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What speed for recreational/city riding? (specifically Electra bikes)

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What speed for recreational/city riding? (specifically Electra bikes)

Old 06-20-07, 12:48 PM
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paperlily
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What speed for recreational/city riding? (specifically Electra bikes)

Hi everyone, question for you. I am a bit of a bike dummy here. I recently won an Electra bike of my choice from a contest. I'm so excited about this! I haven't actually done much biking for a few years, and I'm pretty pumped to get back on the paths. I did some poking through the forum, but couldn't find the answer I was looking for. So I apologize in advance if this question gets asked a lot.

I'm wondering how many gears I'll need for city biking. I've done a little research on gears, but I wouldn't say my knowledge goes beyond "more gears means more options to help you get around". I live in Calgary, AB, and we have some awesome bike paths here. The paths are paved and are mostly level, but some paths have hills. I'll pretty much be using this bicycle for recreational riding on the paths, and maybe some light errand running here and there. Probably 8 - 10 k.m. (~6 miles) at a time. Nothing too hardcore.

Some coworkers told me that I should not get a bike that's less than 10 speeds. So I figured that I would get a Townie 21 (https://catalog.thebikeshop.com/itemd...ogId=39&id=967). It sounds like it would be pretty decent for my purposes.

However, I went to the store I won my prize from last night and saw the Electra Gypsy (https://catalog.thebikeshop.com/itemd...ogId=39&id=948). It may be kind of gimmicky, but goodness was it ever beautiful. It was love at first sight. In fact, all of the Electra 3-speeds were absolutely lovely looking.

So, on to my question: would a 3-speed bike be appropriate for the city riding that I've described? I would really love to get the 3-speed Gypsy, but I'm wondering if the Townie would be a better choice. I don't want to get the Gypsy and then think "man, this thing is really hard to ride".

I'm going to go try out these bikes tomorrow night, but any insight you may have would be very helpful. Thanks everyone!
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Old 06-20-07, 01:18 PM
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For the most part the number of gears doesn't change the top end and the low end of your gearing, it changes how many options you have in the middle. For example a five speed might have a top of 100 and a bottom of 40 with just three others in the middle, whlie a 30 speed might have a top of 100 and a bottom of 40 with 28 in the middle.

The reason people love 20 or 30 speeds is that...

1. They like having the latest and greatest gear and want to be extra fancy

2. They are serious racy types and want to keep the same cadence as much as possible regardless of the conditions.

3. That's how many the bike they wanted came with and there's no use in changing it.

For a recreational cyclist looking to get some transportation/exercise/fun you don't need too many speeds. Ten is more than enough. Three would be fine for me. Five might be perfect.

I would first worry about which bike is most comfortable and has the features you want ( a rack, basket, or fenders for example). Then I'd worry about which one looks coolest. Maybe after that start worrying about whether it has 5 or 10 or 30.

(For the record my around town/commuter bike has just one speed and my go-out-have-fun-zoom-zoom bike has 27, but I don't come close to using all of them.
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Old 06-20-07, 01:26 PM
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Congratulations...I've never won nothing...but I won't get bitter...

The NUMBER of speeds on a bike used around town are not important. What is more important is that they are the CORRECT speeds. When cruising around town here in Houston, I use about 55 gear inches for riding up hills (rare) or into a headwind (less rare). I cruise at around 65 gear inches. If I have the wind behind me and want to ride faster than normal, I ride at about 75 gear inches.

So, in theory, I can use a three speed bike. However, the typical bike with a three speed hub does not come "stock" with speeds of 55 inches, 65 inches, or 75 inches. Such bikes can be modified by replacing a chain ring or the rear sprocket...but that costs money.

So, the Electra Townie 7D should have all the speeds you really need. Its "twist" shifter is very easy to use, and enables you to shift even when the bike is stopped at a light (a bike with 21 speeds must be moving to shift). The internal hub works well in rain, snow, and mud and needs very little care.

Each of the seven speeds is distinctly different (on a 21 speed bike, many of the gears are duplicates). There will be two gears for hills, a slow cruise gear, a medium cruise gear, a fast cruise gear. And, there will be two gears for riding faster than you will ever want to ride.

The Townie 21 (700c) has more speeds than you will ever need. You must be moving when you shift. The 700c tires give you a wide range of choices, from wide tires for riding on dirt and gravel, to narrow slick tires for faster riding on smooth pavement.

A town bike needs fenders, a rear rack, and a saddle back, and front and rear lights. That enables you to run to the grocery store or movie theatre night or day, rain or shine. If you pick a model that comes with those "extra's", it will save you a lot of money.

The Electra Townie 21 Custom appears to include a lot of those "extras" as standard equipment.

Again, congratulations on winning such a nice choice of bikes.

Last edited by alanbikehouston; 06-20-07 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 06-20-07, 01:52 PM
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Thanks you two, your answers were helpful. I understand how this works a lot better now. I'm definitely not going to be racing, so I doubt I'll be using all 21 speeds on the Townie. The Electra 3-speeds are (according to the website) internal, so I am thinking that they are part of that exception.

So I think you're right, huerro, when you say that I just have to go in and try out the bikes and decide from there on comfort/features.

