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Old 08-27-09, 05:39 PM   #1
damonwang
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training vs. equipment?

I tried searching the forums but don't know quite how to phrase my question. I'm curious about how good the rider has to be for fancier equipment to make a difference, if there are equivalences between training and equipment. For example, a professional time trialist would benefit much more from a skin suit than additional training. So, how good do I have to be before clipless pedals actually make a difference? How long a ride do I need to really appreciate chamois?

Right now I have a 25 year old road bicycle, high tensile steel frame, platform pedals, and I usually ride in regular pants and with my lock and water in a backpack. I have no trouble keeping up with the local bicycle club's 17mph, 75min social rides, but I got dropped pretty fast from one of their faster rides (maybe 20mph into a headwind).
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Old 08-27-09, 06:04 PM   #2
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You don't have to be good at all for clipless pedals to make a difference, assuming you mean as compared to platform pedals. You do have to be willing to work. Clipless allows you to work for a far greater part of each rotation. But no magic, you haveot work for those additional parts of the rotation. If instead you just push down where you could anyway with platforms no gain. There is also a gain because of the stifness of the shoes. That will show up no matter what. On that part the greatest gains are actaully seen by fitter riders. The gains for stifness in hte shoe or bike show up the most for someone who works hard enough to cause things to flex, someone taking it easy does not cause much flex.
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Old 08-27-09, 07:12 PM   #3
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i still sucked at riding when i switched to spandex clothes.

i used to average 22km/h on my old mountain bike. 25km/h on my vintage road bike. 27km/h with spandex and a bit more training. I upgraded to a modern bike (~1400$ CAD back in 2007) and my speed is 29km/h average with less riding strength than that 27km/h figure from the previous year.

So... to answer your question... I'd say that if you ride close to or more than 6 hours a week, an upgrade in equipment/clothes WILL make a difference for you. An upgrade from a *** heavy road bike in street clothes to a lighter more modern frame with spandex will give you a relatively huge boost if you ride regularly.
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Old 08-27-09, 10:19 PM   #4
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You don't have to be good at all for clipless pedals to make a difference, assuming you mean as compared to platform pedals. You do have to be willing to work. Clipless allows you to work for a far greater part of each rotation.
In the case of clipless pedals, I should have phrased the question as, "Is there a point when it becomes prohibitively difficult to put out enough power just by pushing down? What does that feel like?" I'd like to reach the limits of my current equipment before upgrading. There's no point paying for better kit when the weakest part of the drive train is atop the saddle.
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Old 08-27-09, 10:37 PM   #5
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Training and capability will always outdo equipment. But, nicer equipment makes the training more enjoyable, therefore, more likely to be pursued. Equipment is the 'enabler' in the wonderful co-dependency of fitness cycling.

As a general rule, Lance Armstrong will beat you in a race even if you're riding each other's bikes. He could beat me on the crap I build for W-M.
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Old 08-28-09, 02:24 AM   #6
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I dont believe a rider has to be "good" or any better than a starter to use some of the upgrades youve mentioned.

I think alot of upgrades will just make your rides more efficient.

In my case my main concern is my touring bike. Whenever im gonna make a purchase on an upgrade, i stop for a minute and think wheather the difference from this upgrade is gonna justify the cost of it.
In most situations it doesnt. One being weight.

Just my opinion...
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Old 08-28-09, 03:03 AM   #7
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One of the things you realise as you get older, or soon after you start out, is that better equipment works better.

So that full suspension WallyMart mountain bike you bought for offroad works- to a degree. But how much better would you be on a 28lbs Specialised Hardrock that has better components and is strong enough for the Job? And how much better would you be on a 21lb hardtail with far better wheels- a better groupset and suspension forks that work?

You don't have to be a better rider to appreciate that the top of the line bike works better than a mediocre one although it does takes some people a lot of convincing that the 35lbs Full suspension unit with cheap wheels and No-Name groupset can be bettered.

There does come a point where no matter how much money or better equipment you have will not improve your riding- Then it is time to work on the engine. But even then comes a stage where the LX equipped disc braked bike can be improved on to give you better performance.

