Author Topic: Is my bike too slow or something?  (Read 8578 times)

dividendman

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Is my bike too slow or something?
« on: March 16, 2015, 10:55:31 AM »
Hi folks,

So I started commuting several days a week by bike about a month ago. I had a problem with my front derailer and it didn't really shift properly so I just never used it and left the chain in the middle cog in the front.

This weekend I fixed up my rear derailer so it was more smooth and tried to fix my front one but I couldn't figure it out. So I just said - fuckit! I removed the front derailer and manually put my chain in the large cog in the front (hardest gear).

So... now this is my problem... I keep it on the largest on the front, smallest on the back.. and I feel like I want to go faster! I commuted in today and made the hills and everything just fine but on the downhills and some straightaways I wanted to go faster but I couldn't!!

Am i just screwed here? Do I need a new bike? I guess I can just take it easy but I want to go faster! I am actually surprised by how much better my unfit fat ass got at biking in such a short period of time.

Russ

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2015, 10:58:36 AM »
learn to pedal faster. the likelihood that taller gears would do anything but fuck up your knees is pretty low.

Allen

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2015, 11:00:54 AM »
Were you above a 100 cadence when you wanted to go faster?  If no, then you have plenty of head room.

Eric

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2015, 11:30:01 AM »
Were you above a 100 cadence when you wanted to go faster?  If no, then you have plenty of head room.

How would you know this?

Dr. A

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2015, 11:39:53 AM »
This weekend I fixed up my rear derailer so it was more smooth and tried to fix my front one but I couldn't figure it out. So I just said - fuckit! I removed the front derailer and manually put my chain in the large cog in the front (hardest gear).

So... now this is my problem... I keep it on the largest on the front, smallest on the back.. and I feel like I want to go faster! I commuted in today and made the hills and everything just fine but on the downhills and some straightaways I wanted to go faster but I couldn't!!

I'm no expert, but my understanding is that if use large-large gearing, you're gonna have a bad time. The chain is not meant to stretch this far. If you just plan to never use your low gear in the back, then carry on.

HenryDavid

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2015, 11:47:29 AM »
New cyclists tend to pedal the same speed they walk--around 60 steps per minute.
Efficient biking works best at 80 or 90 pedal strokes per minute. Feels weird at first. It's not 100% natural. Anyway try pedalling faster in an easy gear. It will be easier on your knees.

Watch a bike race on YouTube.  Those racers move their knees fast! That's extreme of course.

In the long run, it's worth having a range of gears. Maybe you can find a local source of free or cheap bike tune ups. Also, are the tires pumped up hard? If they are you will roll quicker and have fewer flats.

Have fun biking!

dividendman

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2015, 12:41:10 PM »
This weekend I fixed up my rear derailer so it was more smooth and tried to fix my front one but I couldn't figure it out. So I just said - fuckit! I removed the front derailer and manually put my chain in the large cog in the front (hardest gear).

So... now this is my problem... I keep it on the largest on the front, smallest on the back.. and I feel like I want to go faster! I commuted in today and made the hills and everything just fine but on the downhills and some straightaways I wanted to go faster but I couldn't!!

I'm no expert, but my understanding is that if use large-large gearing, you're gonna have a bad time. The chain is not meant to stretch this far. If you just plan to never use your low gear in the back, then carry on.

I meant to say small cog on the back and large in the front, so the high gear i guess... it's not large to large.

Thanks all, maybe I just need to pedal faster, but I feel like my legs are just "ghost pedaling" or whatever the term is... like not pushing the bike faster a lot of the time. I'll try it on my way home and see... how I'm goign to tell if my legs are going around 80 times a minute is going to be tough with no clock... hrm.

Kris

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2015, 01:43:53 PM »
This weekend I fixed up my rear derailer so it was more smooth and tried to fix my front one but I couldn't figure it out. So I just said - fuckit! I removed the front derailer and manually put my chain in the large cog in the front (hardest gear).

So... now this is my problem... I keep it on the largest on the front, smallest on the back.. and I feel like I want to go faster! I commuted in today and made the hills and everything just fine but on the downhills and some straightaways I wanted to go faster but I couldn't!!

