Saturday, May 12, 2012

Slowing Down or Speeding Up to 3-3 Gear

My bike, parked at MMU.  Yes, that big rear gear is, these days, my start-up gear.  I'm using a slower gear, but I hope I'm riding faster.

I’m slowing down and, I hope, speeding up.

I’m never going to be one of the faster bikers on the road.  Too many young gazelles with good road bikes are out there—I’m a big, pokey, slow, old man on a hybrid bike not built or meant for speed (and I’m talking about both the bike and I).

I’m looking forward, a bit over a week from now, when this frantic spring semester has finally ended and I can get into to some serious RAGBRAI training, to more riding.  I feel that I was riding more last year, but I was more in fear of RAGBRAI then, too.  Still, last year’s ride definitely convinced me that that I can’t over-prepare, and I’ll be serious soon about getting in lots and lots of miles.

But my gearing has changed.  A year or so after I bought my current bike, when leaving the bike shop where I had some service done, the mechanic mentioned that he had seem me ride off in the wrong gear.  I usually used the fastest gear as my default one—old, bad habit from my youth, and he said to me that starting in that gear was harder on both me and my bike.

I think of that gear as 1-7—largest cog (1) in front, smallest cog (7) in back.  After thinking about it, I decided he knew bikes better than I did, and so I dedicated myself to using 2-5 as my start-up gear.

And I am sure he was right.  It was much more relaxing to begin in that gear.

This year, I got a new chain, and once that was installed, my rear derailleur didn’t want to start in 5—it “chunked” in that gear, so I began to start in 3-4 rather than 2-5.  Lately, I’ve switched to 3-3.

I noticed last year on RAGBRAI that many bikers who passed me were using gear 3 or 4 in the rear—they were rarely in “fast” gear.  Their leg speed was simply faster than mine.

Now, again, I can’t and don’t want to treat RAGBRAI as a race.  At my age and condition, that would just be setting me up for stress and depression.  Still, I’m lowering my gear.

Am I upping my speed?  Don’t know for sure—my on-again, off-again computer is “off,” for now.  I feel a bit faster, but then again, old ladies still frequently pass me on trail.

Well, we’ll see.  Life in 3-3 seems to suit me just fine.


  1. I was always told that if your cadence is less than 60, you're in too high of a gear. I generally aim for something a little north of 80.

    1. Hi Jon, forgive my ignorance. Is that 80 360 degree turns of your feet in a minute?