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Newbie Questions
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Chris Muthig
(cmuthig) - M

Locale: Georgia
Newbie Questions on 05/23/2012 21:04:14 MDT Print View

I'm writing this with no bikepacking experience and little biking experience at all. I'm not sure what mileage is reasonable or what trips are really possible. But I would really like to find out.

My knees have been getting worse while hiking, and so I was hoping that maybe bikepacking could both help my knees get better to hike more, get me to the trail head without the use of my car, and open up new possibilities for me.

So first question: I live a bit north of Atlanta. So for me to get to the mountains and some forestry roads is about 60 miles. Is this a feasible distance to really cover in less than a full day? I used to be in very good shape, and I'm not quite at my peak currently. I can always fix that though by riding around town or working out.

Secondly, about bike features.

I currently own a Sekai 400. I used it for commuting to school for the last couple of years. However, the wheels are steel which makes it nearly impossible to stop in the rain, and the back wheel is now bent, causing the tire to rub against the frame. I paid $100 for the bike, and replacing the wheels will cost almost that much, so I think a new bike could be great.

I'd like to go with a mountain bike, and I was thinking a 29er. With the hope of riding this along roads to hit trails as well as on some forestry roads and maybe even some single track, which may be better: single speed or geared? If I go geared, would it just be better (read cheaper) to have only a few gears (say something like 10)? I was thinking a rigid fork for simplicity, weight and cost. For my proposed riding, is there much reason to need a suspension fork?

And here is the question to end all questions: What price do people suggest to spend on a bike for someone just getting into this game? Please note that I try to live off of as little money as possible, so my budget is pretty tight currently.

Any bike suggestions are lovely as well, but that can just turn into a whole mess of differing opinions. Really, if you can't tell, I'm trying to learn everything a beginner needs to know to pull of these trips. I appreciate any advice.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: Newbie Questions on 05/24/2012 10:17:59 MDT Print View

"...about 60 miles. Is this a feasible distance to really cover in less than a full day?"

yes, though if ya' go the single speed route - it'll take a minute

"I'd like to go with a mountain bike, and I was thinking a 29er. With the hope of riding this along roads to hit trails as well as on some forestry roads and maybe even some single track, which may be better: single speed or geared?"

you've got this one covered, sounds like you know what you want - just consider that a SS requires a bit more saddle time. I'd suggest seeing how long you last on your fave saddle before your bum says, "enough" - might be a good way to gauge if you want to do high mileage on a SS

"What price do people suggest to spend on a bike for someone just getting into this game?"

eBay, Craigslist or MTBR/ - some guy just scored my old cross bike (complete, shifter) for $350 that was fully equipped with Campy/Ritchey parts. I sold a Redline Flight 29er for $150, frame and fork. The deals are out there, you'll probably have to piece it together though.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: newbie questions on 05/31/2012 13:19:02 MDT Print View

Chris, I do think 60 miles is very reasonable to ride in half a day, once you've been riding a bit. Cultivate some sport specific fitness and you'll be all set.

Singlespeeding is pretty cool, but gears are more versatile. A geared, hardtail 29er is likely the most versatile bike around. I'd recommend shopping around at some local shops and asking a bunch of questions. Buy a discounted last years model at whichever shop seems like it will provide the best customer service. The one which will answer your questions and help you learn repair and mechanical stuff. Ride the heck out of the bike, then change things if/when you find that your preferences are served by something different (either changing components or getting a whole new bike).

A complete bike will be by the far the cheapest option, and any geared bike will come with a suspension fork. You could replace it with a rigid fork later if you like. Something around 1000 bucks retail from a major manufacturer will be heavier than more expensive bikes, but should be quite reliable and durable.

Edited by DaveC on 05/31/2012 13:19:45 MDT.

Chris Muthig
(cmuthig) - M

Locale: Georgia
Thanks for the Advice on 05/31/2012 19:50:35 MDT Print View

I'll be sure to go check out the local bike shop this weekend and see what they have to say.

I'm trying not to rush into the purchase, and I like the deals that appear on the mtbr forums every now and then. I think I will try to score a good bike from there, or possibly at the lbs.

Hopefully I'll find something soon enough so I can start getting into good riding shape. I'll be sure to update with what I eventually find.

Steve C

Locale: sierra nevada
ss on 05/31/2012 22:55:39 MDT Print View

you state that your knees are getting worse, if this is the case then I would start out with a bike that has gears. When your single gear on the single speed is not low enough to get you up a grade you have two choices.... stand up and pedal (MUCH higher stress on knees) or walk. Start with a geared bike after a year or two if you think you need to work on your power move to the single speed. I am not familiar with the terrain where you live but in my area to start out on a single speed with knee issues would be cycling suicide.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: ss on 06/01/2012 07:01:25 MDT Print View

^good advice - the other option is a dingle, still not much for the knees though

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
Re: Newbie Questions on 06/01/2012 07:08:42 MDT Print View

I do a fair number of mtb miles, not loaded bikepacking, and I cringe at the thought of a guy with knee pain trying it with a single speed.

Maybe my type of knee pain is different. My knees are normally fine you see, but if I get or feel too strong, I start pushing bigger gears, and get pain on top of the kneecap. If I back off soon enough, I'm fine. If I push through it, it can take months to get back.

I saw a doctor once, and he told me it was just normal wear.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: knee pain on 06/01/2012 11:58:24 MDT Print View

There are so many types of knee issues that generalizing is pretty useless. I have sporadic IT band issues. Certain types of hiking bring them out more than others. Geared climbing is much more likely to exacerbate them than SSing.

