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racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

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racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Old 11-11-10, 02:36 PM
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racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

so my 16yr old stepson wants a racing bike. i dont know much about them, well really anything. my concern is that we live in chicago and i dont see the outcome of a 16yr old racing around busy streets at 30+ mph to be a good one. he is in cross country and is very fit so i have no doubt that he will be going FAST. also arent they terrible in the rain unless you maybe have special tires? what about pot holes? i assume they are less forgiving then a mountain bike and more likely to make you crash if you hit even a small one.

he has a shitty schwinn mountain bike now. personally i think it would be a better idea to get him a decent mountain bike for around $500 instead. he doesnt really get that his bike is crap. to him its just as good as an expensive one. so i think thats why he wants a racing bike instead. well that and he wants to go fast.

i also think he has dreams of taking the bike to races up against people who train exclusively for biking and have $4000+ bikes. he doesnt really get what a bike race is. he wanted to enter one with his mountain bike and didnt understand why i was saying he would be smoked.
Old 11-11-10, 02:51 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Sounds like me when I was his age.

I was running 5k's in around 16 minutes and thought I could compete in a duathlon (3 mile run, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run).

Problem was I had a shitty $100 Sears 12 speed. I did well on the first 3 mile run, then when it came to the biking I very quickly had little old ladies passing me up on $4000 bikes. It was very frustrating. Never did another.
Old 11-11-10, 02:55 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by dan30oly View Post
Sounds like me when I was his age.

I was running 5k's in around 16 minutes and thought I could compete in a duathlon (3 mile run, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run).

Problem was I had a shitty $100 Sears 12 speed. I did well on the first 3 mile run, then when it came to the biking I very quickly had little old ladies passing me up on $4000 bikes. It was very frustrating. Never did another.
lol yea thats exactly how he thinks.
Old 11-11-10, 03:43 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

I guess it depends what he wants to do with it. If it's just for getting around, maybe a cross bike would be good. It's basically a road bike with slightly larger tires and mountain bike gearing. If he wants to do road racing, then he'll need a road bike, but I don't know anything about racing or what you really should have to start with.
Old 11-11-10, 03:51 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Weather-wise its about to turn very anti-racing bike. Why don't you tell him to sit on the idea and see how he feels about it in, say, April?
Old 11-11-10, 03:59 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
Don't dream it...be it.

neither he or we have the money for him to "be it".

Originally Posted by bdshort View Post
I guess it depends what he wants to do with it. If it's just for getting around, maybe a cross bike would be good. It's basically a road bike with slightly larger tires and mountain bike gearing. If he wants to do road racing, then he'll need a road bike, but I don't know anything about racing or what you really should have to start with.
i was looking at those too.
Old 11-11-10, 04:03 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Meglos View Post
Weather-wise its about to turn very anti-racing bike. Why don't you tell him to sit on the idea and see how he feels about it in, say, April?
it will be a xmas gift so it will be a surprise. i was thinking that too about the weather. he wont even be able to ride it for awhile after he gets it. if it was a mountain bike he could actually take it out for a spin.
Old 11-11-10, 04:55 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Meglos View Post
Weather-wise its about to turn very anti-racing bike. Why don't you tell him to sit on the idea and see how he feels about it in, say, April?
Why dont you do this and at Christmas let him know you will still get it for him when it is nice outside, he may change his mind between now and April. 16 year olds can be fickle
Old 11-11-10, 05:13 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by movie diva View Post
Why dont you do this and at Christmas let him know you will still get it for him when it is nice outside, he may change his mind between now and April. 16 year olds can be fickle
that would be a really shitty christmas.

im not really worried about him changing his mind and honestly i dont care if he does. i just dont think a bike like that seems very safe on the streets of chicago with an unexperienced 16yr old riding it. i could be wrong though. i just wondered what other peoples opinions are here. surely there are a few people here who ride these kind of bikes.
Old 11-11-10, 05:30 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

If he ends up getting hurt or killed on the bike is your wife going to blame you for it?
Old 11-11-10, 05:54 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Buy him the bike and make him deliver packages to pay for it. That way you can be one degree of Kevin Bacon.
Old 11-11-10, 06:07 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by chino77 View Post
so my 16yr old stepson wants a racing bike. i dont know much about them, well really anything. my concern is that we live in chicago and i dont see the outcome of a 16yr old racing around busy streets at 30+ mph to be a good one.
30MPH is highly unlikely. The difference between a mountain bike with slicks and a full-on road bike is probably more like 17MPH vs. 20MPH. Safety isn't really the issue, it's more about durability in the city, but a road bike can be just as durable as a mountain bike if you get nice and strong wheels (generally high spoke count).

