Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two Teeth Forward, One Tooth Back?

Despite my infatuation with fixed-gear bicycles, I don't know much about bicycle mechanics. I distinctly remember meeting a dude outside of Brooklyn Bike and Board who rode a celeste Bianchi Pista Concept with a BMX stem that looked like a Lego piece. He asked me about my gearing and I told him I rode a 48/15. "Wha??" he couldn't believe it, he said, because he rode a much easier gear.

My bicycle is mostly stock - I go on bike spending binges and envision myself outfitting my ride with deep black rims and personalized decals, and then I acknowledge the futility of it and I sober up for a few good months at a time. Recently, I decided to change my cog because it will give me an easier ride and it's a lot cheaper to change a cog than a chainring. I've visited Sheldon Brown's fixed-gear calculator, but I'm a writing major so I pretty much just gloss over numbers (which may explain my bank account). My rudimentary understanding is this: the harder the gear, the more ground you cover with each rotation (?) and the harder it is to start pedaling from a full stop and...the more you feel like an old lady because your knee caps start hurting. There are many, many bike tutorials on the topic of gear ratios, gear inches and Sheldon Brown's gain ratio. From a more practical and less geeky perspective, you can talk about fixed-gear ratios all you want, but the reality is: you have to get out there and try 'em. The ratio on my mini Fuji (48/15) was the stock setup, and I opted for something easier - a 17t cog.

I've been riding the 17t cog through the sticky summer days and mostly enjoying myself. The first few rides made me feel silly and I felt like I was spinning out of control on the downhills - perhaps 16t may have been a better and less dramatic choice. However, for feeling less like an old lady: 17t is smooth and easy. I would recommend it to strategic bike forum writers as the "summer fun gear."

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