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Throughout this document I assume the transportational cyclist does not use a "road bike", meaning a bike designed primarily for speed. The reason is that unless one spends four figures, the necessary durability will not be there. In the 70's and 80's one could buy cheap and durable road bikes from Schwinn, Fuji and other manufacturers, but those days are gone.
Likewise, I assume the transportational cyclist does not use a "comfort bike", which is one of those albatrosses designed so the handlebars come up pretty much to the rider's chin. Such a configuration might be comfortable for 5 miles, but on longer rides it's both uncomfortable and slow.
Throughout this document I generally assume the transportational cyclist uses either a "mountain bike" modified to include road features such as smooth tires and a 48 tooth large front sprocket, or a "hybrid bike" sporting a mountain bike like geometry but 27x11/4 smooth tires for a better experience on pavement.
That being said, the principles enumerated in this document are valid, no matter what kind of bike you start with.
||As an overweight rider who
pushes heavy gears, I start to wear out a Shimano IG-50 chain in about
300 miles. At 600 miles, if I don't replace the chain, it will
start grinding down the rear sprockets, necessitating their
replacement. The problem is the new chain designs that encourage smooth
shifting, but also encourage chain stretch. Modern derailleur chains
look something like this:
Notice that the outer links are curved outward. The strength of this chain is limited by the resistance to bending of those curves, instead of the tensile strength of the metal itself. The bends start straightening, so the chain stretches quickly, and when it does, it begins to wear down your gears, especially the smaller gears on your rear cog.
Derailleur chains from the 1970's looked like this:
Such "straight line" chains stretched only when the materials themselves stretched -- a very slow process. In the 1970's and 1980's I routinely got over a thousand miles on a chain -- sometimes a lot more, and back then I wasn't diligent about chain lubrication.
To maximize the durability of your chain, clean and lubricate it often.
||The geometry of a bike dictates
that about 2/3 of the rider's weight falls on the rear wheel. If the
rider is 150 lbs, the rear wheel supports 100 lbs. A 240 lb rider would
put 160 lbs on the rear wheel. But wait -- there's more -- most heavy
luggage is carried on racks, rack mounted baskets, or rack mounted
saddlebags over the rear wheel. With typical geometry, every ounce of
rack mounted luggage is supported by the rear wheel.
As if that weren't bad enough, it's harder for the rider to protect the rear wheel. When jumping a curb, the rider can easily push down on a pedal, yank up on the handlebars, making the front wheel completely clear the curb. Unless the rider is skilled at stunts and is not carrying rear luggage, the best he can do to protect the rear wheel is to stand on the pedals with his legs bent, and try to have his legs take the impact instead of the rear wheel.
To maximize durability of the rear wheel, do this:
||Tire performance has massively
improved over the last 40 years. In 1965 only a super skinny sew-up
tire could hold 100 pounds per square inch. In 1973 they introduced 90
psi clinchers (non-sew-ups) in the 27x11/8
form factor, but
wider tires (26x13/8) were still
around the 60 psi, with
baloon tire bikes down around 35 psi. Today my rear tire is a 26x1.50
Specialized Nimbus Armadillo sporting a 100 psi max.
Unfortunately, tire durability hasn't kept up with tire performance. I've had many tires blow out after less than 500 miles. And because we have more junk on the roadway than in prior years, punctures abound.
If you ride 26" wheels, I strongly recommend Specialized Nimbus Armadillo tires. Yes, they cost $30.00 apiece, but they're worth it. You can ride them with as much as their rated maximum of 100 psi (counterproductive on anything but the smoothest roads), or as little as 60 psi (maybe less, but I've never tried it). They have built in armor protection to prevent punctures from all but the nastiest road hazards. Their smooth tread is fast.
On your front wheel you might be able to fake it with a Wal-Mart $9.00 special, but do yourself a favor -- put a Specialized Nimbus Armadillo tire on your 26" rear wheel.
|Frame||When I started riding in the
late 1960's, all the way through the 1980's, most frames were durable
enough to handle anything except a bad crash. In the early 1970's, a
guy car-doored me while I was whipping down Chicago's Clark Street at
20mph. The impact knocked his door off the hinges. Damage to my Schwinn
-- the front wheel pretzelled and everything else was perfect. They
made frames tough back then.
Then they started making bikes with thinner tubing. The stated reason was to make the bikes lighter, but I think it was to save money. I recently had a brand new, brand name bike frame rust through in just three years.
Shock absorbers are another problem area. Just like their cousins on cars, these wear out long before the frame, but are very expensive to replace.
