Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tech Talk: Upgrading your gears for easier hill climbing

Q. When I'm riding with my friends, they usually beat me to the top of the hills. Can I swap out the gears on my bike to make it easier to climb?

The answer is a qualified "yes." There are different ways to install easier gears on your bike, but it's not always a matter of swapping just the gears. Depending on the type of components that you already have, and the compatibility of those components, you may need to replace some of other components.

Related article: 5 Tips: Climbing Hills

Swapping Chainrings

Your chainrings are the set of (usually 2 or 3) gears closer to the front of your bike, attached to your crank arms and pedals. Smaller-diameter chainrings (or in other words, those with fewer teeth) correspond to easier pedaling; larger chaingrings mean harder pedaling.

Shimano Dura-Ace Compact crankset
Road racing bikes typically have 2 chainrings, with a 52-tooth big chainring and a 39-tooth small chainring. This is what we sometimes refer to as a "standard double." The easiest way to get lower gears with this setup is to convert your entire crankset to a "compact double," which has a 50-tooth big ring and a 34-tooth small ring. You'll likely have to replace your whole crankset and chainrings, rather than replace the individual chainrings only, because the arrangement of the bolts that attach the chainrings to the crank arms is different for the two different chainring size ranges.

In most cases, if your bike is relatively new, you won't have to replace your front derailer when converting from a standard double to a compact double. Most modern front derailers are cross-compatible with both types of cranksets, but if it's an older model, it may need to be swapped out as well.

The compact double configuration has become very common and popular on recreational road bikes, because you get the advantages of a two-chainring setup (lower weight and simplicity of operation), with almost as low of a gear range as a three-chainring setup. You do lose a couple of gears on the higher end, but unless you're a serious racer, most average riders don't miss those top gears.

Road bikes with 3 chainrings are typically in the range of 52-42-30 or similar. This provides quite a wide range of high and low gears, but if you feel you need something lower, you can swap the crankset out for a "hybrid" or "touring" crankset, which usually have chainring configurations of 48-38-28 or 48-36-26. If you've already got a front derailer that's compatible with triple chainrings, then it's likely it will still work, but it's best to check with your mechanic to make sure.

What about switching to a mountain bike crankset? These usually have 44-32-22 chainrings. The problem is that you'd need to switch to a mountain bike front derailer, which also means switching to a mountain bike shifter. If you've got drop handlebars, a mountain bike shifter that works with all of this does not exist, unless you'd be willing to switch to a bar-end type friction shifter. Besides, most people, even casual riders, find that mountain bike gearing is way too low, and you'd have trouble keeping up with your friends on the flats and downhills because you wouldn't have high enough gears!

In some cases, it might be possible to just swap individual chainrings on a triple setup. This way, you might be able to just swap your smallest chainring to have a lower "granny gear" when you need it. You'll need to worry about the bolt pattern issue mentioned above, plus front and rear derailer compatibility issues, which can get sort of complicated, so again, it's best to talk to your mechanic to see what options are available to you.

Swapping Cassettes

Your "cassette" is the set of gears on your rear wheel. Some older or cheaper bikes may have a "freewheel" instead of a cassette, but for the purposes of this discussion, the concepts are the same, so we'll only use the term "cassette" to keep things simple. The individual gears on the cassette are referred to as "cogs."

Shimano Deore 11-32 cassette
On your rear wheel, the gear ratios work out the opposite of on your chainrings. In other words, smaller cogs (fewer teeth) on the rear correspond to you harder pedaling, and bigger cogs (more teeth) correspond to the easier pedaling.

Most road bikes have either an 11-tooth or 12-tooth smallest cog, and a largest cog with 23, 25, 26 teeth. Cassettes (and freewheels) come as a complete set; in most cases, it's not possible to swap individual cogs; you have to replace the entire cassette.

To explain how you can get easier gears by swapping cassettes on your road bike, we'll have to delve into some of the technicalities of how rear derailers work. Your bike comes equipped with a chain that is long enough to be able to wrap around your largest cog and your largest chainring at the same time. As you shift into smaller cogs and/or chainrings, it's the job of the rear derailer to take up that extra "slack" in the chain. How much slack they can handle depends on the length of the "cage," which is the part of the rear derailer that hangs down towards the ground.

