| Bicycling Life
About Our Site
Issues & Editorials
Solutions for Little
Adjustments, and Repairs.
Using Bikes in Everyday
Commuting & Errands
Cycling for Fun &
Street Smarts for Bicyclists
Advancing Cycling Issues
Questions to Crank and Hub often take on a familiar ring, as many readers face the
same situation. Some of the more common and interesting questions are placed here
for your convenience.
I want to start cycling with my family and get healthy
and lose weight. I have been exercising and have gotten my weight down to 250. Is there a
bike that can support my weight and if so what kind and size do I need?
The best advice is to go to a local bike shop and see what they have. These bikes will
tend to be higher quality than discount store bikes due to better parts and a better
buildup. The size of the bike is a function of your leg length and height, and a good shop
will help there also.
I agree with the advice to go to to your local bike shop. No matter how tempting it
might seem, you're unlikely to be served well by going to a department store, or even to a
sporting goods store with a line of "good" bikes. Here's why:
Even for riders of average weight, the rear wheel spokes are often a trouble spot.
Having all those sprockets on the right side puts the right rear spokes at a disadvantage
- they run at a bad angle and thus require more tension than the others, so they're prone
to breaking. This is well known to people who carry camping gear on their bikes (and very
frustrating, because those spokes are the hardest to replace while on the road). However,
if the wheel is expertly built, the problems are much, much less.
With your weight, your bike will be more heavily loaded than most, and will
"reward" a cheap wheelset with "pings" - that's the sound of a
snapping spoke! And wheels are one of the first places that money is saved on cheaper
bikes. Worse, wheel truing and tensioning is a skill that college-freshman "bike
mechanics" rarely have.
Go to an established bike shop (and be sure it's not run by 18-year-olds!). I'd
recommend looking at mountain bikes, even though I suspect you will be
riding on the road and/or bike path. (99% of mountain bikes never see dirt!) Mountain
bikes have stronger wheels and nice low gears for hills. And be sure the mechanic double
checks the rear wheel spokes for optimum tension.
When negotiating the purchase of the bike, work in a trade of the knobby mountain bike
tires for some smooth tires for the road. They'll be way easier and more pleasant to
pedal. Oh, and stay away from front and rear suspension. That'll save you a fair amount on
money on something you don't really need.
Dear Crank and Hub:
I am considering touring in England and because of the
problems traveling with a bike I am also considering a Bike Friday because it would appear
to travel well. Are folding bikes effective touring bikes? My present bikes are a Fuji
Series III and a Raleigh SC40. Because of a hip problem I'm not all that excited about a
low bar - high bar handlebar. Is there a better solution than the Bike Friday and where
can I learn more about the choices?
The Bike Friday is designed to fit like your full sized bike. You send them pertinent
dimensions and they set the fit. The bike allegedly feels like a full sized bike, but the
small wheels do have a different feel. People tour and race on them, so it seems to be
good enough! Other small wheel bikes include Moulton and Dahon, though the latter would
not be adequate for long rides.
Another option is to have an S and S coupled bike. A full size bike is sawed in half,
and machined couplings brazed onto the top and down tubes. Taken apart, the bike fits in a
suitcase. Together, it is indistinguishable from before the couples.
I agree with everything Mr. Hub says! I have one out-of-state friend who owns a Bike
Friday, and it's completely replaced his Cannondale touring bike. He loves it! And I've
ridden for a long distance on a century ride alongside a woman with a Bike Friday. She
loves it! A friend and I both tried it, but only for a short distance. It felt great! I
wouldn't hesitate to recommend it based on my limited experience and the testimonials of
the other owners.
I also agree about the Dahon - at least, the old Mark V model that I own. It's kinda
fun, in a weird sort of way. (I always feel like a trick circus bear when I'm riding it.)
It's great to throw in the trunk for an out-of-town trip when you can't take your regular
bike. It's adequate for scooting around town, it's OK for about 10 miles, but after that I
wish for a bike whose handlebars were _really_ connected to the front wheel, and whose
front wheel was _really_ connected to the rear wheel... and so on.
I am a personal trainer working
with a 13 year old who would dearly love to learn to ride a bike but due to a
developmental disability, he has never learned. His intelligence is above average but he
is not well coordinated and lacks good agility for his age. He has the balance ability to
ride a two wheeler.
I have heard of a very good video that teaches youngsters
how to ride a bicycle in a short period of time. I know that it is being marketed by the
man who made the video and it is sold on the 'Net and in some stores but I have not been
able to find it. I do not know the name of the producer or the name of the video. Would
you happen to know where I can get this video or one that would be helpful for my student?
He is embarrassed that he can not ride a bike like his friends.
I'm sorry I don't know of this video. Perhaps Crank does.
You may be able to teach him very quickly on your own. The key, which I bet is the
focus of the video, is to have a small enough bike with the saddle (seat) set low enough
that he can sit on it with his feet flat on the ground. Without putting his feet on the
pedals, he can "scoot" on the bike in a sort of running motion. Gradually, there
is more and more gliding as he becomes comfortable with the balancing. Eventually,
pedaling is introduced.
I've checked through my sources, and I've been unable to find mention of such a video
Hub's got the idea, though. Most people learn to balance quite quickly by that method.
A couple refinements you might consider: some people prefer to remove the pedals to
eliminate knocking shins during the "scooting" phase. If you do that, keep in
mind they can be tough to remove, and the left pedal is threaded _backwards_ from normal -
it has left-hand threads. The right hand pedal comes out counterclockwise, but the left
pedal comes out clockwise! They're often very tight. If it's too difficult for you, a bike
shop will remove them in two minutes, and they're always easy to put back on.
Second trick: a very, very slight downhill can be a big help. If you can locate a
parking lot with a very slight slope and no cars (maybe early Sunday morning) that's a
great place to learn.
I'll bet the boy will feel very empowered once he learns to ride. It'll be great for
him. Good luck!
Hello, I am considering
commuting to work. I work in a large city and my one way commute will be about 8 miles.
Since the city streets are full of bumps , potholes and various debris ,I would like to
know your thoughts on bike selection. Should I look at mountain bikes, hybrid or road
bikes? Should I consider front suspension? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Either of these bikes would be suitable with adequate tires and wheels. You might not
want to ride a road bike with narrow little tires and super light wheels, but one with
sturdier rims and size 28 to 35 tires would be a joy. In any case, no matter which type
bike you choose, use smooth tires, not knobbies which don't handle well and are slower.
The key with poor road surface and debris is to avoid it by paying attention, or as a
last resort using the Quick Dodge, Bunny Hop, or simply unweighting the bike.
If your plan is to barrel right through the minefield, suspension would help, but the
suspension on lower end bikes is really junky.
My commute's about 7 miles, from the suburbs into the city center. For me, despite the
fairly rough roads, 28mm road tires do fine. I get only one or two flats a year, and I
haven't had to replace my heavy-duty rims in 20 years!
But I'm pretty fanatical about watching where I'm going, and I'm lucky to have fairly
low-traffic streets, so picking a fairly smooth path isn't hard for me. I miss most of the
potholes, for sure. If your route's different
than mine, you might want to go with wider tires - maybe 32mm road tires, maybe a
hybrid or maybe a mountain bike.
If you go with a mountain bike, use smooth, narrow (for a mountain bike) tires. I
helped a friend change from knobbies to Specialized Nimbus semi-slicks, 1.5" wide,
and they felt fine on the road. But personally, I can't imagine 8 miles each way with
mountain bike bars. Road bars are so much more versatile. You'll know that the first time
your ride home is into a strong headwind!