Steve C

Locale: sierra nevada
knee pain on 06/01/2012 13:03:57 MDT Print View

"Geared climbing is much more likely to exacerbate them than SSing."
Can you explain the logic behind that. I'm not following your reasoning.

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
Knee Pain on 06/01/2012 20:46:07 MDT Print View

There are too many things that can go wrong with one's knees to really make sweeping statements about specific causes and solutions.

On a personal note, though, I've found that most knee "pain" (rather, muscle fatigue at the terminal end of the quadraceps, for me at least) can be fixed by correct adjustment of my seat and riding position. When my seat is too low, the lack of leverage in my riding position overworks the last couple of inches of my quadraceps. When I'm tired after a long ride and my form starts slipping, with my knees bowing out to the sides a bit, it overworks the adductor section on the inside tops of my knees.

So, I wind up with soreness there after the ride and usually the next day with either of those. However, if I maintain form tolerably well and have my seat height properly adjusted, my quads tend to tire at about the same rate up and down their length rather than concentrating right over my knees.

Don't know if that's any help to anyone, but it's the way I've found to deal with my own personal problem.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
cycling pain on 06/03/2012 09:11:58 MDT Print View

Knee pain [and other cycling related issues] can be from a variety of fit and fitness origins. Seat too high, too low, hip and overall flexibility,IT band stickiness,cleat positioning, gearing - the good news is cycling is where the docs send the runners and others when the knee wear and tear reach the point of change.
The repetitive nature of cycling - spinning small circles - does tend to aggravate minor issues.
The most common thread I see with noobs and pain is first, bike fit, and second, mashing too large of gears in leiu of spinning.
The old rule of thumb was to ride 400 miles in the small chainring up front before ever shifting to the big ring; even if I was riding a SS I would start with low gearing [high numerical] and relatively flat terrain before tackling climbs.
We all tend to lean either a little towards a masher or a spinner and if you know your riding style you can adjust your gearing accordingly.
ITB issues caused by cycling are always caused by the opposite hip dropping while pedalling. If you are dropping both hips, then both ITB's will tighten to varying degrees.
The cause(s) are always poor function, poor position or any combination of both. Radical positions tend to increase the incidence and sensible positions tend to decrease the incidence for a given degree of functionality.
I do recommend a decent bike fit and to make sure it is tailored towards the type of riding one intends to tackle. A time trail fit means very little to a commuter. this is type of fitting is offered in all major cities. the more serious your riding the more one should invest in a decent fit,all those miles of spinning little circles supported by a pair of hands, feet, and a one backside creates too many variables.
A poor correlation would be purchasing a pair of mountaineering boots and taking to the hills without the benefit of getting a proper fit, cyclists always surprise me in how much they are willing to invest in equipment yet willing ride with their seat a quarter of an inch too high or low.
This is a decent forum to search over any cycling related issues, one can never have too much information.

Edited by pyeyo on 06/03/2012 10:47:41 MDT.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
more about knees on 06/03/2012 12:13:24 MDT Print View

Steve Hogg is an amazing resource for anybody cycling; pro, age group rider, or noob.
This is his take on knee pain - "A related conumdrum is that while knee pain is the most frequent cycling related injury, it is also the most common exercise recommendation for anyone recovering from knee surgery." Give it a read.

Jeff J
(j.j.81) - F

Locale: Oregon
Great source on 06/04/2012 10:45:05 MDT Print View

Thanks for that blog link! I've been amateurishly tweaking my bike's fit; that blog is a fantastic resource.


Chris Muthig
(cmuthig) - M

Locale: Georgia
Bike finding update on 06/30/2012 20:49:09 MDT Print View

I just wanted to update and thank everyone for the help. I purchased a slightly used Salsa Fargo 3 on Ebay last week.

I'm evidently not much of a mechanic yet, because I couldn't get the disc brakes set up correctly on my own. I either got rubbing or poor braking power. So it is going to the shop tomorrow to have someone who knows what they are doing set up the brakes for me.

I've got to say that the 29er tires and steel frame are REALLY comfortable. I took it for a spin around the block a couple of times and my first thoughts were that for a steel bike it feels light and quick. I can't wait to have a chance to start riding it and getting into riding condition. I am very happy with the purchase. Thanks for the help in making the decision.

Steve C

Locale: sierra nevada
working on bikes on 07/01/2012 10:23:00 MDT Print View

You might want to check out "Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance", newest addition. It will quickly pay for itself if you are mechanically inclined.

Chris Muthig
(cmuthig) - M

Locale: Georgia
Repair Education on 07/01/2012 18:55:43 MDT Print View

Thanks, Steve.

I took the bike to the shop today, twice, just for the front disc brake. The second time, I rode it to the store rather than crammed it in my car to make sure nothing messed up the brake in commute. Didn't matter because the disc started to rub about 2 miles into my trip home. I am still getting rubbing on the front disc when I ride. The bike shop told me to loosen the front brake cable or the pad. Unfortunately that will make an already fairly loose brake even less responsive. So long story short, I am looking for things just like this book.

I can't stand owning something and not knowing how it works, so I am excited to learn as much as I can about how my bike works and how to repair it myself. If there are any other suggestions on classes or books, I'm open to hearing them.

Greg Wheelwright
(gdw) - F
Park Tools and REI on 07/01/2012 21:13:16 MDT Print View

You can learn a great deal from this website:
Most REI stores and some bike shops offer basic maintenance classes which are free or cost very little.