Women & Bicycles Demystifies Cogs, Chains, Cassettes

“So what happens when you hit a hill and you’re still in a high gear?”

“You say swear words!” yells one woman.

“Yes!  And what else?”

Shifting Gears–a Women & Bicycles workshop put on by Proteus Bicycles in College Park–is all about the what else. Led by owner Laurie Lemieux, the workshop put the emphasis on asking questions, finding answers, and helping one another with a part of bicycling that’s as intimidating as it is necessary.

Most bicyclists are eventually going to have to change the gears on a bike. Nevertheless, many bicyclists don’t for fear of getting it wrong, messing it up, or breaking something. Shifting gears, to the novice cyclist, looks and feels complicated, comes with lots of odd noises and jarring motions, and as often as not, has opposite results from what they intended.


Want to learn about future Women & Bicycles events and rides?  Yes!






So we set out to tackle the greasy, clanky challenge. At the start of the workshop, we learned that shifting helps us keep better control of our bicycles, which makes us more confident cyclists. Here’s a little of what we learned:

The Basics

  • Pedaling feels easier in a small chainring and harder in a big one (chainrings, by the way, are the toothy gears that are attached to the right crank, aka, the thing your pedal is attached to). The correct chainring for you is the one where you can pedal comfortably on the terrain you face–and that’ll differ depending on your strength, fitness, and preference.
  • Because that’s not complicated enough, in the back of the bike pedaling feels easier in a big cog and harder in a little one (cogs are the toothy gears that are attached to the rear wheel; stacked together they’re called a cassette). Just like on chainrings, the correct cog for you is going to change depending on the terrain and your comfort and fitness levels.

Shifter Smarts

  • When you shift gears on your handlebars, the cables get longer or shorter, and the chain moves to a different cog (or chainring).
  • Your right hand controls the rear of your bike. (For both brakes and gears, Right = Rear.)
  • It’s okay to do most of your shifting in the back (with your right hand), especially if you’re new to this whole shifting thing.

Quick Cheats

  • Uphills and headwinds? Oh, geez. Use: small or middle front chain ring + bigger rear cogs.
  • Downhills? Wheeeeee! Use: Large front chainring + a range of rear cogs, while humming a happy tune.
  • Flat roads? Use: small or middle front ring + smaller rear cogs. Go ahead and use that big chainring if you are comfy!

What the heck is cross chaining?

  • Cross chaining means your chain is at an extreme slant from side to side. It can happen on any chain ring, and it means that you might be on your big ring in front and the biggest cog in the back, or son the smallest cog in front and back.
  • Cross chaining limits your shifting options, and puts a lot of strain on the chain (this is not a great idea).
  • If you notice you are cross-chaining, it’s a good indication that you could shift your front derailleur to give yourself access to more gears.

How and when do I shift?

  • When the terrain changes or a wind kicks up, or when pedaling seems harder. Are you going uphill? Facing a sudden headwind? Feeling tired?  That’s a good time to shift.
  • Try to shift before you get to the hill–shifting under pressure is hard on our bikes, and shifting when you are pushing hard is a leading cause of chains falling off. If you can shift before the hill starts, you win!
  • A great tip- if you are in your front big chain ring and see a big hill coming up, try shifting to your front small chain ring. You may find you have access to more gears on your rear cassette if the hill gets longer or harder than you anticipated!
  • When you shift going towards a hill, ease up on the pedals for a turn or two to lighten the load.
  • On a flat road, if the wind is behind you, or if you are going downhill- shift to harder gears. Downhills + harder gears = free speed!

What’s next?

Did you find this post helpful? Come try out those new gears skills on our next group ride, June 24, when we take on the rolling hills in the Women & Wine ride with Potomac Peddlers Touring Club!

 

Riding with younger folks

Looking to inspire the next generation of bicyclists? Or just get the next generation of bicyclists to dance class without having to hunt for a parking space?

We’ve got a number of youth and family biking events coming up, check them out!

How to Teach a Youth Learn to Ride Class

May 8, 6:00 PM
WABA Offices.
Have you wanted to teach your PE class or Girl Scout Troop how to ride bikes safely and confidently in the city? Come join members of WABAs education team for a two hour course on what you need to know to teach a group of young people how to ride. We will cover curriculum, common challenges, and provide you with the information you need to succeed.
Join Us

Be a Bike Camp! Counselor

WABA is looking for 2 Camp Counselors and 1 Lead Camp Counselor with a love of riding bikes, experience with youth, and exuberance to spare.
Apply Now

And we’ve got just a few camper spots left in the July sessions of Bike Camp!
July 10-14 and July 17-21
KIPP DC Shaw Campus, 421 P St NW.
Skills, confidence, and the freedom of two wheels. Only two weeks in July still available, register now!
Details

Bike to School Day

May 10
Your school!
It’s time again for the annual Bike To School Day Competition. National Bike to School Day is Wednesday, May 10th.  For the last four years, DDOT and DCPS have sponsored a competition: the school with the highest percentage of students riding to school on that day wins the coveted golden bicycle trophy to proudly display for a year.
Register

Family City Cycling

Riding with kids can be a lot of fun, but it comes with some extra considerations. Join us for a City Cycling class that’s specifically focused on riding with kids! We’ll help you ride more comfortably and confidently without getting melted popsicle goop all over your brake levers. No matter your skill level, you’ll improve your abilities on two (or more) wheels.

