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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-04-08, 10:18 AM   #1
runningmom52
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Faster Breezer?

I bought a Breezer Villager (7 gears) two years ago for around town errands and now I use it for commuting (8 miles roundtrip). I have a couple of big hills that are killing me (I'm no spring chicken anymore). Is there a way of modifying the gears to make this easier without sacrificing speed (that which it is) at the other end? Or should I think about trading it in for a lot more gears?
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Old 08-04-08, 10:28 AM   #2
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That's one downside to internally geared hubs, - it's not easy (cheap) to change the range. You could probably swap the rear sprocket with something larger but then you'll lose the high end.
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Old 08-04-08, 10:29 AM   #3
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It's not the number of gears, it's the spacing between them. I think your 7 speed gearhub is around 240%. There is a new higher end 8 spd shimano gearhub that has a 300% range, comparable to any roadbike (although the low and high ends are both likely to be lower than a full-on racing bike, which is likely what you want of course). You can get it built into a wheel for $300: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/wheelsint.html would need a new shifter too. I don't know if that's a price that would just lead you to look at a new bike instead. That's just one place I found a built wheel online, there are probably other places that are cheaper.
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Old 08-04-08, 10:37 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by runningmom52 View Post
I bought a Breezer Villager (7 gears) two years ago for around town errands and now I use it for commuting (8 miles roundtrip). I have a couple of big hills that are killing me (I'm no spring chicken anymore). Is there a way of modifying the gears to make this easier without sacrificing speed (that which it is) at the other end? Or should I think about trading it in for a lot more gears?

In my opinion internal hubs are best on nearly flat ground to very mild hills. Unfortunately, not much can be done to improve it's hill climbing ability without losing speed. You can always put a larger cog on the rear which would make going up hill easier, but you overall speed will be lower. Your best bet is if you like Breezer is to trade to a Liberty or a Greenway.
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Old 08-04-08, 10:55 AM   #5
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Easiest would be to change the rear cog. I believe the Villager has an 18 tooth rear cog. Shimano makes rear cogs with 16 to 23 teeth. However, as pointed out, you'll loose top end speed.

Nonetheless, on my Breezer Freedom I found that putting on better quality, higher psi tires helped substantially in performance. In my case Continental City Contacts (1.5" wide, 70 psi max).

Hills are still a mofo though.

Or you could perhaps find another route bypassing the hills.
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Old 08-04-08, 11:04 AM   #6
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While I have to agree that a new wheel or new bike is likely the ultimate solution there's some things you can do to fine tune what you have already.

Play with the saddle height and fore/aft positioning on the rails to work your body position up and a little forward. When fully extended your leg should go around the bottom of the pedal stroke with your knee not quite fully straightening out. The closer if it to fully straight but just shy of going over center to the locked position the better your leg power will be. A 1/4 inch of height in the saddle makes a huge difference believe it or not.

For power I also like to have my body positioned so that I'm balanced over the pedals. So if you hold the pedals level with each other and just barely take your weight off the saddle you feel balanced on the pedals without having to pull yourself forward or push back on the bars. It's not racy accurate but this balanced on the bottom bracket pivot is pretty good for commuting. To get there you may have to move your saddle forward on the rails to achieve this balance. But when you get there your pedalling will be mostly down through the cranks with very little angling you back onto the saddle like it will if you're back heavy. And from what I've seen with the couple of cruiser bikes I've ridden they really are aggresively back heavy in this regard. You may not get it where it needs to be but you can make things better than they are now.
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Old 08-04-08, 03:00 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by runningmom52 View Post
I bought a Breezer Villager (7 gears) two years ago for around town errands and now I use it for commuting (8 miles roundtrip). I have a couple of big hills that are killing me (I'm no spring chicken anymore). Is there a way of modifying the gears to make this easier without sacrificing speed (that which it is) at the other end? Or should I think about trading it in for a lot more gears?
What is the highest gear that you use for any duration on your commute? If you don't use the higher gears much, then you could easily change the rear sprocket out for a larger one. Which would make all of your gears lower and a bit more suitable for climbing hills. Look here for some info on gears in general.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/
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Old 08-11-08, 12:34 PM   #8
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What is the highest gear that you use for any duration on your commute? If you don't use the higher gears much, then you could easily change the rear sprocket out for a larger one. Which would make all of your gears lower and a bit more suitable for climbing hills. Look here for some info on gears in general.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/
Thanks for everyone's input.
I brought my bike down to the dealer and changed the rear sprocket for a larger one and it definitely helps, but now I feel like I'm pedaling as fast on flat ground but it's taking me more time to get anywhere. Predictable, but frustrating nonetheless.

