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    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Anyone (else) have aborted uphill starts?

    I recently changed out our 11-32 for an 11-36 given us a 24-36 low. On Saturday's 100K we used the gear on a few steep pitches and had occasion to stop a few times: jacket removal, etc.

    I actually had to abort the start twice because in the lower gear and with my entire 200 lbs on the left pedal I couldn't get my rear end in the saddle before the pedal bottomed out. Once I actually manually shifted into the 32t in order to get started in a higher gear. Certainly no harm, no foul although there was a bit of stoker consternation.

    I wonder if anyone else has experienced something similar?

    BTW, I can infer from this that stoker is really giving it all she's got on these steep starts. We have a daVinci so she can keep pedaling, but at these slow speed starts I can't steer, balance the bike and get in the saddle once my left foot is at its nadir; better safe than sorry.
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    Senior Member colotandem's Avatar
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    We have been able to start on some relatively steep pitches 15-18% grade (on dirt) on our MTB tandem in a low gear of 22/36. At times I have had to rely on my wife to power us through while my leg gets spun around as I'm trying to get on the saddle. Our biggest issue is being in a spot where the dirt is not too loose and keeping traction with the rear wheel. If we do spin out I need to get my foot down FAST!

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    That's a really low gear, all right. We can start reliably in a 26-32. Below that is not reliable for us, so we don't do it. I'll look for a driveway or something and shift up as we stop. If there's nowhere to stop, we tough it out. If we had to make an emergency stop, we'd shift up before we started. One can push a much bigger gear for a minute than one can sustain for twenty, so the teeny gear one might stop in will feel really wimpy when starting, unless it's a steep enough hill that the team can hardly turn the cranks, in which case the pedal will come down slowly enough even in the teeny gear.

    We're IP, so that might make it a little easier for us. Stoker can pretty much lift me into the saddle if I mess up, while complaining mightily. Did someone say something about not being perfect?

  4. #4
    PMK
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    I agree with colotandem since we are off-road tandemists also.

    With such a grinder gear selected, you might consider less concern about being clipped in, this will give you options to easily step out. Start on the arch, rather than ball of your foot. Not perfect but it can save your stokers butt and your hearing. The other thing that helps us, especially off-road, is have your stoker hold the pedals flat for the second as you get up and seated. This will take a touch of practice and some balance. Forgot this is on a Davinci. Therefore the stoker can not hold the pedals like on a fixed timing bike.

    My guess would be that the captain must keep the rear brake / wheel locked up, so he can use the pedal as a step without moving, get situated, release the brake while adding power. Yes it will require some balance.

    As for climbing at stupid slow speeds. For us, both on-road and off-road, the stoker has to remain almost invisible except for pedal power. If they are tugging on the bars in any movement except dead straight the captain will be sawing the bars left and right. During group rides we see this a lot. I guess it takes practice and as much as we don't like it, some days we just do rides of climbing and descending the same section over and over.

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    I start just about always seated in the saddle, whether single or tandem. It overcomes any problems of getting up on the seat within the first pedal stroke, gives me instant control of the bike, and I don't have to scoot so I am applying power from the get-go.

    It took a while to persuade Machka to be seated, too, with her right foot on the ground and to take off like that, and it goes against the usual tandem principle of having the stoker seated and both feet on pedals. But it works for us, although the "one, two, three, go" count is important.

    One issue, however, is seat height which is related to crank length. Of course, the longer the crank, the lower the seat, so that makes starting off seated a little easier. If the cranks are short, thank means seat height might become a barrier to using this method effectively.
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    Some gearing can be nearly useless in certain situations, too high can be nearly as bad as too low. If you're not in a race, get off the tandem, have the stoker lift the back end and then manually shift it into a more useful gear if you can spin or grind away from a stop in the wrong gear.

    Also being an off-road tandem team, we have had occasion to get stopped on a steep grade in our 24 x 32. We're usually able to "load" the drive train while keeping the rear brake on such that we can start from a virtual but momentary track stand, i.e., a stall-start. It's something I've did for years on singles that seemed to work on the tandem.

  7. #7
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    Some gearing can be nearly useless in certain situations, too high can be nearly as bad as too low. If you're not in a race, get off the tandem, have the stoker lift the back end and then manually shift it into a more useful gear if you can spin or grind away from a stop in the wrong gear....
    TG, that was exactly the lesson we learned. Generally, if we have to go to that low a gear we wouldn't have any reason to stop. Easy enough to get the bike into a taller gear after a stop. Once we're going a few pedals of "grunt" will allow me to shift if necessary.

