Author Topic: Why is my bike so slow?  (Read 21191 times)

hoyahoyasaxa

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Why is my bike so slow?
« on: April 22, 2013, 06:13:22 PM »
I'm a fairly new convert to bike commuting and have been at it few weeks.  It's about 7 miles each way and there are some hilly parts, but I'm finding my 27-year old masculine ass getting passed by 40-something hipster women with baskets on the front of their bikes.  Even on seemingly flat areas, it seems like it takes a great deal of energy to get any momentum going and I find it damn near impossible to get up the hills.  It just seems like I'm meeting a ton of resistance and I don't think it's me being out of shape.

My bike is my sister's old bike from the late 80's that I pulled out of the storage room the last time I was home; it's a "Giant RS920".  I don't know a lot about bikes but I'll try to answer any questions that people might have about this one that would provide insight as to why it's such a giant pain in the ass biking this thing.

StarswirlTheMustached

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2013, 06:31:36 PM »
If it has been sitting, the grease in the bearings might have gotten goopy? Turn it upside down, make sure the wheels and pedals can spin freely.
If the you're low on air, that might do it, too. The tyres should be inflated enough to have no "give" when you grip them.
Road bikes (which I think your Giant would be) also have pretty tall gears: make sure you downshift  as low as you can for hills and starts. If you're stuck in high gear, that'd sure give you a ton of resistance.

Finally, and I mean no offense, but if it's only been a few weeks, it's probably just you. When I first started out it wasn't the hipster women who bothered me; it was the old geezers who'd blow past me on the way up hills. Even if you're in okay shape, cycling has its own pattern of muscle use you have to build yourself up for.

EDIT: that's in reverse order of likelyhood, IMO. Sorry.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 06:33:22 PM by StarswirlTheMustached »

the fixer

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2013, 06:36:16 PM »
Try standing the bike upside down and giving the wheels a spin in the direction they'd spin when the bike is rolling forward (i.e. for the back wheel, spin it so the hub makes a clicking noise and the pedals don't move). Take note of anything that might be slowing the bike down, such as drag from the hubs or brakes. If the wheels spin pretty freely, and take a long time to slow down, that's good; otherwise, take note of what's causing the drag and figure out how to fix that.

Next thing to check is the chain: grab it with a rag or gloved hand and try flexing it in different areas. The entire chain should bend easily; if it does not, it might just need some love and care with chain cleaner and lube, or it might be so far gone that it needs to be replaced.

SmackDab

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2013, 08:54:30 PM »
Also, if you can get the chain off, you might try giving the crank a spin with your hand and seeing if there is any resistance. A good flick should be able to spin it for at least a full revolution or two. If not, the bottom bracket bearings may need to be re-lubed or replaced.

You might not be able to get the chain of the chainring without using a chain breaker, but I figured I'd bring it up anyways.

olivia

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2013, 09:04:05 PM »
If it has been sitting, the grease in the bearings might have gotten goopy? Turn it upside down, make sure the wheels and pedals can spin freely.
If the you're low on air, that might do it, too. The tyres should be inflated enough to have no "give" when you grip them.
Road bikes (which I think your Giant would be) also have pretty tall gears: make sure you downshift  as low as you can for hills and starts. If you're stuck in high gear, that'd sure give you a ton of resistance.

Finally, and I mean no offense, but if it's only been a few weeks, it's probably just you. When I first started out it wasn't the hipster women who bothered me; it was the old geezers who'd blow past me on the way up hills. Even if you're in okay shape, cycling has its own pattern of muscle use you have to build yourself up for.

EDIT: that's in reverse order of likelyhood, IMO. Sorry.

Ha, ditto, it's probably just you.  I just started biking to work a few weeks ago and I'm still getting passed by old dudes in khaki pants on bikes that look a lot worse than mine.  And I am also not out of shape-I exercise regularly (CrossFit and soccer).  But biking still makes me huff and puff.  It's gotten a bit better, but according to my coworker who has been biking to work for about a year, it takes a few months to really get into shape. 

dragoncar

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2013, 09:47:33 PM »

Ha, ditto, it's probably just you.
[/quote]

I fully expected this to be a quote on the wall of anti mustachios humor.  Akin to "why are my running shoes so slow" and "why are my pants so tight?" :-)

Jamesqf

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2013, 10:17:07 PM »
But biking still makes me huff and puff.  It's gotten a bit better, but according to my coworker who has been biking to work for about a year, it takes a few months to really get into shape.