I'm no expert, but my understanding is that if use large-large gearing, you're gonna have a bad time. The chain is not meant to stretch this far. If you just plan to never use your low gear in the back, then carry on.

I meant to say small cog on the back and large in the front, so the high gear i guess... it's not large to large.

Thanks all, maybe I just need to pedal faster, but I feel like my legs are just "ghost pedaling" or whatever the term is... like not pushing the bike faster a lot of the time. I'll try it on my way home and see... how I'm goign to tell if my legs are going around 80 times a minute is going to be tough with no clock... hrm.

Around 90 is what you're shooting for.  If you have a smart phone, you can set a timer for 20 seconds and count the revolutions in one leg.  27-30 RPMs is what you want for 20 seconds.

AlanStache

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2015, 02:09:14 PM »
You might be able to change the size of the toothed wheel in the front or even the back, this might require a different length chain.  If you are pedaling at 90 rpm (cadence) and the front is in the big and back in the little then different hardware is your only option, darn physics...

A local bike ship probably has orphaned parts they can sell you cheap or install for you to get you more usable gears.

dividendman

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2015, 02:17:44 PM »

Around 90 is what you're shooting for.  If you have a smart phone, you can set a timer for 20 seconds and count the revolutions in one leg.  27-30 RPMs is what you want for 20 seconds.

Good idea, thanks! Haha, duh, dunno why I didn't think of that. So these phones can be used for things other than games...

I definitely feel like my legs aren't going around that fast in hindsight, but I'll test it out tonight.

MDM

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2015, 10:29:05 PM »

Kiwi Mustache

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2015, 12:13:44 AM »
Get a standard crank at the front. You most likely have a compact crank.

skyrefuge

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2015, 11:55:01 AM »
Get a standard crank at the front. You most likely have a compact crank.

Even with the smallest triple crankset I can imagine (42 teeth), the largest lowest rear cog I can imagine (13 teeth), and the smallest wheels I can imagine (26-inch MTB wheels with 1.5" tires), pedaling at 90rpm would still propel you at 21.5mph.

The crank is almost surely not the problem; pedaling speed is.

robbyho

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2015, 12:56:44 PM »
what kind of bike is it? Is it a road bike? I found road bikes to be infinitely faster than any other kind. You would have no problem with a full geared road bike. I got mine on nashbar last labor day when they had a 20% off sale. I can absolutely fly on that thing. Best $600 I ever spent.

APowers

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2015, 03:29:56 PM »
....I removed the front derailer and manually put my chain in the large cog in the front (hardest gear).

So... now this is my problem... I keep it on the largest on the front, smallest on the back.. and I feel like I want to go faster! I commuted in today and made the hills and everything just fine but on the downhills and some straightaways I wanted to go faster but I couldn't!!

Do you have a speedometer? My current bike (10-speed) is geared a bit "lower" (easier to pedal) in top gear than my old bike (5-speed), but I still get good power-application-resistance up to about 22-25mph without feeling like the bike is going faster than I can pedal it. Do you want to go faster than that? Like 30-35mph? If so, then you'll probably need a different gearing.

I would second recommendations to talk to a bike shop (or better yet, a friend who can work on it and/or show you how/what to do). You do want to get your derailleurs working properly, even if you don't use them (or maybe lighten your load by removing unneeded sprockets altogether...)

HenryDavid

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2015, 04:19:08 PM »
"Even with the smallest triple crankset I can imagine (42 teeth), the largest lowest rear cog I can imagine (13 teeth), and the smallest wheels I can imagine (26-inch MTB wheels with 1.5" tires), pedaling at 90rpm would still propel you at 21.5mph. "

This is not right:
big cog in the front = you go faster, for the same pedaling speed.
big cog in the back = you go slower, for the same pedaling speed.

