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I'm 26 and haven't ridden a bike since I was 15. I decided to start again and purchased a nakamura crossland, last Saturday, to get back into action. Last Sunday, I did 17km in 50 minutes on a mostly flat road. I didn't want to start too hard, afraid to hurt my legs. In the end the only thing that hurt was my butt, I probably need a better saddle. I was wondering what distance and speed I should aim for as a beginner, in order to improve my stamina.

P.S. I decided to purchase a bike to lose weight and enjoy the countryside. Maybe it's relevant for choosing the right distance.

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    Your saddle is probably just fine, but your butt (and hole posture on the bicycle) need some training. Rides around one hour sound just fine, and you can increase your pace as your condition improves. – Davorin Ruševljan Jun 29 '15 at 10:27
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    Yeah, start with rides of 30-60 minutes. You will feel a desire to go longer when you're ready. Make sure your seat is high enough (most aren't) and try to keep your cadence (rate of turning the pedals) above 60 RPM when not climbing a steep hill. And give your butt a chance to acclimate before you go looking for a new seat. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 29 '15 at 12:00
  • What's your previous exercise/fitness history? Are you coming from another sport or are you pretty much going from couch to bike? The reason I ask, is because that has bearing on how much distance/time is appropriate for an individual starting off. – altomnr Jun 29 '15 at 19:13
  • I'm pretty much going from couch to bike. The last sport i did was Aïkido 6 years ago. – BinaryOverride Jun 29 '15 at 19:17
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    Do you wear padded cycle shorts? If not, I recommend them not only for the sore butt (the will help, but not stop) but on longer ride they help with preventing all sorts of problems. – mattnz Jun 29 '15 at 20:23
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Wait a little before you buy a new saddle. It takes some time for both your butt and the saddle to adjust to each other. Wider and softer saddles are only more comfortable for shorter rides or very upright riding positions.

17 km and 50 minutes are a very good point to start. Depending on your time constraints and where you live you can either do longer trips (mostly training for your but), or go farther / steeper in the same time (what I prefer).

To build some basic stamina I believe everything between 30 and 60 minutes of real continuous effort (sweating, but not vomiting …) to be ideal. Maybe thats just because this is around the time it takes me to reach the different summits around here by road- or mountain-bike (the uphill part that is, add another 30 minutes to get to the starting point). Even only doing that once or twice a week should be enough to really make you feel progress kicking in rather fast.

  • If you are even close to vomiting you are going way, way, way too hard. For basic endurance training you should be able to still talk and carry on a conversation. – Rider_X Oct 7 '17 at 15:17
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A few simple tips:

  1. Whether it's cycling, running or any other physical activity the more gradually you build up your mileage, the better off you'll be in the long run. A good rule of thumb is don't increase your time or mileage by more than 10% a week.

  2. Carrying on a conversation with someone should be difficult but not impossible. If you can't carry on a conversation you're probably pushing too hard.

  3. Consistency trumps volume. 3-4 short rides a week will do more for your overall fitness than 1-2 longer riders each week.

  4. We can not get grace from gadgets. It's easy to get sucked into buying ever newer, shinier and lighter parts. However, if you think these things make a big difference you're fooling yourself. Keep in mind when you're pedaling up a hill you're not just pedaling a 14 or 20 or 25 pound bike. You're also carrying your weight and the weight of anything you have with you (such as water bottles). When you look at a combined bike and rider weight of 170 pounds or more suddenly saving 30 or 50 grams is a minuscule difference. I've wrenched for several professional racers and trust me, most of them couldn't care less about their bikes.

  5. Do invest in cycling shoes and clothes if you're going to do longer rides. Cycling shorts - whether the baggy style or the lycra type - are designed to reduce friction. Cycling shoes with clipless pedals are more efficient and also safer (once you get used them - which takes some practice).

  6. Don't forget to drink. It's easier to get dehydrated while riding than in most other activities. You're moving faster so the sweat evaporates faster and that fools you into thinking you're not sweating that much.

  7. Enjoy riding. I've seen people who bail on a ride because they couldn't get Strava to work. That's insane. Ride because you want. You're not a pro, your paycheck doesn't depend on how fast and how often you ride.

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    8. Don’t forget to “eat”. For rides longer than 1h you’ll be glad about a banana or some sugarwater (either buy soft drinks or make your own optimal mix with maltodextrin, glucose and tablesalt). – Michael Jun 30 '15 at 14:03
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You mentioned wanting to loose weight, that's one of my projects too. There is some interesting research out there suggesting that the problem of loosing weight is more than just "making output exceed input." You might take a look at Grant Peterson's book Just Ride, it is a collection of short essays on practical biking and includes a good section on health and fitness.