I'd ditch the suspension unless you have to ride real mine-fields. It adds to the cost
and the weight, it tends to bounce a bit when you stand up to pedal, and it makes the bike
more enticing to the bad guys with bolt cutters. It's nice in the woods, but I think it's
overkill on almost any road.
I think the ultimate commuter is a touring road frame with nice wide tires - but I
admit you've got to search to find them! Let's see: I'd add fenders, a detachable front
fender flap to keep your shoes dry, a handlebar bag, a rear rack with a bungee cord, a
water bottle cage, cantilever brakes, a pump (of course), a red rear blinky light, a white
front blinky light, and a good quality generator set with a halogen bulb. Oh, and maybe a
bell if you ever have to share space with pedestrians.
Hey, I just described my bike! ;-)
Hi, I have a question about
training for longer rides. I ride in a pretty hilly area. Is it better to keep the bike in
the highest gear to gain more strength or is it better to have more revolutions (putting
it in a lower gear) when going up hill?
It's tough to specifically answer your question because training plans are a function
not only of your goals, but also of your current level of fitness and individual
adaptation to various training techniques.
In general, for all around cycling ability you should do it all! Sometimes mash too big
of a gear, sometimes spin too fast. Sometimes ride at a steady intensity, sometimes push
it for varying length/intensity intervals. Mix it up.
If your long ride goal is a metric century or a century or whatever, then gradually
increase the duration of your rides to approach your target. Fortunately, cycling is
pretty forgiving on the body, so once you have your "cycling legs," it shouldn't
be that difficult to go and go at a moderate pace. Eat and drink right, and ensure that
you are comfortable on the bike (get that handlebar up!), and you'll be surprised how
quickly distance fades, especially if you are riding with other people.
I agree with the "do it all" philosophy. To me, that's one of the great
things about cycling. We get lots of variety naturally (long hills, short hills, gradual
ones, steep ones, downhills, headwinds, tailwinds, sprints...). It's variety that runners,
for example, have to consciously build in to their workouts. To handle this variety, a
good cyclist should be able to do what's necessary when it's necessary. But then again,
ordinary riding should eventually make you capable of doing it all.
But to be more specific, here's what I do: During my "normal" riding, I make
sure I spend some time on spinning and some
time on pushing. Regarding the "pushing", especially, my bikes have triple
cranks, but I force myself to never use the small chainring for ordinary, unloaded rides.
I feel this builds muscle.
When I'm on a very long ride, or when I'm out touring with camping gear, that's when I
get the payback and treat myself gently. I try to spin more and push less, by riding maybe
one gear lower than usual. I downshift at the slightest excuse, all the way to the granny
gear if necessary. That way whatever muscle I've built up is still available for
"emergencies" - like a hill that looks like a vertical wall after I've ridden 80
For me, this has worked very well. I'm a little mean to myself on short rides, but I
treat myself really nice on long rides. It makes the long rides fun.
My Motobacane Le Champion has the
full Ultegra group on an aluminum frame. How do I keep it from auto shifting into a higher
gear on the slopes? Can I adjust the cable tension without affecting its derailler
settings which seem to to bracketed correctly? This appears to be a fairly common problem
with Ultegra groups from what I've read on various tech forums, but I haven't found a good
fix yet. -
Adjusting cable tension via the derailleur adjusting barrel is what adjusts your
derailleur. Your problem is a function of frame flex, which you can't change except with a
different bike (or always pedaling easy to not flex the frame), possibly exacerbated by a
sticky cable. Sometimes lubing the cable where it contacts the bottom bracket shell/cable
guide is all that is needed. You could also replace your cable housing if it is old.
Teflon lined housing is allegedly the slipperiest.
Sounds like a tough one to me, David. But you knew that, or you wouldn't be so
desperate as to ask us!
I'm not positive exactly what you mean by the derailleur being "bracketed
correctly". There are three routine adjustments to a derailleur. One setscrew (or
limit screw) limits how far the derailleur swings to the right. A second screw does the
same for the left. By "bracketed correctly", perhaps you're talking about those
screws. If your bike is reliably shifting into the largest and smallest sprockets, but
never dropping the chain past them, those screws are OK.
The third adjustment might be termed "cable tension", I suppose. It's usually
controlled by a barrel adjuster (or other screw-thing through which the cable passes) in
one or more places along the cable. In reality, what this does is synchronize the clicks
in your shift lever with the position of your cogs, and it's pretty much independent of
those limit screws. This is what makes sure that when you're on the second
"click", your chain is pointed exactly onto the second cog - not too far to the
left or the right.
If you have lots of frame flex, it might move the rear derailleur enough to cause a
shift. But modern aluminum frames don't flex much (although I confess I'm not familiar
with your particular frame). But if your legs look much different than Cippolini's, I'm
betting the problem isn't merely unavoidable frame flex.
As Hub said, sticky cables can do weird things to shifting, so I'd try his tricks. Of
course, also make sure the derailleur itself is clean and lubricated.
I'd also try turning that "cable tension" adjuster just a hair
counterclockwise, to put just a little more tension in the cable, especially since it
seems to be shifting toward the high-gear, "loose cable" side. It may be that
each click is lined up a little too much to the right.
And check that your derailleur or its hanger aren't bent. Make sure the back view of
your derailleur shows the two jockey pulleys lining up exactly vertically below the
sprockets. Also, make sure there isn't some spot where your cable housing is too short,
and make sure the ends of each segment of the cable housing are nice and square, not
crookedly cut or bent.
Still nothing? You could try putting the bike on a wind trainer, and very slowly push
down as hard as you can on the right pedal, then the left one, while you watch to see
where the motion is coming from. That could diagnose it.
If all that doesn't cure it, I'd say it's time for a trip to the best bike mechanic in
town. And if you're the best, maybe take it to the second-best!
Hello, My name is Dennis.
I am planning on takeing a cross country bike trip with two other friends to
benefit the childrens HED fund. (HED is a fund that helps children with a number of
Where can I find detailed maps regarding taking cross
country routes? It actually doens't have to be a map but just a listing of the roads.
Second, we have been told that traveling from East to West, which we were planning
on doing, would be more difficult than from travelling from West to East because we would
be "going against the weather". Is there any truth to this? Thanks
for your time, Dennis
Dennis: Adventure Cycling
is an organization that has information on cross country cycling. They are a great soure
of detailed maps.
I believe winds more likely blow from West to East, so if you want a tailwind, that's
the direction to ride. But that may be a function of time of year and particular route,
either northern or southern. Again AC would be a good source of advice.
Adventure Cycling is a great resource for maps. I know of nothing better.
Regarding the wind direction: there may be some truth to it, but it may not be all that
important. I remember an article in a bicycling magazine many years ago that claimed that
the differences were slight. And although I've not yet done a coast-to-coast, I have many
friends that have. I asked the ones that rode east to west about the headwinds, and they
claimed they had no particular problems. And I once did a week long east-to-west trip and
had tailwinds every day!
On the other hand, I have one friend who managed a 150 mile day on a west-to-east
coast-to-coast trip. Downhill out of the Rockies with super-strong tailwinds all day
long... boy, that sounds like fun!
I am training for a Century ride
with the Leukemia Society Team in Training. I am interested in buying either a trainer or
a roller to encourage me to keep riding on days when the weather is less than cooperative.
How do I decide what to get, and why? What do all the options mean? Are rollers dangerous?
What happens if you accidentally turn the front wheel - can you actually ride off the
roller? (Yikes!) How much should I expect to spend? Thanks!
There certainly are a lot of indoor trainer options, and you can spend a lot of money
on something you may hate. I do. When the weather keeps me from riding, I do other stuff
because real riding is so much better than pedaling in place in my opinion. On the other
hand, an Alaskan mom made the Olympic marathon (running) team training on a treadmill!