Road bike rear derailers often come in "short-cage" and "medium-cage" varieties. Most short-cage rear derailers can handle no larger than a 27-tooth cog, although in some cases, they can be made to work with a 28-tooth. If you have a medium-cage rear derailer, you can go up to a 30-tooth cog.
Shimano 105 rear derailers with short cage (left) and medium cage (right)
It is possible to use a mountain bike cassette with an even lower range on a road bike, but you'll have to switch to a mountain bike rear derailer. Most mountain bike rear derailers have a long cage, which can handle a 34-tooth cog, or even some newer cassettes with 36-tooth cogs. The good news is that as long as you're using a cassette with 9 speeds or less, this will work fine, even with a road bike shifter. However, on the newer 10-speed cassette systems, mountain and road rear shifters and derailers are NOT interchangeable, so in most cases, you'll have to live with a maximum of the 30-tooth cog on your rear cassette.

Most hybrid bikes come with a gear configuration that you might refer to as a "hybrid," appropriately enough. They use mountain bike shifters and derailers, a mountain bike cassette (usually 11-32 or 11-34 range), and a touring (28-28-48) crankset. So, if you've got an 11-32 cassette on your hybrid bike, and you want to swap it to an 11-34 to get you little bit of extra "oomph" for climbing, it's an easy cassette upgrade.

Many road touring bikes, such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker, also come with a "mixed" drive train. They'll have road bike shifters, a touring crankset, road bike front derailer, a mountain bike cassette and a mountain bike rear derailer. This gives a nice, broad gear range that works well for cruising fast on flat roads, but also with very low gears for hauling your heavy touring load up a mountain.

In conclusion

There may be other configurations and gear/shifter/derailer combinations that will work and meet your needs that are not outlined above. Your best bet is to bring your bike in and let us check it out and see what will work for you.

One caveat that should be mentioned, however, gets back to the original question mentioned at the beginning of this article. Putting lower gears on your bike will make it easier to climb hills. But, note that easier is not necessarily the same thing as faster. In fact, in all likelihood, if your friends are getting up hills faster than you are now, if you put easier gears on your bike, they will beat you even worse. It's an unavoidable consequence of physics: easier gears equals slower speed.

As one famous cyclist noted, "it's not about the bike." The only ways to make your bike go uphill faster are:
  1. Pedal faster in the same gear
  2. Pedal the same speed in a harder gear
  3. Pedal much faster in an easier gear

Monday, July 30, 2012

Poll: What's in your water bottle?

We're all coping with this dry, hot summer, and we're now stocking Nuun hydration tablets to help with our customer's hydration needs, which got us thinking...

What's in your water bottle during a long bike ride on a hot day? Click here to take our latest online poll and let us know!

Last month's poll asked, "What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from your cycling friends?" The top answer, at 31% of all votes, was "Not to buy a bike at Walmart." Second-place was "Wearing a helmet" (21%), but that was followed very closely by both "Not wearing underwear under my bike shorts" (19%) and "How to change a flat tire" (18%). Surprisingly (or maybe not?), the "snot rocket" was the least popular response, at 12%.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Where We Ride: Royalview Mountain Bike Trail in the Cleveland Metroparks

Ryan Brinkerhoff is a part-time mechanic in the Century Cycles store in Peninsula. Not only is he an accomplished mountain biker, but he also devotes a significant amount of time to helping the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association maintain many of Northeast Ohio's off-road trails. In addition to work at West Branch State Park and Quail Hollow State Park, for the past year, Ryan has been helping to create the first new singletrack in the Cleveland Metroparks since the trail at the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation opened four years ago.

The new Royalview Mountain Bike Trail in the Mill Stream Run Reservation (near Strongsville, just off State Route 82) opened to the public on June 15, 2012. The 10-mile trail is made up of two loops. The Red Loop is about 5-1/2 miles long, and the Yellow Loop is about 3-1/2 miles long. The loops are one-way for cyclists, but be on the lookout for hikers, who may use the trails in either direction. Ride the Red Loop counter-clockwise, and the Yellow Loop clockwise Follow the arrows that are clearly visible at the trailheads and along the way.

The terrain is very beginner-friendly. Most of the climbs are very gradual. There are only a couple of minor patches with rocks and roots. There are no boulders, steep drop offs, or other "extreme" features. Intermediate to advanced riders can step up the challenge by seeing how fast they can complete each loop!

