Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Pedalling Too Fast? You Have More than One Gear

This is a posting griping about something I am seeing on an almost daily basis these days, even though I have moved into a close.  It is cyclists coming past me with their feet spinning around on their pedals and yet them progressing slowly.  This used to be confined to young people and where I lived it seemed to be common among East Asian residents, but now I am seeing people of all ages and ethnicities doing it.  I could understand it if I lived in the Peak District or the Grampians or even on the Downs, but I live in southern England, to the East of the Tees-Exe line and so steep hills are not particularly common; indeed a lot of the roads have minimal inclines.  Yet all of these cyclists are riding around as if they are about to attempt to ride up Mont Ventoux or Alpe d'Huez.  You see their feet spinning around as they progress slower than walking along a flat road.  In the past I have challenged people as I have walked by but soon learned that not only was that deemed unacceptable no matter how politely I did it, but the cyclists had little idea of what I was talking about.

You have to wonder at the lack of curiosity on the part of the cyclists.  Whenever I buy or rent a new car I try out all of the buttons to see what they do.  Clearly these cyclists have not tried the levers or twisted the grips which operate the gears.  Perhaps it is an issue of there being so many.  When I was a boy, the bicycles that ordinary people rode had 3, 5 or 10 gears.  Only those who raced had more.  These days even a child's bike will have more than 20 and rather than seeing the cable pulling the guide wheel across it is all confined within the frame and adjusted by something looking more suited to a motorbike.  Perhaps seeing other cyclists around them similarly spinning their feet around people assume that is what cycling is normally and they do not realise that they could be moving far more effectively and indeed speedily especially on the flat or shallow inclines.  Cycling around a town you probably need only 5 of the many gears you have and it seems ironic that most people have their bicycle set on the one which would enable them to ride up an alp rather than a high street.

I do not know how you solve this issue.  We live in an age in which people do not read instructions and certainly are angered by anyone offering advice of any kind.  I suppose we just have to cycle or walk past them marvelling that they have so little sense of self-preservation that they will not try out all the functions on their machine and work out what is best for them in a given situation.  Where this does become a hazard is when you also hear the squeak of a chain that has never been oiled, despite bicycle lubricant now being available in supermarkets and with tyres with so little pressure in them they flop around and are liable to puncture.  Children are supposed to pass a cycling proficiency series of classes but adults are simply allowed to get on a bicycle and try to go.  Drivers say that cyclists need licences and insurance, largely, however, as an excuse for hitting them.  However, I think there would be benefit in having to secure a cycling permit including basic maintenance and how to cycle safely and efficiently.  The challenge is how this would be administered and how unlicenced cyclists would be caught and penalised.  For now I just have to walk passed people on squeaky bicycles moving slowly along the road believing they are cycling for real.


Jonathan said...

I have two sets of gears on my bicycle. I leave the lefthand one on '5' as it doesn't seem to have any significant effect, and the righthand one lives at '3' and moves between '2' and '4' depending on hills. It does take me a minute or so when setting off to remember which way to change gears.

I live on the hiller side of the Tees-Exe where you park your car on a hill with the wheels pointing at the kerb.

Rooksmoor said...

Jonathan, at least you seem to have awareness of the gears and have found the ones which are most appropriate for where you live. I am sure you will see people cycling the way I have seen them. This has been going on for a few years but the numbers have grown to such an extent that I felt I had to comment on it. When I can overtake a person on a bicycle when I am walking something is clearly going wrong. They might as well get off the bike and push it; it will carry whatever they need carrying but their average speed will rise. I think shops selling bicycles think people know how to use them whereas it is clear some people need a manual and I suggest some training. I am surprised that they do not experiment with their bicycles. If I buy a car I try all the buttons to see what they do, but clearly I have a curiosity lacking in many people buying bicycles today.