Trainers have different resistance mechanisms, bike attachment techniques, wheel
contact placement, electronics, and probably a bunch of other things. I'm obviously not an
expert on this subject since I don't do it, but the main differences you should consider
should be specific to your own circumstances. Where you gonna store it? How easy to attach
the bike? How much motivation do you need that electronics can help with? Ultimately,
riding boils down to the engine though.
Rollers have historically been used mainly by hard core racers since they require
balance (though there are models in which the front wheel is stabilized). Yes, you can
crash. But this is not to say that they wouldn't be appropriate for you.
One way to increase your training is to increase your commute distance by using a
longer route. The time cost of training gets partially defrayed.
I agree with Hub that there's nothing that beats actual road riding. To me, the only
thing more boring than indoor training is watching TV! (I'm not sure if watching TV while
training is better or worse. I haven't tried it.)
About crashing while riding rollers: yeah, it happens. It's no big deal. Oh, you'll think
it will be a big deal, because you'll be cranking away at 20+ mph, and you'll feel very
sure that any mistake will send you into the wall in front of you at that speed.
It doesn't happen. If you steer off the rollers, your front wheel stops immediately,
and you kind of topple off to the side, because your mass isn't moving. The worst you
experience is the same as a toe-clip fall, but from two inches higher.
But nobody in our family has even had that happen. We've just put our foot down,
untangled the bike from the rollers, and gotten back to the boring business of pedaling
through basement scenery.
Help! I am looking for a
contact list or notice board where I can help find a partner to go mountain biking with me
round Cuba. Do you know where I could start or someone to contact? Cheers, Nigel
You might look for help from Adventure
Alternatively, there are many cyclists in Cuba by necessity after the pullout of Soviet
support. Perhaps you could find someone there as an inexpensive personal tour guide.
Tough question! Another source for contacts could be the League of American Bicyclists, or in
Great Britain, the Cyclist's Touring Club.
Or you could try posting a message on the Usenet groups, rec.bicycles.off-road and
I ride a mountain bike to work in
Seattle, only 3 miles each way but over a big hill. I use low gears as needed. I'm getting
pain in my right knee just inside and almost below the kneecap. Can you think of any
adjustments I should think about making to help with this? Such as move my seat forward or
back, or a different pedaling style? Or warm up before heading up the hill? I use regular
pedals and sneakers with no toe clips. Thanks, Fran.
Symptoms such as yours are sometimes alleviated by raising the saddle a couple of
Sneakers have soft inners which over time compress to exacerbate biomechanical faults.
They can be worn out before they seem worn out. Also, sneakers may be designed to reduce
pronation or supination of the foot and getting the wrong type can cause problems which
compound up the leg to knee and hip and back. All of this is more problematic for runners,
but it may be worth examining in your case also. Try riding with different shoes.
You may find it useful to apply a vapor rub to heat up your knee before riding.
Finally, try different foot placements on the pedal. Closer or further from the crank,
heel slightly in or out. You may be moving your foot around on the pedal alot and your
knee doesn't like this. Perhaps holding a steady position, maybe even using clips and
straps would be beneficial.
Good Luck, - Hub
Sounds like you want to watch out for chondromalacia, or damage to the cartilage under
your kneecap. Or you could be suffering some tendonitis. It's not easy (and probably not
smart) to try to diagnose physical symptoms by e-mail, and I'm certainly not a doctor. But
if Hub's tips don't fix it pretty soon, you might want to check with your doctor.
That said, I've fixed some minor knee pain I've had by very slight changes in foot
position, like Hub described. And if you try toe clips or clipless pedals, you'll find
that "big hill" gets a lot smaller right away!
How many people are injured
biking nationally in Motor Vehicle/Bike accidents? And whose fault is it? Terry.,
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the USDOT estimated
53,000 bicyclist injuries and 761 fatalities with motor vehicles in 1998. We have some statistics on file in the Bicycling Life Library.
Be patient, it's a big table, and it breaks accidents down by state.
Regarding "fault," it is typically recognized that children are almost always
to blame, and adult bicyclists about half the time. But this is a real tricky question and
subject to intrepretation. For example, if a bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk and the
motorist exits a driveway and doesn't stop prior to the sidewalk or crosswalk, who is at
fault? Does it matter if the bicyclist is an adult or child?
We here at Bicycling Life think that it typically takes two to tango. So, fault in lots
of motor vehicle-bicycle collisions can be at least partially attributed to both parties.
If bicyclists follow traffic laws and thus eliminate crashes in which they are at
fault, don't ride on sidewalks or do other behaviors in which they are major contributors
to the collision, and are aware of the major collisions that are typically caused by
drivers (Left Cross, Right Hook) and know the
techniques on how to reduce them, riders would virtually never be involved in
I am relatively new to bike
advocacy and have often heard and been asked about cyclist passing cars in a cue at a
light. If the cyclist has the same resposibilities as motor vehicles, this would make the
practice of passing on the right illegal. In my limited research and experience, it is
promoted that cyclists pass cars waiting in a cue, to get to the front where they will be
better seen. This obviously applies to streets where a bike lane is not provided. Do you
know of anywhere, where this is addressed? Jane.
The illegality or legality of a bicyclist passing on the right is subject to local law
and interpretation. For example, in NC the applicable statute is:
§20-151.1. When passing on the right is permitted. (2) Upon a street or highway
with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width which have been marked for two or more
lanes of moving vehicles in each direction and are not occupied by parked vehicles.
So passing on the right is not in this case illegal for motor vehicles. By extension
then, if a Bike Lane is present, the bicyclist may pass on the right. It gets muddy when
there is no Bike Lane.
A bicyclist riding on the right side of a normal lane is often passed on the left by
motor vehicles within the lane. It doesn't seem unreasonable that bicyclists would pass
stopped motor vehicles on their right.
That said, passing on the right can be risky. Motorists cannot be expected to look for
bicyclists there. Many do not use turn signals when making a right, and passenger doors
can suddenly open. If passing on the right, it is always bicyclist beware! Moreover, some
motorists don't like it because they think bicyclists are "cutting." Irrational
yes, but that's motorists for ya!
It gets muddy all right!
I checked my usual sources, and some unusual ones, and I found nothing on this common
situation. But I don't think that having the same responsibilities as motor vehicles makes
passing stopped cars illegal. Fact is, it's legal for a car to pass a cyclist on the left
in the same lane, if there's room. It's legal for a car to drive right along side a
cyclist, at the same speed, in the same lane, if there's room. I doubt it's illegal for
the cyclist to move ahead if that same car slows a bit, or even stops.
Nonetheless, I don't usually do that. I'm in favor of taking my place in traffic as a
legal vehicle. My thinking is that if I'm traveling the same speed as other traffic, I'll
be in the center of the lane - and when we're all stopped, I'm traveling the same speed
The exception is if I can clearly tell that keeping my place in the queue will make me
miss the next green light, AND there's no particular danger in passing on the right. Even
then, I'm very, very careful while I pass slowly (beware of opening doors), and I try not
to make things inconvenient for motorists. When I blend into traffic afterward, I want no
surprises for anybody.
For better or for worse, many of the finer legal points of bicycling are moot. I
sometimes think nothing short of running over a policeman will get a cyclist ticketed!
I never see bike flags mentioned.
Those flags which are some five feet above the bike on a skinny fiberglass pole. Are
they of any value to safety? Any data? Are my wife and I the only ones who use them?
I've never seen other bikers use them. Al
Al, I'm sure you and your wife are not the only ones using the
safety flags. But they're certainly not common.
