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Cycle Speak FAQ


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?

Thanks, Gene

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.

Thanks, Judy 

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 either. Sorry!

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.

Sincerely Frank

Hi Frank,

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?

Thanks, Marianne

Hi Marianne,

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 miles!

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.

Good luck!



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!

- Crank


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 different  sicknesses).

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.

- Hub

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!

- Crank


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.

- Hub

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.

- Crank


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 Cycling.

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.

- Hub

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, and rec.bicycles.misc.

- Crank


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 millimeters.

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!

- Crank


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 "accidents."



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!

- Hub

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 they are!

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!

- Crank


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 orange.

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 safety studiers.

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

Hi 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.

- Hub

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, and e-mail Sheldon Brown? He's an expert on these things, and he can sell you one.

- Crank


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, Yvonne.


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.

- Hub

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 lights.

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!

- Crank


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 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.

- Hub

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!

- Crank

Editors Note:  The Autobike company has folded, abandoning millions of bike owners.


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 advice. 

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 difference.

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.

- Hub

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 saddle.

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 don't.

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!

- Crank


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 information? Tom.

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.

- Hub

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. or 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 an annoyance.

- Crank


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

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!

- Crank


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.

- Hub

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 tips:

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 shop.

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.

- Crank


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.

- Hub

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 did fine.

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 ground.

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.

- Crank


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.

- Hub

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? ;-)

- Crank


Do you know of plans to build a trailer so I can take extra camping gear along on my bike trips?  Thank you,   Bill. 

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 elements.

- Hub

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!

- Crank


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; 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!"

- Hub

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 trouble.

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 for info).

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 too.

- Crank


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 be fun.

- Hub

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 is!

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 paint!

... or they pretend they can! Read it for general advice, not so much for specifics. Happy hunting!

- Crank


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.

- Hub

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 ( 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!

- Crank


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 you.

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.

- Hub

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 comfortably.

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?

- Crank


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.

- Hub

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.

- Crank


On the back of a sunray derailler, does the top screw bring the derailler in or out?  Thank you for your help.   Stan.


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!

- Hub

Trial and error can be fun!

- Crank


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 though!

- Hub

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 0.5 mm!

- Crank

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.    Dan.


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 They also shriek about the inability to get fenders under modern brake calipers.

- Hub

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!

- Crank



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.

- Hub

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 now!

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 time.

- Crank





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