Be gentle with me....

by JudgeDreddful   November 6, 2013  

Hello all,

I am a 40 something (well, 48) year old bloke with no real previous cycling experience other than childhood cycling and have decided to dip my toe into road cycling for health and fun reasons and have a couple of questions for you good folk.

My questions are;

Should I? I'm slightly - but not morbidly/dangerously - overweight and want to lose some weight. I reckon I need to lose at least a stone, and could probably do with losing 2 (if you listen to my wife) Is cycling a good way of losing weight? Is it a good trade off of time v health gain/weight loss? I have a car/desk based job so commuting go work is not an option. I would be able to ride evenings and weekends, and would consider a turbo trainer thingy for winter week time training, if they are to be recommended.

Bike-wise, I have read the reviews online here and elsewhere and done a little homework. I am very much in the 'beginner' bracket and the Triban and TDF look like the best bets for someone like me. Not least of which because I will have a much better chance of getting a £300 bike past She Who Must Be Obeyed than a £500 bike. Not having a Decathlon near me I am more drawn to the TDF seeing as there are Halfords everywhere and if something should go wrong with it I would rather take it 3 or 4 miles across town to be sorted than 50 miles up the M5 to the nearest Decathlon. Is that sensible or is the Triban better than the TDF and worth the risk?

All answers and advice greatly appreciated!


20 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Yes, yes and yes. Next question please (just kidding). Just the simple process of getting out there in the fresh air, building your distance and fitness will sort the surplus pounds out. It is important to have a think about what you put in the tank as beer and fast food will not help the situation (you Don't mention if it is a factor and I'm not assuming it is). What you will find is that as you build your distance, you will naturally start to think about what you eat etc.
The health/wellbeing benefits alone make it worthwhile as the more you get into it, the leaner you will become. Do you have a local cycling club as they tend to be helpful, friendly and a good source of advice ?
Turbo training has its fans but it's not for me as I would rather get out on a mountain bike in crappy weather than remain indoors. However if you can cope with the monotony there is a reason why people use them !
This probably is the hardest time of the year to get started (shortening days and worsening weather) but if you're enthusiastic go for it. Perhaps set yourself a goal of entering a shortish sportive for the spring ?
As for bikes you broadly get what you pay for with better quality components that will last better as a general rule. That said, I have heard good things about the btwin as an entry level bike. Do you have a local bike shop (LBS) ? Another good source of advice and worth supporting as I would recommend going there for servicing over and above your other thoughts....
In your shoes and if you could stretch things a little further I would look at some of the 2013 clearance models reduce to the 500 pound level as you will get a lot more for your money - some retailers are cutting 20-30% and if Halfords is your choice, have a look at Boardman bikes - all fine bikes in their own right.
Good luck and go for it. Just one cautionary word, if you get into it, you never buy just one bike.....

posted by arfa [350 posts]
6th November 2013 - 5:55

like this
Like (4)

To answer your questions - and some more general but essential advice...

First thing up is training - have a scout around on the Bikeability for training courses near you. Most important thing is that you come home from a ride (am sure SWMBO will agree on this one), and getting yourself genned up on road awareness and positioning from a cyclist's perspective will help.

Getting on to a cycle repair course wouldn't be a bad idea either, if only to brush up on knowledge from 30-40 years ago.

For a returning cyclist, my thinking is that a hybrid would be ideal. The recently reviewed Hoy Shizuoka looks pretty tasty if you can squeeze £700 out of the family budget (added a bit for lights, lock, miscellaneous bits and bobs). But there's plenty of decent similar bikes out there at a more budget friendly price - previous year's models and so on. Spend as much as you can, nothing worse than crawling around on a beast that needs repairing every 2 days (this from personal experience).

Once you've got a few thousand miles under your belt, time to starting getting an n+1 bike, or moving up to a full on road/cross/mtb bike, depending on what you fancy doing.

Take puncture repair kit - mini pump, sticky patches, tyre levers, spare tube - everywhere. And a chain repair tool.

Cycle with friends. Load up lunch in a pannier or backpack, take wife and/or children. Join a local club. Have a look at GoSkyRide, and turn up to collect yellow bib and a couple of hours of fun. Or just find a cafe in a village 10-15 miles away, ride out, have some coffee and a slice of cake, come home awesome.