Are they of any value? I suppose they must add a bit to visibility, but I don't know if
its very much. As a wild guess, they might give motorists an additional second of warning
when the cyclist is just over the crest of a hill. They might occasionally catch someone's
eye in a heavy traffic situation. But it seems to me that ten square feet of cyclist is
almost always at least as visible as half a square foot of flag, even if the flag is
Is there any data? Good question! But I don't recall ever seeing mention of a single
study about safety flags! Other bike safety subjects have been studied to death, often
with very conflicting results. Safety flags don't seem to have caught the attention of the
We might spend some time wondering how the safety-study people decide what safety
measure to study. I'd bet one criterion is a certain amount of popularity. If there are
too few people doing something, even if it's a good idea, nobody will bother to spend the
time and money to study it!
You might try a bit of study on your own. You and your wife could observe each other,
and other cyclists, and try to judge how frequently the flag makes an important
difference. It won't make it into a refereed journal, but it could make you feel better
about your choice!
All of what Crank says makes sense to me. That the flag is high for "safety"
presumes that bicyclists are not visible nor safe because they are low. But typical
bicyclists are 5 ft high, which is higher than most motor vehicles. The bright orange is
eye catching, but so would be an orange tee shirt. Also, bicyclists have moving legs and a
subtle amount of wobbling which catches attention. Certainly in order to be safe one wants
to be seen. The best way to be seen is to Be In The Scene. Stay out of blind spots, Use
More Lane rather than hugging the edge, and avoid being shielded by large vehicles.
Hi, I'm a klutz and have
never done well with derailers, so I'm a big fan of the Nexus 7 that I have on a
Phat Urban Assualt (cruiser/comfort bike.) I could use more gears however if I ever
want to take log rides; Rohloff makes a pricey 14-speed hub but even fiul retail ($900)
doesn't scare me too much if I can find a local shop to install it in a medium-priced mtb
for road use so I might get away for under $2,000. Possible? And is the rear wheel hard to
get off when I get a flat? Or maybe you know where I could buy such a bike? Thanks, Ken
What I really want to do is convince you that modern indexing and deraileurs makes
today's shifting a snap for even the fumbliest of fingers.
The advantages of internal hub gearing are that one can shift while stopped, so having
to plan in advance when coming to a stop is removed, and the mechanism is better protected
from the elements. Disadvantages included loss of mechanical efficiency, and expense. I
personally cannot comment on ease of rear wheel removal. Perhaps Crank knows a thing or
two about this. If the hub has a hollow axle and quick release lever, removal should be
straight forward. There is the matter of the shifting cable however.
With a $2000 ceiling, I'm sure you could get a shop to custom build a decent frame with
the Rohloff and other components of your choice.
Ken, I've tried looking around for info on the Rohloff hub, but I couldn't find details
of how easy it is to change a flat. But let's be reasonable here. There isn't a bike in
the world that doesn't get flats, so every hub maker is going to have to accommodate tire
changes! So I wouldn't worry about that.
What I _would_ worry about is having such a one-of-a-kind mechanism on a bike. That
could be cool, if you want it to show off to fellow equipment freaks, the way Jay Leno
shows off his Stanley Steamer. But it could be a real pain if it does break! I guarantee
your local bike mechanic isn't going to be much help!
I really like mechanical things, and I think internal hubs are cool. But there are good
reasons that the umpteen-speed models are such a fringe market. To do the same job,
derailleur gears are way simpler, way cheaper, way more efficient, and way easier to fix.
Sure, hub gears are cleaner, and usually don't need much maintenance - but then, some of
them have proven to be unreliable. Are you sure you want a $900 box full of gears that
nobody knows how to fix?
Modern index shifters are just as easy to use as a hub gear. I'd stick with derailleur
gears if I were you.
But if you really have your heart set on 14 internal speeds, why not visit the Harris
Cyclery website, http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/index.html and e-mail Sheldon Brown?
He's an expert on these things, and he can sell you one.
I haven't had a bike since I was
10. I'm now fortysomething and want to start again but haven't got the first clue what to
look for so any hints would be welcome. At first I'm going to be using it for short rides
- say 5 miles or so, and it needs to carry some shopping occasionally. Maybe you know
"what to look for when buying your first bike in 30 years" Thanks,
Check out the bikes at a couple of bike shops rather than discount stores. Tell them of
your needs and try a few models. Buy from a shop that you "connect" with. The
shop will likely have mountain, hybrid, touring, and road bikes. Get smooth tires on a
bike that has rack eyelets.
You'll need to find a good shop, and that may be easy, or it may be difficult. Talk
around, ask other cyclists, being sure that they know you don't want a road racer or an
extreme off-road bike.
Five miles is an easily manageable bike ride for most adults. You won't need anything
very racy or very knobby, and you certainly won't need expensive, troublesome things like
suspension. You may want to consider what they call "hybrid" bikes, something
with wider tires than a road racer, but narrower than a real mountain bike.
Stay away from any bike that has chrome steel rims. You want aluminum rims, if only
because they are almost impossible to stop quickly if you get caught in the rain. If
necessary, carry a magnet in your pocket so you can tell the difference. In fact, the
better a bike is, the less chrome steel it will have, and the more aluminum (or
"alloy") parts it will have. Aside from the frame, the less the magnet sticks
to, the better!
Be _very_ sure the bike fits you. Bikes come in different "frame sizes"
(measured from the crank axle to the top of the frame, where the seat post slides into the
bike frame). You need a bike that's small enough that you can stand over the frame with an
inch or two of clearance, but big enough that you can raise the saddle high enough to get
your leg almost straight when you pedal. You also need to be sure it's a comfortable reach
to the handlebars with your back tilted forward roughly 45 degrees, maybe a bit less for
slow riding. Be sure the bike shop helps you with this. If they say it doesn't matter,
find another shop!
The saddle can be a problem for a beginner. You don't want one that's rock hard, but
you don't want one that's like a soft sponge, either! The latter will make you sink in, it
will cut off all blood supply, and it will be worse in the end. (Ahem!).
Get a fairly firm saddle with some give, but try to find one that has your weight
supported on your two "sit bones", the two knobby bones that are pointing down
when you're sitting, and keeping weight off any delicate parts. You may have to gradually
build up a bit of toughness down there, and you may have to experiment to find a saddle.
If the bike shop is willing to let you test lots of saddles and make a trade, they get
major extra credit!
Gear shifting is very easy these days. Don't worry, you'll learn. Make sure you get a
rack for the back, and bags suitable for the amount of shopping you intend to do. If you
plan to ride in the rain, you'll want fenders, and you must never ride at night without
Finally, there's lots more to learn. Some things I highly recommend: First, get
yourself to a bookstore or library and pick up a book about bicycling. There are some that
are written especially for women, and you might like that. Second, one great cycling
website is Sheldon
Brown's. He's got lots of information (although some of it gets more technical than
most beginners want!) Finally, consider taking a short Effective Cycling class. Visit the League of American Bicyclists website,
for more information on this education program. It's the fastest way to get
comfortable and confident riding, and it's a LOT of fun!
In the past two years there have
been advertisements about an "auto-bike". It's a bicycle which automatically
changes gears for you when going up or down a hill or on a flat surface. The bike was
being sold out at Canadian Tire stores in Canada for approximately $250. Unfortunately, by
the time I heard about it they were all gone. I called several Canadian Tire stores within
a 400 mile radius from my home without success. There used to be a paid program on
television for this bike but it was in the States and it would have cost me well over
$500. Do you know where this bike can be purchased, preferrably in Canada? Hope you can
help me. Thanks, Denise
Being a Yank, I'm not too familiar with where to buy that bike in Canada, or anywhere
else I'm afraid. But you may want to reconsider that bike anyway. I question the efficacy
of anything sold on a paid TV program in the first place, and especially a bike that is
not available in bike shops and is sold in a tire store for half price! Also, I recall a
thread on rec.bicycles.tech that discussed this bike and its shortcomings.