I'll look into the switching tires. Unfortunately, I can't change my route without endangering life and limb to scary traffic.


I really like the riding position suggestions. Good advice which I'm trying consciously to follow.



This is what the breezer site says about the 8-speed vs 7:

Nexus-8 hubs have a 305% gear range vs. the 245% range of Nexus-7 hubs. This equates to about a 65-gear-inch range vs. the 55-gear-inch range of the Nexus 7. The Nexus-8 top gear is about 3 times greater than its low gear.


With a larger wheel sprocket, which I've done, how does this relate to the range above? In other words, if I were to go for the 8, would my current bottom speed (with sprocket replacement) be equivalent to bottom speed on the 8? This would help me understand if there'd be a significant hill capability were I to trade.

Thank you all. You've been patient.
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Old 08-11-08, 12:52 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by runningmom52 View Post
Thanks for everyone's input.
I brought my bike down to the dealer and changed the rear sprocket for a larger one and it definitely helps, but now I feel like I'm pedaling as fast on flat ground but it's taking me more time to get anywhere. Predictable, but frustrating nonetheless.

I'll look into the switching tires. Unfortunately, I can't change my route without endangering life and limb to scary traffic.


I really like the riding position suggestions. Good advice which I'm trying consciously to follow.



This is what the breezer site says about the 8-speed vs 7:

Nexus-8 hubs have a 305% gear range vs. the 245% range of Nexus-7 hubs. This equates to about a 65-gear-inch range vs. the 55-gear-inch range of the Nexus 7. The Nexus-8 top gear is about 3 times greater than its low gear.


With a larger wheel sprocket, which I've done, how does this relate to the range above? In other words, if I were to go for the 8, would my current bottom speed (with sprocket replacement) be equivalent to bottom speed on the 8? This would help me understand if there'd be a significant hill capability were I to trade.

Thank you all. You've been patient.
I don't think there's enough info there to say. It doesn't say how much lower the "low" is or how much higher the "high" is. It only says that the range is wider. The info is probably online someplace. You'd also have to know what size cog size you started with and what you've got now.

Do you know what your cadence is on the flats? If it's under 90 before you change anything leave the bike as it is for awhile. See if you can make up the difference by pedaling faster. You'll get used to it and it's better for your knees anyway.
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Old 08-11-08, 01:44 PM   #10
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Step 1: check your tire pressure

Yes, I know it's a horrific and roadie sort of thing to do... but over the course of a week or two, odds are I'm down to 55 psi, and I'll really feel it on hills. Get back up to 65 psi, and it feels like I've gained a ton of speed. The stock tires are pretty decent, and depending on your roads, higher pressure ones *might* be a good idea. Most places I've lived have skimped on road maintenance, so I'd rather have cushy tires than really stiff high speed ones. YMMV.

Step 2: look over how you're using your gears.

On my Villager, I use 4 as my cruising gear most of the time. My cadence isn't all that and a bag of chips, but it's good enough that the stock 4 feels plenty fast. Most hills that are under a 5% grade are very doable for me, if I started at cruising speed. Madison is pancake flat, so it's hard to find hills over 5%.

Because I have a ton of stop and go, I do end up shifting a fair bit. My knees scream if I start in more than 2nd gear, and if I have a load, it's better to start in 1st. And in some situations, I can cruise in a higher gear, but it's pretty rare for that to last even 1/4 mile. Sooner or later I hit a light and have to stop... usually sooner.

If you were mostly cruising in 7 and had decent cadence... there would be very few hills where you run out of gears. If you were mostly cruising in 2 or 3 with good cadence... then a cog shift makes sense. Either way, you *will* be coasting downhill on anything steepish. Not enough range. But you need to have *really* good ability to spin at 90+ and a pretty wide gear range to not coast down hills, so it's an ok compromise.

