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August 27, 2016
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Changing Gears

It's that time of year again — time to start putting in the miles in advance of my June 2nd Tour de Cure ride. The weather's beginning to warm up, and we've actually had our first official training ride. (Sadly, the other riders were so much faster than me that I ended up semi-lost and having to GPS my way back to the rendezvous point.)


Aside from balance, steering, and braking, one of the most important bicycle handling skills is being able to shift gears and knowing which gears (or range of gears) are best for you to use under which conditions. While there are general observations, on the road it's a question of how fast you're pedaling in what sort of terrain — and if your gears aren't shifting the way you need them to, you can end up crashing or injuring yourself when you least expect it.


I've spent much of the winter with pretty mushy gears: I press the lever to switch gears, and it can be a quarter-mile down the road before my bicycle responds. While standard external gears have some delay, there should be fewer than two revolutions of the appropriate ring before the chain pops over and you're going in your desired gear. So after our training ride, we brought the Dolce into the shop to have the mechanics take a look at her. Turns out, it was time for her 4000-mile chain replacement, and for the brake cables and housings to be replaced as well.


I got the bike back a few days later, and my gear switching is a lot speedier — but every time I put additional pressure on the pedals, whether it's starting up or accelerating or climbing up the short, shallow bridge over the brook separating my town from the next — the gears feel and sound like they're slipping, jumping, or doing some sort of dance that's not in the bicycle-handler's catalog of dance moves. Unfortunately, I've not been able to replicate this on my indoor trainer, which makes me a bit worried that the mechanics won't be able to figure it out when I'm next able to get the bike into the shop.


My climbing talents are somewhere at, or below, the bottom of the pool without gear issues. I need everything to be right so I can get to and from work safely, and train for the Tour

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