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!

 

Women & Bicycles Photo Series: Ann DeSanctis, Allison Hasser, Nicole LaFragola

The Women & Bicycles Photo Series (#WBPhotoSeries) is a new project in the program that aims to demonstrate and promote the great and diverse group of women that make up the W&B community.

As well as appearing on the group’s Facebook page and on Instagram, these features – a brief quote and accompanying photograph of the woman participating – will be published in a periodic consolidation of the portraits right here on this blog! For more information about the project, send me an email at emily.janas@waba.org.


 

Ann DeSanctis, Brightwood Park, Washington, D.C.

“Anytime you’re in a city, you’re not necessarily, right away connected to people, even though you’re surrounded by people all the time. so the thing about this group that I think is amazing is knowing that there are other people going through the same thing I’m going through, or something much worse or much better; it equalizes the experience. And it really does seem to be that support is the underlying message and theme, and people have stuck to that even through their differences.”

ann desanctis

 

Allison Corke Hasser, Takoma, Washington, D.C.

“So last summer, I got off work and I was going to bike down to the Mall to meet my friends for Jazz in the Sculpture Garden. I was biking down North Capitol, which is a little bit of a thrill in itself anyway, you know – no bike lanes and it’s crowded and all that. But the weather was perfect and I was going to meet my friends and I knew I didn’t have to find parking or deal with Metro. I just felt like I was a part of the city. You see the Capitol building and you’re on the road – it feels like you’re on to something great. I can go anywhere, I’m not limited. That feels pretty empowering.”

Allison Corke Hasser

 

Nicole LaFragola, Ballston, Arlington, VA

“My love of bicycling is something I really want to share with others, mostly because it was a huge life change for me. Coming from Florida, with always driving and being so isolated from other people and from the outside to where I am now, when it’s regular for me to bike everywhere – it’s just changed who I was.

So especially when I started feeling that rush of ‘this is amazing!’, like once I got over the initial fear of getting on the streets, I started talking with so many friends about it, and I’ve seen it take effect there, too. And that’s it, I want to share that with folks.”

 

 

Nicole LaFragola

 

 

Women & Bicycles is proudly supported by The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club; hosts of the region’s most robust all-level group ride calendar and bike tailgates, Chipotle our delicious dinner party sponsors, and we’re supported by all our friends who donated through the Hains Point 100 ride.

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Women & Bicycles Photo Series: Barbara Bitondo, Renu Singh, Harum Helmy

The Women & Bicycles Photo Series (#WBPhotoSeries) is a new project in the program that aims to demonstrate and promote the great and diverse group of women that make up the W&B community.

As well as appearing on the group’s Facebook page and on Instagram, these features – a brief quote and accompanying photograph of the woman participating – will be published in a periodic consolidation of the portraits right here on this blog! For more information about the project, send me an email at emily.janas@waba.org.


 

Barbara Bitondo, Washington, D.C:

“W&B supports empowerment and emancipation of women specifically, which is why I participate. Learning any new skill gives a woman freedom and independence, and, if the skill is cycling, well, in gets her where she is going faster!”


Renu Singh, Glover Park, Washington, D.C:

“So, I was thinking about this the other day. I am a minority, a woman, and I was an immigrant for a while while I was living in London. All of these things coming together. And I feel like weirdly, bicyclists are treated as a minority similarly in that people have these stereotypes about them. When you don’t know something, you tend to misunderstand it. So for us especially in this group, I just feel like it’s important to stick together and get the word out there. The more people you reach, the less there’s going to be an ‘us them’ situation. There just shouldn’t be an ‘us, them’ situation.”

Harum Helmy, Takoma Park, MD:

“Biking is definitely empowering for me, and it’s such a good feeling. I have these moments sometimes, where I’d be going really fast, or actually trying to go fast, and I’d look down and see my thighs going and I’d think – I’m propelling myself forward. Me, my body. It’s kind of neat, you know? And being that happy and feeling so powerful in your body and all is awesome, and it’d be great if more people – more women, really – could feel that, too.” 

Women & Bicycles is proudly supported by The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club; hosts of the region’s most robust all-level group ride calendar and bike tailgates, Chipotle our delicious dinner party sponsors, and we’re supported by all our friends who donated through the Hains Point 100 ride.  