he is in cross country and is very fit so i have no doubt that he will be going FAST.
Cycling uses entirely different muscles than running, he should prepare to get his ass kicked on a bike unless he's done some training on the bike, regardless of how good running shape he's in. I'm both a runner and a racing cyclist and I have to train for both.

also arent they terrible in the rain unless you maybe have special tires?
A road bike is not really any worse than a mountain bike on wet pavement. I never really ride in the rain, though (I don't want to have to clean my chain...).

what about pot holes? i assume they are less forgiving then a mountain bike and more likely to make you crash if you hit even a small one.
This is more likely. A mountain bike is definitely more stable, but there's no way he can race on on the road.

he has a shitty schwinn mountain bike now. personally i think it would be a better idea to get him a decent mountain bike for around $500 instead. he doesnt really get that his bike is crap. to him its just as good as an expensive one. so i think thats why he wants a racing bike instead. well that and he wants to go fast.
Equipment matters in cycling to a point. A $500 bike woun't last as long as a $1000 bike, won't be as fast and won't be as fun to ride. But, is a $3000 bike much better than a $1000 bike if you're not riding more than a couple thousand miles a year? Probably not. having said that, you're right that cheap-o Toys R' Us bikes are nothing like a quality bike. The difference is huge.

i also think he has dreams of taking the bike to races up against people who train exclusively for biking and have $4000+ bikes. he doesnt really get what a bike race is. he wanted to enter one with his mountain bike and didnt understand why i was saying he would be smoked.
You're absolutely right. Showing up with a mountain bike would not work at all. Judging by the cat 5 races I remember, this is also a common sentiment. A lot of people do a few ten mile rides at 15MPH, figure they'd like to try racing, get a USCF license and get their ass dropped in the first mile of a race. It's pretty humbling. There's a big difference between ~18MPH cruising speeds and ~26MPH race speeds. He also has to learn how to ride in a group, which is hugely important and a huge safety consideration. I'd say get him a ~$500 used road bike from Craigslist with a sturdy set of 32 spoke wheels and 23MM tires. Look for a ~2005 model alloy frame with 105 or Rival. Most importantly, have him ride with a few 20+ mph club rides to learn how to ride in a group and also get an appreciation for going fast.
Old 11-11-10, 06:25 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Numanoid View Post
If he ends up getting hurt or killed on the bike is your wife going to blame you for it?
no she wants to get him one or the other. she says he wants a road bike so we should get him that. i think he is delusional and would be better off with a mountain bike. he does ride trails now so he has a real use for it.

Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post

You're absolutely right. Showing up with a mountain bike would not work at all. Judging by the cat 5 races I remember, this is also a common sentiment. A lot of people do a few ten mile rides at 15MPH, figure they'd like to try racing, get a USCF license and get their ass dropped in the first mile of a race. It's pretty humbling. There's a big difference between ~18MPH cruising speeds and ~26MPH race speeds. He also has to learn how to ride in a group, which is hugely important and a huge safety consideration. I'd say get him a ~$500 used road bike from Craigslist with a sturdy set of 32 spoke wheels and 23MM tires. Look for a ~2005 model alloy frame with 105 or Rival. Most importantly, have him ride with a few 20+ mph club rides to learn how to ride in a group and also get an appreciation for going fast.
thanks for all the info. see he is in track AND cross country. plus he has running camp and conditioning in the summer. he doesnt have time to be putting all that effort into learning how to race. he thinks he can just jump on it and is going to win races. its those damn turkey trots that make him think he's as good as adults lol. he beats a few semi in shape adults in spandex to win a free pie and thinks hes the fittest person in the world.
Old 11-11-10, 10:15 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

I second the CL idea of a used "better" bike. I was in decent shape when I started cycling and it kicked my butt. Even on a decent bike he'll get smoked by a halfway decent weekend warrior, but he may find that motivating.
Old 11-11-10, 10:54 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by pedagogue View Post
I second the CL idea of a used "better" bike. I was in decent shape when I started cycling and it kicked my butt. Even on a decent bike he'll get smoked by a halfway decent weekend warrior, but he may find that motivating.
yea i think im going to keep my eye out on CL. but more than likely for a mountain bike.
Old 11-12-10, 12:06 AM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by chino77 View Post
also arent they terrible in the rain unless you maybe have special tires? what about pot holes? i assume they are less forgiving then a mountain bike and more likely to make you crash if you hit even a small one.
I had a 10 speed (may have been a 12 speed actually) in high school along with a BMX bike. I practically had to baby the 10 speed. Definitely couldn't ride it up a curve like my BMX (and later mountain bike). And riding on wet surfaces was definitely a big, big mistake. Those slick tired will go out from under you before you even know whats happening (not to metion that water on the rims nulls the breaks - So good luck stopping there). Also, going over small pot holes and such, you chance on knocking the wheel out of alignment.