Shifting on modern bikes is so good it's pratically "automatic" anyway. No
special skill required. I'd recommend going to a couple of local bike shops and trying a
few bikes. I think you'll be impressed with manual bikes.
Actually, Denise, from what I heard, you're lucky - the company that makes those went
out of business! And for good reason, too.
I heard a lot about them, almost all bad. The quality was the same as the low-end
department store bikes we advise people to avoid, but the price was about double, because
of the automatic transmission. I met one person who liked the bike, but that was for
riding a few blocks at most.
These days, you can easily buy a bike with push-button shifting. If it gets hard to
pedal, you push one button and that makes it easier. If it gets too easy and your feet
start spinning too fast, you push another button and it feels right again. It's so easy! I
mean, it's nothing like driving a car with a manual transmission. It's not even like
riding a ten-speed 15 years ago.
You can get a much, much better bike than the Autobike for the same price. It'll last
longer, ride easier, and give less trouble. Thank your lucky stars that they're gone!
Editors Note: The Autobike company has folded, abandoning millions of bike
Hello Guys, I want to start out
by thanking you for taking the time to read my e-mail. I am riding a Gary Fisher Marlin
for both off road and street riding. (I have nimbus semi-slicks for my road riding) This
bike comes with a Selle San Marco Linea stock saddle and I swear it is carved from
granite! I am looking for your advice on what saddle to replace it with. Keep in mind that
I am 6'4" 275lbs and on the bike an average of 2hrs each day. Thank you both for your
Surprisingly, it's not the hardness of a saddle that makes it uncomfortable, it's how
the saddle supports you. If hardness were the main culprit, pros who ride 4-6 hrs a day
would be riding on squishy gel saddles, and that is not the case. The saddle must be wide
enough to support your ischial tuberosities, the "sit bones" up in your groin.
If not, your weight is supported by soft tissues, and hence the discomfort.
It's also very important to have a well balanced fit to the bike. You contact it with
hands, butt, and feet, and the three must well mesh. Many problems, including groin, are
the result of poor position, typically too long of a stem or especially, too low
handlebars. Also, saddle fore/aft and especially tilt adjustments can make a world of
You might try a Brooks B17 saddle. Note that you may be sore from a wider saddle
because of bruising of the tissue over the sit bones. This is normal, temporary, and a
heck of a lot better than the alternative.
Mw (can I call you Mw?), I gotta say, saddle recommendations are tough. Here's why:
your bottom and my bottom are likely to be way different. So what my bottom likes won't be
what your bottom likes!
It's sad, but finding a comfortable saddle can involve a lot of trial and error. You've
got to find what fits YOUR anatomy, and YOUR riding style. A cooperative bike shop can be
a big help. (I wouldn't go near mail-order on this one!)
By the way, Hub said something about racers. I think racers actually have it easier!
The stronger your legs are, the more you push on the pedals, and the less you sit on your
saddle! I had one fast-riding friend who bought a really, really nice pre-softened leather
saddle for his bike. He showed it to me, and said "Now I can ride slow!"
Here's the main thing to check in a saddle: first, like Hub says, your two sit-bones
must be well supported. Some folks actually land on the metal part of a Brooks saddle, and
you don't want that. You also don't want to be hanging over the sides of a too-narrow
You want a surface that gives some, but not one you sink way down into. Some people
like "gel" saddles, which are maybe a little softer. Some people like less give.
But I think you need _some_. When you push your thumbs into the sit-bone areas of the
saddle, it shouldn't be rock hard.
I think a saddle with a flatter (not rounder) top is better. Anything that sticks up in
the middle can't do you any good. Some people like cutouts and center grooves, some people
A few saddles have some sort of springy or flexy supports to give a bit when you hit a
bump. I've known people who like those. I also know people who like suspension seatposts,
especially for off-road.
But whatever saddle you choose, be sure to experiment to find the perfect height and
tilt; be sure to stand up every few minutes to let blood circulate down there (pedaling
uphills and coasting downhills are great times to stand); and of course, wear good cycling
shorts with no underwear. Bunched fabric and/or thick seams in anything else will kill you
after a couple hours.
Good luck saddle hunting!
I commute and currently use
toe clips and running shoes. I understand that there are shoe/pedal combinations that are
more efficient, but which still allow reasonable pedestrian travel (the attachment
hardware is recessed in the sole of the shoe). Can you provide a source for more
It depends on you definition of "efficient." Your setup is pretty versatile,
allowing a variety of shoe possibilities, so in that respect it's quite efficient. YOu
also already own it, and that's super efficient.
Cycling specific shoes typically have a stiff sole which makes power transfer to the
pedal more efficient that sneakers which compress. "SPD" "mountain"
style pedals and shoes have the cleat recessed into the sole, making walking reasonable.
However, it is probable that your sneakers will still be better for walking.
There are lots of sources for the SPD-style shoes and pedals that Hub mentioned. If you
like mail order, I think any of the big catalog merchants will carry some. www.nashbar.com
or www.PerformanceBike.com certainly do.
Trouble is, buying shoes mail order may not make sense to you. It doesn't make much
sense to me! You should try them on, so you'd have to go to a bike shop, and that means
you need to buy them in a bike shop. (It would be kind of sleazy to try them on there,
then buy them elsewhere.)
Incidentally, unless you've got a 20 mile commute, I wouldn't expect to notice a lot of
difference from the "efficiency" of the shoes. I find cycling-specific shoes to
be nice for long rides, but not all that beneficial for short rides. And they are a bit
stiff for walking.
Also, when you try them on, check to be sure that the recessed cleats are really
recessed enough. Some will scrape the floor a bit. They're still walkable, but it can be
I need some help with basic
definitions of wheel jargon. What's a clincher? Ssame as a tubular? different?Thanks.
A "clincher" is a tire/rim combo in which the "beads" of the tire,
either steel or folding kevlar, seat or clinch the lip of the rim. Inside the tire is a
tube. This setup is on probably 99.9% of bikes out there. With "tubulars," the
tire and tube are one, and are glued onto a special rim.
Tubulars used to be much more prevalent among racers, but technology has raised the
performance of modern clinchers to near or even greater than tubulars, and the ease and
safety of clinchers has clinched their dominance in the market.
Hub's got it right. What's a clincher? It's a regular tire. It's what's on your bike,
and every other bike in town.
Tubulars are sometimes called "sew-ups" because you actually have to sew the
tire around the tube before you glue the tire onto your rim!
If you have tubulars, it's because your uncle was an ex track racer who willed you his
16-pound racing bike when he went to that big velodrome in the sky.
In other words, you're not likely to come across tubulars accidentally. Come to think
of it, you're not likely to come across tubulars at all!
Hello, Crank and Hub.I have a
question for you about my bicycle, I was wondering if you could e-mail me and tell me how
I can true my own wheels. I realize that I would need some type of stand to do it, but on
that note. Thank you very much-Eric
You do not need a truing stand, though they are helpful. Your bike's brake pads work
nicely for minor truing. Spokes are like long screws coming from different sides of the
hub. Tightening a spoke by turning a nipple pulls the rim toward the side of the hub the
spoke originated from.
Rather than me re-inventing the wheel, I can point you to Sheldon Browns site as an
excellent source of the whole wheelbuilding process. This will give you insightful
background information that will make truing more understandable.
I agree, Sheldon's website is very good. Check it out. You'll be wanting to skip a lot
of the initial stuff about lacing the wheel, so scroll down to the part on truing.
