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I'm a newbie when it comes to biking. I don't plan on taking it as a very serious hobby; I'm really more of just a leisure rider who enjoys touring around town, but I'd also like to be able to drive efficiently.

I bought a Doppelganger Spiegel 214 a few days ago, and I really like it. However, I'm currently finding difficulty driving it uphill. I can't tell the slope angle exactly but I think it's somewhere above 30 or 40 of a decent stretch of road (maybe around 10-15 meters) that I'm finding a hard time driving on.

I'm not sure if it's because I don't know how to shift gears and that I'm using the wrong one, or my legs aren't strong enough (yet?) or my bike just isn't up for it. Can anyone enlighten me on this?

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  • Have you been sure to make Judicious use of your gears? Try to find a gear that isn't very hard to pedal on and spin really fast. It may make you breathe really hard - don't be afraid to get breathless if you don't (yet) have the muscle to "mash" uphill. – user1833028 Jan 18 '15 at 5:56
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    That's a folding bike with 20" tires, only a single front chainring, and a fairly narrow gear range. On a steep slope you're going to have trouble. Things will improve as your legs get stronger, but it's hard to guess if that will be enough. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 18 '15 at 14:02
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    If you have a friend you trust, with a bike that has more gears - consider switching bikes for a ride. This will let you get a sense of a wider range of gears, and your friend a sense of how a folding bike rides. The reason not all bikes are folding bikes is because there are design trade-offs! – user1833028 Jan 18 '15 at 15:57
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    Just as any FYI, for most cyclists "really steep" is around a 10% grade (about 6 degrees), and "super steep" is 20% (about 11.5 degrees). – Eric Gunnerson Jan 19 '15 at 2:16
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    @EricGunnerson I doubt you could get far in this city without a super-steep section or two - on my old commute I chose 25% over 33%. Work was at the top of some of the bastard hills of north Bristol. So once again it depends what you're used to - I was in 28x32 doign walking pace, a friend could ride a fixie up that sort of stuff all day. – Chris H Jan 19 '15 at 11:57
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Folding bikes have a very limited gear range because they usually have only a rear derailleur. From the manufacturer's website, your bike has:

  • 20" wheels with 20x1.5 tires

  • 52T chainwheel

  • 14 - 28T rear cassette

Running this through a gear-inch calculator shows that your highest gearing for going fast is 66 gear inches and lowest gearing for going up hill is 33". Your total range is 33-66" or 2x.

Link: What are gear-inches?

gear inch calculator

In comparison, a bog-standard 700c hybrid bike at the bike shop with 3x9 speeds is going to have around 24" on the low end and 116" on the high end -- a range of over 4.8x. It's going to be both much easier going uphill on the hybrid (24" versus your 33") as well as much faster downhill and in the straightaways (116" vs. your 66"). Standard (big) bikes also have full length cranks - sometimes our folding bikes come with kid-size cranks which also reduces leverage uphills.

You can do some things to improve the overall spread and to reduce the gearing to make it easier to go uphill. You could replace the 14-28T 7-speed cassette with a 11-32T which has a larger spread so it would help a bit going downhill as well as uphill. In addition, you could reduce the size of your chainwheel from 52T to something like 48T to again help with the hills. I'd recommend against an 11T sprocket on a 20" wheel as there will be a lot of wear on the teeth and so you'll chew up your chain and sprocket really quickly.

With a more reasonable 13-34T cassette and 48T chainwheel, for example you'd get 27.5" - 85" gear inches which should be enough for many purposes.

You're limited in modding by the capacity of your rear derailleur -- and if you swap it out with a long cage, it may drag on the ground on corners. The standard Shimano Tourney 7-speed on your bike seems to be ok - most models in that series are specced for 11-34T capacity. I should also note though that some sprocket/chainwheel/chain lengths may no longer allow the bike to fold smoothly or result in the chain derailing when you fold, so you'll need to fiddle a bit.

If it were my bike, I'd look at the terrain and make the decision. For my Brompton, for example, I got a smaller chainwheel as I live in a hilly neighborhood and needed the reduction in gear inches and don't mind my top-speed being limited. I had to take a few links out of the chain but it still folds ok.

Finally, I should note that even at the same gearing it's harder to go uphill with a small-wheel folding bicycle than it is a full-size bicycle. Our tires are smaller so they have less stability (less gyroscopic effect/leverage); our cranks are shorter so we have less leverage; and our steering is squirrelly so it's harder to go in a straight line.

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    Excellent research - my folder went from a 1x6 (46 and 14-28) to a 3x8 (48/36/26 and 11-32) and yes the rear derailleur hangs very low. OPs bike should still fold okay because its a dahonesque design and the chain transmission does not get involved in the fold. – Criggie Jun 4 '17 at 21:27
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    Very good information. However, for a new cyclist who is just getting started with using gears, I would recommend to first get familiar with the current gearing before considering to change it (even if that comes at the expense of having to push the bike from time to time). – Emil Jun 5 '17 at 6:24
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    Hey, thanks for all those information. I really appreciate it. While many of them sound alien to me as I haven't really done much bike research in the 2 years I've had my folding bike, they inspire me to look more into upgrading. So far, I've only mostly done cosmetic changes like having the rusted rim around my tires replaced, but after reading your post, I feel like I should look more into performance tuning as well. So far though, I've found driving routes where I can navigate with my bike around easily. – Psycho Punch Jun 5 '17 at 15:20
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This sounds like a problem shifting gears. Most bicycles have a gear that is so easy you can easily spin the pedals it up all but the most brutal of hills.

However, this does not mean going up the hill at a steady pace will be easy just because the gear is easy.

"Hard" Gears (High Gear): Your tires spin quite a bit with each revolution of the pedals. These take more force to spin, but the bike will go much faster for a given spin rate.

"Easy" Gears (Low Gear): You tires hardly spin when you spin the pedals. This vastly reduces the force you have to use to propel the bicycle. However, you have to spin the pedals much, much faster to go at a given speed!

One time, when I switched to a new bike I literally just rode in circles for miles and miles until I mastered the gears. This is an important skill to get the most out of your new bike, and you should spend time mastering it where switching is easy before you really need it - preperation is half the battle as they say.

(You will quickly find that when going up a hill in an "easy" gear, you have to breathe a lot - this is great exercise! Power is energy over time - using Low gear doesn't actually reduce the power needed to go up a hill - it reduces to force. Because you are using less force, you have to apply it faster! Take it slow - if you take twice as long to get up an incline, you can do it with half the power! You'll just have to experiment and find what cadence it right for you.)

  • Those are great info. Thanks. Just to clarify: easy gears are the bigger ones, and hard gears are the smaller ones? So, you think it's just down to technique, and not the bike itself? – Psycho Punch Jan 18 '15 at 7:03
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    Switching to a big cog in the back and/or a small cog in the front will make it easier to pedal. – Batman Jan 18 '15 at 15:31
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    @Batman - He doesn't have a small cog on the front. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 18 '15 at 19:51

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