Thanks again!
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Old 06-21-07, 05:42 AM
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i don't race and i'll use all my 27 speeds(well mibbe not all considering you not ment to use them all) whenever i use my bike, whether that be commuting, on the trails or just floating about... i wouldn't go any less that 15(3x5) tbh...sounds like i've more hills about that you tho..
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Old 06-21-07, 06:37 AM
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I would suggest a 3 speed for city riding. I currently have a fixed gear, a single speed, and a 3 speed, all of which are for the city. As far as Electra goes, have you taken a look at the Electra Amsterdam? That is one nice bike.
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Old 06-21-07, 11:28 AM
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This is not an easy subject to explain, but I will give it a shot.

A lot really depends on how much of a grade you will encounter on your bike paths and rides around town. While I never touch many of the 21 possible combinations of gears on my bike, a select number (especially in the low range) are essential for me given the hills in my area. In total, I probably select about 10 combinations, but these are spaced out sufficiently that I have plenty of 'just right' choices. Most likely the 3 speed internal hub doesn't span the range that a 21 speed might. The question is whether the span that it does have matches your needs.

For instance, when I was younger I had a 3 speed bike. It had quite a large front sprocket gear (maybe 44 teeth ?), and a 0.66 / 1.00 / 1.33 rear. It was great for the shore areas of Long Island, but totally useless when I moved Upstate.

Closer to what you are looking at, my friend's wife has a Giant Simple 7. It has the same 7 speed rear cluster as my Trek, but the single front gear is about the same as the largest of my 3 gear cluster. The net result is that her lowest ratio is the rough equivilent of my 5th lowest ratio. Totally unsuited for many of the hills we encounter - it stops her cold.

I strongly suggest that you try each of these bikes out and see if you can easily make the hills. A wrong choice can totally ruin your experience.
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Old 06-21-07, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Fibber
This is not an easy subject to explain, but I will give it a shot.

A lot really depends on how much of a grade you will encounter on your bike paths and rides around town. While I never touch many of the 21 possible combinations of gears on my bike, a select number (especially in the low range) are essential for me given the hills in my area. In total, I probably select about 10 combinations, but these are spaced out sufficiently that I have plenty of 'just right' choices. Most likely the 3 speed internal hub doesn't span the range that a 21 speed might. The question is whether the span that it does have matches your needs.

For instance, when I was younger I had a 3 speed bike. It had quite a large front sprocket gear (maybe 44 teeth ?), and a 0.66 / 1.00 / 1.33 rear. It was great for the shore areas of Long Island, but totally useless when I moved Upstate.
For largely level areas with gentle hills the 3 speed is the better, less care required, choice. What
many people don't know is ,that while the 3speed divides power into thirds, that power can be moved
up or down ,your pedaling range, by just changing the FRONT CHAINRING to a smaller (less teeth)
ring. A chainring around 30 somthing is a nice al'round number. Larger will be harder to pull.

However, as to speed to ride. RELAX.....enjoy the ride.
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Old 06-21-07, 01:16 PM
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THREE Speed. HELL YEAH. Unless your city/town has a huge elevation changes, that's all you'll ever need. Less maintenance, less adjustment, less everything.

I'd totally get that.
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Old 06-21-07, 02:05 PM
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For what you want the Gypsy is fine.

Make sure to get a good lock, too. That's a delish ride...
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Old 06-21-07, 02:05 PM
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I've been riding a 5 speed all over Calgary and loving it (although many of my friends think I am insane for abandoning my 21 speed Norco in favour of this old Raleigh). 5 speeds really does cover it except for the very steepest hills like the one from Prince's Island up to Crescent Heights. Walk that one

DEFINITELY go with an internal hub versus a derailleur (with internal hub you can shift gears while stopped - with the derailleur you have to be moving, and that can make stop-start riding a pain in the neck - I always forget to downshift in time!).

What was the contest? I am green with envy! The Electras are gorgeous looking bikes
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Old 06-21-07, 02:33 PM
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Townie 8 is the way to go. The 8-speed internally geared hub has a great range of gears. It's also about a $600 bike. I own a Townie 24, but if I were to trade up, it would probably be for an 8.

Also, the bikes with the suspension forks aren't that great. I would go for a rigid fork.
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Old 06-21-07, 02:52 PM
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One of the big advantages of Electras in town is their hub gearing. I'd go with a 3 or 7 speed Nexus hub model. They have them on their major bikes. It makes starts and stops a lot easier. I'd get the Amsterdam if I'd just won one.
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Old 06-21-07, 10:08 PM
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That 3 speed Electra Gypsy is really cute. How hilly is it where you live, paperlily?

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Old 06-22-07, 10:41 AM
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you might want something with a rack for errand-running, or one that can take a rack easily. I would think 3-6 gears would be plenty for your situation. that gypsy's really cute, though.
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Old 06-22-07, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by donnamb
That 3 speed Electra Gypsy is really cute. How hilly is it where you live, paperlily?
Hillier than people expect... I was thinking "prairie city" but forgot to factor in "river valley" when I started riding here. There's a few REALLY steep hills! The main recreational pathways tend to mostly follow the rivers, though, so they are nice and gentle.

I love the basket and the streamers on that bike I wanted to ride my ladies' Raleigh to work today, with the basket on the front, but sadly the basket fouled the brake cables. I will have to re-route them or get more flexible ones.
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Old 06-22-07, 01:09 PM
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Are the internal hub bikes available with thumb shifters? I'm not fond of grip shifting.
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Old 06-22-07, 02:05 PM
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All the townies have grip shifters. If you look around, I believe you can find thumb shifters made for nexus hubs.
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