Another excellent source of information is Jobst Brandt's book, The Bicycle Wheel.
Many people believe that book is the last word on the subject.
But that won't stop me from giving my own "last words"! Here are a few more
Find a way to get your bike's wheels up off the ground, but nice and stable. Sure, a
truing stand is nice, but I did wheels for years before I got one. Like Hub says, your
frame can hold your wheels. Your brake shoes can serve as indicators.
Get comfortable, put on some meditative music, and be sure the light is good. Make
yourself a cup of tea. Relax.
Get a piece of chalk (or something similar) to help you keep track of where the wobbles
are. Spin the wheel, bring the chalk slowly closer until it just begins to mark, and work
on the worst spots first. Keep it up until it's all acceptably straight and round.
Go slow! I once had a friend who started with a wheel that was 1/8" out of true,
and ended up with a large potato chip! It was embarrassing when he took it to the bike
Be sure you know which way things are supposed to turn. (Some people think this is too
simple to mention. Other people never do get it right!) If you're looking down at the
nipples when they're at the bottom of the wheel, _counterclockwise_ tightens that spoke.
For side-to-side truing, tighten one side's spoke, and loosen the other side's an equal
amount. For radial truing (or "hop") tighten all the spokes at the high spot,
and loosen all the spokes at a low spot.
Take it slow. I rarely do more than one turn at a time. I often work in quarter turns.
Take it gradually. If (as an example) your rim is wobbling right at the valve hole,
I'll adjust the tension of the spokes right at the hole (let's call those the "12
O'Clock" spokes) by what I judge to be the proper amount. I'll adjust the adjacent
spokes (11 O'Clock and 1 O'Clock) a little less. The spokes beyond those by even less, and
so on. The out-of-trueness is gradual, so your corrections should be gradual.
Stress the spokes when you think you're done. See Sheldon's article, or just put the
axle end on the ground, and push down at each spot around the rim, listening to the pings.
Flip the wheel and do it again. Re-check your trueness.
Wheel truing is a nice skill to learn. Take it slow and you'll do fine.
Hi, I ride to work daily and just
got a Cannondale "Bad Boy", just like the "Silk Path" I believe, but
with skinny road tires. The road's a little rough here (Austin, TX) so I really like the
front end suspension and the skinny tires are so much better than my old hybrid. The bike
takes regular MTB tires too, so I got a set for trails.
My question is; When it rains the skinny (slick) tires
make me a little nervous so I've been riding the knobby MTB tires when it rains. I think
I'd be better off getting some smooth MTB size tires like Continental Avenues What do you
think? Thanks, Jerry
Smooth mtb size (26 inch rim) tires come narrow, which you apparently have, or a bit
wider. Even though your tires are "skinny," my guess, without knowing the
specific size, is that they are already fairly substantial as compared to "road"
bike tires (700c rim). Putting a larger smooth tire on would give you a tiny bit more of
road contact, but I doubt you'd notice any performance enhancement in the rain. Usually
larger tires are put on for shock absorbtion. Don't take corners fast, watch out for
slippery metal, painted lines, and oil, and remember that your braking distance increases
when riding in the rain.
I've got skinny (28 mm) slicks on my favorite bike. It's a touring bike. I can say for
sure that you don't need anything different for riding in the rain. Last time I did an
overnight tour, I did 75 miles in the rain. :-( I wasn't the happiest camper, but the bike
See, the round cross section of a bike tire is different from the flat cross section of
a car tire. The bike tire "parts the waters" and grips the ground just fine. As
long as you're sensible about cornering and braking, and as long as you're not turning on
wet steel or wet leaves, you'll be fine.
In fact, you'll probably be better off riding the skinnier tires. If anything they'll
part the water better! And you'll be way better off than if you were riding knobbies. I
hate those things on the road, both for the constant buzz and for the weird way they
corner. It's like running with thick sponges on your feet! You're disconnected from the
Road riding needs smooth tires - the smoother the better - even in the rain. Knobbies
are for dirt. Get tires fat enough to absorb the bumps and be sufficiently comfortable,
and you'll be fine.
I am looking for some
information to compare the fitness benefits of biking to other forms of fitness
exercise. Which muscle groups are adequately exercised by biking? Which are not? For a
relatively complete fitness plan what other exercise programs would best compliment
biking? I am just looking at toning and weight loss and maintenance. I am 55 year old male
in good health but about 30 pounds overweight. I Purchased a mountain bike a few days ago.
Mostly street riding but I bought it over the road bike because of strength and
durability. ( I am 6'1" and 230 lbs.) Thanks, Dan.
Bicycling works the legs, so you might consider activities that use your upper body
more. Swimming, weight training, and rowing all use your upper half more than does
bicycling. You could do body weight calisthenics like pushups and pullups at home to cover
most of your upper body needs. Choose activities you like, and mix it up.
I think the only one Hub left out was cross-country skiing. It's great for all-around
fitness, including the upper body. Of course, that means moving to the southern hemisphere
about March, and not coming back until November or so!
Hmmm. Maybe swimming is good enough? ;-)
Do you know of plans to build a
trailer so I can take extra camping gear along on my bike trips? Thank you,
A number of different bicycle trailers are available retail, and you could examine
these for features you like and make your own Frankenstein trailer by copying the best
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? You can certainly imitate some of
the trailers that are out there.
But there is an obscure book about building bike trailers. It's almost certainly out of
print, but perhaps you can find it through a library or used book store. Look for _The
Cart Book with Plans & Projects_ by William L. Sullivan, TAB Books, c. 1983, ISBN
0-8306-0512-6 (or for paperback, 0-8306-1512-1). It's got hundreds of photos of bike
trailers, and plans for quite a few. Even if the plans aren't exactly what you need,
they'll be good for inspiration.
There's also a web
site I just came across with some nice photos of a homemade bike trailer, and links to
lots of commercial trailers.
I've known people who have built their own bike trailers. If you're handy with tools,
you should be able to put something together. Good luck!
I live in Los Angeles and would
like to ride more. However, there is a lot of commuter traffic during the week on all the
major and side streets. Drivers do not seem to pay attention and I am concerned about
accidents. I have heard, but am unable to confirm that in Los Angeles and in California,
it is legal to ride on the sidewalk as long as the pedestrian traffic is nonexsistent,
light or if you ride in a safe and sane manner. Is this correct? If you guys do not know,
perhaps you can point me in the right direction....thanks
The bicycling and pedestrian "coordinator" for California is
email@example.com; 916-653-2750; Fax 916-654-2409
He should be able to help more definitively or give you the contact of a more
appropriate LA person. The legality of sidewalk riding is often a local issue.
Whether riding on the sidewalk is legal or illegal is really a moot point. Even if it
is illegal, violations are not likely to be enforced.
Riding on the sidewalk is riskier than it seems, the main hazards being at driveways
and intersections. There's a reason they are called "sideWALKS!"
I've ridden in LA, but only a little. I couldn't possibly know what your particular
roads are like.
And yet, I've gotta say, I think the odds are you're needlessly worried. It may seem
that drivers don't pay attention, but unless you're riding at night without lights (and
you wouldn't, right?), a bicyclist is very visible on the road. You will be seen. If you
ride correctly, following all the traffic laws, you're very, very unlikely to get in
Taking to the sidewalk can hurt more than it helps. There have been several good
studies of bike safety that showed that sidewalks are much more dangerous than roads!
Why would that be? You're away from the cars, right? Actually, wrong! Crashes between
cars and bikes happen almost entirely where their paths cross, not where cars merely drive
past bikes. And when you're on a sidewalk, cars might cross your path at
each and every driveway! Worse than that, when the driver pulls into or out of a driveway,
he's certainly not going to expect a cyclist to come blasting down the sidewalk. You're
going to be quite a surprise to him!