I have a somewhat contrarian view on gear and upgrades – especially when you're riding for fitness. Much of the "gear head" movement in bicycling is around efficiency. But efficiency isn't really your friend when you're out to get exercise. Make changes to your bike to make it safe, to make it comfortable, and to make the riding enjoyable.

  • Many "gear heads" (such as myself) would suggest efficiency makes the ride much more enjoyable, which makes you want to ride farther and longer (and research on perceived fatigue supports this view). Efficiency can be as simple as selecting the proper tire pressure, it doesn't have to be a dollar and cents game. – Rider_X Oct 7 '17 at 15:22
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17km/10miles under 1 hour is not so bad for beginner. The best way to improve your stamina is to have constant speed in a long run. You don't have to push yourself too hard and going flatland is good but picking a distance with some kind of small uphill and downhill is better for you. It will build your muscle dynamically. Try to go a little faster and shorten the ride each time you ride. If you are getting really serious, get a heart rate monitor or speed monitor (Cadence) like Garmin 500 or Cateye. I personally use Strava iPhone app to track my distance and speed.

As for your bike, the first few times riding your brand new bike will hurt your butt and your back. That is normal and you will get used to it. Make sure your bike is the correct size for your body frame and get fitted at your local bike shop to maximize your performance. Repump your tires and maybe oil your chain every time before you ride your bike.

Don't upgrade anything on your new bike until you have no more room to improve your performance. The first things I would upgrade are the tires, tubes and wheels. Lighter wheels really makes a differences. Then after that probably lighter components.

BTW, try to get clipless pedals because that really help your speed.

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    I do not agree with the 'lighter components' bit for someone who is only riding to get into condition and get his weight down. The rest of your answer is top for everybody, so +1. – Willeke Jul 1 '15 at 15:17
  • A lot of your answer seems to be focused on riding fast, but the asker says that they bought the bike "to lose weight and enjoy the countryside." For a given power output, won't you burn just as many calories going slowly on a heavy bike as you would riding fast on a light bike? – David Richerby Nov 24 '16 at 11:18
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Heart rate is a better indicator to see if you're working too hard.

There is a very good book call Fitness Cycling I used that gives you recommended training schemes from beginner to amateur racing.

When I read it and followed it what surprised me most was that most of the cycling should be done for long distances but not doing much work.

It does rely on two things though:

  1. Heart Rate Monitor. If you don't have one at the very least there is a threshold of when you are out of breath i.e. for most of the cycle ride you should be able to continuously talk to someone unless you're doing a specific exercise
  2. Cadence - how quickly your pedals are spinning in RPM. I like the (wired) Cateye Strada.
  • There is quite strong evidence that exercise induced heart attacks occur in people who were about to have a heart attack in the next few days. (i.e. the exercise made it happen a day or two earlier than it would have otherwise, but it was going to happen soon) – mattnz Jun 29 '15 at 20:22
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    Yeah, I suspect that more people die from lack of exercise due to waiting to get a doctor's OK to exercise than die from exercising when they should have first gotten a doctor's OK. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 29 '15 at 21:25
  • As to cadence monitors, good ones are few and far between. Whatever you do, don't get the Cateye Strada wireless model -- worst design I've ever seen. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 29 '15 at 21:28
  • I have the wired strada - I wouldn't trust the wireless either – icc97 Jun 30 '15 at 0:00
  • @mattnz interesting point - I've removed the section about heart attacks as it's a fairly extreme case and not very relevant – icc97 Jun 30 '15 at 0:14
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If you want to lose weight and enjoy the outdoors, I'd slowly add distance while maintaining a comfortable pace (just about being able to hold a conversation is fine). It will let you explore further from home, which is great. Once you know a certain route is easy, then you can try going faster.

Don't go for numbers - it will encourage you to find an easier way to reach them (flat roads, faster bikes...). Ride for the sake of riding and take pleasure in seeing yourself improve.

You probably don't need a new saddle. Let your rear get used to riding, also learn to stand up on the pedals for bumps.

As for hurting your legs - avoid having to push hard on the pedals. In low gears you'll get tired or (at worst) over-work your muscles, which is a short-term problem. Hard gears can slowly bust your knees, which is much much worse.

Oh, as a motivation: in three years since getting my first bike I went from "barely not falling off" and "20km/day" to "feels at home in dense urban traffic" and "200km in 13:20".

  • Numbers work for some people and not others. I took my bike computer off 5 years ago stopped the tyranny of the numbers. But it's still nice to look at Strava and see how I'm going; it helps to have goals. – andy256 Nov 23 '16 at 3:05
  • I like numbers a lot, but I'm a bit of a nerd. My favorite is using other peoples Strava efforts on my gadget to push me harder than I would alone. That said, riding for riding's sake is nice too, Grant Petersen would approve this message. – alex Nov 23 '16 at 6:58

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