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What Makes a Bicycle Run Well?

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What Makes a Bicycle Run Well?

Old 09-05-11, 10:27 PM
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Dakota82
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What Makes a Bicycle Run Well?

Hello, everyone~!

After riding my room mate's old model Raleigh rode bike along side my other room mate's crummy child size Magna Mountain Bike, and my room mate riding my new Raleigh Comfort bike, I can clearly see there is a big different in performance one can get from each bike.

When I rode alongside my room mates, I could easily see that each pedal stroke I was making was with way less effort, and was still propelling me faster than them! I obviously had it way easier than them. They struggled while I cruised past them, left them in the dust, maintained my pace, and discharged much less effort than them.

The question I now have is, just what is it specifically that makes the rode bike I was ridding, work better than the hybrid bike my room mate was riding?

I remember riding that Raleigh hybrid behind a guy on a surly LHT or Cross Check and two other guys on their Trek road bikes, and although I could catch up to them, I could not maintain their pace. I had to work way harder than they were.

Why does this happen? What about the bike, over all, makes it function better so that you can go faster with less effort, and maintain that pace with less effort?

I ask aside from something as obvious as width of tires, weight, and aerodynamics.

If anyone could be so kind to share their thoughts and point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it.
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Old 09-06-11, 08:16 AM
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Tires, geometry.
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Old 09-06-11, 08:29 AM
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Quality parts vs lowest bidder provided, proper maintenance and always but always the engine and whether the command control center has any clue as to what they are doing

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Old 09-06-11, 08:36 AM
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Tires: skinny vs fat & properly inflated. 70 psi may look like 110 psi, but they won't ride the same.
Properly adjusted wheel bearings.
Wheels could be out of true and/or rubbing the frame or brakes.
Gunky drivetrain.
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Old 09-06-11, 08:37 AM
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Tire pressure is probably the biggest one. After that, weight if there were any hills or stopping and starting involved. After that, drive train friction.
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Old 09-06-11, 09:21 AM
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Clean, well lubricated parts, bearings and chain, and properly inflated tires.

under-inflated tires are a big rolling resistant element ,
and cheap bikes like Magna coming out of a big box
department store, have never been properly assembled ,
to even make their poor quality bearings
turn at their potential..

Last edited by fietsbob; 09-06-11 at 09:28 AM.
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Old 09-06-11, 10:23 PM
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Make sure that the brakes aren't dragging against the braking surface. Even a slight drag will make a world of difference! I checked my brakes last Saturday and discovered that I have been killing myself all last week and possibly the week before! I thought it was the heat that made me weak and noted that my front brakepad was just barely rubbing against the wheel. Now I'm fast!
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Old 09-07-11, 01:27 AM
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6 years ago I bought a basic Giant OCR3. Not bad but after 6 months it was not as good as my previous ride in a 6 year old MTB that was well sorted. Not that the bike had deteriorated- My expertise in road bike riding had come up and the Bike was not performing as well as I thought it should.

Give you an idea- A downhill stretch freewheeling and I got to 30mph and had to steer more than I though round a corner. Problem was -The MTB with knobblies fitted got to 37 and the corner was a bit more lean into the curve. Had a chat with the LBs and they suggested wheels. They loaned me a pair of handbuilt with Michelin PR2 tyres fitted and I went to the same hill. They transformed the bike and average speed on a 30 mile ride went up by 2 mph.

It is recognised that from a standard bike- the best and cheapest improvement you can do is to get quality wheels and tyres. May not be the cheapest modification but wheels can be transferred from bike to bike- as I have done. They will get the best improvement in performance but then it is down to the rider to make use of them.
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Old 09-07-11, 03:15 AM
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First and foremost it's about power output from the engine (i.e. you). I bet you could put Lance Armstrong on the cheapest x-mart POS bike and you will not keep up with him regardless of what diamond framed bike you were riding. Then comes aerodynamics - on a flat surface I can easily drop Lance on his diamond framed road bike if I were riding a no-com even though he can put out more sustained power than me, that's because of the huge difference aerodynamics makes as speed increases. Mechanical efficiency comes a fairly distant third and is more about reliability and serviceability than it is about pure performance.

BTW, this is a no-com...

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Last edited by Cyclaholic; 09-07-11 at 03:21 AM.
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Old 09-07-11, 03:41 AM
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What makes a bike run well -
A good engine.
A bike that fits well is important.
Good or better quality components helps,
Keeping the components properly adjusted and lubed helps a lot,
As does the appropriate tire pressure.
A tailwind doesn't hurt.
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Old 09-08-11, 10:23 PM
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Several have mentioned tire pressure. What's the appropriate pressure? Above, below, or at the max pressure listed on the tire?
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Old 09-08-11, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by mowyang View Post
Several have mentioned tire pressure. What's the appropriate pressure? Above, below, or at the max pressure listed on the tire?
That's a very large can of worms. Inflating to the max pressure listed on the tire is an OK starting point, but you may be able to run the tires at lower pressure without sacrificing rolling resistance. Bicycle Quarterly did some tests and came up with a method for determining "ideal" tire pressure.

FWIW: I just pump mine up to 100 psi and ride. I ain't that picky.
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Old 09-08-11, 11:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Dakota82 View Post
I remember riding that Raleigh hybrid behind a guy on a surly LHT or Cross Check and two other guys on their Trek road bikes, and although I could catch up to them, I could not maintain their pace. I had to work way harder than they were. . . .
This sounds like being trained versus not.