Yeah, I know - you won't be "blasting", you'll only be going about 12 mph.
But "blasting" is the word the driver will use when he describes your riding
style to the cops after the accident. And chances are good they'll believe him when they
write you a ticket for illegally riding on the sidewalk.
Sorry, I know this isn't what you want to hear. But unless you've got some really
unusual situation, it's going to be safer to take your proper place on the road. If you do
ride on the sidewalk (assuming it is legal), you'd better keep your speed slow, slow,
slow! That is, like walking speed!
But let me give you a little encouragement. I can remember when I felt really
"safe" only on the quietest roads. There were lots of roads I knew I would never
ride, because they were just too busy.
But gradually, I found myself on slightly busier roads, just for a block or two,
because I needed to be there to connect to the next quiet road. I had read about riding in
traffic, so I followed the rules, and I found it was fine. Drivers treated me well, and I
had no real problems, except for being a little nervous for that block or two.
It took a while - a few years, in fact - but eventually I realized I was riding my bike
everywhere, including those roads I knew I'd never ride! I'd gotten more skilled and more
confident, and - not to brag - I turned into an expert. I've since ridden my bike in busy
cities and suburbs, in heavy traffic, in all kinds of conditions, and had lots of fun
doing it. And doing it has never, ever caused me to have an accident.
You can do it too. I recommend reading our "Safety Skills" section here in
Bicycling Life. I also recommend taking a cycling course (see www.bikeleague.org for
Again, I know that's not what you wanted to hear - but it's the truth! Bicycling is
really very safe. If you look around, you'll probably see a few cyclists riding the very
roads you fear. And if you learn what you're doing and build up gradually, you can do it
Crank and Hub:
My wife and I would like to get a pair of bikes for
recreational/fitness use---something that can handle child seats on the back or hauling a
trailer. We don't want extreme mountain bikes, as we don't plan on being off road, but we
also don't want the thin-tire road bikes. We'd like a well-built, entry-level, versatile
bike primarily for the road, but with the ability to deal with an occasional gravel or
dirt road---and also for an occasional commute through city traffic.
The choices in bikes are overwhelming these days. The hybrid with
the 700c wheels looked good. What would you recommend? What are considered the
better-quality brands? Thanks, David R.
A 700 wheeled hybrid seems like it would fit your needs. Keep in mind that hybrids are
on a continuum with mt. bikes and road racing bikes at either end. Where a hybrid is on
the continuum is a function of the make and model.
When choosing a bike, give more thought to the specific features you want rather than
worrying about which brand is better. Also, you should be comfortable with the shop you
are buying from. Finally, realize that certain parts are easily replaceable and have a
great impact. These include tires and saddle.
It seems daunting, but when you break it down, it's not so bad. In fact,
it's supposed to
Here's a secret about bikes, David: as long as you stay away from the
multi-thousand-dollar ones, most bikes are pretty versatile.
By that, I mean: a touring bike can pull a trailer. A road bike can handle occasional
gravel or dirt roads. A mountain bike can be used for commuting. Changing the tires may be
all that's needed, and many times even that's unnecessary. Yes, it's heresy, but there it
So you can relax a bit. I agree that for the riding style you describe, a 700c hybrid
will do fine. So would a non-suspended mountain bike, if fitted with smooth tires. So
would a touring bike, if you like drop handlebars. But the hybrid sounds best to me.
As Hub says, the shop is more important than the brand. Getting a good fit on the bike
is paramount, and (especially for beginners) getting a saddle that fits your anatomy is
critical, too. A good shop will help with both of these issues. Unfortunately, a bad shop
may try to push whatever they have in stock, even if it doesn't fit your needs or your
anatomy. I think it's best to ask cyclists in your area about bike shops, and go with one
that's considered competent.
By the way, Bicycling magazine does an annual buyer's guide issue. Check your library.
Refer to it for some general tips, and to familiarize yourself with brand names. But
remember that princess with the pea under the mattress? Bicycling editors can put her to
shame! They can detect the difference in frame stiffness that comes with an extra coat of
... or they pretend they can! Read it for general advice, not so much for specifics.
What kind (brand) of pressure gage
should I buy. I run 120 p.s.i. And also what brand of spoke wrenches are best, I use
a dial indicator to get my wheels very true. Runnin'Bikin'Bill
What is wrong with the guage that you are using? Do you have reason to believe that the
120 psi reading is inaccurate?
Many different floor pumps are available with built on pressure indicators. But
Consumer Reports hasn't evaluated them, so you might just flip a coin.
Spoke wrenches also come in different designs. They all do the same thing, that is,
turn the spoke nipple. Get the proper size. If adjusting many wheels, you might make sure
it feels good in your hand.
I don't know of any quality rating for tire gages, either. Try several in a bike store.
Don't buy one that reads different than the others.
About spoke wrenches: the most important thing is to get one that fits the nipple size
on your wheels. You might consider one that fits multiple sizes, especially if you plan to
do lots of different bikes, of if you're not sure what size you need.
I'm about to buy one from Nashbar (www.nashbar.com) that they claim will grip all four
sides of the spoke nipple. Seems to me that there will be less chance of rounding the
nipples with such a tool. But then, maybe I'm just a sucker for good advertising!
What types/brands of pedals and shoes
are best for fitness and touring if I don't want to go clipless?
MKS makes several models of pedals ranging from cage type to platform type. They can be
used with clips and straps. There are also several makes of downhill pedal that may suit
The shoe should be matched for the type pedal, and can range from plain sneakers to
BMX/skate shoes, to a few models of commuting/touring shoes, or even mt. bike shoes. Much
depends on the specific combination. The softer the sole of the shoe, the more your foot
will feel the pedal. If you use clips and straps, the bulkiness and tread pattern of the
shoe will play a big role in getting your foot in and out.
My personal preference would be platform pedals. Traditional road pedals tend to have
your shoe pressing on the edge of the cage. Unless the shoes have a pretty rigid sole,
that can dig into your foot after a while. Platform pedals spread the load more
I'd try for a pair of shoes that the manufacturer describes as "touring" or
"ATB" shoes, but inspect them carefully. Soles that look like tractor tires
aren't necessary, and those lugs might make it harder to get your feet out of the clips.
And in my opinion, you ought to be able to walk without having to prance around like a
ballerina. So, get something that looks like a more-or-less regular shoe. It'll probably
be "SPD compatible", but you won't be cutting that rubber window out of the
sole, so it won't matter much.
Brands? There are lots of them. It's more a case of what fits your foot. Why not just
bike down to the local shop and see what they carry?
Hello, I have a Bridgestone 400 from
the mid 80's in great shape, suntour arx deraillers and the bike is wonderful, I just
started riding again after 25 years, and I am having a blast..
I was wondering if it's smart, and feasable to upgrade the
shifting mechanisms and deraillers to the newer style brake lever type?
Something middle of the road, I am not entering the Tour,(yet). Is it worth
doing? I really can't afford a new bike of the same quality. I know I would have to
get a new "cassette" also how much am I looking to spend? Dee.
It's doable, but at considerable effort. Also, since you are enjoying your riding, I
don't think any minor "advantage" gained by more convenient shifting will make a
measurable increase in your enjoyment. My advice would be to put disposable bike fun money
into accessories you may like.
When Hub says "doable ... at considerable effort" - well, let's see: new
derailleurs, new cogs, new chain, new cables, new brake/shifter levers, at least. Maybe
new rear hub, and so new rear wheel, and I'd plan on considerable mechanic time too. I'd
guess $200 wouldn't be considered unreasonable.