Step 3: take a look at your route

A lot of people describe the Appalachians as "rollers". They're on some seriously good drugs! It's pretty common to have stretches of hill with grades in excess of 15% in the Appalachians... and Boston counts despite being on the coast. It's pretty common to have a route *anywhere* have at least 2-4 hills with a 5% grade or nastier. It's *easy* to have hundreds of feet of elevation gain on a short ride. (Madison has rollers... all nice little rises and it's *hard* to find a 5% grade. So nice after growing up in Central PA's hills...)

If you check your route and find that it looks more like something out of a torturous climbing century than a lazy commute to work, stop beating yourself up! It is reasonable to be slow on something like that.

Depending on the hills there *may* be alternate routes that are still reasonably quiet and have lower grades. As a kid, I'd often head downhill on the 18% grade route, and make a slight detour to go back uphill along a switchback side street. Same elevation gain, but having 2 full switchbacks made it a lot easier to ride up. Also a lot longer, so it was about a tie to walk up or bike up. 18% grades suck

Step 4: the engine

Biking is hard work. Telling yourself that it should be easier or that you should be faster is a real short trip to getting back in a car. Since biking is hard work, it takes a long time to build up the strength and endurance needed to do it well.

Last year, I started biking to get around after a couple of years of being car free and walking everywhere. Ow. I did work my way up to doing 20-25 mile rides last year, but they'd wear me out. I just kept riding, and had a mental budget for miles. This year, the same basic riding schedule is fine. I'm not exhausted as easily. Next step is to start pushing myself a bit, so my body doesn't start to wimp out on me because it got used to what I want it to do.

You'll have a similar pattern. It will get better! But it takes time, and is very gradual.
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Old 08-11-08, 01:53 PM   #11
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This is what the breezer site says about the 8-speed vs 7:

Nexus-8 hubs have a 305% gear range vs. the 245% range of Nexus-7 hubs. This equates to about a 65-gear-inch range vs. the 55-gear-inch range of the Nexus 7. The Nexus-8 top gear is about 3 times greater than its low gear.


With a larger wheel sprocket, which I've done, how does this relate to the range above? In other words, if I were to go for the 8, would my current bottom speed (with sprocket replacement) be equivalent to bottom speed on the 8? This would help me understand if there'd be a significant hill capability were I to trade.
Well, the Nexus 8's range is constant, regardless of the chainring and cog you use with it. Apparently the 8 has a bit of a lower low and a bit of a higher high than the 7 (the extra 60% of gear range is not tacked on to just one end or the other). You can play w/ the gearhub options here:

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/internal.html


Popping in the stock breezer chainring and cog (but I probably used the wrong tire size), the 8 ranges from ~28-88 gear-inches, and the 7 from ~34-84. So I guess that's your 10 gear-inches, 6 off the bottom, 4 onto the top.
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Old 08-11-08, 02:40 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by runningmom52 View Post
This is what the breezer site says about the 8-speed vs 7:

Nexus-8 hubs have a 305% gear range vs. the 245% range of Nexus-7 hubs. This equates to about a 65-gear-inch range vs. the 55-gear-inch range of the Nexus 7. The Nexus-8 top gear is about 3 times greater than its low gear.


With a larger wheel sprocket, which I've done, how does this relate to the range above? In other words, if I were to go for the 8, would my current bottom speed (with sprocket replacement) be equivalent to bottom speed on the 8? This would help me understand if there'd be a significant hill capability were I to trade.

Thank you all. You've been patient.
In a nutshell if you are now happy with the low gear (1st) in your new setup, but feel that you need a higher ratio in 7th gear then yes the 8 speed will help you.

Just follow the directions on the Sheldon Brown Link I gave you earlier and it will give you gear inches. Plug in your old spocket size and it will tell you gear inches in each gear. Then plug in the new size and then compare them. Play around with the chart a bit and you will figure it out.

I feel the nexus 8 is a step up in quaility as well as gear range versus the nexus 7. If you decide to go the 8 speed route be sure to get a nexus 8 redband or a alfine 8 speed. They are improved versions of the standard nexus 8 which is an improved version of the nexus 7.

You would have to build a new rear wheel if you go this route so it will not be cheap. You would also need a new 8speed shifter. The link I gave earlier has the hubs and complete wheels for sale. Compare those prices to your LBS. I recomend LBS if they are anywhere near competitive in price.
Good Luck with your project.
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Old 08-12-08, 09:17 AM   #13
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