Turbo trainers are okay..ish. I use one when it's vile and wet and windy, and watch old episodes of Star Trek or some Sufferfest. But road is where the heart is, for me anyway.

On the fitness side of things, cycling is a pretty good (and amazingly fun) way of improving general and cardiovascular fitness, and for weight control. Eat a sensible, varied diet with loads of fresh stuff and fruit and veg. And just pile on the miles in the saddle (some core work is a handy complement - I think there's some articles on yoga somewhere on this site).

posted by Argos74 [206 posts]
6th November 2013 - 9:20

like this
Like (2)

Welcome. Both to the forum and the slippery slope lol.

Both bikes have a good rep. I think the triban took over from the TdF as the entry level bike of choice. Currently I think the TdF is sitting at nigh on £600 which is what halfords do so they put it 'on offer' at the price it should be Smile

I'm not sure what weight the triban is (anyone?) But I know a bit about TdF. Not the lighest obviously (no carbon fork plus heavy wheels) and the gearing is high for entry level (52 / 39 so no compact).

That said, it rides well and I like the look (a personal thing). The gears are 2300 which work well. The brakes come with cartridge brake blocks which means they seem to have more bite than the solid rubber block variety (again IME).

How good halfords are seems to depend on your local store but that is with any chain. Although the online comments seem to point to more negative than positive build up experiences. I can't comment, I bought 'ours' as last stock / display model at huge discount then rebuilt it at home!

Hope this helps.

BTW, allow extra in the budget for helmet, gloves, padded shorts, shoes, etc.

posted by Super Domestique [1504 posts]
6th November 2013 - 9:23

like this
Like (2)

Having just had a quick look on the decathlon site, the triple gearing, carbon fork and lower weight would win out for the Triban to me.

posted by Super Domestique [1504 posts]
6th November 2013 - 9:35

like this
Like (3)

I was much like yourself, was into cycling in early teens, had 25 year 'holiday' then got back into cycling.

If (on a very basic level) you enjoy riding a bike, don't fret too much about what bike you're riding (mine's an old steel framed racer I got when I was 13, now turned into a fixie), just make sure you get out on it plenty of times.

As advised above, if you'll be on busy streets, get some training. Cycling is safe, but there are some 'counter intuitive' measures you can take to make it safer, and when you're confident, you can start to ramp up the milage, which is where the real weight loss will kick in.

For me the best and worst thing about cycling is all the other 'kit' you end up wanting. Again, as mentioned above, puncture repair is vital, as are lights if you're starting now. If you're planning on doing some longer journeys, then a pair of padded shorts will help your comfort no end.

Happy spinning!

They're gonna hit the line almost together!

daloriana's picture

posted by daloriana [12 posts]
6th November 2013 - 10:08

like this
Like (2)


And yes - a hybrid is a very good idea, not everyone has the flexibility of a pro rider in their 20's.

(I ride a Trek 7.2FX hybrid as my everyday bike and happily pass MAMILs on their carbon bikes most days).

If you do want a road bike - I ride a Halfords one, a Carrera Virtuoso, looks the business and is faster than the hybrid, makes weekends a lot of fun! Can take a rack and mudguards (just), too.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [560 posts]
6th November 2013 - 10:15

like this
Like (2)

You're a brave man taking up cycling in November, of course.

But stick with it and you'll be a changed man come spring.

Just make sure you get good gloves - at this time of year, i wear Altura Shield, £9.99 on sale - and possibly some overshoes for when it gets miserable.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [560 posts]
6th November 2013 - 10:18

like this
Like (2)

A bloke I work with gave up the cigs and started cycling at the weekends and in the evenings a year or so ago and he lost quite a bit of weight. He can't quite keep up with me yet but he was pleased when I told him it was very noticeable how his waistline had reduced.

No need to spend a bundle on a first bike. The Carrera brand is generally good value for money. If you get into cycling in due course and then when she who must be obeyed sees the health benefits, a more expensive bike can be budgeted for. And then the Carrera can become the winter hack or the bike used for trips to the shops and so on.

Cycle training and some basic maintenance courses would be useful.


posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
6th November 2013 - 10:42

like this
Like (4)

Welcome to our world, you 'will' enjoy it Big Grin

Can't add anything to the advice above but if you want a bit of inspiration have a search on the site for a guy named 'shrinking baz'. He hasn't posted here recently but his story from 2011 is worth reading just to see what can be achieved riding a bike and starting at a much higher weight than yours.

