Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What You Should Know about bicycles

Bikes come in a multitude of
shapes, sizes, mod
els and
styles. Here's how to pick out
the one that m
eets your needs
safely and practic

H$ DEGREE to which you will enjoy cycling will depend largely on how wisely you select your bike. For some individuals an expensive 10-speed bicycle is a must, for others the same bike would be an extravagance. But there is one com­mon denominator: the overriding impor­tance of safety. So here are some tips to help you choose the most practical, and safest bicycle for your needs.

Types of bicycles. Basically you can think of adult-size bikes as either conven­tional middleweights, or lightweights. (In bicycling, an adult is any person who is large enough to ride a full-size bicycle; the bicycle industry considers anyone over age 14 as adult-sized.)

Within these two weight categories, you find bicycles of different styles that are suitable for specific riding purposes. Some are designed for moderate distance tour­ing, while others are for long-distance touring; three-speed bikes are especially good for business commuters; middle­weight models are best for local riding, as

on newspaper delivery routes; adult three­wheelers are for those who have large loads to transport or for those whose sense of balance is not the best; folding bicycles facilitate transport in cars and boats; tan­dem bikes promote togetherness; one­wheeled models (unicycles) are for the adventurous and those having better-than­average balance.

The traditional bicycle made in the U.S. is a middleweight vehicle weighing 50 or 60 pounds. It has a coaster brake (the kind that operates when you push backward on the pedals) and relatively thick tires. It is relatively trouble-free and easy to maintain, and a good bike for such short-distance uses as delivering newspapers or for just funning around in your neighborhood.

Lightweight bicycles weigh as much as 15 pounds less than the middleweights. The lighter weight plus three speeds make this category of bicycle very popular as a general use bicycle among adults. Expect to pay as much as three times the cost of a middleweight vehicle.

There are still lighter bicycles weighinl under 25 pounds that some view as a thirc basic category. These have anywhere frorr 5 to 15 gears, with 10 gears perhaps bein€ the most popular. Other features include hand-lever brakes, dropped-down handle bars of the type seen on racing bicycles am thin, hard tires.

Who needs 15 gears? Relatively fev

cyclists need a bicycle having fifteen gears, but many riders will find five or ten gears useful. On the other hand, others would wonder why they spent money on extra gears when one-or at most three-gears would have sufficed.

The number of gears your bicycle should have should be determined largely in re­lation to the kind of terrain you expect to travel. Extra gears are used to maintain as consistent a pedaling rhythm as possible because for most individuals a cadence of 65 to 85 pedaling revolutions per minute is most comfortable. The trouble is that you just can't maintain this rpm when pedaling up a steep hill with a convention­al single-speed bike. So you drop to a lower gear which requires less physical

effort on your part. This means, of course, that you travel a shorter distance per pedal revolution, so you sacrifice speed for the sake of energy conservation. The gen­eral rule is that the steeper the slope you must climb, the lower the gear you use, and the slower you move ahead. You would also use a lower gear when bucking a heavy wind.

The higher gears are used primarily on down grades or when the wind is at your back. If you live in very flat country, you really have no use for a multi-speed bicy­cle, except perhaps as a status symbol. But if you will be touring through hilly coun­try-New England, for example-you had better have at least five gears, maybe even ten. If you are setting out for the Colorado Rockies, or if you are planning some really long-distance touring, you might even want a 15 gear vehicle.

Gearing ratios on bicycles are listed as whole numbers. For example, "70" gear is used on bicycles intended for "normal" riding conditions. The number relates to the distance you travel during one revolu­tion of the pedal crank. To calculate the

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