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Old 08-01-11, 02:54 PM   #1
plantrob
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Cog awareness

Reading some posts and other writings, including a recent blog entry by CDR, I gather that road racers are typically quite aware of exactly which gear they are in. I've had no need yet for such awareness: on most rides, even hard group rides, I float somewhere in the middle of my cassette, rarely hitting either the low end (which announces itself at the second-largest cog through cross-gearing noise) or the high end (only on descents). I guess I pick the gear that's comfortable, rather than deciding on a more analytical level which gear is the most appropriate for a particular effort. How important is it to develop a heightened awareness of gearing? Is it something you just pick up as you gain experience, or something to consciously work on?

By the way, what does it mean to be "on top of your gear"?
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Old 08-01-11, 03:41 PM   #2
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You need to have a general idea about where you are in your cassette so you know when to change chainrings, but you don't need to know the exact cog.

"on top of the gear" means you have enough momentum to push the gear though the dead spot at the bottom of the power stroke. Before you are on top of the gear, your pedal stroke is labored and the bike's motion is herky jerky as it accelerates during the power phase of your pedal stroke and decelerates during the dead spot.
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Old 08-01-11, 05:44 PM   #3
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I say just go from feeling - I only know the 12 & the 25 cog by number, everything else is just in between.
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Old 08-01-11, 06:15 PM   #4
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I guess I pick the gear that's comfortable, rather than deciding on a more analytical level which gear is the most appropriate for a particular effort.
I think thats what we all do.
I do anticipate what gear I'll need to go to, but thats about it (e.g. going into a corner in a crit, I usually shift down to accomodate the loss of speed)
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Old 08-01-11, 08:05 PM   #5
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I'm reviewing my last few posts for gear references...
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Old 08-01-11, 08:18 PM   #6
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You probably are referring to the leadout story? Because I had time (a Cat 3-4 race actually gives you time to look around and stuff), I carefully coordinated my gear selection with the guy I was leading out. I wasn't sure how much he shifted, how experienced he'd be at following shifts, so I really limited my shifts. This meant that I could really keep track of what I was doing. In current times this guy would be equal to maybe a 10 race Cat 5 or a very-recently-upgraded-to-4s Cat 4.

That situation was special.

I normally shift whatever I need to shift. I just get surprised if I run out of gear, like I did in my 39T training race. I kept hitting the thumb bit on the Ergo and couldn't believe I was spinning a 53x11. I wasn't - I was spinning a 39x11 because my front derailleur had suddenly lost cable tension.

I've also done sprints where I jumped in what I thought was a 14, quickly shifted, then quickly didn't shift as I had no gears left. I'd look down and see I jumped in the 12, shifted into the 11, and I had no gears left. At that point I became hyperaware of my gears.

On training rides I'll look and count. With 5 or 6 or 7 speed wheels it was pretty easy. 9 and 10 have gotten to the point where I have to triple or quadruple check my count. Reason for counting could be a lot of things - figuring out what gear to jump in while doing a loop, to compare different gears; checking what gear I used going up a hill; checking to see if I have any gears left or what kind of reserve gearing I have on a long climb; experimenting with gearing to see what effect radically lower or higher gears will have on a particular stretch of road; etc.

I think it's important to be aware of what gears you're using in a "cloud detail" kind of way. If you're constantly in the 19 or 21 in the big ring and never use the 11, you can either think of a 12-xx cassette or a smaller big ring. If you're constantly in the 14 or 13 and you have a compact, you may think about getting a 52 or so big ring. If you never venture below the 21, don't leave your 12-29 (or whatever) on. Etc etc.

I got into cycling because of gearing and trying to optimize a 10 speed (2x5) gear set up. I came up with my own solution, a 48/34 with two freewheels, 14-21 and 14-23. Both gave me 8 usable gears, I didn't use either the big/big or small/small, and I had a high enough gear for my 14 year old legs. Now they call that set up a "compact"

With 10s there's no need for customizing gearing, not anymore. You get all the gears you need anyway.