I would have to go with a mountain bike. It's got the ruggedness of a BMX and the gear-ability of a 10 speed - best of both worlds. And while riding in the rain on a bike is never a good idea, but if I had to choose, it would be the mountain bike.
Old 11-12-10, 02:46 AM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Have you seen how most drivers drive in Chicago!?
And I'm one of the good drivers (really!), but the others ones out there, YIKES!

Don't let him ride on most streets, and when/if he does ride, make sure he has a glittery outfit so that people can see him! I've seen riders bike in all black clothes with no other tell tale signs of a bicyclist on them. Very dangerous!

Good luck!
Old 11-12-10, 06:37 AM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

I don't know what it's like to ride in Chicago. A Google search turned up a city of Chicago page with the bike routes mapped out. But I can't tell how safe those routes are.

A road bike isn't going to be as sturdy as a mountain bike, sure. Running shoes aren't going to be as sturdy as steel toe work boots, either. But you wouldn't want to train in work boots.

As for not being able to compete with the adults who have had years of practice, that's a given. But he's at the same age as those adults were when they started doing serious practice. Maybe he'll have the interest to succeed.

I suggest that you visit a real bike shop (not a place that sells bicycles in the back) and talk to the people there about your concerns.
Old 11-12-10, 07:02 AM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Neitzl View Post
Have you seen how most drivers drive in Chicago!?
And I'm one of the good drivers (really!), but the others ones out there, YIKES!

Don't let him ride on most streets, and when/if he does ride, make sure he has a glittery outfit so that people can see him! I've seen riders bike in all black clothes with no other tell tale signs of a bicyclist on them. Very dangerous!

Good luck!
If you stay on the streets with bike lanes (Damen, Lincoln, Elston, etc) this is never much of a problem. The only thing to look out for is people street parking and opening their doors.

I've found biking on the north side of the lake path to be infinitely more dangerous than any street in Chicago, largely thanks to the Lance Armstrong wanna-be's and groups of people who like to walk in parallel along bike paths.
Old 11-12-10, 12:03 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Nick Danger View Post
I suggest that you visit a real bike shop (not a place that sells bicycles in the back) and talk to the people there about your concerns.
I second this sentiment.

I think that the question to really ask here is not whether he will kill himself on the thing or be able to stick with the "big boys" in a race, because those things can be overcome. The real question is whether he will put the time into it, or get the use out of the bike that makes it worth purchasing. For me the biggest fear would be spending $500 on a bike that sits in the garage after 2 months... and lets face it, kids change their minds a lot, so that is a possibility.

As for the danger aspect... even out there on his Schwinn he has every chance of getting hurt that he would have on a faster road bike. The thing can handle greater speeds, etc... than the bike he has now, but those things are learnable by the rider. Nobody should expect to jump on it and be whipping through the streets at 30mph that day. In the same vein he should also not jump on the thing without any expectation of what to expect. Maybe there is an advanced cycling class from a local shop that he can take to teach cycling skills in a city, and/or advanced race cycling or something to alleviate some of that concern that you have.

When I was riding regularly (shitty mountain bike) I was taking a 10 mile ride every other night or so, it was up, then down, and on the downhill section I would regularly be whipping along at 20+mph according to my little speedometer... at night, down a windy semi-mountain road. Looking back it was incredibly dangerous to ride that road at that speed at night... but I had been riding that bike for a while and could handle myself, even if I hit a pothole or something. However, move on to a trail in the mountains and I was having issues. I couldn't go as fast and feel safe, and I didn't push it. The point is that even though kids will try to push them all the time, they inherently know their limits, and will back off when their sense of danger overrides their sense of immortality.

Anyway, I say that if he has the drive to want to race bikes, and the first loss won't put him off of it forever (in other words the thing won't end up in the garage collecting dust,) then I say go for it.
Old 11-12-10, 01:02 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Sheff View Post
If you stay on the streets with bike lanes (Damen, Lincoln, Elston, etc) this is never much of a problem. The only thing to look out for is people street parking and opening their doors.
there arent bike paths in my neighborhood.

Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
When I wanted an electric guitar and my folks wouldn't shell out the dough, I worked/saved for one. The first one I bought cost me $35; I bought it from a local preachers' son.

It was a piece of crap, but it kept me interested in my pursuit. Eventually, I owned an entire room full of instrumentation/gear, including a Les Paul and a Telecaster, with no help from my parents at all.

If he wants it, and you allow it, it can still happen. But he has to really want it, not just "casually" want this.
he doesnt have time for a job so i dont see that happening with him. whatever he gets is what he will be stuck with.

Originally Posted by C-Mart View Post
I second this sentiment.