   

 

10 Bike Must Knows

10 Bike Must Knows

If you’re new to biking, or just new to riding your bike for transportation,  there are some simple “must-knows” that can make your riding experience better. At our June Women & Bicycles workshop, we looked at some of the most frequents questions we see on the Women & Bicycles facebook group, plus a few neat bike hacks we think you’ll find useful.  Scroll through our slides below to learn more about what we covered:


 
Women & Bicycles is proudly supported by The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club; hosts of the region’s most robust all-level group ride calendar and bike tailgates, Chipotle our delicious dinner party sponsors, and we’re supported by all our friends who donated through the Hains Point 100 ride.

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Recruiting Women & Bicycles Roll Models!

With your help we will work to inspire, support, and mentor 500 women to get out and give biking a try in 2015!

Become a Roll Model

 

The Women & Bicycles Program Philosophy

We’re a community of women working to get more women biking, teaching, and leading the bike movement. We connect with women in our lives who don’t bike and create opportunities to share information and tips and tricks, answer questions and concerns, and ultimately remove barriers to biking. It’s mentorship, this each one teach one method, that drives our community.

The Role Of Roll Models

Roll Models are official program mentors. Just like you, they are enthusiastic about biking and are already working to get friends and family members to give it a try. You achieve our program’s mission by bringing new women into the bike movement and serving as a personal mentor. Your mentorship is the crucial infrastructure in the bike movement that provides encouragement and information necessary for people new to biking. PLUS, as a Roll Model you get special prestige in our community and some great gifts along the way.

Expectations of Roll Model and Commitments

Your time commitment is a minimum of 10 total hours  from now til November
You’ll attend an orientation in the next two months
Your expectations are outlined in the survey and broken down in orientation
This work is fun and rewarding and a great way to give back to your friends!

Survey Breakdown

This survey takes 10 minutes or less
There are two sections: Six Roll Model Expectations, and Tell Us About Yourself

Please click here to fill out our survey.

Potomac Pedalers Sponsors Women & Bicycles!

Thank you PPTC

We’re  proud and excited to announce our partnership with the Potomac Pedalers!

Along with offering financial support, Potomac Pedalers and our Women & Bicycles group are partnering up to create four women-only rides (maybe more?) catering to different skills and biking goals, in different parts of the region, prioritizing fun and skillsharing!

We’re working together because we’re committed to bringing out all types of people  of all different bike abilities to experience the joys of biking and find camaraderie throughout the D.C. region.

The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club is a non-profit educational, recreational and social organization for bicycling enthusiasts.  They boast* the biggest membership and the largest ride calendar in the Metropolitan Washington DC area! And, they host the funnest bike tailgates.

The first joint PPTC and W&B ride is scheduled for May 9!
We’ll ride in Rock Creek and tailgate afterwards. Mark your calendars; details to come.

Click here to learn more!

 

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*Actually they’re pretty humble about it.

We’re so close! Help Women & Bicycles get to $10,000 by midnight!

UPDATE: We did it! Thanks to everyone who contributed!

 

We’re a 77% of the way to our $10,000 goal thanks to supporters like you!

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We have big plans for the Women & Bicycles program this year. Watch Nelle’s  video to see how your $10 helps fund a part-time coordinator run 80+ events and recruit and train 50+ Roll Models in 2015.

When you get right down to it, your donation gets more women on bicycles. Don’t take our word for it—here are some comments from our survey last fall:

“It’s great to be part of an inclusive, enthusiastic community of women. When I’m going somewhere that I could bike or take public transit, I think of Women & Bicycles and choose to ride. It’s an inspiration.”


“The tone of Women & Bicycles is one of compassion, understanding, and support, which fosters a really incredible community. I love that it’s a non-competitive atmosphere, and where ladies will “cheer” for your accomplishments, whether that’s riding to work one day a month or riding across the country. I’ve gained so much from having a supportive community that I can reach out to for bike-related or non-bike-related questions and concerns.”


“We hear again and again how the group has made so many women confident to ride in all conditions and distances. I also think it’s remarkable how the program has led non-WABA staff to step up and become volunteers and bicycle advocates on their own time and dime. If one believes there is power in the “each one teach one” model, this is absolutely the way to go.”


 “I love Women & Bicycles. Probably the best thing about the group is how empowering it is for women in general, not just on the bike.”

Please help use reach our $10,000 goal by midnight tonight!

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Last Chance 2


Women & Bicycles is proudly supported by The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club; hosts of the region’s most robust all-level group ride calendar and bike tailgates. We’re also supported by all our friends who donated through the Hains Point 100 ride.

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