I am an older rider and have several bikes- in fact many bikes. I know that the 15lbs Ultegra equipped bike works better than the 19lbs Sora OCR3. But I don't use the "Best" bike all the time. I still go out on other bikes that may be better suited for the ride I am doing. One thing they all have in common though- They all work and all have good upgraded components on them that work for me.
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Old 08-28-09, 03:42 AM   #8
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I tried searching the forums but don't know quite how to phrase my question. I'm curious about how good the rider has to be for fancier equipment to make a difference, if there are equivalences between training and equipment. For example, a professional time trialist would benefit much more from a skin suit than additional training. So, how good do I have to be before clipless pedals actually make a difference? How long a ride do I need to really appreciate chamois?

Right now I have a 25 year old road bicycle, high tensile steel frame, platform pedals, and I usually ride in regular pants and with my lock and water in a backpack. I have no trouble keeping up with the local bicycle club's 17mph, 75min social rides, but I got dropped pretty fast from one of their faster rides (maybe 20mph into a headwind).
The answer is "It depends on the equipment and the training".

Clipless pedals would let you pull through the bottom of the pedal stroke (which is what matters and NOT the upstroke as some idiots imagine). Otoh so do the BMX pedals with "pins" that you can get for $20 on ebay, although people who have spent big bucks on clipless pedals and shoes often hate this being mentioned... (The clipless are still lighter though.)

The aero drag of your clothes will be greater than lycra, but won't be making that 3mph difference. If you want to keep up and have the genetic potential then those BMX pedals and some interval training (google HIIT) would probably do it - most amateurs still train using voodoo-based methodology. But be prepared for pain, and have a medical check if you have any doubts about your condition.
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Old 08-28-09, 03:45 AM   #9
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In the case of clipless pedals, I should have phrased the question as, "Is there a point when it becomes prohibitively difficult to put out enough power just by pushing down? What does that feel like?" I'd like to reach the limits of my current equipment before upgrading. There's no point paying for better kit when the weakest part of the drive train is atop the saddle.
No, that's wrong. Pedals that allow power to be applied over a wider part of the rotation will multiply the effectiveness of even a mediocre power plant. X * 1.25 is always more than X, whatever X is.

However, you need a lot more power to go a little faster - because aero drag goes with the cube of speed. So doubling speed require eight times the power, if drag profile stays the same.

The other cheap upgrades to consider are -

- Keep your chain and the rest of the power train clean

- Fit premium slick tyres to reduce rolling resistance

And put Kool Stop pads on - you won't go faster but will stop better.

I can't think of anything else I'd do to a HiTen bike.
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Old 08-28-09, 08:20 AM   #10
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Certain equipment helps. If you are uncomfortable on bike, you probably will not perform well. So good clothing, good gloves, good shoes and clipless pedals all help. You will ride better and not be distracted by chaffing and other nasty things.

As for the bike, if you are on a decent quality road bike like one with Shimano 105, you probably will not see any improvement going up to dura ace. You may like dura ace better. But I doubt that it will have any effect on performance. It will let you climb better being lighter but other than that. Probably not.

I have known people who were "B" riders and went out and bought high end bikes so they could become "A" riders and most of the time that does not work. I have known a few people who improved with a better bike but I think it might have been because they fell in love with their new machine. Really liking to ride probably meant they rode more and improved their performance.

But the thing is that relative to other pass times. Cycling is pretty cheap. You can get a really good bike for far less than many other things and if you ride much, you will certainly get the use out of it. If the move up means that you will enjoy the ride more, go do it. Life is short.
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Old 08-28-09, 08:30 AM   #11
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In my case my main concern is my touring bike. Whenever im gonna make a purchase on an upgrade, i stop for a minute and think wheather the difference from this upgrade is gonna justify the cost of it.
In most situations it doesnt. .
Agree. I've been riding as an adult for more than 40 years, and in the beginning I bought every gimmick and gadget that promised to make me faster (to laugh out loud, search Google Images for "Hite Rite." I bought TWO of those...). These days I hardly spend any money at all on my bikes--they're comfortable, they work, and taking two ounces off the water bottle cages isn't going to improve my life.
One point I'd dispute (not that it will convince anybody) is the idea that clipless pedals make a huge difference. I've done the same 25-mile commute regularly since 1979, more than 3000 trips, on every bike I own, on all kinds of tires, with all kinds of pedals. For about 15 years, I kept a detailed training log of speeds, times, changes to the bikes etc. Clipless pedals are fine, and a good rider, working hard, may go faster with them. In everyday riding, though, they made no significant difference for me. There were things I liked about them and things i didn't, and I don't use them anymore except on one bike, because I have four pairs of size 15 shoes I can't stand to leave in the closet. But I commuted today on platform pedals with toe clips, and yesterday on the same bike with clipless, and my times were nine seconds apart. That's consistent over decades.
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Old 08-28-09, 09:58 AM   #12
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(to laugh out loud, search Google Images for "Hite Rite." I bought TWO of those...)
The Hite Rite concept is back!

