Wednesday, 24 May 2017

bicycle usage preference in Finland

Growing up in Australia I've pretty much always had "derailleur" style gears. I say "pretty much" because as a kid under 10 I had a "Dragster" style bike (like this, but I don't have a picture of mine)

 which pretty much got changed into something which would later become (yes, I'm old) BMX.

One thing about that bike that non of my other bikes (until I came to Finland) had was a "Sturmey Archer" style "internal hub" gear system.  For those unfamiliar with them (and mistakenly thinking that that shifter was just for looks because "that bike doesn't have gears" this is what they look like:

Clean, and simple, with no requirement to bend the chain as it moves across the lower cassette.

I quickly discovered (with my first 10 speed bike) how sensitive the rear hanger was (riding though bush all the time) to impacts and how often one needed to tune the system (something many folks could never properly do) or it wouldn't shift properly, would make a "rattle" sound all the time (while it was partially attempting to climb up or drop down on the cluster.

A great example on how you need to adjust your derailleur:

My last bike in Australia was a Giant Yukon, which I loved and rode to work (and on trails as well as for general exersize) quite a bit for many years. Finally after some thousands of Km (literally) I needed a new rear cluster, but the Shimano Deore with "Rapid Change" worked great for me with only occasional adjustments and I loved the ability to keep a decent cadence and constant energy irrespective of slope or headwind.

Gears work. But most riders just don't know the first thing about how to use their gears properly, especially with a Derailleur system. For instance you can't just sequentially shift UP or DOWN, as you need to keep the rear sprocket more or less in line with the front sprocket, especially if you have more than 5 gears on the back sprocket. So as you shift up you eventually move from the smallest sprocket on the front to the middle, but you should do that before you've gone to the smallest on the back. Probably this will mean you'll need to change back down on the rear before changing up on the front ... which the rapid change system allows you to do (but you still need to be careful to not make a tangle of it).

It may sound complex but eventually it becomes second nature (or you just fluff it around like most people do).

Then I came to Finland where "entry level bikes" have most commonly got no gears (meaning a single gear fixed gear but with a coaster clutch / brake system not a "fixie") or a (most commonly Shimano Nexus) 7 or 9 speed hub. By most commonly I mean most of them.

These systems have the advantage that you just shift up or down with no thought of "do I need to change the front sprocket" ... just change.

Dead Simple ...

To show how common this system is here, here is a "for instance" just walking along and decided to film "poll" at my local small supermarket:

Note the number of mudguards and racks in that video. Its easy to see that bikes here aren't like most Australian bikes, they are clearly fundamentally practical transport. Because (unlike Australia) many people ride bicycles all the time, in all weathers for most of their daily stuff (like going to the shops or stuff like that).

After using my hub now for a few years I totally love it. Actually it was pretty much love at first pedal. Indeed while I see that "derailleur" style has some advantages in competition, almost none of that translates to street.

I have seen occasional posts on bicycle forums in Australia enquiring about these systems and usually they're regarded as "expensive" ... which is weird because in Finland they are fitted at almost the bottom end of the market. I expect its just another example of Australians being shagged up the butt for stuff because (either) the retail system just wants to simplify and have one thing to pedal (or the bike shops are populated by dedicated enthusiasts who just can't see the point of not being "comitted").

My bike (with the Nexus 7) has been a great transport unit and I paid 50 buck for it second hand (in really good condition. A real "low maintenance practical work horse" and my daily driver over here since 2013 (without as much as a screw driver put to it).

I wish Australians were as wise as Europeans.

PS: lastly if one is to get hung up on issues like efficiency , then I suggest reading this good reply on a forum here, its a good one.

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