See this page for a full map (downloadable version available) as well as directions and parking information. CAMBA has a weekly beginner's group ride at the trail; meet at the parking lot at the end of Royalview lane at 6:30pm every Tuesday (may vary by season; check their web site to confirm).

Ryan's Insider Tips: If you try to follow the map and the directional arrows along the trail loops, it might seem confusing. The Red Loop and the Yellow Loop actually overlap. The overlapping section is between points A and B on the map image below. The map indicates that section is just the Red Loop, but on the actual trail, the directional arrows tell you that you're on both the Red and Yellow Loops.
This photo shows Point A as you approach the intersection of the Red Loop
while riding clockwise on the Yellow Loop.
This photo shows the same location (near the intersection at Point A), as you
approach it while going counter-clockwise on the Red Loop.
This photo shows Point B on the map above. Cross the paved road to continue
on the Red Loop; turn RIGHT onto the paved road to return to the beginning of
the Yellow Loop. (Usually, to most mountain bikers, an arrow pointing straight
downward is a warning of a steep downhill, but not in this case.)
The Red Loop's hills are more gradual, while the Yellow Loop has a couple of short, but steep, climbs.

There are numerous wooden bridges that were built where the trail crosses streams, ravines, and ecologically sensitive areas. In some cases, the approach from the trail to a bridge is rather sharp, so slow down to avoid over-shooting and riding off the side of the bridge!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Photos from the NiteRider Demo Night Ride on the Towpath Trail


It was another successful night for our 4th Annual NiteRider Technical Lighting Systems Demo Night Ride on the Towpath Trail, last Saturday, July 21. Thanks to Tommy from NiteRider for bring their road rig to Peninsula to let our night-riding guests try out their high-end bicycle headlights.

Congratulations to Erika Ettinger, the winner of the drawing for a NiteRider MiNewt.600 Cordless headlight!

We were pleased to once again support Bike Cleveland, who were on hand to help people make more videos for the My Reasons To Ride Cleveland Video Contest.


Click here if the slide show above is not appearing for you.

For the schedule of remaining Night Rides on the Towpath Trail for this season, plus tips on preparation, safety, and more pictures from past rides, go to:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ALERT: Detroit Road construction in Rocky River

Construction has begun on Detroit Road and -- as you can see in the photo above -- it's occurring immediately in front of our Rocky River store. We apologize for the inconvenience and suggest you park in the plaza to our east, the one with FitWorks, Michael's Restaurant, Minotti's and the Dollar Store. That will help you avoid the worst of the construction traffic, and it is only a short walk from the store.

To access that plaza coming from Lakewood and points east, just enter the driveway near Pet People, right after Starbucks. Park on the opposite side of the lot, near the UPS Store or Urgent Care.

To access that plaza coming from Westlake and points west, we recommend entering the parking lot from the south. As you're heading east on Detroit Road toward our store, turn right on Lakeview, then turn left on Riverview (Rocky River Middle School is on the corner). Turn left on Hampton (the RR Library is on that corner), and continue on as it deadends into a driveway in to the parking lot. Park near the UPS Store or Urgent Care, and walk on over!

Again, we're sorry for this inconvenience and appreciate your patience. We've been told this construction should take about 4-6 weeks and unfortunately we won't even see the improvements -- it's all sewer and necessary below-ground work. Now let's all pray to the Orange Cone Gods they finish ahead of schedule.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A great week for bicycle touring in Ohio

Last week was prime season for long-distance bicycle touring, with at least four different groups stopping by the Century Cycles store in Peninsula:
John Curran and Maria Bergh stopped by on July 15 while on their way from Cleveland to Cincinnati. Lynne from our Medina store helped John pick out his Surly Long Haul Trucker, and he and Maria were using this ride as their first "shakedown" tour on their new bikes.

Don and Sally Gordon started their trip in upstate New York. They joined the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route near Buffalo, and followed it to Louisville, KY. They stopped by the Peninsula store on July 16 to get some adjustments done to their brakes.

This young man hails from Kyoto, Japan. His name is Nishiyama Ryuichi, and he stopped in on July 17 on his way from Los Angeles to New York City.

