When you're getting into bicycling, everybody wants to help. Dear ol' Dad, co-workers, friends, all well-meaning, can't help but share the wisdom of their years of experience. Next, you start riding with others, who also offer advice. And, sooner or later, you run into those contrarians, who unfortunately insist on airing their views, too.
Well, we're here to tell you that an awful lot of these suggestions and tips, often things that sound perfectly logical, are completely wrong, and sometimes downright dangerous. We call them Cycling Myths, and below we do some serious myth busting so you don't get fooled.
Myth 1: You should ride facing traffic
Busted! This is the worst mix-up ever, and one of the leading causes of cycling accidents and deaths even today. Cyclists should ride exactly like drivers, obey the law, and always go with traffic, never against it. As the illustration above shows, when you ride the wrong way, drivers don't see you. Entering roads, they look left for oncoming traffic. Seeing none, they turn right and may run right into you if you're there. They don't expect any vehicles there because it's against the law to drive or bike the wrong way. Plus, if you ride facing traffic you are speeding towards vehicles that are also speeding towards you. If you're traveling 15mph and they're going 30, there's the potential for a 45mph impact, far more deadly than the 15mph impact had you been struck from behind (the rarest accident).
Why this myth exists: There is a rule that PEDESTRIANS should WALK against traffic. Parents trying to protect their kids confused this pedestrian rule with cycling and taught their sprouts this extremely dangerous way to ride, and it has since been passed on again and again leading to many accidents and deaths. Let's stop it here!
Myth 2: Bikes cost too much
Busted! Cost and affordability are relative things, however, it's easy to show that few things are as affordable as bicycles, or offer as much value. We have models costing less than an iPod for example, that'll last forever, provide dependable transportation, increase your fitness and health (with no health-club or greens fees), and put a huge smile on your face! Should you ever decide to upgrade, you can easily resell it for most of what you paid for it. And forget that Toyota Prius. It's bicycles that are the most efficient vehicles in the world, and among the most-refined technologically after 200 years of innovation. Perhaps the ultimate myth buster is the fact that prices for entry-level bicycles haven't significantly increased in decades. Drop by and we'll show you the amazing features you get on our very affordable and great-riding two-wheelers.
Why this myth exists: We don't want to be mean or make fun of anyone, but our experience is that this myth is usually passed on by someone who last rode a bike when hula hoops were in fashion. This individual remembers the fun he had on that cool kid's bike and visits a bike shop expecting to find bikes for $75, which he remembers his parents paying for his first bike. He's then shocked to see that modern bikes cost more. If you think bikes cost too much, please allow us to really show you a few. We think you'll quickly see that modern bicycles are amazing values.
Myth 3: Helmets make your head hot
Busted! Okay, we admit that if it's blazing hot out and you're climbing in the sun, your head is going to get hotter in that helmet than if your melon was exposed. However, testing by all the major makers has shown that overall, up and down hills, and everywhere in-between, on average, your head actually remains cooler in a helmet. Why? For the very simple reason that modern helmets are comprised primarily of polystyrene foam — the same material found in coolers (illustration). Thanks to this super-light and excellent-insulating material, and the significant advances in venting technology, modern lids keep your head cooler most of the time, which is one of the marvels of modern cycling and why even professional riders are now riding more safely protected by these great helmets.
Why this myth exists: That tough, hot climb we were talking about. And, all those early helmets that were mostly made of heavy plastic, and were oversize and poorly vented. They gave helmets a bad reputation in the comfort department. Worse, a lot of riders are still using these outdated models and think all helmets are still hot and uncomfortable. If you see someone like this, do them a favor and let them try out your helmet! Or send them in to see ours!
Myth 4: Flat tires are unavoidable
Busted! Only if you let them be. What we mean by this is that you can prevent flats with a little basic maintenance, and our help. If you're flatting frequently, please let us know so we can recommend a solution. The basic step to prevent most flats is getting a good "floor pump" (these are easy to use with a powerful action, sturdy base and built-in pressure gauge) and topping off your tires before every ride. Also, while all our bikes feature quality tires and tubes, if you ride a lot, on rugged terrain or around thorny plants, you're likely to flat more. There are measures we can take to give you extra protection. Please let us know. You should also always carry a portable pump, tire levers (tire-removal tools), a spare tube and a patch kit, so you have the means to fix a flat and ride home. We're happy to show you how to fix a flat, too. Just ask!
Why this myth exists: Bicycle tires are low-volume (even when fully inflated there's not a lot of air inside), and like all tires (even car tires), they naturally lose air over time due to seepage. When this happens the tires are softer than they should be and if you ride on them like this, you're much more likely to have a flat. Unfortunately, most people don't realize that you need to check the tire pressure regularly so flat tires are more common than they should be.
Myth 5: Cycling makes your legs too big
Busted! Bicycling will tone your muscles and make your legs stronger, so they will look more cut and more powerful, yet, for most people, it's much more likely the gams will get smaller than bigger. This is especially true if you follow the important rule of maintaining a comfortable pedal cadence upwards of 90 revolutions per minute. This requires riding in relatively easy gears, which develop small, supple muscles along with excellent cardiovascular power, too.
