I cycled as a teenager and came back to it about 2002. My bikes, as an adult:
- Kuwahara Apollo. Road bike with a Chromo-moly steel frame, purchased around 1980. Shimano 600 cranks, chainrings, ,shifters, brakes. Gearing below. Down tube friction shifters. I added a longer seat post in 2005, and a longer stem. In 2015, Shimano PD-A530 pedals (SPD cleat). In 2019, brake levers for more leverage.
- Giant Yukon. Aluminum mountain bike; straight bars, a 26 inch wheel bike. It came with knobby tread. I went to less aggressive tires, and rode it as quasi-hybrid. I changed chainrings and renewed the cassette. Front 46-34-22 x Rear 12-14-16-18-21-24-28. I changed cranks, hubs, changed the stem, added bar ends in 2004. I replaced the seat in 2005. I added Shimano PD-M324 pedals (clip for cleat on one side). I changed the cranks and chainrings again in 2009. I gave it away when I upgraded.
- 2015. Trek FX 7.4, hybrid. 700c x 32 wheels & rubber. Gearing below. Straight bars. Shimano Acera trigger shifters. I added the Trek kickstand, Bontrager/Trek branded fenders and the stem-mounted front light. I put a Cat Eye Mity 8 odometer on it; replaced that with the Bontrager Trip 100 on the Trek Blendr Mount. I put on Shimano PD-M324 pedals, and changed to Shimano PD-A530. Both have clips for the SPD cleats on one side. I had a Bontrager rear rack and a Tubus Logo Evo rear rack.
- 2019. Cannondale Topstone 105, gravel bike. 700c x 40 tires; changed to 700c x 38. Drive train and gearing below. Mid-trail. (frame geometry term for how sensitive a bike may be to load on the front and pressure on the handle bars). Drop bars. Shimano 105 (STI) Double tap shifters. Disc brakes. I used the Cat Eye Mity 8 odometer, changed to a Garmin Edge GPS. I used Shimano PD-A530 pedals and Bontrager rear lights. I bought a new front light. I put on SKS longboard chromoplastic fenders and a Tubus Vega rack, mainly to carry a trunk bag.
I kept riding in Victoria when I moved. I mainly rode the Giant 2002-2015, the Trek 2015-2019, then the Cannondale starting in 2019. I used the Apollo occasionally. On my visits to Winnipeg 2006-2014, I borrowed bikes including Mike’s Raleigh with road bike gearing and straight bars.
I learned from the web sites of Harris Cyclery and Sheldon Brown. The former is a bike shop in Newton, Massachusetts founded by Sheldon Brown. Sheldon’s family and shop continue to publish his advice. In modern times, there are YouTube videos posted by Park Tools and Global Cycling Network, bike builders and mechanics. In my move to gravel bike, I watched videos by Russ Roca of Path Less Pedalled.
The original seat on my Giant broke down gradually in 2005; my right hip was lower than my left for at least a couple of months and a few hundred Km. The seats available for replacement were numerous and varied. Manufacturers promote padding as the essence of a good seat. Width, alignment and seat position (elevation) matter too – more. Sheldon Brown on saddles was a good reference. I ended with a hard narrow road seat, and was happy. The Trek FX had a better seat; the Topstone better still. My favourite saddle: the leather-covered Arius on my old Apollo.
Drivetrain & Gearing
I changed the cranks on the Giant in 2004. I thought of it as upgrade from the factory Suntour cranks to Shimano. I did not see a problem in purchasing the 180 mm cranks that the store had in stock. The length orginal cranks would have been 170 mm., perhaps 175 mm. – which was becoming the standard for mountain bikes. My Apollo felt good with 170 mm cranks, which was the road bike standard when I bought it. The Trek FX had 170 mm cranks. The Topstone has 172.5 mm stock cranks on the FSA Omega – the modern road bike standard. But I am not tall enough for 172.5 and not comfortable with it.