Above are Ryan Herman, Will Moyer, Mack Lloyd, and Jake Loosararian. Their friend Jamie Schleicher (not pictured) is driving a support van for them. They began their trip in Seattle, and are on their way to New York City. They call themselves Team GCC (www.teamgcc.com), for their alma mater of Grove City College.

You can view more photos of touring cyclists that have stopped in all three of our stores in our Bicycle Touring Photo Gallery. Many of the people riding through our area are using two routes created by the Adventure Cycling Association: the Northern Tier Route, and the Underground Railroad Route.

The Adventure Cycling Association is now accepting nominations for the 2012 Bicycle Travel Awards, which include the Pacesetter Bicycle Travel Award, June Curry Trail Angel Award, Sam Braxton Bicycle Shop Award, and the Volunteer of the Year Award. If you know of any bicycle travel heroes that you'd like to nominate, click here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Share The Road Tips for Ohio Bicyclists and Motorists

We are grateful to the Cleveland Touring Club (www.clevelandtouringclub.org) for putting together what we think is one of the best Share The Road handouts we've ever seen -- AND for providing with us a supply to hand out at all three Century Cycles stores!

The postcard has tips for Ohio bicyclists on one side, tips for Ohio motorists on the other, with a good dose of mutual respect all around.

Share the Road Tips for Ohio Bicyclists:
  • Obey all traffic laws. Bicycles are legal vehicles; drive yours accordingly.
  • Never ride against traffic. It is illegal and unsafe.
  • Ride with respect -- single file when traffic is present, allowing cars to pass when it is safe.
  • Be visible. Wear bright and reflective clothing. Use head and tail lights from dusk to dawn.
  • Be sure you are see: Make eye contact with drivers.
  • Wear a properly-fitted helmet.
  • Be predictable. Don't pass stopped or moving cars on the right.
  • Ride one door-width from parked cars.
  • Stay alert to stay safe.

Share the Road Tips for Ohio Motorists:
  • Bicycles are legal vehicles and may use the full lane to prevent unsafe passing.
  • Wait until it is safe to pass. Courteous bicyclists will accomodate you then.
  • Drive at least three feet from bicyclists.
  • Stay behind bicyclists when turning right.
  • Make eye contact so bicyclists know you see them.
  • Look for bicyclists before opening car doors.
  • Avoid startling bicyclists by honking. Motor vehicles are usually easy to hear.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Poll: What's the best thing you've learned from your cycling friends?

Our fellow cyclists can be the our best teachers when it comes to navigating the world of cycling. Those with more experience not only can teach us valuable skills, but also how to avoid some cycling fashion faux pas.

What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from your cycling friends? Click here to take our latest online poll and let us know!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Define your life. Ride a bike...in Calgary!

Century Cycles customer Laura Faulkner of Westlake rides almost every day for her Team Loving The Bike, and a little ol' trip to the cowboy country of western Canada didn't stop her from doing what she loves most.

Besides being grateful to Laura for proudly wearing her Century Cycles jersey and thoughtfully sending us a picture from her trip, we have to give her a big ol' tip of the Century Cycles bike helmet: Laura is locally ranked #41 out of the 559 riders in this summer's National Bike Challenge! (Her national ranking is #1,853 out of 28,203 people.)  As of July 1, she has logged 711 miles, burned 26,772 calories, and saved 650 pounds of CO2.

(Wanna join the challenge? Do it! It runs through August and you can still sign up at http://www.endomondo.com/campaign/national. Look for the team created by Bike Cleveland if you want to help boost the region, too.)

Way to go, Laura -- you rock!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Free NiteRider light demo at July 21st Night Ride

It's back, baby -- the 4th annual NiteRider Night Ride! Century Cycles is teaming up with NiteRider Technical Lighting Systems to offer local bicyclists the chance to try the company’s innovative, high-powered lights on a Century Cycles Night Ride on the Towpath Trail on Saturday, July 21.

The NiteRider bicycle light display will open at 6 p.m. in the parking lot of the Century Cycles bicycle store in Peninsula. The Night Ride starts in the same parking lot at 8 p.m. Both the demo and the ride are free.

Tommy will be back with an assortment of NiteRider's most popular bike lights available to display and demo on the two-hour Night Ride. Those interested in using a NiteRider demo light must provide a driver’s license and credit card as collateral, and all demo lights are on a first-come, first-served basis.