Busted! We think it has to do with the sprinters who capture the limelight at the end of important races. These champions train for power and explosiveness and often have larger-than-normal pipes, which photographers love to shoot. In fact, you may have seen Olympic track aces, such as Marty Nothstein, who has redwoods for legs. But, believe us, it took Marty years of serious weight work to get pistons like that.
Myth 6: Drop ("racing") handlebars are uncomfortable
Busted! A little history will help here. The very first bicycles had nearly flat handlebars. Drop handlebars (also called "dropped," "racing" and "curly" handlebars), were actually invented about 10 years later because riders found that the flat handlebars were uncomfortable due to the limited hand and body positions. A properly adjusted drop handlebar provides many more hand positions and allows you to ride comfortably whether you're crouched down cheating the wind and going fast, or sitting tall holding onto the tops and enjoying the view. In fact, if they're adjusted correctly, drop bars work great for everything from racing to world touring to cyclocross.
Why this myth exists: Drop handlebars got a bad rap because during the big bike boom of the 1970s, almost every bike sold came with them. Unfortunately, at that time people didn't understand how to adjust them to fit properly. This caused a lot of riders to suffer from bending over too far and from holding onto the most extreme position of the bars (the drops), and they blamed the handlebars, when a little adjustment and education would have solved both problems completely.
Myth 7: You can't ride your mountain bike on the road (and vice versa)
Busted! You may have heard people call mountain bikes, "all-terrain bikes." We agree. Fact is, you can ride your MTB or ATB anywhere and everywhere you want. For long distance or fast road riding we would recommend some relatively minor upgrades as depicted in the illustration: 1. Go with slick, high-pressure road tires and lightweight tubes; 2. Add bar ends for another hand position and more leverage on climbs; 3. Ask if it's possible to install larger chainrings (since you travel faster on pavement); 4. Restrict or lockout the suspension-fork travel for more power and better handling. (By the way, you can also ride the typical road bike on many not-too-technical trails without problems, too!)
Why this myth exists: The heavy knobby tires, squishy suspension, wind-in-your-face upright riding position and super-low gearing of most mountain bikes makes it tough to keep up with people on regular road bikes, so you will feel slower and out of your element. However, with the easy changes mentioned above, you'll be flying.
Myth 8: Cyclists don't pay road taxes so they should stay off the road
Busted! Remember those contrarians we mentioned in the opening? Those are the types that keep this myth going. Their thinking is that since you don't need a license or insurance or gasoline to ride your bike (pretty cool, huh?), that you're not paying the road taxes drivers do, so you shouldn't be able to ride on the road. Obviously, this is a pretty silly argument because, while there are some people who pedal everywhere, most of us own and love our cars just as much as our bicycles, and we pay just as much tax as the next guy. But that's actually besides the point, because the law clearly states who can and can't use the road, and on most it's perfectly legal to drive, bike and walk. What's more, historically speaking, it was the League of American Wheelmen, a huge bicycle club, that in the 1880s passed legislation to get America's roads paved in the first place — for bicycles, not cars! In other words, we were there first!
Why this myth exists: We're not psychoanalysts, but doing our best impersonation, we think it might be jealousy. After all, when you're cruising down the road under your own power having the time of your life, it's hard not to smile. Which must drive those stuck in traffic bonkers and make them want to lash out to try to spread the suffering. It isn't working.
Myth 9: You can't bike to work because you'll sweat and stink
Busted! Repeat after us: sweat doesn't stink, body odor and dirty clothes stink. As long as you're wearing, or change into, clean clothes, breaking a sweat riding to work won't matter at all. If you don't have a shower at work, simply towel off in the rest room, brush out that helmet hair and get to work. No one will know you had a great ride to the office unless you tell them, or they notice how much energy you have!
Why this myth exists: Maybe high-school gym glass is to blame. Remember how some kids would never take their gym clothes home to wash them? The sweaty uniform would basically ferment in the locker and then reek so bad you'd pray you never had to guard the stinker during the pick-up games.
Myth 10: Cycling causes impotency
Busted! We can bust this myth with one word: China. One of the most populated countries in the world, it's also where people have primarily pedaled everywhere since bikes were invented. Ditto for the Netherlands. If cycling did what reports you may have heard suggest, there'd be a decline in population where bikes are heavily used and the exact opposite is true. Every indication is that cycling promotes better health and better something else, too. Note that it's very common for beginning riders to have some saddle discomfort. You have to get used to sitting on a bicycle seat, however, any discomfort, tingling or numbness should go away after a few weeks of regular riding. If it doesn't, please drop by so we can carefully check your seat adjustment. While in some cases it might be necessary to try a different seat, we can usually find an adjustment, seat or riding-technique solution (such as standing regularly) that'll end any discomfort.
Why this myth exists: A doctor in Boston made big news with his study that sitting on bicycle seats can compress the arteries and cause impotency. While it's clear that some people have had problems, they were related more to abusive cycling practices than to any defect in bicycles or saddle designs. For example, riding long distances sitting on the seat the entire time or riding with a seat that's not adjusted properly. Like keyboards and carpal tunnel syndrome, if you abuse anything, you can get hurt, but it's the exception, not the rule. Few things are better for your health than cycling!