Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gearing Down

Let me say up front, I could never push a big gear. I’m a spinning, not a masher.

For my one gear road and dirt bikes, I have tried them all. 48 x 16, 48 x 18, 46 x 18, 42 x 16, 42 x 17, 42 x 18 and 40 x 18. Keep in mind, I live in a hilly area and I enjoy riding the hills.

After experimenting with a wide range of gear ratios (81 – 60”), I’m convinced that going low is the way to go except if you ride in a totally flat area. Gearing down is good for your knees. Gelato (my fixed/single speed Pista) is geared at 69” for the roads and Roman Holiday (my single speed cyclo-cross rig) is geared at 60” for the trails.

Rule number one in life – protect thy knees. Trust me on this one. If you cycle, run, ski, hike, etc., your knees will bark back one day, some sooner than others. But by taking good care of your knees now, you can remain active & fit until you are 6 feet under. So going light on the gears is the right thing to do.

When cranking on a big gear, especially on a hill, fluid is displaced out from under the patella (i.e., knee cap). No fluid equals bone on bone. Then the underside of the knee cap begins to wear down and this will lead to chromdromalacia – pain and loss of some mobility. By staying light on the gears, one spins with great ease on the flats and the hills now become bearable (i.e., less pressure on the knees, which is a good thing). No doubt you’ll lose some of your speed on the flats, but you’ll thank me in 20 years from now for your healthy knees. And plus, spinning fast looks cool.

Here’s another tip: keep thy knees warm. I wear knee warmers up to 70F. A warm knee is a happy knee. And now you have an excuse to wear those hip knickers.

Note: I am an EMT, and not a doctor (I don’t even play one on TV), but I have lots of experience dealing with all types of acute and chronic injuries. The key to remaining active is treat your body parts nicely at a young age and you’ll be on the go for a very long time until cancer or something else kills you. Unless you’re a professional cyclist, why hurt yourself? We are just trying to add a few more years to our lives.

There is one good piece of news to report on my so-called damaged knees. I can tell you, with a great amount of certainty, if it is going to rain or snow up to 3 days in advance.

1 comment:

ew said...

I knew there was a reason (other than shear laziness) that I bought a 20t cog. You're welcome knees!