So the 42/13 in the example is a pretty hard gear. You'll go 14 mph at just 60 pedal revs per minute, with this gear on a mountain bike.
Lots of bikes have a gear like, say, 24 in the front and 30 in the back, which won't move your bike very far each time you pedal. Great on steep hills! Silly on flat ground.
Changing gears is exactly like changing your stride length when you walk. It's about distance per "step."
Try this: http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/

dividendman

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2015, 04:48:54 PM »
Thanks folks... i feel kinda dumb now but my bike isn't too slow given that on my commute back yesterday and my rpms.  I was so tired by the time i got home (in record time) and my pedaling still wasn't as fast as people here are saying... now my legs are jello and sore :(

but the good news is i have lots of "bike" left to max out speed

Posthumane

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2015, 05:15:36 PM »
One thing that I found helped me pedal faster was pedal clips. With my feet strapped in to the pedals I was able to concentrate on "spinning" my feet in a circle rather than "pushing down" on each pedal successively. This will allow you to get more power out of a stroke as well since you can use your hamstrings to pull up the upgoing pedal.  Also, the pedal clips helped to keep the ball of my foot on the pedal instead of the middle of my foot. Also, make sure your seat height is properly adjusted - your leg should be almost straight at the bottom of the stroke. Lots of beginning cyclists want to be able to put their feet flat on the ground when stopped, but if you can do that while still on the seat then it's far too low.

To sum up:
- get pedal clips/straps or clipless pedals with shoes
- adjust seat height for good reach
- concentrate on spinning your feet in a circle around the crank, not pushing down on the pedals.

90-100 rpm is a good starting point, though some people like faster and others like it slower. Two guys I biked with who were way faster than me had very different cadences: one was around 75 rpm, the other was around 120. Slower cadence demands more muscle strength/endurance, and faster cadenced requires better cardio.

skyrefuge

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2015, 05:16:27 PM »
This is not right:
big cog in the front = you go faster, for the same pedaling speed.
big cog in the back = you go slower, for the same pedaling speed.

So the 42/13 in the example is a pretty hard gear. You'll go 14 mph at just 60 pedal revs per minute, with this gear on a mountain bike.

I guess my post wasn't clear somehow, because that's exactly what I was trying to say. (As someone who explicitly put a 22/34 on my touring bike to be able to ascend 12% grades with a 50lb. load, I definitely understand how bicycle gearing works!)

The OP had already said that he was in his "hardest" gear. Someone suggested that gear was not "hard" enough for him, and thus, he needed a crank with a bigger front gear. I was disputing this notion, by illustrating that even with the "least-hard hardest gear" I could imagine on a bike, it was still a plenty-hard gear; all he needed to do is up his cadence. And yes, I used Sheldon Brown's gear calculator to come up with the 21.5mph he'd be going at 90rpm, which is plenty fast for anyone, which told me the OP wasn't riding with anything near a 90rpm cadence.

This isn't the first time someone here has asked if their gearing is wrong. It's never the gearing that's the limiting factor. It's always the rider. If someone actually has the ability to push the bike at 35mph and genuinely needs higher gearing, they aren't asking about it here, since they're already on a pro cycling team.

Thanks folks... i feel kinda dumb now but my bike isn't too slow given that on my commute back yesterday and my rpms.  I was so tired by the time i got home (in record time) and my pedaling still wasn't as fast as people here are saying... now my legs are jello and sore :(

but the good news is i have lots of "bike" left to max out speed

No reason to feel dumb; as HenryDavid astutely said, you were probably just doing what felt "normal" to you. Whenever I see slow-pedalers mashing on the pedals, I always want to let them know that they could greatly improve their experience by pedaling faster in a lower gear, but there's pretty much no way to say that while riding by without coming off like an asshole.

Now you know how much more your bike can whip your body into shape; take it easy for a couple days to let your legs recover, but then go back to that effort level. But shifting to a lower gear will allow your pedaling to go faster and be more efficient. In a month's time your commute will feel as easy as it did two days ago, but be way faster!
« Last Edit: March 17, 2015, 05:18:11 PM by skyrefuge »

skyrefuge

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #19 on: March 17, 2015, 05:32:14 PM »
To sum up:
- get pedal clips/straps or clipless pedals with shoes
- adjust seat height for good reach
- concentrate on spinning your feet in a circle around the crank, not pushing down on the pedals.