NiteRider’s rolling showroom crisscrosses the country, attending cycling events and providing technical race support. In addition to the bike light demo, a NiteRider representative on hand to answer questions, distribute catalogs and give away a NiteRider MiNewt.600 cordless bike light valued at $149.99 by random drawing to one lucky Night Ride participant.

“The NiteRider Night Ride is always one of our most popular of the year. We’re thrilled to host NiteRider’s only visit to Northeast Ohio for the fourth year in a row,” said Scott Cowan, owner of Century Cycles. Bike lights are required on all Century Cycles Night Rides, since the Towpath Trail is unlit and very dark at night.

Now in their 18th season, Century Cycles Night Rides on the Towpath Trail are free group nighttime bicycle rides on the Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that start and end at Century Cycles’ store in Peninsula. They attract hundreds of bicyclists who enjoy it as a fun family outing, a unique date night, or a just a casual bicycle ride with friends to experience one of the area’s most popular bike paths after sundown. Night Rides are scheduled for:

Friday, August 10

Saturday, August 25

Saturday, September 15

Saturday, September 29

Saturday, October 20:
All Hail the Ale Night Ride for Cleveland Beer Week

Never biked a Night Ride? Visit www.centurycycles.com/goto/nightrides for tips for first-time Night Riders and more information.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A world we want to live in

"He envisioned a world where bears could tell jokes, chickens could sing, pigs could be stars, and they all could ride bicycles." -- Frank Oz, on "The Muppets" creator Jim Henson

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Where We Ride: Medina Twin Sizzler Race Course

Tomorrow is the 37th Annual Twin Sizzler bike race and a longtime veteran of the event is Don Barnett, the service manager of our Medina store.

Don enjoys riding the 27-mile loop of the course all year long, and he shares this ride with us in this month's Where We Ride feature. Enjoyable for racers and casual riders alike, the ride starts in downtown Medina and follows scenic back roads around the city.

Click here for more details about this route, including an online map, elevation chart, Don's tips for racing and more -- and good luck if you're competing in the Twin Sizzler tomorrow!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Starting TODAY: My Reasons To Ride Cleveland Video Contest

A chance to show your bike pride, win a new bike and support Bike Cleveland!

Why do you ride your bike? What does Cleveland’s growing bicycle culture mean to you and your riding? What do you like best about bicycling in Northeast Ohio? Being on a bike represents different things to different people. Now here’s the chance to tell your story – and show your Cleveland bike pride – in the My Reasons To Ride Cleveland Video Contest this summer, sponsored by Raleigh Bicycles, Century Cycles and Bike Cleveland.

The contest begins on July 1 and ends on August 15, 2012.

Raleigh Bicycles will review all the video submissions and the most compelling video will win a Raleigh Cadent i8 bicycle valued at $739.99. A great around-town bicycle for commuting or touring, the Cadent i8 has a simple design and an easy-shifting 8-speed internally geared rear hub for a clean look and low maintenance.

How does it work? Simply make a video using your cell phone, video camera or computer. It doesn’t have to be a big Hollywood production or a long “War and Peace” epic. Just show your passion and share why you ride your bike. Then:
  1. Go to www.myreasonstoride.com and create an account.
  2. Upload your video.
  3. On the video submission form, when asked for “Group/Cause/Ride,” tag it with: Bike Cleveland
Your story will join an online quilt of videos from bicyclists around the country. If 50 different people submit videos by August 15, Raleigh Bicycles and Century Cycles will make a $5,000 donation to local bicycle advocacy group Bike Cleveland (www.bikecleveland.org), to help them continue to promote and protect bicycling in Northeast Ohio.

Don’t have a video camera, computer or email account? You will have the opportunity to videotape your story at Bike Cleveland and Century Cycles events throughout the summer (including the next Bike Cleveland Social on July 12 and a Bike To Work Day on July 27) and Bike Cleveland will submit the video on your behalf. A complete event listing is at bikecleveland.org or available by calling (216) 245-3101.

Need some inspiration? Watch below as Century Cycles owner Scott Cowan talks about his Reasons To Ride, recorded at Raleigh's dealer conference last summer in Seattle: