The Mathematics of Gears


Pedal Power

From the League of American Bicyclists’ Guide to Safe and Enjoyable Cycling, pg. 49

“How Gears Really Work: Ratios”

“Gearing uses basic math ratios. For bicycle gears, the ratio is the number of teeth in the front divided by the number of teeth in the rear cog that is engaged. The ratio would be front teeth: rear teeth.

A larger ratio indicates the pedal requires more force to turn. So a ratio of 40:8 (or 5:1) is harder to turn than 30:15 (2:1). So, in general, the “high gear” combination of the larger ring in the front and the smaller ring in the back makes it hard to pedal. The “low gear” combination of the smaller ring in the front and the larger ring in the back makes it easier to pedal.

“There may be duplicate gears. If your front chainwheel has three rings and your rear cassette has eight rings, you have 24 gears (3×8=24). Yet, you will notice that some gears feel similiar even in different combinations of front and rear. It is possible to have tooth combinations of 48:24 and 36:18, yet both create the same 2:1 ratios for pedaling resistance.”

The next time someone asks, “Is that a 10 speed?” Just think 2 cassettes on the front, five cassettes on the back.

Shifting these gears takes some calculation, too. My bike has stem shifters, intuitive levers once you practice. The left shifts the front derailleur, the right shifts the back derailleuer. Shifting up moves the chain up to create more resistance. Shifting down decreases resistance.

Looking Shifty


Cute Find

Instead of writing serious sweetnothings about biking in the Pacific Northwest, I found a precious photo of a kitten in a bike basket on a Portugeuse Tumblr. Then I lost the photo.


The blog is live again. Stay tuned for bike expeditions that lead to infinite discovery.




4 Power Bike Inventions 2014

YES! Yes. Sure. Maybe. These four inventions are astounding, especially since, at one time, the bicycle was the invention. It’s amazing how we’ve involved, and reap capital success from Kickstarter campaigns.

Pedal Power Desk $2,400 Kickstarter

This desk puts standing desks to shame. Pedal Power is about “our relationship with energy,” not just for the sedentary American workforce, but for chicken farmers who use Pedal Desk to grind grain for their chickens, or developing nations where people recycle bikes from the US and turn them into machines to pump water. Might be a great transition from biking to work on a morning commute.


Seatylock $75 Kickstarter Smart people thought of the “why didn’t we think of this before?” plan, gathered materials, and worked for three years on this revolutionary and intuitive product. Estimated ship date is March 2015.

Copenhagen Wheel $699 *Announced in 2009, completed in 2013. Came to my attention in 2014

Thanks team MIT. This invention is basically a smart bike wheel, utilizing your momentum. A bike wheel “that’s too clever for its own good” might be one of the next popular rides in urban districts. Facebook and Tumblr are keeping tabs.


Half Bikes. A balancing act? Another accomplished Kickstarter campaign introduces a sleek design to ride the streets. Best ridden over gentle slopes, this design is meant for those conscious about durability, function, and and curb appeal. This minimalist machine  is available online for orders, as far as I know. The design is to naviagate urban traffic and fit on public transportation.

Half Bike’s designs from the Kickstarter Page

Able to ship worldwide. Selling price is $999.


Rides achieved, Fish Trail and Green Bluff

Trees are lining the streets with chromatic foliage. So far, Fish Trail and Green Bluff are checked off of my bike rides to prep for the Big Tour.

Photo: Satish Shrestha

Photo: Satish Shrestha

A few notes about each. Fish trail is flat. Flat. The extension added on since I rode the trail two years ago is remarkable. Instead of stopping at two large concrete barricades, bikers, runners, or children checking out caterpillars can follow the trail about a half a mile further. On one side is a pond, on the other, train tracks. The trail ends at a metal fence, and there’s a bench to the left. Green Bluff was an exhilarating and, let’s say, an honest ride, totaling about 50 miles. Fish Lake is about 15. Taking the back route up Argonne and riding the loop through the countryside confirmed that A) I excel at pacing myself up steady hills, B) I tend to walk my bike up steep short hills, and C) I am terrified bicycling downhill. Survey says? Stick to what works for extended uphills, work up the mental strength to reach the top of steep, short hills, and look over my bike before heading out on a ride so I’m positive nothing will loosen while cycling downhill (a recap of physics might not hurt, either)

A few weekends left to enjoy fall rides!