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Old 08-28-09, 10:36 AM   #13
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Training and capability will always outdo equipment. But, nicer equipment makes the training more enjoyable, therefore, more likely to be pursued. Equipment is the 'enabler' in the wonderful co-dependency of fitness cycling.

As a general rule, Lance Armstrong will beat you in a race even if you're riding each other's bikes. He could beat me on the crap I build for W-M.
In the case of clipless (vrs pure platforms) it also can help or you do things better. I used to swim at a very high level. That meant my stroke was right even when I was exhausted. On platforms I can still get some pull through at the bottom and unweight on if I really concentrate. But I have to really really think about it every pedal stroke. I simply can not do it right on a platform if I'm tired. Perhaps I could if I had as many hours training on a bike as I did in the pool when I was younger. But with clipless I can pedal in circles, even when so tired I can barely pedal at all.

Again they do not do it magically for you, the rider still has to try to ride right.
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Old 08-28-09, 12:01 PM   #14
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I tried searching the forums but don't know quite how to phrase my question. I'm curious about how good the rider has to be for fancier equipment to make a difference, if there are equivalences between training and equipment.
The vast majority of performance is the rider and not the bike. The performance advantage gained from spending a lot of money is small and really only makes sense for people who are already performing at a very high level.

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For example, a professional time trialist would benefit much more from a skin suit than additional training.
A time trialist is competing in a group of high-performers. The performance benefit of equipment is going to be small but that little bit of extra advantage is worth more to the time trialist. Plus, all of the people he/she is competing against are using the better equipment.

Note that, the faster you are riding, the more important your posture on the bike is since aerodynamic effects are greater at higher speeds.

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So, how good do I have to be before clipless pedals actually make a difference?
The primary advantage of clipless pedals (in my opinion) is that they makes using a higher cadence easier. Developing a high cadence would be a reasonable goal. What is your typical cadence? Clipless pedals help you develop better technique, which means you should consider getting them sooner rather than later.

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How long a ride do I need to really appreciate chamois?
The point of bike shorts is to reduce chafing and increase comfort. There isn't really any performance advantage beyond that.

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Right now I have a 25 year old road bicycle, high tensile steel frame, platform pedals, and I usually ride in regular pants and with my lock and water in a backpack. I have no trouble keeping up with the local bicycle club's 17mph, 75min social rides, but I got dropped pretty fast from one of their faster rides (maybe 20mph into a headwind).
At faster paces, one's use of gears has to be more efficient. Some of the newer shifters make it a bit quicker to shift gears. As others have said, making sure you have reasonable tires on the bike is a good idea. Also, make sure those old wheels are true.

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Old 08-28-09, 12:48 PM   #15
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Training and capability will always outdo equipment...
It's a no-brainer that given enough training you can overcome a large deficiency in equipment. The question then becomes how much training is required to offset how much improvement in equipment. I know my recumbents have made me faster when years of training couldn't do it. More specific to the OP:

An older, heavier, but well-tuned bike will probably work fine on flat ground. Where you'll notice the difference is when the road points up. Then the new lightweights will just dance away from you. If they're losing you on flat ground now, then that's a training issue.

Clipless pedals will help NOW. And if you get a new bike later, the pedals can move to the new bike.

The biggest difference clothes will make is in comfort. At 18 mph, it doesn't matter if you're weaing a T-shirt or a jersey; especially if you're riding in a draft line.
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Old 08-28-09, 12:56 PM   #16
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I know my recumbents have made me faster when years of training couldn't do it.
Going to something that is radically different, like a recumbent, might have a significant impact. Going to a recumbent is not exactly "more fancy". How much faster did the recumbent make you?

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An older, heavier, but well-tuned bike will probably work fine on flat ground. Where you'll notice the difference is when the road points up. Then the new lightweights will just dance away from you.
We don't know what old bike he is using but effect you are describing as "dancing" might be an exaggeration. We'd really have to know the weight of him and his bike to make any determination.

========================

The difference in performance between a (about) $1000-$1500 bike ("normal") and a $3000-5000 bike ("fancy") is going to be very, very small.