Except that spending $200 to do that would be unreasonable! I like the words of cycling
guru John Schubert. He said he found the advantages of index shifting to be
"underwhelming". The system you've got now is actually lighter, much simpler,
and probably more reliable. Save yer money, says I.
On the back of a sunray derailler,
does the top screw bring the derailler in or out? Thank you for your help.
There are two adjusting screws that set the limit of derailleur movement at the large
cog and small cog. The screw for the large cog is usually upper or farthest to rear. This
is easy to try for yourself though. Boldly go where many have gone before!
Trial and error can be fun!
How is it possible to tell when the
wheel rim is getting dangerously thin. I have heard somewhere that if it is too thin you
will see grooves in the metal, is this true?
Depending upon how much braking is done and under what conditions, rim sidewalls do
eventually wear thin. Many new rims have a machined braking surface, in effect creating a
partially worn rim before it even gets used. I would imagine on a long descent in the mud
on a downhill mt. bike, wear could be quite rapid.
I suppose the only fool proof way to measure rim wear would be to measure, with
calipers, the thickness when the rim is new, and then monitor its thickness as it ages.
This would require periodic removal of the tire and tube. But it still wouldn't tell you
how thin you could safely go, and neither could I. My guess is 0.5mm would be the lower
limit. I would recommend replacing the wheels well before it got to soda can thickness
I've been on an off-road ride when someone's rim failed from wearing too thin. The side
of the rim just peeled off from tire pressure, producing a loud "BANG" and a
thin aluminum hula-hoop. Good thing we were going slow!
You'll probably see grooves long before this happens. Here's the usual cause: tiny bits
of dirt or stone stick in the rubber pads. These are harder than the aluminum rim, and
will plow a groove. But it can take a long time before this is a problem. My commuting
bike has had grooves like that for years, and its rims are still fine at 100 psi, even
though they're over 15 years old! Of course, I clean out those bits of stone soon after I
hear their scraping sound.
Based on my experience, I'd say if you're on a road bike, just don't worry about it. If
you ride off-road a lot, if you brake hard on steep downhills (especially in mud) and if
your rims have lots of miles on them, then get out the micrometer like Hub says. But
personally, I'd start getting worried at about 0.050", which is a lot thicker than
Additional comment: You will often feel uneven braking well before wheel failure.
The brakes will grab at one point in the wheel revolution. Close inspection may
reveal some deformation or circumfrential cracks in the area where the brakes grab.
Hello, would like to turn my old
road bike into a commuter. Now that it sports 700x28c tires, there is very little
clearance between the tire and the top of the fork/stay/break arms. What fender system
would you recommend? I don't particularly like the fenders that attach to your down tube
and seat post. Which system requires the least clearance? Thanks for your help.
Don't know which system requires the least clearance, but my understanding is that Esge
are the fenders of choice. Well made, light, and good looking gets them there.
Tire clearance to frame parts using decent size tires with fenders is a subject near
and dear to the folks at www.rivendellbicycles.com. They also shriek about the inability
to get fenders under modern brake calipers.
Dan, I agree with you that the ones that attach to downtube and seatpost are pretty
useless. Sure, they'd work if you could train the mud and water to hit them, but that junk
always wants to go elsewhere!
In my opinion, the only fenders to consider are regular full-coverage ones, and I agree
with Hub that Esge are the best. I think they still call their top-of-the-line ones
"Chromoplast". These are the metal-reinforced plastic.
But I'd be sure the front fenders had _two_ wire stays on each side. One set of Esges I
had came with only one per side. They eventually cracked where the second wire would
normally attach. Now I admit, I kind of abused that fender, and the replacement came with
two wires - but it's something to check.
Rivendell has Esge fenders.
Somewhere (maybe one of their catalogs?) they have an article about how to fit fenders.
They're big on using wire ties (those little plastic strap things) instead of nuts and
bolts. If I remember right, they drill holes in the fender and wire-tie it directly to the
rear brake bridge, the front fork, etc. Sounds kind of funky to me, but it might give you
another eighth of an inch clearance.
Other tricks to get clearance: First, don't be afraid to bend the metal attachments on
the fenders. I've even custom-made my own for odd situations. Second, I've used a heat gun
(or very, very carefully, a propane torch) to warm up the plastic and mold it to squeeze
into tight spaces.
Here's wishing you good riding and dry feet!
I am just getting back into cycling
again after quite a few years of inactivity. I still have my two road bikes but feel
that a mountain bike would be safer now with the huge amounts of traffic on
the roads. Is it better to spend say $700 on a new bike, of would a much cheaper one
be ok to start with. Also the mountain bikes I have looked at so far are all a great
deal heavier than my old road bikes. Does this make the mountain bike harder to
ride? Any comments and advice would be appreciated thank you. Kevin
I'm a little confused (but that's not unusual). Do you think a mt. bike would be safer
on the road than a road bike, or do you plan on riding off road?
What kind of bike you ride on the road should have no bearing on your safety or lack
thereof in motor traffic. That is a function of how you ride a bike. Learn a little about
vehicular cycling, and how to avoid the likely risks, and you should not have much to
worry about. Scan BicyclingLife for sage advice.
Whatever you ride on the road/hard surface, use smooth tires. They handle much better
than knobbies and are more efficient, so you go faster more easily.
If you plan to ride on dirt surfaces, you may or may not want/need to use knobby tires,
depending upon the specific circumstances. Mt. bikes can be fit with smooth tires. The
added weight of a mt bike is a detraction when climbing, but would not be much of a factor
on the level.
How much you should spend is a hard question for me to answer. Remember too, that
accessories like shoes, clothing, tools, etc. can add up.
Hey diddle, diddle
The bicycle riddle--
The strangest part of the deal.
Just keep your accounts
And add the amounts
The 'sundries' cost more than the wheel.
- Anonymous 1896 poem
I think the best advice is to by a bike you like from a shop you like, and actually
ride it. A bike not ridden is like a dream deferred, and almost as bad as spilling a beer.
Kevin, if I were you, I'd look into resurrecting your old bikes before doing anything
else. Of course, that's assuming they were decent quality bikes to begin with. I agree
with Hub about "a bike not ridden". The way I see it, you've got two of those
Safety? First, keep in mind that bicycling IS safe, despite the dire warnings given out
by certain people. You're actually safer biking an hour than driving or walking an hour
(at least, near traffic). Nothing has happened in the last 15 years to change that.
Second, I don't believe switching to a different type of bike is going to have much
effect on safety anyway. If you want to make yourself much safer than average on a bike,
just be sure to ride properly.
The best way to learn proper riding, by the way, is to take a Bike Ed class offered
through the League
of American Bicyclists. The money you spend on a bike ed course will add much more to
your safety (and fun!) than a new bike will.
The _only_ safety benefit I can see to a mountain bike is that the thicker tires may be
slightly more resistant to flats. But really, that's a matter of convenience - or more
accurately, balancing the possibility of fewer flats against the certainty of harder
pedaling on a mountain bike.
What Hub didn't say about mountain bikes is that they _are_ slower. The weight hurts
some on uphills, but the wind resistance and rolling resistance are worse even on the
level. I've known guys that started serious road riding on mountain bikes, thinking it
wouldn't make much difference. Then they switched, and literally grinned ear-to-ear about
how easy the road bike rolled!
About the price of a new bike - it's certainly true that cheaper bikes are better than
they used to be. Still, I'm worried about going "_much_ cheaper". If you get
into an $89 discount-store special, you'll be guaranteed many hours of woe. If you do
decide to buy a bike, spend time visiting bike shops and talking. If you buy from a decent
shop, you should be able to find a bargain that will actually work well and last a long