New Rider With Diamondback Kalamar Front Gear Questions


Mar 18, 2015
I am a 37 year old out of shape guy who hasn't been on a bike since college. I have 2 small kids and I desperately need to get into better shape.

So I read a little bit and saw a lot of suggestions for overwieght newbies to get hybrid bikes because of the upright comfortable riding.

I had a $100 gift card to Academy Sports and they had a Diamondback Kalamar in a small (15) frame. I am a hair under 5'6". I knew Diamondback was a decent brand so I got it.

Yes I know everyone will recommend that I go to a local bike shop and not a big box store. Well I am currently unemployed (looking for a job) and funds are limited. With the gift card and my low funds the Diamondback Kalamar for $219 seemed like my best realistic choice, so go easy on this newbie for buying from a big box store

No my questions. It is listed as a 7 speed. It has 7 cassettes in the back and the right grip has 7 gears that click into place, so that is easy enough. It also has 3 cassettes in the front. The left grip is a Shimano friction grip that has a + on top and a - on the bottom. You turn it the same way you do the right grip, but it has no numbers. It will click 7 times and will move the chain from the smallest to medium then to largest cassette up front.

So why is this not considered a 21 speed. It has 21 different cassette combinations.

Also the front chain doesn't move as seamlessly as the back. I will turn the right gear shift and it will click a couple of times and the chain doesn't always move to the next cassette. it will make noise and if I shift the back it will usually know the front in place.

Was something not put together right? It this just something that I should expect from a low end entry bike from a big box store, or should it be working better?

Last thing. How difficult and expensive would it be to switch out to a better gear shifter on my handle bar that actually has 3 numbered gears?

Thanks and sorry for the dumb questions
Hi and welcome,

Some words first:
(ignoring BMXes)
For the rear, the toothed round things the chain run on are referred to as sprockets.
A stack of sprockets is either a cassette or a freewheel. These are different designs, and not interchangeable.

Multi-speed freewheels are considered old tech, and have become obsolete on anything but the cheapest of bikes - for good reason.
Freewheels have a longer section of unsupported axle, which makes them prone to axles breaking and bending.

Now some bad news - your bike has a freewheel. If you are on the heavy side, you'll need to learn ride with care, or you are quite likely to face repeated rear wheel failures.

For the front it's chainwheels or chainrings.

Since your bike is at the low end of the scale, it has a simple front shifter.
Front shifting isn't done as often as rear shifting, and it's easier to hit the sweet spot where the chain will run clean.
You have what's referred to as a "friction" front shifter.
Or in your case - a ratchet shifter.
This means that the clicks are only there to keep the shifter in the position where you leave it, and don't correspond to a specific derailer position. That's why it hasn't got 1-2-3, and only a +/- instead.
It's up to you to give it a sufficient amount of twist.
Don't worry about it as such. Friction shifting was the norm both front and rear for decades. You'll learn fast enough.
The rear though is indexed, meaning that each click corresponds to a specific position of the rear derailer.

And fronts never shift as smooth as rears, no matter how much money you throw on it.

On the rear, it's the untensioned side of the chain that moves when you shift.

On the front, it's the tensioned side you're manipulating.

Learn to ease off on pedal pressure during a front shift and you'll see it'll go in easier and smoother.

How to count speeds has changed over the years.
The current thinking is that it says more about the configuration of the bike by referring to the number of sprockets and the number of chainrings separately.
And while 3x7 might give you 21 different combinations, it doesn't give you 21 usefully different gears.
Due to the configuration, the ranges offered by the three chainwheels overlap.
Expect to have about 2/3 as many usefully different gears as you have combinations.
And there are some combinations you shouldn't use.
Running the chain small-small or big-big is called cross-chaining. It increases wear, but doesn't give you any more gearing range.
On the biggest chainring, avoid the biggest sprocket. On the smallest chainring, don't use the smallest sprocket.

Replacing your basic left/front shifter with something better is a fairly straightforward procedure, but IMO not worth it.
Even if it's only $20, you're better off saving that money as a start for either a replacement cassette-style rear wheel, or a replacement rigid fork instead of that good-for-nothing double-barrel pogo stick you have there.
Or even better, if you get into riding, start saving up for a better bike right now, 'cause what you have ain't gonna last long.

Also, if you're on a budget, look for the bike with the least amount of features. That will get you the best bang for the bucks. Cheap suspension is usually worse than no suspension.

Frankly, if it's still an option, return that bike, try to pick up a similarly sized rigid (=no suspension=) in rideable condition with a cassette rear hub for $50 or so, then spend $100 on having it serviced instead.
Unless you pick a real lemon, that'll get you a much better bike.

Brand doesn't mean much.
$200 will get you the same quality bike no matter where you spend it and what logo is stuck to the frame.
Differences will be in style and characteristics rather than quality as such.
Mind, $200 spent elsewhere might have gotten you a rigid fork and a cassette rear wheel, which IMO would have been a better option.

Finally, losing weight is a lot more about what your diet than it is about your exercise.
Unless your eating is well under control it's darn close to impossible to exercise hard and long enough to lose weight through exercise alone.
For comparison, one cupcake can take you ONE HOUR to burn off through exercise. And then you're just back to square one. To lose any that day you need to keep going.
Exercise helps, and it has plenty of other health benefits. But any serious attempt at weight loss has to start with controlling your intake.