    I'd have to think about starting while seated. This means leaning the bike a bit more. Might try this solo a few times and see how it feels.

    Having too low a gear is really a high class problem for us. We have one 8 mile climb which we do occasionally that only has two pitches where we would use the 36t, but it can be a leg saver. The first pitch is early in the climb when you're not really into it. The second pitch is right at the end, 16% or so and is a killer after you've climbed 2500'.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    That's a really low gear, all right. We can start reliably in a 26-32. Below that is not reliable for us, so we don't do it. I'll look for a driveway or something and shift up as we stop. If there's nowhere to stop, we tough it out. If we had to make an emergency stop, we'd shift up before we started. One can push a much bigger gear for a minute than one can sustain for twenty, so the teeny gear one might stop in will feel really wimpy when starting, unless it's a steep enough hill that the team can hardly turn the cranks, in which case the pedal will come down slowly enough even in the teeny gear.

    We're IP, so that might make it a little easier for us. Stoker can pretty much lift me into the saddle if I mess up, while complaining mightily. Did someone say something about not being perfect?
    I agree with Carbonfiberboy. Start in high enough gear so you can get a few lower cadence strokes then shift to easier gear to spin as needed. We use the proper method and when starting on a steep pitch I sometimes just go straight to standing pedaling for a few strokes then sit and shift to easier gear. We rarely ride with only one of us standing but for a short distance to get going it works well. It helps to have pedals that are easy to get into like Bebop or Speedplay.

  9. #9
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    We have occasionally had trouble starting uphill in a low gear where the pedal spins down so quickly without the bike actually gaining much forward momentum. Sometimes we'll shift the gears while we're off the bike to what seems appropriate. Sometimes we'll just walk the bike to wherever looks like a better starting place. It's all part of the experience.
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    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdtompki View Post
    I recently changed out our 11-32 for an 11-36 given us a 24-36 low. On Saturday's 100K we used the gear on a few steep pitches and had occasion to stop a few times: jacket removal, etc.
    A voluntary stop like that should be done at the top of the hill. Never stop looking uphill if it can be helped.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  11. #11
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    We are still an inexperienced team (~300-400 miles under our belts in about 2 months) so it happens to us probably more than it could/should. My wife and I did the same 100k ride last Sunday Rick mentioned and we have been having trouble with our FD not shifting reliably into the small ring if there is _any_ tension on the driveline at all (which really sucks and is something I have been working on fixing--the old reverse pull Sun Tour Comp V has a very loose cage so my next step is to swap it). As long as I go to the small ring way early we're fine, but if I miss the opportunity we're pushing hard or stopping (and I really hear it from the back because "stoquette" does not like to stop on hills). There was one short, but super steep, climb right before the lunch stop that I totally underestimated. By the time I started seeing a bunch of single riders walking up the hill it was too late to catch the small ring. I knew we were not going to make it in the middle ring (a 42) so we stopped and shifted to the small ring holding the rear wheel up. I had my doubts about restarting. We tried twice and aborted both times. I said we need to walk this one. My wife said before the ride she didn't want to walk up any hills when I told her we might have to. I saw a level dirt driveway and realized we could start there so we did and we made it the rest of the way up, passing quite a few walked singles at a half a MPH or so faster than walking. We actually did have to bail out and walk one more time for a few yards at the top of Lewis Rd., another climb I totally underestimated when looking at the route. After those two climbs we knew the rest of the route from doing training rides out that way so things got much better.

    A big part of the problem for us is that my stoker insists on not starting "the proper method" and we do okay the vast majority of time with both feet down together (IP).

    @Rick, sorry we didn't connect last Sunday. I wasn't able to PM due to low post count and figured I would just look for a daVinci (I think I saw a black daVinci at the Aptos High "dinner stop"...yours?). My wife's first ever organized ride and my first in almost 40 years. We had a great time and my amazing stoker is already asking when we'll do it again. I added a photo of us that a friend from our spin class took close to the top of Hazel Dell in the happy tandem couple photo thread below. Hope you two enjoyed the ride too!