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Old 08-28-09, 01:41 PM   #17
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If you are uncomfortable on bike, you probably will not perform well.
Nothing will get you more bang for your buck than fine tuning your bike fit. Just think about it. Multiple hand positions so your hands don't go numb. Being able to use your drops at the front of the line or into the wind. Never having to stand up and take a break to relieve perineal irritation. Feet that don't get sore after two hours. It adds up to a lot more than most riders think about and it's cheap! Spend some time finding that optimal cockpit length, handlebar height, and saddle position, the one that's as aero as you can get and still be all day comfortable. Be patient. It took me over a year after my initial obsession with buying lighter, faster, and gimmickier stuff wore off.

Go ahead and get some basic spd clipless pedals and shoes. They will help, wellgos and performance brand aren't that expensive, and like blazing said, you can always move them to the new bike if and when you get one.

You're probably not my size, 150-155 lbs., but I estimate each pound (off the bike or off of me) nets me about 0.1 mph. If you can shed 7 lbs. with a $700 bike, that's a quarter of the way to 20 mph and well within what I consider a justifiable expenditure. On the other hand, shedding another pound from my race bike will cost me over a grand and that is out of line for somebody who rarely races and who can still stand to lose another 5 lbs and save on the grocery bill while I'm at it.

Bike clothing is more about comfort and style but there is an aerodynamic benefit. It's hard to notice at 17 mph. At 20 mph, you've got 65% more wind resistance and it's much easier to notice. After hauling arse at 25 mph for a while at it gets obvious. I notice it every time I show up to a club ride dressed as white trash in cutoffs and a ratty old T-shirt advertising either beer or my services as a gigolo (which I do quite often).

I've been riding 3000-5000 miles per year for a decade and I'm at that point where training harder all summer gets me about the same benefit as dropping the dough on a new $4000 ride with 250g lighter wheels would. I must admit it's getting very tempting to opt for the more painless of the two options. If I did both, I could probably keep up with faster members in the club.
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Old 08-29-09, 02:41 AM   #18
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So it sounds like the overall advice is this:

1. Clipless will help even now
2. I should look into interval training
3. Keep up with maintenance, like greasing the chain, inflating the tires, and keeping the wheels true
4. Hold off on the clothing

Is that right?
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Old 08-29-09, 07:25 AM   #19
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You can start with clipless whenever you want. If you're going to do interval training, clipless would certainly help a lot. You've got a bit of a threat of wiping out, but they help you in the long run.

If you're riding for fun, you don't need to do interval training. I don't do interval training (or any other form of training). I just ride my bike. I gradually am getting faster and faster with increased mileage. I think the general consensus is that you need to be doing many miles a day before you need to focus on specifics like intervals.

Definitely do the maintenance. It'll save you a lot of pain later, and keep your bike rolling smooth.

I say get the clothing if you want to go fast, or ride any distance. The clothing helps keep you cool (technical fabrics), makes you more aero, and helps to prevent chaffing. It's relatively cheap, too. In Canada you can get a pair of nice shorts for 60$ (gotta look 'round a bit), and a UA shirt for 30$. It'd be cheaper in the states. You can get by no problem with just two outfits... assuming you don't stink excessively.
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Old 08-29-09, 10:01 AM   #20
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So it sounds like the overall advice is this:

1. Clipless will help even now
2. I should look into interval training
3. Keep up with maintenance, like greasing the chain, inflating the tires, and keeping the wheels true
4. Hold off on the clothing

Is that right?
1.1 Work on being able to maintain a cadence of (at least) 80+ RPM.
1.2 It's possible that a speedometer might be useful.

(You might be more comfortable in cycling shorts.)
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Old 08-29-09, 10:10 AM   #21
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I find it interesting that there is a certain symmetry between the added benefit to spending money on equipment and the added benefit to additional/ harder training: the worse you equipment is or the worse shape you're in, the greater the incremental benefit from upgrading equipment or training. For example there is a lot more difference between a $200 bike and a $1000 bike than between a $3200 bike and a $4000 bike. By the same token, if you are a relative beginner in poor shape, you will make huge gains in fitness by simply riding on a consistent basis. If you are already in very good shape, it takes a huge effort to wring a few %age points improvement out of your body.

I agree with some of the others that there is no threshold you have to reach before you can benefit from better equipment. Anything that makes riding more fun and/or comfortable will encourage you to ride more resulting in increased performance. If you're riding a bike that won't shift smoothly and has other equipment problems you're likely to ride less than if you have a bike that works well. And clothing is more about comfort than directly contributing to performance. As noted above tho, there is a point of diminishing returns from equipment expenditures.