I wish I could customize my car's gearing, readily. That would be fun.
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Old 08-01-11, 08:20 PM   #7
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I think thats what we all do.
I do anticipate what gear I'll need to go to, but thats about it (e.g. going into a corner in a crit, I usually shift down to accomodate the loss of speed)
One trick is to shift up a cog or two so you can pedal through the turn without having the pedal drop all the way down when you're leaned over the most. We're talking some low rpms to keep pedal "above bottom dead center" time to a maximum. Basically you enter the turn as you're starting your outside pedal power stroke and you slam the shifter as you dive into the turn.
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Old 08-01-11, 08:49 PM   #8
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You probably are referring to the leadout story?
Yep, that's the one. Thanks for the insights offered. I'm not a good card player because I can't count cards - I was afraid I was likewise doomed in bicycling because I don't count gears
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Old 08-01-11, 09:55 PM   #9
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One trick is to shift up a cog or two so you can pedal through the turn without having the pedal drop all the way down when you're leaned over the most. We're talking some low rpms to keep pedal "above bottom dead center" time to a maximum. Basically you enter the turn as you're starting your outside pedal power stroke and you slam the shifter as you dive into the turn.
Interesting. I was talking about pedaling through corners at a group ride this past weekend. So far I've been gutsy and pedaled through when I feel like I can, but I'm always afraid of clipping when I analyze what I did. This past week, I saw a P,1,2 guy clip so hard and bounce that his tire came off the rim. Ow

Anyway the advice I got was just timing, make sure that you just time it correctly. Sounds a bit like your advice as well. My only concern (without trying it) is that I'd tire out pushing a gear each turn rather than spinning it. Woud a difference is peddling styles accomodate for this, or am I looking at something different altogether?

I really started thinking about conserving energy through turns at the crit the other weekend. I take a look at the people heading up the race, and those following. The followers were strong, but they did have to "jump" out of every turn to match the leaders speed. After tweaking a few things each lap, I came to the conclusion that
1. I needed to pedal as much as I could
2. Not to drop my speed quite so much for the turn
3. Exaggerate the lean. Not only leaning to the inside, but getting low as well. I feel that that helps with the wind resistance, as well as gives me better mechanics to lean a bit more comfortably.

I'd be happy to hear a CDR critique of my conclusions

Last edited by kindablue; 08-02-11 at 05:41 PM. Reason: facepalm
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Old 08-02-11, 07:13 AM   #10
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I wish I could customize my car's gearing, readily. That would be fun.
Audi A4 w/CVT and a chip program it...



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Old 08-02-11, 07:40 AM   #11
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I generally go by feel. But, there are moments when I want a particular gear and I use the dura-ace bubble/gear indicator near the right shifter for this purpose. I practice determining which gear is best for sprints or hard efforts on various grades. When I get it/them, I note the gear through the bubble indicator. So, when I am in a race, I know precisely into which gear I want to go, and I know precisely when I am in that gear through the use of the bubble indicator. There are times when I have to go with the flow and ad lib, of course. But, even then, the gear preferences give me a good starting point. By the way, were I not to look at the indicator and go by feel for special efforts (e.g., sprinting), I bet that I would select the most preferred gear 85-90% of the time, maybe more. But, I have zero tolerance for being in the wrong gear for special efforts

Edit: I determine optimality with my power meter and speedometer.
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Old 08-02-11, 10:21 AM   #12
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I used to think about this while riding, but then realized there's not much point to it. The only thing I keep track of is my speed and the front chainrings. I use the small ring for anything under ~19mph, generally. I'll cross chain occasionally, but only when I know I'll be coming to a stop again shortly. For crit racing, it's all big ring, and I don't keep track of which cog I'm in. I just go off cadence and effort (power) to decide if I should change gears
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Old 08-02-11, 01:12 PM   #13
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Coupla thoughts before I get in trouble at work:
1. When doing the big gear into a turn, I'll shift out of the gear as soon as I can, like before the exit. The chain may still be shifting down the cassette when I start shifting it back up. I change gears a lot, even in flat races.
2. "Peddle" is to sell. "Pedal" is to pedal a bike Just for future sake
3. I usually do one big downstroke exiting a turn, maybe three if I got gapped. When I'm tired it takes longer to close. I remember reading somewhere that racers didn't like following Merckx through turns. He'd go a bit slower, leave a slight gap, and accelerate up to the rider in front. It emphasized the accordion effect but it gave him some leeway in case of any weirdness. I seem to do that instinctively (I'm extremely risk-averse, which is ironically one of the reasons why I stick with crits).
4. I lean "the same" as the bike, no more, no less, at least not consciously. I do dig the front wheel into the ground, sliding forward on the saddle.

Okay back to work.
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Old 08-03-11, 06:30 AM   #14
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In general, I don't care much what gear I'm in at any given moment unless I'm climbing. I suck at climbing. I want to know what gears I have left in case I have to bail. On training rides, I notice gearing more as I'm using it as a reference point against power and effort versus how I feel. I may also be more aware of gearing if I've changed wheels or cassettes, noticing gears that are "missing". In criteriums, I don't think I've ever noticed or cared.
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