I’ve been riding my Raleigh Apex All-Terrain Bike for 19 years. I’m used to it. It fits. So my first ride on a road bike was always going to be an experience. How would it feel? How cack-handed would the gear -changes be? Would I feel balanced – or even stay on?
Just so you can see the differences, here are the two handlebars…
What I’m used to: Two hand positions – on top, or on the bar ends. Gears controlled by the thumbs from the top position. Brakes accessible from either position.
Road bike: Four hand positions – on top, on the sides (but still on the white bit), forward (on the black bit), or down on the drops. But here’s the main difference: from the top position, where I’m used to be having access to everything, I can reach nothing. To operate the brakes or the gears I have to be in the forward position.
The gearing is rather different too, although not as different as I expected. My Raleigh has 21 gears (3 chainrings and 7 sprockets), and the Dolan has 20 (2 chainrings and 10 sprockets), but I was expecting the top gear to feel much much ‘higher’ than I was used to. I’ve not actually counted the teeth on my bike and calculated the gear ratios, but I was surprised to so quickly find myself in top gear with nowhere left to go on the Dolan.
Enough of the technicalities, Trevor. How was the ride? Oh, yes, the ride. Well, it started okay. I set of on familiar roads, thinking I’d maybe try to replicate one of my earlier routes to see if my stats would improve. First things first – the bike feels lovely. It’s smooth, and seems to be just the right size for me. My friend had remembered from last year that we were about the same height. I’m guessing we’re pretty much the same shape overall* as I don’t think I need to adjust the position of anything. (*Okay, so he’s in much ‘better’ shape than me. I’m talking proportions.)
I was a bit surprised how ‘noisy’ the chain seemed, though. Maybe something needs a bit of tweaking, I thought. Gear changes seemed fine: having to change gears from that forward riding position won’t be a problem, though won’t feel instinctive for a while. But the chain was slipping and jumping occasionally, not settling onto a sprocket very positively, which didn’t give me much confidence. I assumed user error. I’ll get used to it. I thought.
And then, less than three miles in, the chain popped off the jockey wheel and jammed.
Not a problem, I thought; I’ll just nestle it back into place and carry on, and try to get it all properly ‘tuned up’ before my next ride. But could I get it back on? No, I could not. And I’ll show you why:
The chain was running over the top of that metal bit instead of underneath it on the jockey wheel itself. There was no way I could get it to go back where it should be without undoing the chain. Ah, but hang on! My friend had carefully pointed out the very clever quick release link in the chain, and explained how to undo it. No tools required, apparently. But could I do it there by the side of the road? No. No, I could not.
I turned around and rode home, gently. The chain was still making that noise , which I now realised was caused by it running over that metal bit.
Back home, I managed to work out how to undo the chain, which was easy as anything once you know how. (I’d been squeezing it wrongly.) I fed it through, got it running smoothly, and decided to head out again. No country roads this time. I’d stick to the Stevenage cycle paths I’ve been riding on for nearly 40 years until I’m confident on this thing.
I still only managed a six-miler. I don’t know whether the chain coming off had made things worse, but the gears were slipping more than before, and now they’d occasionally just change unannounced to surprise me. So, unable to really test out the efficiency and speed, I rode home at a stately pace so as not to put too much strain on anything.
So, overall, not the most satisfactory first outing. Which was a shame, because I think I’m going to really enjoy riding this bike. If only I can get the gears adjusted right.
Anyone local know how?