I think that the question to really ask here is not whether he will kill himself on the thing or be able to stick with the "big boys" in a race, because those things can be overcome. The real question is whether he will put the time into it, or get the use out of the bike that makes it worth purchasing. For me the biggest fear would be spending $500 on a bike that sits in the garage after 2 months... and lets face it, kids change their minds a lot, so that is a possibility.
im not worried that it will end up sitting in the garage. i have no doubt he will use it. i just think he would have more use for a mountain bike and he would end up using that much more. he doesnt understand the time and effort that goes into bike racing. he thinks because he is a fast runner he we be able to jump on it and beat people who have been racing for years. my thing is that why buy him a bike that isnt very practicle. he has a junky mountain bike that he likes to take on trails. maybe next year we will get him a road bike and have his dreams be shattered then. well i cant really say its a dream...just something hes mentioned a few times. now if he was always on racing websites and reading magazines and catalogs then yea i would say get it. but to me it just seems like racing is just a passing idea he got in his head.
Old 11-12-10, 03:02 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

FYI, styles of bikes go through fads. In the '80s it was road bikes, in the '90s it was mountain bikes, I don't know what happened in the '00s, but right now the fad is road bikes again. Not only that but the fad seems to be that the more "race"-like the bike is the better. Fixed gear bikes (or bikes that resemble fix gears) are very popular as are 3 spoke wheels and other high tech racing styled gear. Your son is probably just following the fad like all kids.
Old 11-12-10, 03:05 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Mabuse View Post
I don't know what happened in the '00s,
Old 11-12-10, 03:21 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

If you're not spending $10,000 on a bike you are just wasting your time.

$11,532.72 Baby!



And no, I don't have that (or any) bike.

Last edited by Nifty03; 11-12-10 at 03:32 PM.
Old 11-12-10, 03:42 PM
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Re: racing bicycle for a 16 yr old in chicago..good or bad idea?

Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
30MPH is highly unlikely. The difference between a mountain bike with slicks and a full-on road bike is probably more like 17MPH vs. 20MPH. Safety isn't really the issue, it's more about durability in the city, but a road bike can be just as durable as a mountain bike if you get nice and strong wheels (generally high spoke count).
Are you sure? If you think a road bike is only 20 mph, you would be mistaken. Even on 100 mile rides I average over 20 mph on my cross bike.

Cycling uses entirely different muscles than running, he should prepare to get his ass kicked on a bike unless he's done some training on the bike, regardless of how good running shape he's in. I'm both a runner and a racing cyclist and I have to train for both.
True. After riding all Summer I went and ran 3 miles for the first time since February, and my legs are still sore.

A road bike is not really any worse than a mountain bike on wet pavement. I never really ride in the rain, though (I don't want to have to clean my chain...).
Correct. With the narrow tires of a road bike, hydroplaning isn't an issue. What is an issue are the while lines painted on the roads, those become VERY slick.

This is more likely. A mountain bike is definitely more stable, but there's no way he can race on on the road.
Stable how? I think the more upright riding position on a MTB is less stable at speed then the road bike.

Equipment matters in cycling to a point. A $500 bike woun't last as long as a $1000 bike, won't be as fast and won't be as fun to ride. But, is a $3000 bike much better than a $1000 bike if you're not riding more than a couple thousand miles a year? Probably not. having said that, you're right that cheap-o Toys R' Us bikes are nothing like a quality bike. The difference is huge.

You're absolutely right. Showing up with a mountain bike would not work at all. Judging by the cat 5 races I remember, this is also a common sentiment. A lot of people do a few ten mile rides at 15MPH, figure they'd like to try racing, get a USCF license and get their ass dropped in the first mile of a race. It's pretty humbling. There's a big difference between ~18MPH cruising speeds and ~26MPH race speeds. He also has to learn how to ride in a group, which is hugely important and a huge safety consideration. I'd say get him a ~$500 used road bike from Craigslist with a sturdy set of 32 spoke wheels and 23MM tires. Look for a ~2005 model alloy frame with 105 or Rival. Most importantly, have him ride with a few 20+ mph club rides to learn how to ride in a group and also get an appreciation for going fast.

I did a MTB race last Saturday with 3700 participants, from elite pros to people who ride only once a year. The time varied from 1.5 hours to over 6. Racing is not the same as riding to the corner store.

I think he should check out a club if he wants to get into road riding. The probably have established routes. Check with local bike shops, I am sure they will have group rides in the spring. I believe safety in numbers. It is easier to spot a horde of riders than a solo cyclist. There is indeed a learning curve for riding in groups, especially at speed. I have a friend who destroyed a new carbon road bike this spring because a new rider took him out.

Now is the time to shop for bikes, new and used. With winter coming, many are unloading their current bikes in preparation for next racing/riding season. The same goes with bike shops. Get rid of the old models for the new ones coming in.

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