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [525 posts]
6th November 2013 - 10:59

like this
Like (2)

No doubt some would disagree, but I don't think cycling (or any form of endurance exercise) on it's own is a very good way to lose weight. Exercise makes you hungry, and it's easier to lose weight by eating less than exercising more. Don't try to go too hardcore straight away, you'll end up hating it. I personally wouldn't bother with a turbo trainer for example. If you cycle gently enough initially that you don't need to be fuelling yourself up with carbs and sugar all the time you'll find it easier to eat less and lose weight. Once you're lighter the cycling will be so much easier and then you can think about taking it up a notch.

Think of the bike as a thing that can take you places and bring new experiences rather than a fitness device. Fitness devices get boring very quickly.

Despite the above, I wouldn't discourage you from getting a racing style bike if you think you can handle the riding position, you need to ride something you think is cool.

posted by Andrewwd [18 posts]
6th November 2013 - 11:16

like this
Like (3)

Go for it!!! I got back into cycling just over two years ago. I had just given up smoking and was putting on weight because of it. I have now lost lost three stone and feel better than at any time since I was a teenager (I'm 42).

Once you have built some fitness and are able to get out on some longer rides out in the countryside you will love. It has enhanced my life on so many different levels. My wife has now taken up cycling and loves it too.

If your budget is less than £500 have a look at 2nd hand bikes, possibly get in touch with your local cycling club as there are always people wanting to upgrade. I recently bought a 2012 Ridley Eos with full Tiagra groupset for £320 as a winter bike. It has just had a gold service by the LBS and is in great nick.

posted by Gman59c [60 posts]
6th November 2013 - 12:40

like this
Like (2)

Do it.

My blog is about exactly this, I went from a (albeit) uk ladies size 16 to size 8 in a year without dieting, all because of riding a bike.

Facebook has some good UK groups for bike sales, you could probably pick up a decent aluminium for ~500 - I sold my 2012 ridgeback radium for 300 so you could certainly pick up something ride-able.

Also age is not a factor (just in case anyone or anything tries to put doubts in your mind). I get my ass kicked regularly by 70+yo guys in races, it's ace, and humbling.

Do it do it do it. JOIN USSSS.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~
Manx nerd peddler ~

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [353 posts]
6th November 2013 - 13:21

like this
Like (2)

I am surprised no-one has linked you to one of our bloggers.

Sam Shaw

From fat man to fast man (ish) Devil

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8134 posts]
6th November 2013 - 13:56

like this
Like (3)

I bought a Carrera TdF 2 years ago, I was then 64 and had not cycled more than a mile at a time for at least 10 years.
Contrary to the experiences of others with Halfords nothing on the bike has worked loose or fallen off, it now has mudguards and is my wet weather ride so is used more than my other bikes.
I started gently (10 miles in an hour - slower than I used to run the distance) and have worked up to being able to cover 50/60 miles comfortably. I find cycling much easier than running, but I was a competitive runner while I'm content to 'pootle' on the bike.
Even though I ride gently I've lost 2 stones without modifying my diet.
I have rollers but find using then very boring, there's actually not much weather that's too bad to get out and ride in - although that's easier for me as I'm retired and can pick and choose when I go out.
I bought the bike because I like physical exercise and wanted to loose some weight, injuries had stopped me running. However, I've found that I enjoy it much more than I thought I would and wish I'd started younger.

Crosshouses's picture

posted by Crosshouses [142 posts]
6th November 2013 - 18:26

like this
Like (2)

Go for it, but be warned it is incredibly addictive Big Grin

I'm 46 with no history of cycling; I bought a cheap aluminium road bike (Trek 1.2) in June of this year. Where I live is hilly and when I started I was exhausted after 20km, I now regularly do 80km plus at a good speed/cadence. Since late June I have now cycled over 3,000km and have lost nearly 3 stone (13st when I started and now just over 10st).

Don't underestimate the cost of all the gear, you will need a pump, bottle & cage, some tools, padded shorts, waterproofs etc. Also I graduated to clip less pedals fairly quickly so add those to the list plus shoes.

My advice don't go crazy on the bike, keep it cheap and simple, use some of the budget on kit and enjoy it!

