Saturday, August 25, 2007

Q&A: Gear chart online?

Hi Jim! I've been a long time reader and fan. While diggin thru piles of hardcopy I found a print of of a spreadsheet that calculated gear ratios and formatted them similar to the chart I used to keep on the handlebar stem of my bikes (does anyone do this anymore? Does anyone still care about what gear they're in? or is it because the chart for a 24 speed wouldn't fit?)

The bottom of the chart indicated it was one of your creations and after searching your website for it I didn't find it. Sure, I could use Google and probably find it but I've always wanted an excuse to write you. :-) Would you still have that spreadsheet around?

I started working at bike shops in college (1972) after buying my first 10-speed, a Gitane Club Racer. Got introduced to light weight steel frames, tubulars and Suntour all at once (and a honking 46/54 front set of chainwheels). Skipped all the crap I could've gotten saddled with. I'm now riding my second 10 speed, a 1973 Legnano Super Corsa. All -Campy, 531 db tubing, chrome stays and lugs, TTT bar and stem, etc. (still using the 46/54 and a 13/21) Added Suntour Superbe components and better wheels (still tubular) thru the years where needed and simply haven't been able to think of a reason why I need a new bike.

Other than needing a paint job and new chrome on the fork it's carrying me in style everywhere (I started commuting to work about 3 months ago. Changed jobs in the middle and commute to the new one as well.) Picked up a weekend job as a mech at the local bike shop 4 years ago and love the contact with other bikers of all sorts and the feel of tuning a bike to be better than its owner expects.

Keep up the good work!

PS: any tips for prepping a bike for a repaint?

Nice to hear from you, Oran, and to hear you're riding around on a 1973 Legnano. Very cool. On gear charts, I still think they're handy and that it's fun and useful to check your gearing and get it just right for your abilities and the rides you do, but with the advent of 10-speed cassettes and compact drivetrains and triple mountain bike gears, it's gotten more about buying the bike with the right gearing for you than buying a bike and then modifying the gearing. Plus, the manufacturers make systems now that work very nicely so there's less need for most people, so long as they get the right bike, to need to modify the gearings.

Having said all that, I do still have a spreadsheet for calculating my gears. You can find it at this link and once you open it you can save it to your computer and customize it your heart's content. It makes determining your gear ratios pretty easy and then you can see how changes will affect things. Here's the link:

On repainting: boy, the first thing I'd ask is are you sure you want to repaint a classic old Legnano?

In general on bikes like that it's much better to retain the original paint and decals, even if the bike's a bit beat-up. Once you strip it and repaint it, you may miss the original bike you had and wish you hadn't messed with it. I haven't seen the bike, though, so it's hard for me to judge, but that's the first thing to consider. If the bike was already refinished once or is badly rusting, etc., then a repaint might make sense and the first step is to strip the old finish and get the frame/fork down to bare metal. This is a job I usually leave to the painter, but you could certainly do it yourself if you had the patience and some basic stripping tools.

You also mentioned the chrome fork and that's something you'll need a chromer's help with to refinish. Be sure to find a good one who knows how to work on bicycle tubing. Here again, a good bicycle painter would be able to handle all of this (stripping, painting, chroming, decals) for you and ensure that you get the nice job that bike deserves.

Hope this helps,


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