Author Topic: learning how to ride a bike  (Read 2572 times)

FLBiker

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learning how to ride a bike
« on: March 20, 2015, 09:21:41 AM »
I broke my rear axle the other day, and took my bike to the local shop to get a replacement.  The mechanics couldn't get over the wear on my bike.  They were fascinated by the wear on my freewheel -- just one gear was worn, but worn to the point that it even had a broken tooth.  It's a 21-speed and I'm in 3-5 all the time.  It's flat down here, so I never need to downshift.

I was told that this is a terrible thing to do to your bike.  They said, like a car, I should downshift when I come to a stop, and shift back up again when I get going.  I've been a daily bike commuter for over a decade, and I'd never heard this before.  I always just stood up in the pedals to get started / go up a hill.  I tried it on my way in today, though, and it was kind of fun trying to figure out how NOT to stand up.

Anyone else heard this?

skyrefuge

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Re: learning how to ride a bike
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2015, 10:00:47 AM »
I tried it on my way in today, though, and it was kind of fun trying to figure out how NOT to stand up.

If you encounter any other riders on your commute, you'll also have fun realizing that you've already made it across the intersection after the light turned green, while they're left in your dust, still barely getting started.

Or, conversely, you'll finally stop being left in the dust by those who know how to use their gears. :-)

The first situation is more likely though, because in my experience, those who don't know how to use their gears outnumber those who do. So you certainly aren't the last one to learn. It's not something that's taught very often.

30 years ago, such active shifting wasn't too practical, since shifting generally required you to take your hand off the handlebars, and was a bit more finicky. But these days, most bikes have shifters located right where your hands are, making it super-easy.

I downshift at every intersection, every time I slow a bit to see if a backing car sees me, at every tiny incline, and even when the wind blows a bit stronger.

Watch out though, when I taught my girlfriend how to ride a bike (from scratch), I immediately incorporated active shifting into her training. Now there are times when she complains that she needs "more gears" because one gear is too high and the next one is too low...and she has a 24-speed!

While we're on the topic of things-bikers-aren't-taught, it's probably worth checking your cadence too. There's a good chance your cadence is relatively low, and you could be a more efficient rider if you increased your pedaling revolutions-per-minute. 90rpm is a rough "ideal" target for many people, and at first that might feel funny to you to spin that fast and "lightly" if you're used to standing and stomping to get the bike going. The whole point of gears is to allow you to keep a constant, ideal cadence, no matter your speed, hills, wind, etc.

ETA: hopefully the shop workers didn't actually say that not-shifting is "a terrible thing to do to your bike", because it's not. Yes, it will concentrate the wear on one gear, but people with single-speed bikes concentrate the wear on one gear too. So at most, it's a waste to *have* multiple gears and not use them, and will increase your maintenance costs somewhat (since replacing your one-of-seven worn gears will cost more than replacing the one-of-one gears on a single-speed), but it's not going to make your bike explode or anything. The main reason to use your gears is because of the benefits they have to *you*, not your bike.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2015, 10:10:32 AM by skyrefuge »

GuitarStv

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Re: learning how to ride a bike
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2015, 10:15:36 AM »
Yeah, my whole childhood I had a crappy bike that didn't shift . . . so it was pedal like hell down the hills or stand n' grind going up them.  It took a couple months after getting a bike that shifted properly to really get a feel for what I was doing.  It ends up being way the heck faster to shift regularly (I learned because it was pissing me off when others would blow by me all the time).

FLBiker

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Re: learning how to ride a bike
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2015, 10:29:36 AM »
While we're on the topic of things-bikers-aren't-taught, it's probably worth checking your cadence too. There's a good chance your cadence is relatively low, and you could be a more efficient rider if you increased your pedaling revolutions-per-minute. 90rpm is a rough "ideal" target for many people, and at first that might feel funny to you to spin that fast and "lightly" if you're used to standing and stomping to get the bike going. The whole point of gears is to allow you to keep a constant, ideal cadence, no matter your speed, hills, wind, etc.

Interesting!  I'll pay attention to this on my way home.  It's funny, I always preferred driving a manual transmission because it was more active, but I never made the transfer to biking.

And the guys at the shop didn't scare me about my bike exploding -- they just said I'd have to replace my freewheel more often if I did that.

Thanks!

vhalros

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Re: learning how to ride a bike
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2015, 10:44:49 AM »
You'll defiantly be able to come back up to a speed from a stop much more quickly like this, in addition to saving some wear.

Some other random things I've been surprised many cyclists do not seem to know:


FLBiker

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Re: learning how to ride a bike
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2015, 10:47:28 AM »
You'll defiantly be able to come back up to a speed from a stop much more quickly like this, in addition to saving some wear.

Some other random things I've been surprised many cyclists do not seem to know:


Thanks!  I do start properly, but I'm not sure about my braking.