First ride in a trailer

Parent Powered Family Bicycling Class

May 7, 9:30 AM
Anacostia Park 1500 Anacostia Dr. SE, Washington, DC

This class is designed for parents carrying kids on a bike or in a trailer.
Register here

learning bike handling skills

Youth Powered Family Bicycling Class

May 27, 9:30 AM
Anacostia Park 1500 Anacostia Dr. SE, Washington, DC

This class is designed for parents riding with kids who are pedaling their own bikes.
Register here

Know Your Jargon: Filtering, Shoaling & Salmoning

Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you rode your bicycle in the region. Okay, during that ride, how many times were you filtered, shoaled, or salmoned? Do you know which of these is legal to do?

In a WABA City Cycling class, you will learn about filtering, shoaling and bike-salmoning. More importantly, you will learn bike handling tips and tricks to leave you feeling more confident, competent and comfortable, no matter if you’re riding on the beautiful recently extended Anacostia River Trail or on a hectic and busy downtown street like Florida Ave. The City Cycling classes are 3 hours long and tons of fun. In the beginning you meet all of the participants and share why you’re at the class and what you want to get out of it. Then, you get to choose between the “fundamentals” group or the “confidence” group. Both groups learn a lot and get the chance to practice new skills before going out on a ride. No matter which group you choose, you’ll leave more confident and capable on your bike. People who are new to our classes are strongly encouraged to choose the fundamentals group.

 

Each City Cycling class is taught by League Cycling Instructors, certified through the League of American Bicyclists. City cycling classes are offered throughout the region on most weekends in the spring. You can click here to view the entire list of classes being offered. All you need to bring is a bicycle and a helmet, oh and snacks and water.

If your bike is a Capital Bikeshare bike, great! WABA has a partnership with Capital Bikeshare so you won’t be charged any usage fees while using the bike for the class.

City cycling classes are supported and funded by local government agencies: Montgomery County Department of Transportation, DC Department of Transportation, Arlington County and Alexandria County.

Want to learn about future City Cycling classes?  Yes!





Happy riding!

The Alexandria Bike Campus takes a big step forward

December is not the ideal time for manual labor. Nonetheless, more than a dozen volunteers and representatives from partner organizations braved the cold and the wind to help WABA take the first steps toward installing the Alexandria Bike Campus.

WABA and the National Park Service (NPS) agreed to the proposed facility in 2015, and we successfully raised funds last spring to make it a reality. Final design and compliance approval took a bit longer than expected, but just before Thanksgiving, we got the final go-ahead.

Unfortunately, because of the low temperatures, actually painting the Bike Campus onto the pavement wasn’t possible. Instead, we spent the morning on “demolition” to get the site ready for the spring. We removed 74 concrete parking stops, pulled nearly 150 pieces of rebar from the ground, swept up and bagged all the debris, and patched the holes to prevent surface damage over the winter.

Best of all, we had a blast! Please sign up here to stay up to date as the project moves forward.

You can see a selection of pictures from the day here:

‘Tis the season…to add more lights

Riding a bike around Washington, DC can be a bit intimidating, for sure. But, if you keep your eyes up and take in some of the sites, it can also be awe inspiring. WABA wants to inspire you during this dark and cold season by riding around downtown DC and take in some of the more impressive light displays on the Lighting the Way community ride.

lighting the way

Unlike some of our big signature rides WABA community rides are usually shorter weeknight events, sort of the bike equivalent of taking a stroll. Generally a dozen or two riders will ride 4 – 6 miles at a conversational mosey. No one gets left behind, no matter their skill level, and we stop a few times to discuss different riding scenarios and take in some beautiful sights one can only enjoy while riding a bike.

So clear your calendar next Wednesday, December 14th and join us. The ride will begin at 7th and Indiana Ave NW, by the Archives Metro station (map). We will depart shortly after 6:30 p.m. In addition to taking in some scenic lights, we will also be giving them away! Thanks to the DC Bike Ambassadors, we have a number of bike lights to give away to to riders we see along the route that don’t have any lights on their bike.

Finally, since the highly anticipated WABA Member Holiday Party is the same night, after the ride ends near City Center DC, a group of people will continue on to Boundary Stone, to arrive around 8:30 p.m.

“Who knew I would get a PhD before learning to ride a bike?”

Did you know that WABA offers classes to teach adults how to ride a bike? The classes are only 3 hours long and are offered almost every weekend in the spring and fall, in different locations throughout the region. You can view the schedule of remaining classes by here. If none of those classes work for your schedule, Sign up for updates on our 2017 class schedule.

Sign Up

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Nervous about signing up for a class? Each class is taught by instructors that have been certified by the League of American Bicyclists. In addition, each instructor has gone through additional training in our nationally acclaimed approach to Learn to Ride classes. Here’s recent success story:

Who knew I would get a PhD before learning to ride a bike? There was always an excuse… I grew up on a hill in the country without access to a bike… I was traveling… I saw too many people get hit by cars to want to ride a bike. And then I felt too old, every time a man asked me on a date to go bike riding I would make up an excuse. Finally, at 33, on a beautiful Sunday I joined WABA for an adult bike riding class. We all trickled in nervously, as if not knowing how to ride a bike was shameful and a secret we’ve carried for years. The instructors were kind and enthusiastic and people started talking and making jokes. I decided there and then this was the day I was going to learn! My new friend Greg and I posted up at the end of the line, under the excellent instruction of Jeff, a kind older man who reminded me of my magnificent hippie parents. He taught us how to glide, we laughed through the awkwardness. We gradually got pedals for practice, and then got a taste for speed. By the end of the three hours I was weaving through the obstacle course, wanted to buy a bike, take new classes and become part of the club. Two new friends from class and I walked to brunch and talked about how excited we were. It felt like the first day of camp (in a great way). While I am still afraid of hills and cars I am excited for the next step. Thank you WABA – I encourage everyone to go out and give it a whirl!

So far this year we’ve taught more than 500 adults how to ride a bike. You can already ride a bike? Can your friend or neighbor or colleague? Wouldn’t it be great to go ride bikes together on the weekend? Send them to WABA—one of the ways we work to make bicycling better in the region is by putting more people on bikes in the first place!

 

Becoming a biking instructor

Understanding the paths that people take to get to where they are fascinates me. I’m constantly asking people how they got to today. Teaching a City Cycling class recently I was chatting with the Lead Instructor for the class, Jason. The lead instructor is responsible for the entire class that day. They have to manage the team of instructors and the students to ensure that the educational experience meets or even exceeds students’ expectations. It’s a tough but rewarding job!

While watching Jason work I wondered how he got to this place—leading a group of participants through a City Cycling class. I was curious why he joined WABA in the first place and how that led him to not just teach classes for WABA, but become a lead instructor. Some of the details are unique to Jason, but I imagine that many of his greater points resonate with you, too.

When I moved to DC in 2006 to start a new career, I chose a location close to the free shuttle bus to Georgetown University.  For years I would walk to the bus stop and would arrive on campus a short time later.  One day in 2008, the bus turned a different way, the long way.  Come to find out, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission had voted to prevent any private busses from running through the neighborhood for fear that the old row houses were being shaken to the ground.  Needless to say, I was not happy about the extra time it was taking to go to the same location. The very next day I rushed to the local bike shop—I walked through the door just before closing. I selected a bike and when going to pay for it, noticed WABA membership flyers behind the register. I inquired and noticed that a benefit of being a member of WABA was a discount at local bike shops. The opportunity to save money immediately is how I entered the DC bicycling community.  Before moving to DC, I had a bike which collected dust in my garage where I left it for the new owner.

I started to get emails. I learned about the City Cycling classes WABA offered in the community.  Having never biked in a city before, I decided to sign up for a class.  At the time, there were 2 distinct classes. One class focused on the fundamentals of riding a bike while the other offered bicyclists an opportunity to learn and hone hazard avoidance maneuvers. I took both.

In the second class, the lead instructor, Glen, mentioned that WABA was looking for instructors to help teach classes—there were hundreds of adults requesting lessons. Who knew? What a great way to help more people feel safe on their bikes! After all, one way of achieving better bicycling is by having more bicyclists on the road.

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In December 2010 I completed the League Certified Instructor (LCI) seminar and became a nationally recognized cycling instructor with the League of American Bicyclists.  Since that time I have been helping WABA teach people how to ride and those that knew, how to ride better and become a “driver” of their wheeled vehicle.  After all, we share the roads with cars and should be just as predictable and respected for the safety of everyone.

After teaching classes with WABA for several years, I was asked to become a Lead Instructor.  Lead Instructors are in charge of the classes and work closely with the education staff to ensure quality and consistency.  Leads allow WABA to teach classes simultaneously instead of only one class being held on each day. I appreciate the opportunity I have to teach with WABA and feel honored to be a Lead instructor.

Do you want to help make a difference in the region’s bicycling community?

Are you ready to make bicycling better in the region by helping more bicyclists get out on the road?

Come and teach with WABA!