Onto biking through autumn leaves.

Photo: Satish Shrestha

Photo: Satish Shrestha

Point A to point Be Aware

This year, a 50-year-old doctor and a 24-year-old activist cycled 5000 km to raise awareness.

Cycling from northern Srinagar and southern Thiruvananthapuram in India, Dr. Unni Karunakara educated on public health and encountered the realities of cancer, water, sanitation, and youth drug problems.

Traveling from Victoria, B.C. to Ottawa, Ontario, Joseph Boutilier’s sought to draw attention from Canadian legislation to act on climate change.  Public Health and Climate Change are massive issues around the world;  even with both initiatives’ intimidating scale, both cyclists chose an environmental vehicle to spread the word: unicycles.

“Unni’s packing strategy was ruthlessly methodical. Like a surgeon laying out his instruments for theatre, Unni laid out all the essentials: helmets, pumps, tires, tubes, puncture kits, pannier bags, lights, locks, shoes, gloves and gear, including his signature cycling shorts and a selection of some of the t-shirts he’s collected from MSF offices and missions around the world.”

 Esmerelda Jelbart Wallbridge, Team Unni

As the former President of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), Dr. Unni began riding in October 2013 and fundraised 131% of his $100,000 goal to raise money for Public Health.  

 “A journey of this magnitude, across a country so defined by chaos and contradiction, might seem to be a complex and complicated endeavour. But at the heart of Unni’s vision is radical simplicity: Unnicycles is about people. Unnicycles is about connection. Unnicycles is about conversations.”

 Esmerelda Jelbart Wallbridge, Team Unni

In roughly equal distance, Joseph Boutilier rode his unicycle for climate change. He told Metro News “A lot of folks do the ‘cross-country for a cause’ thing, and it’s a little hard to stand out from the crowd.”

The journey kicked off in April. Joseph left Victoria, British Columbia and embarked to Ottawa, Ontario to urge the Canadian government to take action on climate change.

See map at Campaign Unity for Climate Change

On September 15th, Joseph arrived in Ottawa. Now, he’s working on climate marches in NYC.

Last weekend, the People Climate March swarmed the streets of New York. Some reports say it was the largest climate march in history, surpassing Copenhagen’s held in 2009. There is ongoing, hot debate over the authenticity of this march and the realistic impact individuals make, or in this case, biking across the country will do for long term solutions. Unni and Joseph both biked for campaigns, which I mention not meant to undermine the guts, endurance, and leadership they demonstrated.. They didn’t have to finish. Their goals continue after reaching the tip of India and Ontario. Both want conversations to circulate.

Personally, when I hear about the statistics behind climate marches, yes, they are impressive, but they don’t inspire me to take calculated steps to stop environmental and social injustice. Yes, lawmakers are influenced by the numbers, as President Nixon was during the Earth Day rallies at the dawn of the EPA, the clean water act and environmental activism that achieved some goals. Hearing stories like Joseph and Unni’s does make me want to not only hop on a bike but use the open space to ride with friends and talk about the issues we care about. We are all vulnerable, and the bicycle is among the greatest inventions to deliver news, spread awareness, and participate in a bigger picture of how public health and environmental problems exist, remembering that both issues will never be contained.



Bike Journal:Rolling Right Along

Since the declaration of the dream bike trip, a few strides, so far.

Articles exist (thanks Google) by–mostly–men who’ve toured solo or with a group across the country. However, Pippa made her cross-country debut.

There is a national route map. Route 40…possibilities

Started training (biking to work, swimming, running)

Researching equipment — is a hammock better than a tent? Do I really need solar powered chargers from REI?

Next set of goals: independent funding, bike rides around the city and the region, and keeping the dream alive.

Those who are touring, I salute you.