it to make your bike move forward, so it’s working constantly with every push of the pedals. If you take a close look at the chain, you’ll notice it has plates on the sides, and little rollers in the middle with pins through them holding it all together. When you lubricate your chain, you’re trying to get oil into all the little parts inside of it where metal meets metal to help it move effortlessly.

The most common problems are:
You don’t oil your chain enough (or at all).
You put way too much oil on.

Both of these can cause your chain to wear out before its time—though not oiling your chain is the worst thing you can do.


Tori Bortman is ORbike’s resident bike mechanic. She is also an educator, consultant and the owner of Gracie’s Wrench

Looking for an excellent maintenance class? Tori is an expert instructor. Her small-size classes offer plenty of instructor interaction and opportunities to learn repair in a supportive setting. Learn more on her website.

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