Gearing presents complications and nerdy talking points. Many of the combinations on a 2x or 3x bike are not useful. Some combinations of front ring to rear cog are hard on gear and rider. Ratios for power and cadence are another nerdy area. Sheldon Brown explains the gear-inch method and the gain ratio. It’s the same thing. Both methods calculate how far forward the bike moves for each movement of the pedals. Gear inch counts forward movement in inches for each full revolution of the pedals. Gain ratio counts movement for each unit of movement of the pedal. Both methods depend on diameter of the circle the pedal moves in and the diameter of the wheels.
Gearing on some of my bikes follows.
Inaccessible (chain criss-cross) gears.
Kuwahara Apollo. 170 mm crank. 700c x 23. Front Shimano 600 52-40 x Shimano 600 Uniglide 6 cog.
Trek FX 7.4. 170 mm crank. 700c x 32. Front Shimano Acera 48-36-26 x Rear Shimano HG20 9 cog 11-32. I mainly used the 36 tooth front ring, with the 21, 19, 17, 15 tooth rear cogs; sometimes the 13 and 11 tooth cogs. I almost never went to the large front ring. I went to the small front ring against the 21, 19, 17, 15 tooth rear cogs for some climbs.
Cannondale Topstone 105. Stock crank FSA 172.5 mm; changed to 165 mm. 700c x 38 tires. Front 46-30 FSA Omega x Rear Shimano 105 11 cog 11-32 cassette; changed to SRAM PG-1170 11 cog 11-36. Shorter cranks provide a shorter radius and less stress on knees.
It is important to have a clean chain, chainrings and cassette, and well positioned derailleurs.
I rode flat bar bikes – the Giant and the Trek – mainly on paved roads or maintained straight trails. I cut the bars on my Giant down to 156 cm. for a time; the bars on the Trek FX were 158 cm. With straight bars, my hands are outside my shoulders. I leaned into the bar. Setting flat bars low was not a great idea. Flat straight bars are not a great idea – but that is personal for my age and riding style. I get numb or tingling hands, and a period of diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome in 2007. I mainly blame this on my choice on handlebar height. The measurement across the top of the drops on the Apollo is 138 cm; The meaurement across the hoods on the Cannondale is 145 cm. Drop bars provide more hand positions, with hands closer to the body which allows a more upright posture, even with the bars set lower than straight bars should be set for comfort on a straight bar touring bike.
Pedals & Other
I went to clipless pedals on my Giant and cycling shoes with cleats in 2004 or 2005. I started with Shimano SPD, the two bolt system, in the universal release mode. I have tried the black cleat too, but didn’t like it. I couldn’t find a good wide shoe at MEC, and went a size too large in my first shoes. I should have had a proper fitting shoe. I changed to the Lake 90 shoe in 2010, an inexpensive lace up shoe that fits me well, takes the SPD cleat, and has a rigid composite sole. This suits the riding I do. In 2007, I bought the Look style Ultegra pedals for my Apollo road bike, and (on sale) Carnac road shoes and Shimano SPD-SL (3 bolt or Look Style) cleats. I never got comfortable with that system. I changed to Shimano PD-A530 pedals (clips for the SPD cleat on one side) in 2015 and put those on the Cannondale too.
A helmet is a necessity; a light helmet with good airflow is worthwhile. Good shorts with a (modern, synthetic) chamois are vital. For summer, a light jersey in a wicking fabric. At one time most of my clothing was purchased at Mountain Equipment Coop, which was dependable for some kinds of clothing, tools, and some repair parts and replacement components. As of 2020 MEC was shaky and after Covid it was sold to a hedge fund. I expect changes.
A bell is useful for riding trails and paths shared with runners, longboarers, skaters, dog-walkers, pedestrians and other cyclists. Some are in their moment, listening to music, hearing impaired or indifferent to the possibility of being overtaken.
I wear sunglasses for eye protection except under low light conditions – in summer, there are lots of flying insects and dust. On bright days, UV happens; bright sun conceals risk. Variable diffusion works under a range of conditions.
I put fenders on the FX in 2017 to ride on days with showers or moisture on the road or trail. I put fenders on the CT when I bought it.
I have always had a back rack and a rack pack – I like to carry a replacement inner tube and a pump and some tools. Self reliance; stubborn.