Saturday, February 16, 2008

Basics of Cycling

With the approach of Spring and the prospect of long days of sunshine and fresh air, for the benefit of the uninitiated, I have cobbled together a guide to the basics of cycling.

Beginning with the cycle itself. The main part of the cycle is the frame, the main function of which is to provide you with something to which you can attach other components e.g. bells, bottles, brakes. Many enthusiasts attach as many as possible while the puritans frown on anything which might impair the aerodynamic efficiency of the machine. The choice of faith is yours.

For the technically-minded the frame is made of jointed steel tubes - the top-tube, down-tube, seat-tube – plus the head-set, seat-stays, wheel-stays, fork-blades and the bottom bracket. You need a saddle and seat-pin, to enable you to sit on it, a stem and bar to steer it and a crank, crank-levers, pedals and a chain-set to make it move. Wheels give the machine an aesthetic quality and brakes come in handy at tea-stops.

To help the rider cope with all the variations of terrain, e.g. up-hill, down-hill, on the flat, etc., most modern bicycles are fitted with derailleur gears. These consist of a block of sprockets (cogs) fitted to the rear hub and one or more chain-rings (bigger cogs) fitted to the crank. The highest gear is the smallest sprocket at the bottom of the block and the lowest gear is the biggest at the top of the block and chain movement is controlled by the right shift-lever. To travel fast, drop the chain down to the highest gear at the bottom of the block and to move slowly pull the chain up to the lowest gear at the top of the block. OK ,so far? The chain-rings give added efficiency to the use of gears, reduce leg-strain and, most important of all, provide an additional lever to play with so you don't get bored. The smallest chain ring – the granny-wheel, for the technically-minded – is used with the lowest gears and the largest is used with the highest gears and are controlled with the use of the left shift-lever.

So, to go uphill slowly, with your feet spinning fast, you change the gear down by pulling the right shift-lever up to the highest sprocket and push the chain down to the smallest chain-ring with the left shift-lever. And to go downhill fast, with your feet turning slowly, you change gear up by dropping the chain down onto the lowest sprocket, by pushing the right shift lever forwards, and switch to the largest chain ring by pulling the left shift lever backwards. (We'll deal with the ins and outs of hub gears next time).

And now for a few buzz-words to put you at ease with other riders –

Head wind – an unfriendly wind

Tail wind – a rare phenomenon

Break wind – what the rider in front does.

Crank – the bit that makes the bike move

Bottom bracket – where the crank belongs

Hitting the bonk – a touch of hypoglycaemia

Honking – a technique used to climb steep gradients; not to be confused with . .

Honking – what sometimes happens after climbing steep gradients

Sachs – something Scottish cyclists talk of

Peugeot – foreign word for purgatory. Reputed to be a punishment for too much Sachs.

Steerer – front rider on a tandem cycle

Stoker – rear rider on a tandem cycle (these must be kept in the correct order!)

Eccentric Bottom Bracket Assembly – another item peculiar to the tandem cycle.

Happy daze.

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