Seat height, yes, definitely super-important and excellent advice. Pedal clips, no. No one should have pedal clips on their bike until they have a working front derailer and fully understand how their gears work. And can sustain a 16mph cruising speed. And have all their debts paid off, and don't feel like retiring a week earlier instead. Seat height is about 100x more important for riding efficiency and comfort than pedal clips, which, while not totally useless, are definitely in the range of bike-nerd extras.

Posthumane

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #20 on: March 17, 2015, 10:42:13 PM »
Well, to each their own regarding the clips. I didn't think it was a big deal to not have them until I actually tried them for a while. I found that it encouraged me to pedal faster. Now when I ride a bike with plain flat pedals I find sometimes my feet slip off the pedals when I'm spinning fast, and that can be quite disconcerting.

johnny847

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2015, 11:33:47 PM »
Well, to each their own regarding the clips. I didn't think it was a big deal to not have them until I actually tried them for a while. I found that it encouraged me to pedal faster. Now when I ride a bike with plain flat pedals I find sometimes my feet slip off the pedals when I'm spinning fast, and that can be quite disconcerting.

This is actually what I perceive as the biggest benefit to clips. Yes, you get to recruit more muscle groups. But it's incredibly annoying, and occasionally dangerous if you do it hard enough, when you put a ton of force on the pedals after coasting downhill and your feet fly off the pedal because you're in too low a gear to actually accelerate your bike.

Interestingly, when I started cycling (and I mean cycling, not just riding a bike as a kid), I started off with a pretty high cadence (90-100rpm). I don't have a cadence meter, but I do have a speedometer, and I know my average speed at certain gear ratios, so I can calculate my rpm. It's probably just a byproduct of my body type - I'm really skinny - 5'11" and 122 lbs. It's incredibly tiring for me to sustain a low cadence with high power per stroke.

gooki

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #22 on: March 18, 2015, 02:49:02 AM »
Push forward on the pedals, not down.

And as the others said work on increasing your cadence.

spokey doke

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #23 on: March 18, 2015, 07:57:53 AM »
If you are going to keep riding, I'd make a pitch for fixing the bike.  There are now so many great online resources to show how to do things (like the repair and maintenance video's from Park Tool), you should be able to figure it out and learn things that will come in handy in the future.  This can take you down the road toward greater self-sufficiency and can be pretty satisfying.

APowers

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #24 on: March 18, 2015, 10:44:36 AM »
Well, to each their own regarding the clips. I didn't think it was a big deal to not have them until I actually tried them for a while. I found that it encouraged me to pedal faster. Now when I ride a bike with plain flat pedals I find sometimes my feet slip off the pedals when I'm spinning fast, and that can be quite disconcerting.

This is why I find generalized advice to pedal at 90rpm disconcerting. I can't pedal that fast and still keep my feet on the pedals. I'm also used to riding in the city, and would find pedal clips super annoying every time I had to stop or dismount at an intersection. I also prefer low rpms and higher gears-- it's a more comfortable cadence for me, because pedaling really fast (60-90rpm) feels like way too much motion for the distance gained. And... if I'm hitting 90rpm in my top gear, then I'm going PLENTY fast enough.

Posthumane

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #25 on: March 18, 2015, 01:00:48 PM »
Fast cadence is certainly not necessary all of the time. But in the periods where you're trying to extract maximum power for a sustained period, it helps a lot. For a given power, the slower your cadence the more force you have to put on the pedals, which means higher strain on your knees, leg muscles, etc. If you find that you are running out of breath then you should slow your cadence a little, but if your legs are getting sore/tired first then you can increase your cadence.

a moist sack of nickels

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #26 on: March 18, 2015, 09:11:28 PM »
Am i just screwed here? Do I need a new bike?

This seems anathema to the principle of $aving$

If you're really hamsterwheeling at the top gear you can just get a new cog and increase your gear ratio.

emmaplopez

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Re: Is my bike too slow or something?
« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2015, 04:12:23 AM »
its good