Friday, February 13, 2009

Form and Gear Ratios

When a pro cyclist says they're lacking form, what they mean is that they're not on top of their game. They're not riding well.

I am currently off form.

My legs hurt. I have no speed. The hills I once loved are now taunting me and calling me names. I'm just grinding it out.

I've also put my new bike on the road a fixed gear Surly Cross-Check. It's supposed to be my foul weather bike. It's fully-fendered. It's more mercifully geared than my "fast" bike, a Bianchi Pista. The Cross-Check is set up with a 44x17 gearing. The Pista is 48x16. The Cross-Check gearing produces 69.9 gear inches, or a pretty easy pedal with not much top end unless you can spin comfortably over a 120 cadence. The Pista on the other hand produces 81 gear inches, which is more of an entry level track set up, bigger top end, not at all meant for climbing.

On the road, there are even more differences. The Pista is fast, but it's hard to stop. It's very difficult to skid a 48x16 gearing, like the cool kids do on their bike videos, so this bike is set up with a brake. The Cross-Check is much, much easier to control. It's easier to get it rolling and easier to slow it down. It climbs well. It's just not all that fast, which is frustrating when you want (or need) to go fast.

I'm having, that's not right...I'm taking time to adjust to the differences between the two bikes. And I have all these gut reactions like, I should go to a 44x15 on the Cross Check to make it faster, or I should stick a 17 on the back of the Pista to make it just a little easier to stop. The hardest part is resisting all these urges and riding each bike enough to understand the real differences and know whether or not any changes are necessary at all.

There are also pretty significant geometric differences between the two, so they fit me completely differently, and I'm wrestling with that too.

This is the process of "dialing in." It is long and filled with missteps, and yet it is, ultimately, part of the enjoyment of building and riding bikes.

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