  12. #12
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msvphoto View Post
    ...we have been having trouble with our FD not shifting reliably into the small ring if there is _any_ tension on the driveline at all (which really sucks and is something I have been working on fixing--the old reverse pull Sun Tour Comp V has a very loose cage so my next step is to swap it). As long as I go to the small ring way early we're fine, but if I miss the opportunity...
    You aren't alone with this issue. Of course, the front derailleur shifts the part of the chain under pull-the-bike tension, whereas the rear derailleur shifts the chain under tension only from the derailleur cage. Novices, on solo bike or tandem, often complain "Why doesn't my FD shift cleanly? I need it to climb a hill near my house." They think they can just click the index lever and it will magically change gears. And of course too the key is to shift the front early, and correspondingly upshift on the rear if necessary.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msvphoto View Post
    ..............
    @Rick, sorry we didn't connect last Sunday. I wasn't able to PM due to low post count and figured I would just look for a daVinci (I think I saw a black daVinci at the Aptos High "dinner stop"...yours?). My wife's first ever organized ride and my first in almost 40 years. We had a great time and my amazing stoker is already asking when we'll do it again. I added a photo of us that a friend from our spin class took close to the top of Hazel Dell in the happy tandem couple photo thread below. Hope you two enjoyed the ride too!
    That ride is a great accomplishment for a newbie team!

    Let's definitely try to connect for a ride sometime. There' a real dearth of tandem-friendly organized rides in our area over the next six weeks and we would be itching to do something a bit different.

    You didn't see our tandem at the lunch stop; I cramped after Hazel Dell and while I was able to ride up moderate grades, I wasn't going to be able to "climb" to lunch - bummer. I think I got a bit dehydrated.

    I think I remember Lewis road as hitting 16%+; we made it up, but I know we walked one other place. Just another day in the life of an aging tandem team

    Go to the 41 and make several nonsensical posts and you'll be above the 50 post threshold for IM'ing!
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    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    ......

    One issue, however, is seat height which is related to crank length. Of course, the longer the crank, the lower the seat, so that makes starting off seated a little easier. If the cranks are short, thank means seat height might become a barrier to using this method effectively.
    Rowan, your cranks must be dragging on the ground! I've got 175mm cranks and seating I'd have to tip the bike at a crazy angle to keep it "upright", albeit precariously. I think it also depends on leg extension; folks who naturally ride with less extension will have an easier time reaching the ground.

    We're actually good at starting on steep pitches, but this was our first time having to do so in the ultra-low gear: lesson learned. Normally, we don't stop unless we absolutely have to; the Sunday ride was in unfamiliar territory so there is the added psychological element of "when is this climb going to end?". I actually had the course in the Garmin and generally knew the length of the climb(s) (actually, only one real climb of any length), but when you're suffering a bit a tiny instrument on your handlebar is small comfort and can be hard to interpret of slow speed.
    Last edited by rdtompki; 05-24-12 at 03:48 PM. Reason: typos
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  15. #15
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
    You aren't alone with this issue. Of course, the front derailleur shifts the part of the chain under pull-the-bike tension, whereas the rear derailleur shifts the chain under tension only from the derailleur cage. Novices, on solo bike or tandem, often complain "Why doesn't my FD shift cleanly? I need it to climb a hill near my house." They think they can just click the index lever and it will magically change gears. And of course too the key is to shift the front early, and correspondingly upshift on the rear if necessary.
    What we do is:
    For an upshift, granny to middle ring, Captain calls "Spin it up" and we do, then Captain backs off the pressure, slows the pedals, and shifts. When Stoker hears the chain, she backs off too. This isn't necessary from middle to big because Captain has already backed off and Stoker sees what's going on.

    For a downshift, Captain backs off the pressure a bit and dumps the chain onto the smaller ring without calling it. Never a problem, because we always shift down early in front. If we were to get stuck in too big a ring, we'd have to call "Accelerate," then call "Back off" for the shift.

    We have an N-Stop chain stopper to prevent overshifts on the inside. We are running Shimano 9 speed with an XTR rear derailleur.

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    Thanks Jim! Yes, I do get/know all that, but reminders are good. FWIW, my second job as a teenager in the early 1970s was in a recycled bike shop tearing down and rebuilding bikes to sell. I built a road frame in the 1970s too. In other words, my experience level with mechanical stuff on (especially vintage) bicycles is probably as solid as an average bike shop mechanic, if not more so. We do ease up on the pedals to shift. Admittedly I haven't needed to use a small triple small chain ring in an eternity (but when triples on road bikes were unheard of the one I had on my Lambert in 1974 that saved me big time on the Davis Double Century when I was 15 years old). I actually have a thread going about this issue in the mechanic's forum now too. The idea behind the reverse pull is to make it easier to get into the small ring since it is cable tension rather than spring tension to pull the chain down. I am reluctant to adjust the stop inwards any further since there is no chain rub in little ring in front to big cog in back and the risk of chain suck on a tandem doesn't sound good to me. The FD cage seems quite wiggly (though not so much in the direction I would think contributes to this). I'm thinking of swapping it as my next step because I really have tried everything else mechanical in my bag of tricks. I encourage any ideas though!