All else being equal, a rider whose body is used to riding will 1) be faster and 2) will be able to maintain a faster pace for much longer.

Good quality parts in good working order, and a geometry that fits will allow a rider to get to their potential, but the potential is set by the rider's body. There is more to it than strength and technique. Your metabolism also has to be able to process the requisite amount of energy too.
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Old 09-09-11, 01:00 AM
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Someone in drop bars, clipless pedals, small high-pressure tires, lighter bicycle and smooth rolling hubs may be able to go faster.
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Old 09-09-11, 01:07 AM
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I have two tourers - one is built around a frame specifically designed for touring - with 501 tubing and touring angles, the other is more of a road frame, with not quite so good tubing (straight chromo). The componentry on the 501 is higher spec, but both haver the same tyres and a pretty close wheelset. I weigh about the same as my friend, and carry about the same amount of gear on tour, but mine (the 501) is the more comfortable bike to ride, and, interestingly, when cruising down hill, together and chatting, mine will always start to edge ahead of his, and he'll end up having to peddle a bit to catch up. What makes the difference, I don't know - maybe it's just the weight difference, though it's probably only a few pounds. Maybe it's just the better tubes with the better angles.
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Old 09-09-11, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Dakota82 View Post
Hello, everyone~!

After riding my room mate's old model Raleigh rode bike along side my other room mate's crummy child size Magna Mountain Bike, and my room mate riding my new Raleigh Comfort bike, I can clearly see there is a big different in performance one can get from each bike.

When I rode alongside my room mates, I could easily see that each pedal stroke I was making was with way less effort, and was still propelling me faster than them! I obviously had it way easier than them. They struggled while I cruised past them, left them in the dust, maintained my pace, and discharged much less effort than them.

The question I now have is, just what is it specifically that makes the rode bike I was ridding, work better than the hybrid bike my room mate was riding?

I remember riding that Raleigh hybrid behind a guy on a surly LHT or Cross Check and two other guys on their Trek road bikes, and although I could catch up to them, I could not maintain their pace. I had to work way harder than they were.

Why does this happen? What about the bike, over all, makes it function better so that you can go faster with less effort, and maintain that pace with less effort?

I ask aside from something as obvious as width of tires, weight, and aerodynamics.

If anyone could be so kind to share their thoughts and point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it.
Any bicycle is a machine that turns the energy of the engine (you) into motion.

The better the bicycle is engineered and built the more input energy gets to the ground for motion.
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Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 09-10-11, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Dakota82 View Post
Hello, everyone~!


When I rode alongside my room mates, I could easily see that each pedal stroke I was making was with way less effort, and was still propelling me faster than them! I obviously had it way easier than them. They struggled while I cruised past them, left them in the dust, maintained my pace, and discharged much less effort than them.

The question I now have is, just what is it specifically that makes the rode bike I was ridding, work better than the hybrid bike my room mate was riding?


If anyone could be so kind to share their thoughts and point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it.

I ride alongside others with road bikes and I cannot easily tell that they or I can determine who has "less effort".
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Old 09-10-11, 10:34 PM
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My rides typically seem to roll faster than most of my riding buddies. I'm sure that it is the quality of hubs, so I think that any moving parts of the drive train with quality bearing and races make the difference. My Phil Wood hubs always seem to coast downhill faster than my friend's bikes. It could also be my aerodynamic round body shape.

But all said the engine makes the most difference.
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Old 09-11-11, 05:25 PM
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Follow up on roll- My partner almost always rolls better than I do, I have better wheels with white hubs - I always claim that she cheats in some Wicca way. Truth is it probably has more to do with aerodynamics, I'm taller with a long torso and broad shoulders - so I sit pretty tall in the saddle. She on the other hand is shorter, more round and lower. However my engine is better, I'm always faster up hill - we have a lot of those.

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Old 09-11-11, 07:45 PM
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Hey there Dakota82!

There are many factors that contribute to how fast a bicycle can be. Most Single Speed, or fixed bikes, won't be able to keep up with multi-geared bikes due to the Mechanical Advantage that is afforded to bikes with gears. Those gears, of course have to be available to the rider on demand within a reasonable period of time. That's where the shifters and derailleurs come in to play. The faster you are able to shift gears and make your transition, the more efficient your gearing system. The more efficient your bike, the more inclined it is to be faster.

Also the tire size is important as well. Smaller diameter wheels, will accelerate faster from a dead stop. Smaller wheels do however, have greater rolling resistance, making it necessary for the rider to increase the amount of input energy in order to compensate for the energy loss due to friction. The rider has to worker harder to cover the same distance, than the larger diameter wheel rider. Larger wheeled bikes, conserve energy and momentum, better than smaller wheeled bikes. That means that on the flats, they require less energy overall. On the other hand, large diameter wheels require greater energy input going uphill, because they have greater mass and gravity is working against you. Tires not fully inflated, offer greater rolling resistance, and makes the bike slower.

Some bikes have geometries that make the bike and rider more aerodynamic and less resistant to opposing drafts. They actually make the rider look more aggressive. Usually the road bikes are good for this type of posture.

- Slim

Last edited by SlimRider; 09-11-11 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 09-12-11, 11:48 AM
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Appropriate gearing.
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