Try getting passed by a Swiss granny with a basket of groceries while going up one of their mountain roads :-)

Besides getting into shape, there is some learning involved, like for instance without proper riding position & cadence, you'll be using the power your body produces inefficiently.

theg8orwhocalculated

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2013, 10:19:39 PM »
Is your bicycle seat too low? Properly adjusting the height will make pedaling much more efficient.

momo27

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2013, 10:51:20 PM »
Don't underestimate the power of women with baskets on their bicycles. I am an obese woman with a basket on my bike, and I've yet to have a riding partner who can keep up. But, I ride about 80 miles weekly, always hauling at least 100 lbs in the form of my children. If you're a total newbie to bicycles, it may not be a terrible idea to run your bike by a local independent shop for a once over and some pointers. They may not even charge you. The shop I moonlight at wouldn't, but we're real suckers for anyone just getting started cycling.

olivia

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2013, 08:35:20 AM »

Ha, ditto, it's probably just you.

I fully expected this to be a quote on the wall of anti mustachios humor.  Akin to "why are my running shoes so slow" and "why are my pants so tight?" :-)
[/quote]

LOLOL if you find out the answer to why my pants are so tight, please let me know!  :P 

BlueMR2

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2013, 10:04:22 AM »
Make sure you fit the bike and are using it properly.  I see all kinds of people cycling that are working way too hard.  Common non-mechanical issues are:  Seat too low, improper foot position on pedals, and riding in a much too high a gear.  For most people, you know it's time to shift to a higher gear when you just start to bounce a little in the seat.  There are exceptions that can make good power at lower RPMs, but start with the majority by running high RPMs...  :-)

There's obviously way more to it than this, but that'll give you a starting point.  All the mechanical answers are good things to look into as well.

GuitarStv

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2013, 11:12:21 AM »
The number one problem that people have with their biking speed is the engine.  It's also the most misdiagnosed issue . . .    :P

Erica/NWEdible

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2013, 11:21:18 AM »
Don't underestimate the power of women with baskets on their bicycles. I am an obese woman with a basket on my bike, and I've yet to have a riding partner who can keep up. But, I ride about 80 miles weekly, always hauling at least 100 lbs in the form of my children.

You, madam, are an inspiration!

lifejoy

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2013, 01:33:22 PM »
My issue was improper use of my bike's gears! Being in the right gear at the right time (uphill, flat, downhill) will make a big difference.

Road bikes go faster than say, mountain bikes. So, tires matter. Also how inflated they are can make a big difference!

Good luck :)

Gerard

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2013, 02:40:55 PM »
I am an obese woman with a basket on my bike, and I've yet to have a riding partner who can keep up.

This sounds like a Bessie Smith lyric. Or maybe Memphis Minnie.

EDIT: actual useful advice -- make sure you're not riding on knobby mountain bike tires. I'm astonished by the reduction in rolling resistance since I finally got road-type tires.

dragoncar

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2013, 07:38:58 PM »
I am an obese woman with a basket on my bike, and I've yet to have a riding partner who can keep up.

This sounds like a Bessie Smith lyric. Or maybe Memphis Minnie.

EDIT: actual useful advice -- make sure you're not riding on knobby mountain bike tires. I'm astonished by the reduction in rolling resistance since I finally got road-type tires.

If you are biking for exercise, however, feel free to leave the knobbies on.

RHINO

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Re: Why is my bike so slow?
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2013, 08:03:08 PM »
It's the PSI in the TIRES!! Same thing happened to me, and I learned that I really need to pump up the tires after every big ride. Make sure you get a good pump with a gauge, put the PSI listed on the tires, and see if that does the trick...