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Old 08-29-09, 07:21 PM   #22
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1.1 Work on being able to maintain a cadence of (at least) 80+ RPM.
1.2 It's possible that a speedometer might be useful.
It's interesting that there's so much on the internet about pedalling too slowly. I stay in a low gear so I can start more easily at traffic lights, and I find my problem is remembering to shift up when I get onto a path. So, if I don't have a cadence sensor, are there any rules of thumb about when to shift? I remember reading elsewhere on BF something like, "if your legs hurt, shift down; if your lungs hurt, shift up".

Related to shifting, is it possible to get a five-speed bar-end shifter? I'm always reluctant to use my stem-mounted friction shifters because I have to take a hand off the handlebars and it takes a bit of fiddling.

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You can start with clipless whenever you want. If you're going to do interval training, clipless would certainly help a lot. You've got a bit of a threat of wiping out, but they help you in the long run.
Does anyone know a good brick-and-mortar place in Chicago where I can try on some SPD shoes and ask a lot of questions? I'm told it's possible to get pedals that are platform on one side and SPD-compatible on the other, which sounds ideal for me.

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If you're riding for fun, you don't need to do interval training. I don't do interval training (or any other form of training). I just ride my bike. I gradually am getting faster and faster with increased mileage. I think the general consensus is that you need to be doing many miles a day before you need to focus on specifics like intervals.
Now that I've read a little about interval training, I don't think I'm going to do it any more seriously than "race you to that tree!", but reading Tabata et al.'s papers have turned me onto a whole world of sports science. I never realized there were journals for this stuff!

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Old 08-29-09, 08:21 PM   #23
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+1 to what chinarider said.

Damonwang:

I believe those plat/spd pedals are meant for mountain bikers. I honestly don't know if they make road bike specific ones. You can ask a lot of questions here (most of us are helpful ), or search the forums. If you're worried about wiping out, don't worry too too much. I rode with a set of Shimano M520's for over a year on my old beater bike - the same model on my mountain bike. You can adjust the tension so that it's really, really loose. I founds clipless real easy to get into 'cause I was used to riding with straps... Seriously it's not that complicated.

Have a good one!
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Old 08-30-09, 03:18 PM   #24
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It's interesting that there's so much on the internet about pedalling too slowly. I stay in a low gear so I can start more easily at traffic lights, and I find my problem is remembering to shift up when I get onto a path.
Knowing how to use your gears efficiently is more worthwhile than spending money on equipment.

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So, if I don't have a cadence sensor, are there any rules of thumb about when to shift?
Shift down when your cadence gets too low or too high! You can determine your cadence from knowing your speed and knowing the size of the gear that you are in. Play around with a gear calculator like on www.sheldonbrown.com. You can also count the pedal rotations in a certain amount of time (eg, 10 seconds).

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I remember reading elsewhere on BF something like, "if your legs hurt, shift down; if your lungs hurt, shift up".
This is a fairly crude suggestion. Good riders are shifting more frequently than this advice would tell them to.

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Related to shifting, is it possible to get a five-speed bar-end shifter? I'm always reluctant to use my stem-mounted friction shifters because I have to take a hand off the handlebars and it takes a bit of fiddling.
You should be able to use a friction mode bar-end shifter. Some shifters can be switched from friction to indexed.

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I believe those plat/spd pedals are meant for mountain bikers. I honestly don't know if they make road bike specific ones.
The are intended for MTB but they work fine on road bikes. A lot of people do it. The advantage of the MTB/SPD shoes is that they are easier to walk around in.

Note that SPD is Shimano's MTB pedal system. They have a road-bike specific one too. Other companies have their own systems.

Last edited by njkayaker; 08-30-09 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 08-30-09, 03:29 PM   #25
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Does anyone know a good brick-and-mortar place in Chicago where I can try on some SPD shoes and ask a lot of questions? I'm told it's possible to get pedals that are platform on one side and SPD-compatible on the other, which sounds ideal for me.
This should help: http://www.chicagobikeshops.info/gmapView.php
Also try the great lakes forum here.

I started with double-sided pedals but went to crank brothers eggbeaters quickly. I don't really ride to get places, just for fun, so there wasn't a need to wear regular shoes. Also, I have mountain bike shoes which are easy to walk/run in.
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