The Trek is now going to be the winter bike and I have my eyes on a 'proper' road bike for the summer... Cool

posted by edd23 [20 posts]
6th November 2013 - 21:16

like this
Like (3)

Welcome! You won't look back... Well apart from for the road awareness of course. All the above is good advice. Also, don't overlook your LBS... They may not sell a bike to price match Halfords or Decathlon, but they may well do a decent entry level bike from the many, many brands out there. Also, did I read that right... you have a desk based job so you can't commute? Don't rule it out either. You'd be suprised how quickly you get into the swing of it and reap the benefits even if its just five miles each way. Good luck.

posted by Steveal [20 posts]
6th November 2013 - 22:56

like this
Like (2)

I was exactly in the same boat last year ish. Do bike to work scheme if you can. Best advice is to just ride. I have a hybrid and a road bike and I hate the hybrid now. With the road bike you just go quicker and its easier. Change the tyres on whatever bike you get, they are normally poor in winter conditions. It will save you hurting yourself and its plain false economy. Get some cheap kit as you will soon lose weight and you will replace it with better kit - we all do. In fact my clothes and shoes probably cost more than the bike. Wiggle DHB stuff is great to start out. And don't care how stupid you feel you look - people will just see you as a cyclist. Don't worry about losing weight, it just happens slowly. I think I've dropped 3 stones and I eat like a horse. Winters a great time to start I found as you don't die of heat exhaustion and people nod as you pass

posted by dunnoh [143 posts]
7th November 2013 - 0:06

like this
Like (2)

The answer is yes.

But there are lots of caveats. Cycling requires a heavy time commitment. Other fitness regimes do too. But comparatively people who run will do so for 1/2 hour or so, same with swimming. Whereas cycling we are talking regular bouts over an hour upto six or more.....

....but that is also the upside. Cycling can be done for such a long time because it is low impact on the joints. Running is much damaging and it takes time to build up the necessary strength in your ligaments and tendons - it is pretty easy to get injured do too much too soon.

Plus if you have been fairly sedentary then you may take time to unwind your body (sitting for most of the day causes you to tilt your pelvis which leads to back problems which aren't helped by running). Whatever you end up doing I would advise that you get a good flexibility regime going so that you benefit from your endeavour.

If you are looking to shift weight quickly cycling can help (9 hours in the saddle and you can be burning 11,000 calories), but I would also recommend HIT workouts or weight training. Building muscle with weights has a high calorific demand and can help move the weight. You can do this in combination with cycling, which can help build the strength in the legs (though again make sure you are flexible enough to undertake the exercise).

I would recommend a turbo trainer, but I've never suffered from a lack of motivation to exercise. They are great for doing planned specific workouts, but you do get bloody hot so a circulator fan is a must.

Cycling is also expensive. Beyond the bike you'll be wanting to get a chamois and cycling top. Not to mention pedals, shoes and other things. You can build all of this up slowly over time, but I would always recommend going for the good stuff. You may regret getting a top which does not keep out the wind/rain or keeps you too hot in summer. But you don't regret the top that does. Always do your homework before a purchase too.

I don't know anything about the bikes you are thinking of, but if you are intending on taking it seriously carbon is the way forward. If you are dipping a toe then it doesn't really matter.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
7th November 2013 - 1:21

like this
Like (1)

+1 to the suggestions on a second hand bike being better value, but only if you can get someone who knows what they are looking at to give it a once over. There are some bargains to be had, but also some turkeys. A friend or colleague with a little knowledge will help you sort one from the other.

Other than that, just get on the bike and start riding. You'll quickly decide whether you like it, and what would make you like it more, including what kit you need e.g. whether you'll ride in the wet (and need a rain jacket) or just stay at home on those days, whether you'll want a cycle computer to clock your miles or just go out and enjoy the ride. Remember that you're doing it for fun, don't be a slave to the weight loss/miles covered and, if you enjoy it, you'll quickly ride enough to get a lot fitter (and probably thinner too). Crucially, your heart and lungs will thank you for it, and so will your energy levels. Enjoy it!

posted by step-hent [634 posts]
7th November 2013 - 12:07

like this
Like (1)

Not sure what size feet you are, but these are a bargain:

See other listed products.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [971 posts]
7th November 2013 - 17:29

like this
Like (1)