    Meanwhile, I now know that I must shift to the small ring extra early, or face wrath of the stoker (and none of us like that!). Let's just say that was the only time I made that mistake last Sunday

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    What we do is:
    For an upshift, granny to middle ring, Captain calls "Spin it up" and we do, then Captain backs off the pressure, slows the pedals, and shifts. When Stoker hears the chain, she backs off too. This isn't necessary from middle to big because Captain has already backed off and Stoker sees what's going on.

    For a downshift, Captain backs off the pressure a bit and dumps the chain onto the smaller ring without calling it. Never a problem, because we always shift down early in front. If we were to get stuck in too big a ring, we'd have to call "Accelerate," then call "Back off" for the shift.

    We have an N-Stop chain stopper to prevent overshifts on the inside. We are running Shimano 9 speed with an XTR rear derailleur.
    I call all shifts since we're still gelling as a team. I really like the chain stopper idea, thank you for reminding me they exist! While never I felt the need for one on a single bike, it makes really good sense on the tandem. Our driveline is antique Sun Tour Comp V 5 speed with bar-end friction shifters.

    We clearly need practice doing some hill starts too, but it all comes with experience and tandem riding is still new for us, but we sure love it!
    Last edited by msvphoto; 05-24-12 at 05:48 PM. Reason: added the word "never" in second to last sentence

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    Thank you for the compliment Rick! I was really impressed with how well my wife held up. We're not a light team either (~400 pounds). We sort of knew what we were getting into because 3 weeks ago we blasted through a 50 mile ride from our house that included all but the southern section (we cut through Watsonville instead of heading further south) and only stopped once for a 15 minute break at Corralitos Market that day. We knew the only long climb, Hazel Dell, pretty well (Strawberry was a bit more than I anticipated actually--I hadn't ever ridden it or Lewis before). We still don't even have a cyclometer, let alone a Garmin (perhaps in the theme of vintage riders on a vintage bike?) so I was estimating those climbs reviewing the route map on ridewithgps and making notes. The most important part is we really had fun. My commute to work the next day and our Tuesday night spin class was rough, but I feel pretty much recovered now.

    Singles riders at the Royal Oaks Park lunch stop at our table were saying they saw 18% on their Garmins on the hill we had to stop and restart on (with the help of the driveway) and the ridewithgps map shows 9.7% at the top. It was short, but very steep. When we went up there were a whole bunch of folks walking singles up it.

    We stopped with a couple friends on singles from our spin class at Corralitos Market for a little break and I had a hammie cramp getting off the bike so I really dreaded Hames, but after a little rest and a lot of hydration I felt better. I also didn't like the idea of the hill to that last rest stop at Aptos High (that was cruel but the organic strawberries with chocolate and whipped cream were worth it), and we were parked in the upper parking lot at Cabrillo! But we made it and are ready for more!

    I would be fun to get together for a ride. I'm closing in on 50 posts just in this thread alone so I'll be able to PM you shortly and we can talk more off forum about that.

  19. #19
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msvphoto View Post
    The FD cage seems quite wiggly (though not so much in the direction I would think contributes to this)...

    Meanwhile, I now know that I must shift to the small ring extra early
    FWIW, our tandem is an '82 Peugeot and for some silly reason I decided to keep it equipped with nearly all period-appropriate French components. Both derailleurs are Simplex, the front intended for a triple. (We are running 52/38/28 in front.) It is indeed floppy so early shifts are essential.

    A challenge for me is to gauge the steepness and length of hill. Our middle-ring low is 38f/32r, low enough for us to power up a short steep rise with enough head start or up a shallower extended hill. But once I commit to that combination and we're partway up we had better not run out of gas. My sweetie always asks why not use the granny, and I have to reply that I misjudged it. We've learned that it doesn't like to drop onto the small ring under much power. So I usually shift the front early and liberally.

    On the other hand, we have to coolest tandem on the roads! And the RD works quite well.
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  20. #20
    PMK
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    Some gearing can be nearly useless in certain situations, too high can be nearly as bad as too low. If you're not in a race, get off the tandem, have the stoker lift the back end and then manually shift it into a more useful gear if you can spin or grind away from a stop in the wrong gear.

