With the assistance of my friends, I think the bike I purchased was a great choice, and I have been very pleased with it. It has easily handled everything I have thrown it’s way. Rocky hills, potholes, grass, dirt, gavel, mud…I’ve had no problems with any of them. Even the assembly, which I was worried about, was a piece of cake, and I was able to put it all together in under an hour at work.
I’ve already accessorized a bit. Added a Honda logo I found on the side of the road to my helmet. Mounted a speaker so I can listen to music on my commute. Changed the seat (can’t yet bring myself to refer to it as a saddle) to one that is easier on my bony little ass. Added a seatpost rack so I can bring things like a French press to work so I can now have a nice cup of coffee with my post-ride Greek yogurt and banana. I’ve got a list of “to buy” items like fenders and panniers and a study lock so I can make more use of it than just work and back, too. Riding this thing is a blast.
Until this point, I have had one, and only one problem with the bike itself, and it is a familiar problem. As a matter of fact, it is one of the same problems that lead me down the “new bike” rabbit hole to begin with.
Gears. Shifting. Derailleurs. Chainrings. Cables.
Ya see, I bought this sweet 24 speed bike because I live in the Fox River valley and my commute is quite hilly. The old mountain bike I was using last year had a quirky little problem where only 2/3rd of the gearing was usable, which meant I had to choose whether I wanted the highest top speed or the ability to just spin in low gear before I started riding, as I couldn’t shift front chainrings on the fly. I eventually found a “solution” to this problem at the end of last season. It amounted to just kicking the derailleur until it did what I wanted.
See, the problem is, the way shifters and derailleurs and chains and gears and shit work on bikes…it makes no good goddamn sense to me. I am not completely incompetent when it comes to the workings of mechanical things. By no stretch am I an engineer, but, I am also not completely helpless, and I often pride myself on being able to figure out how or why things work and being able to fix them when they break. Changing gears on a fucking bike, though, seems to be my white whale.
I thought that, since I was spending a nice chunk of change on a nice bike, this problem wouldn’t crop up. After all, the Schwinn I borrowed when I started riding was clearly a $100 Wal*Mart clearance bike. That had to be the reason for the failure, right?
Out of the box, freshly assembled, the shifting on my Gravity worked just fine. For whatever reason, though (I quite literally cannot recall why), I started tinkering with things and now I am back in a place where I just leave the chain on the middle front chainring so I at least have a little speed and a little spin, but, truthfully, the biggest problem is just not being able to figure out what the hell I am doing wrong in trying to fix it.
I spent a good hour working on that one single problem last week, and when nothing seemed to fix it, I just left it on the biggest gear so I’d have that high top speed/hell of quad workout. This morning, however, with 34 degree temps and a steady 10-15 MPH breeze in my face, I was slogging and decided to press my luck and drop it back down the the middle gear. After some clicking and slipping, the cable running to the derailleur went completely slack and the derailleur sprung back all the way down to the smallest gear, leaving me spinny spinny. Cold and frustrated, I rigged it up in a parking lot to get me the rest of the way to work, and I am about to go try and fix it better as soon as I am done with this post (yeah work has been pretty slow, btw), but I’m pretty sure that, come paycheck time, I am just going to have to swallow my pride and take it to a shop and have a professional make it work properly.
The whole system seems quite simple. It’s a damn cable and spring attached to a lever. The position of the lever determines whether or not there is tension on the cable which, in turn, is pushing the chain out to the big gear or the spring pulls it back to the small gear. Rinse, repeat. So why, then, has adjusting it properly escaped me?
It’s like torrents. I know how to use bittorrent to download files. It know what to look for in seed/leecher ratio. I know how to adjust the torrent file in my client to increase the speed of the download and upload. But how the fuck the actual file gets downloaded from all the other users to me? No fucking clue. I just always assume it’s magic, and I assume the same magical, mystical forces are at work with changing gears on my fucking bike. As we all know, when man is unable to explain something, it’s easiest to just assume it is magic or demons or god or ghosts or angels, and since I know demons, god, ghosts and angels don’t exist, that just leaves magic, right?