The bottom line is that when you budget for a new bike, do not expect the frame to last 10,000 miles like frames of yore. This is especially true if you pay less than $800.00 for the bike. Don't use 10,000 miles in your calculations of how much to spend -- you just might get only half of that.
Another option is to consider using an old frame. They're being thrown out all the time, and even if you don't find one in the dumpster, you can buy old bikes cheap. This requires A LOT more work on your part, especially due to the lack of part interchangability in the last 10 years, but if you get overly frustrated with having the frame of a $300.00 bike go bad after only 3 years, old bikes should enter into your calculations.
Old or new, to enhance frame durability, clean your bike's tubing every ride or every few rides, maybe using wax. Try to prevent scratches, and touch them up when you get them. This is not aesthetics -- it's corrosion protection on modern frames that aren't much thicker than a tin can. Try not to crash.
|This is a traditional frame.
The top tube is parallel to the ground, so by definition the bottom of
the seat post and the bottom of the handlebar stem are the same height.
If you raise the seat post 4 inches and raise the handlebars 2 inches,
you have a nice racing position with drop bars. Or if you prefer
straight bars, don't raise the handlebars at all, and you'll still have
a reasonably down and forward riding position suitable for fast city
Traditional frames are no longer available except in used bikes, expensive "road bikes" and special orders.
|This is the modern,
ubiquitous compact frame. Here the seat tube is shortened, resulting in
the top tube sloping back toward the seat tube. In order to achieve the
correct leg extension with this shortened seat tube, you'll need to
jack up the seat post. A lot. Maybe as much as an extra foot.
The trouble with that is seat posts are not as strong as frame tubes, nor are they supported by the entire frame structure. They bend. Bend them enough and they'll break. If you can get a long seat post that is both heavy duty and fits your frame, it will probably cost $30.00.
|If you can't raise the
seatpost, why not just get a bigger frame? To the left is a larger
compact frame. Notice that the bottom of the handlebar stem is much
higher than the bottom of the seat post. This means even if you lower
the handlebar stem all the way, your handlebars will still be much too
high. This is tolerable for the person who takes a 2 mile cruise once a
month, but it's intolerable for the city commuter with schedules to
keep, and it's obviously intolerable for the cross country rider who
must ride 8 hours a day and make some significant mileage.
Brand new wheels are adjusted tight, because in the first 50 miles they'll loosen up. If a new wheel seems a little too tight, don't adjust it, but instead ride it 50 miles or so.
Similarly, after rebuilding/repacking a hub, set it a little too tight, as over the first few miles it will loosen up.
If an overly hub tight makes grinding sounds or doesn't loosen up in 50 miles, feel free to loosen it a little.
Doing the wrong thing while performing brake maintenance can kill or cripple you. For instance, if you were to forget to tighten the front brake where it attaches to the frame, it could come loose at 30 MPH, catch in your front wheel's spokes, and flip your bike, landing you on your head and breaking your neck. If you didn't tighten the brake cable enough, or didn't notice that it became frayed, it could fail you just before coming to a stop sign where cross traffic goes 60MPH.
When your brakes were assembled at the factory, a thread locking compound was used. I suggest you use a thread locking compound when you refurbish your brakes, even though doing so makes future disassembly more difficult.
Unless you feel confident in repairing your brakes, why not let a good bike shop do it.
Before someone points it out to me, I'm aware that the preceding analysis is based only on weight. A stiffer frame, stiffer wheels and quality chain mean more of my power actually gets to the road, especially when accellerating. Better tires mean less tire drag. More gears mean a more efficient matching of my legs to the job at hand. But above 15 MPH, all these factors will be less than the main factor, wind resistance. My 3 speed's riding position was low and forward.
|This is a side pull brake. I
hate them because all but the best are very difficult to center and
keep centered. All but the best of them have limited braking power.
The side pull has one pivot in the middle, and each of its arms extend out such that when the brake lever pulls cable, the cable and housing move toward each other, bringing the brake pads together.
These were popular on cheap bikes of the 60's and 70's. Somewhere in the late 70's someone decided that because sidepulls were lighter than centerpulls, the best bikes should have sidepulls, and all of a sudden they switched places so that sidepulls came on the top of the line road bikes, centerpulls came on midpriced ($200) road bikes, and bargain store bikes continued to have cheapo stamped steel side pulls.
Throughout the years a few sidepulls have had added features, especially multiple pivots to help with centering. The 1970's "Altenberger Synchron" and some current Shimano sidepulls are examples.
Side pulls do not need special pivot attachments on the fork blades.
|This is the centerpull brake.
It has a mounting plate that mounts to the center hole in the fork.
