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The Cody Blog: 21 Gears When All I Need is 3 - Or, My Best Broken Bone Ever

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

21 Gears When All I Need is 3 - Or, My Best Broken Bone Ever

I really have never understood why they make bikes with so many gears. I mean, it takes more time and energy to figure out what gear you should be in than it would to just pedal the darn bike.

My bike got stolen yet again last week. Bought a new one. $200 for these cheapie mountain bikes with 21 gears. 18 of which I've never used. I don't get it. Who needs 21 gears? I guess I can believe 10 gears. But 21? Let me switch down from second gear to first on my left hand and from 7 to 5 on my left. I find it trivial.

I'm typically, at least when I'm riding around the streets of NYC, either in second or third gear on the left hand side and fifth or seventh on the right hand side.

As an aside, I've mentioned before that I've had more than 20 broken bones in my life. I remember the best break I ever had (what a funny thing to say).

I was 11 years old, and had just inherited my brother's old ten speed. Ruidoso, NM is a very hilly place and my neighborhood was full of steep inclines. I rode that bike, on which I wasn't even close to being able to stand up -- it was way to big for me -- up to the top of the steepest incline in the hood. And took off.

Like a bat out of hell, I flew down that hill. Pedaling as hard as I could. I must have been going 30 miles an hour by the time I got 2/3 of the way down. And I started braking. But I didn't know that you needed to use the lower brakes on those old ten speeds because the upper ones didn't quite have the leverage. And so rather than slowing, gravity was at least equal to my breaking and that bike and I just kept speeding down the hill.

At the bottom of the hill was a house which had a circular driveway. I figured my only chance to avoid certain death was to try to loop through that driveway and head back up the hill using gravity to slow me. I hit that driveway easily going 30 miles an hour still and leaned left, trying to make the turn. But I couldn't make it.

I slammed the front wheel of the bike into a brick light post in front of the house and flew over the front of the bike into the post. Breaking my arm and totalling my new bike.

I was lying there, still stunned and trying to get my wits about me when out of the front door came a beautiful 20ish year old girl (man, is this gonna sound cheesey...but it's true!) in her bathrobe with her hair all wet. She'd heard me slam into the post and had thought a car had wrecked. She was so sweet and helped me into her house and sat me down and gave me a coke.

As I was wont to do with each of my many broken bones (at least when they weren't unbelievably obvious as in the couple times I shattered my ankle), I didn't let on that I'd really been messed up in that wreck, and she went to get dressed and then helped me carry my bike up the hill to my house.

Breaking bones sucks. But if you're gonna do it -- that's the way to get it done! LOL

P.S. Apparently she was just in town visiting some people who owned that house (which was almost always vacant). Wonder what ever happened to her.

P.P.S. I broke my arm twice and my collar bone once in bike riding accidents. Many other terrible wrecks that didn't result in broken bones too. I was, as the doctor used to tell my parents after we tested and found my bones to be very normal, just a little too athletic and a little too aggressive for my own good. Always riding my brother's bike. And then there was the time I took a dare from him to try to ride over a beach ball. Flipped that bike on my head, breaking my arm. I got in big trouble for that one. LOL


Blogger BelowTheCrowd said...

The extra gearing from very wide to very narrow makes a lot of sense on an actual mountain bike that will be used in the mountains, and especially if you're a bit overweight like me. You can and will use most of them, because the grades and the terrain vary widely enough to make them all useful. (Though in truth, from a mechanical perspective, there are a few that just don't make sense. A 27 gear mountian bike probably has about 20 "useful" gear combos.)

For a city bike, it's just plain stupid. My "get around Venice Beach" bike is 21 gears. Like you, I need 3-4. But it's like Megahertz on a computer: Irrelevant if all you're doing is email and the occasional spreadsheet, but do you know anybody who will settle for "last year's" speed?

It's a case of marketing and customer stupidity winning out over practicality and simplicity. We see it everywhere, every day.


9/27/2005 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

It reminds me a bit of the "power 12-way seat" in your car. Do we really need a seat that adjusts this many ways? Once you set your seat position, how often do you change it? Most likely the answer is "never" unless another driver uses the car.

Or what about the radio controls on the steering wheel. Have we become so lazy that we can't reach the extra 10 inches to change the radio? I understand the 'safety' issue here (well, not really) in that it keeps your hands on the wheel . . . but come on now.

Think of the waste.

9/27/2005 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breezer Bicycles, among others, make very nice city bikes with as few as three speeds and as many as eight.

9/28/2005 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous J Rasp said...

I gotta agree with those comments above, for the everyday casual rider, there are many more useful and comfortable bikes. The good news is, just like everything else (it seems), there is a specific bike out there for your exact needs/use. A real bike shop will help you find the right one for you. Number 1 reason a bike gathers dust is it is uncomfortable. Number 2 is the "complicated gearing stuff". I personally like to cruise my neighborhood with an ancient Schwinn cruiser w/ fat tires, big fenders and a 2 speed hub. Someone painted it green with house paint. Ugly, but nearly theft proof. I save the Mtn bike for the trails.

9/28/2005 03:20:00 PM  

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