    Also being an off-road tandem team, we have had occasion to get stopped on a steep grade in our 24 x 32. We're usually able to "load" the drive train while keeping the rear brake on such that we can start from a virtual but momentary track stand, i.e., a stall-start. It's something I've did for years on singles that seemed to work on the tandem.
    TG, good point about the brake application. I bet without realizing this, I also do this rear brake locked to further assist keeping the pedals "set". I do have one question. You have seen the setup we prefer for the road, basically similar to a hybrid or 700c road bike with mountain controls. Having never tried locking the rear brake for a start with drop bars and brifters, is it easily done? I doubt easier than mountain but if it is doable, the information would be good reference material when other teams ask at an event or a casual ride.

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  21. #21
    Senior Member colotandem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    ...Also being an off-road tandem team, we have had occasion to get stopped on a steep grade in our 24 x 32. We're usually able to "load" the drive train while keeping the rear brake on such that we can start from a virtual but momentary track stand, i.e., a stall-start. It's something I've did for years on singles that seemed to work on the tandem.
    I just read PMK's post where he quoted you and I just realize that we do that most of time. I guess I never really thought about the technique, but it is mandatory to be able to do when on an hill. I would not have thought to describe it as "load" the drive train, but that is exactly what you do and it works. Frankly, I don't know how you can start on a hill without doing that.

    I guess one other thing that may be worth mentioning and it's likely part of the "proper method", but when starting, especially on a hill, it is important that you have your pedal (or maybe your stoker's pedal if you are out of phase) roughly parallel to the downtube. This gives you the nearly optimal starting leverage. I have seen beginneer riders try to start with their pedal at a more vertical position (12 o'clock) and it requires a little push to get going. I have also seen people start with one foot on the ground and the other at the bottom of the pedal stroke (6 o'clock). Again this requires a push off an did not make any sense to me. So I guess the reason that I am bringing this up is because a lot of what a seasoned rider thinks of as "intuitive", may not be for a beginner.

  22. #22
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    The brake idea is excellent and makes total sense. We'll have to try it, thanks!

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    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    The daVinci provides some interesting starting possibilities. I don't know the orientation of my wife's pedals when she starts, but she's capable of getting us going on pretty steep pitches. I start with my pedal at about 10am to give me a few more milliseconds to get into the saddle. Once we're going my wife can quickly sync up.

    My new FD setup on our quad chain rings is working very well. Still, I wouldn't be able to downshift under load, but we can generally grunt it out and back off to enable a down shift. My preference is always to grab the granny (can I say that on BF?) and upshift 2-4 gears in the front before things get hard. That's one thing I really appreciate about the Campy shifters: the ability to quick upshift or downshift 3 cogs at a time.
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  24. #24
    PMK
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdtompki View Post
    The daVinci provides some interesting starting possibilities. I don't know the orientation of my wife's pedals when she starts, but she's capable of getting us going on pretty steep pitches. I start with my pedal at about 10am to give me a few more milliseconds to get into the saddle. Once we're going my wife can quickly sync up.

    My new FD setup on our quad chain rings is working very well. Still, I wouldn't be able to downshift under load, but we can generally grunt it out and back off to enable a down shift. My preference is always to grab the granny (can I say that on BF?) and upshift 2-4 gears in the front before things get hard. That's one thing I really appreciate about the Campy shifters: the ability to quick upshift or downshift 3 cogs at a time.
    Rick, regardless of independent pedaling or conventional timing drive setup, one common technique rising to the top is holding the bike from rolling forward with a brake AND loading the drivetrain, along with a proper pedal location prior to releasing the brakes.

    This almost has the sounds of a military takeoff for an aircraft except it's less costly and if the stoker is not screaming probably quieter.

    PK
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    And most important, someone special that enjoys them with me (except the KTM's)

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdtompki View Post
    Rowan, your cranks must be dragging on the ground! I've got 175mm cranks and seating I'd have to tip the bike at a crazy angle to keep it "upright", albeit precariously. I think it also depends on leg extension; folks who naturally ride with less extension will have an easier time reaching the ground.
    No, not really in regard the cranks, and you are probably right about the leg extension. The bike is quite upright but we are on tippy-tippy toes. It's how I've always ridden, and I've been able to get going on hills in 17" grannies when others who want to scoot and rise on to the seat to start just can't get up enough momentum.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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