Each brake arm mounts to the mounting plate, and each arm is pulled by
a transverse cable, which in turn is pulled by a triangular "yoke"
pulled by the brake cable.
In theory this looks inefficient. The transverse cable stretches when pulled, reducing braking efficiency. The two pivots connecting the arms to the mounting plate spread under tension, again reducing braking efficiency.
Nevertheless, these are good brakes, easily centered and lubricated, and capable of fairly powerful braking. The Weinmann brand centerpulls had a little red button to keep the arms synchronized, so return to center was assured. If one used thick cables and connected the front of the two pivots with a thin strip of metal to prevent spread, a Weinmann front centerpull could easily stand the bike up, and could stop efficiently with wet rims.
With the advent of forkarm mounted brakes (V brakes, etc) and the demise of the midpriced ($200) road bike, center pull brakes ceased to be used. They are, however, quite available on dumpstered bikes from the 70's and 80's.
Center pulls do not need special pivot attachments on the fork blades. If you have a bicycle whose fork doesn't have pivots, try mounting a centerpull. If the brakepads don't reach the rim, you might consider replacing the 26" wheel with a 27" in order to move the rim up. 27" wheels are widely available on old dumpster bikes and garage sale special. Remember that front wheels don't need to be as heavy duty as rear wheels.
|These are cantilever brakes,
sometimes known as "mountain bike
brakes". The brake arms are bolted to pivots built into the fork
blades. The fork blades bend much less than the pivots on center pulls,
so there's more braking efficiency. Unfortunately, these brakes use the
stretchy transverse cable that centerpulls use. These are centered
using little tension screws, so it's fairly easy.
These are reasonably good brakes that stop about as well as the cheaper center pulls of the 70's and 80's, and much better than most side pulls.
These brakes can only be used on forks with pivots in the right place, or on shock absorber forks with special mounting hardware.
|These are V brakes. I'd like
to shake the hand of the man or woman who invented them, because
they're simple, minimize brake cable stretch, have amazing braking
power, and thanks to spring/screw adjustments, center fairly well.
The cable and housing come in from the side, where the housing is stopped by a thin stainless steel tube with a teflon sleeve inside. The steel tube is curved 90 degrees so that cable pull is horizontal. The steel tube is stopped by a bracket mounted on the left (in this picture) arm, and the cable extends to a bolt on the other arm. When the brakes are applied, the housing and steel tubing push in on the left, while the cable pulls in on the right. The brakepads squeeze together like a nutcracker.
These brakes can only be used on forks with pivots in the right place, or on shock absorber forks with special mounting hardware.
V brakes have a very high mechanical advantage, so they must be set very close to the rim, so they must be used with true wheels. Also, some cheapo V brakes have so much pivot friction that, no matter how you adjust them, they never return to the same position twice, making them uncenterable. My Son's former Roadmaster Mt. Sport and my Daughter's current Mt. Sport have uncenterable V brakes, and I will soon replace my daughters brakes with V brakes cannibalized from a high end polo bike.
The techniques listed in this article are techniques I've used with at least some success to ward off dogs. Every one of these techniques is dangerous -- some more than others. For that matter, dogs are dangerous. I take no responsibility for the outcome should you try one of these techniques. If that is not acceptable to you, do not read this material.
|A swift kick in the jaw
||I've found this to be effective
on most dogs. Your kick lands, you hear the dog's mouth snap shut, and
somehow the dog finds other things to be interested in. If you're going
to kick a dog, you must kick him very hard and very fast, or he'll bite
your foot. He might bite your foot anyway. You could easily lose
control of your bike during this maneuver.
||This works great on downhills or
with a strong tailwind. Sure, a dog can run 30mph, but not very
long. Typically, when he gets a couple hundred feet in beyond his
property line, he figures he showed you who was boss and goes on to
whatever dogs do when they're not chasing bike riders. Unfortunately,
the excessive speed you attain outrunning the dog is sometimes more
dangerous than the dog itself.
||Back in the 1970's I bought some
mace to spray at dogs when they attacked. Sometimes it worked, if I
sprayed it just right. Sometimes it drifted back and hit me. Sometimes
it missed and the dog kept attacking. It's not worth it.
||In my humble opinion, this is
the best way to deal with dogs. Not perfect, not entirely safe, but the
best there is. In my opinion.
The dog runs toward me. I pull my water bottle out with whichever hand is closest to the dog. I keep riding, and wait until he's less than a foot from my ankle. Then I put the water bottle right in his face, and squeeze, so that the dog gets a face full of water. I've found three kinds of dogs:
|Gear, speed and force calculator
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