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Thread: Shifting Help?

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    Senior Member JumboRider's Avatar
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    Shifting Help?

    I know that I will get smoother at shifting and using my gearing more efficiently, but I currently suck. I have 3 rings up front and 8 cogs in the rear. Spending time on some web sites I know a little bit about the gear ratios, but I don’t really need to go into that at this time.

    On the largest chain-ring I should not use the largest cog and when I am on the smallest chain-ring I should not use the largest cog. This is because of the angle the chain takes is bad for the chain and the sprockets as I understand it. Using the smallest chain-ring with the largest cog/sprocket gives me the least resistance to pedal against. This would be used for climbing etc.

    Next, I know that I need to change gears while pedaling forward, but not mashing the gears. The optimal gearing would allow me to keep me at my ideal cadence/spinning. This is supposed to be the best use of my energy while riding.

    Ok, that is what I know. I have problems judging the ‘throw’ of the shift levers to solidly set my chain on chain-ring and cog. It seems that I constantly hear the chain chattering until I play with the shifter for a while. This seems to be bad form. I should be throwing the shifter in the perfect spot to move the chain fully from cog to cog and chain-ring to chain-ring. How do I mange to do this? Is it just time and feel? Is this a sign that my front and rear derailers are out of alignment?

    Is it proper to jump gears in one swoop, or should I be changing one gear at a time? I seem to really get messed up when I am moving to different terrain. There are a lot of hills where I ride. The bike will stall as I move up a hill in a big gear and then I find myself spinning uselessly as I go down a hill or onto a flat. Because I am so pitiful at shifting I stay in the middle chain-ring and move between the middle three cogs.

    Spinning is supposed to remain at my optimal cadence. How does this work with climbing? Even in the smallest gear I have I need to mash pedals to go up my hills. Well, go up them until I need to walk. Are you guys able to spin up the big hills, or do you need to mash the pedals as well?

  2. #2
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Hills: At first you mash, even in the lowest gear, then as you gain strength and lose weight.....you spin! Just ime, Bro!


    Shifting: Again, you get better with practice. Rule of thumb: With a triple:
    1. Little ring, bottom three gears on the cassette (Lowest)
    2. Middle Ring, center three cogs on the cassette
    3. Big ring, top three cogs on the cassette. (Highest)


    This way you minimize crossing the chain and repeating gears for the most part. You can also slam all the way across the gears, just ease the pedal pressure a tad while you are doing it.
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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    Member Stearman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Stormcrowe
    Hills: At first you mash, even in the lowest gear, then as you gain strength and lose weight.....you spin! Just ime, Bro!


    Shifting: Again, you get better with practice. Rule of thumb: With a triple:
    1. Little ring, bottom three gears on the cassette (Lowest)
    2. Middle Ring, center three cogs on the cassette
    3. Big ring, top three cogs on the cassette. (Highest)


    This way you minimize crossing the chain and repeating gears for the most part. You can also slam all the way across the gears, just ease the pedal pressure a tad while you are doing it.
    Thanks Tom, I'm having the same issues so this is helpful. Writing it down in my notebook now.

    -dave

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    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JumboRider
    I know that I will get smoother at shifting and using my gearing more efficiently, but I currently suck. I have 3 rings up front and 8 cogs in the rear. Spending time on some web sites I know a little bit about the gear ratios, but I don’t really need to go into that at this time.

    On the largest chain-ring I should not use the largest cog and when I am on the smallest chain-ring I should not use the largest cog. This is because of the angle the chain takes is bad for the chain and the sprockets as I understand it. Using the smallest chain-ring with the largest cog/sprocket gives me the least resistance to pedal against. This would be used for climbing etc.

    Next, I know that I need to change gears while pedaling forward, but not mashing the gears. The optimal gearing would allow me to keep me at my ideal cadence/spinning. This is supposed to be the best use of my energy while riding.

    Ok, that is what I know. I have problems judging the ‘throw’ of the shift levers to solidly set my chain on chain-ring and cog. It seems that I constantly hear the chain chattering until I play with the shifter for a while. This seems to be bad form. I should be throwing the shifter in the perfect spot to move the chain fully from cog to cog and chain-ring to chain-ring. How do I mange to do this? Is it just time and feel? Is this a sign that my front and rear derailers are out of alignment?

    Is it proper to jump gears in one swoop, or should I be changing one gear at a time? I seem to really get messed up when I am moving to different terrain. There are a lot of hills where I ride. The bike will stall as I move up a hill in a big gear and then I find myself spinning uselessly as I go down a hill or onto a flat. Because I am so pitiful at shifting I stay in the middle chain-ring and move between the middle three cogs.

    Spinning is supposed to remain at my optimal cadence. How does this work with climbing? Even in the smallest gear I have I need to mash pedals to go up my hills. Well, go up them until I need to walk. Are you guys able to spin up the big hills, or do you need to mash the pedals as well?
    1. You're finding out first hand (get it?) why indexed shifting is now the norm on most bikes and friction shifters are special order for Luddites. But from what I understand, eventually you'll get good at it, so hang in there.

    2. What Tom said about the gears, but I use the middle five when I'm in my middle ring.

    3. You're gonna mash up them hills for a long long time. I know I still do, it ain't no big thing.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  5. #5
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JumboRider
    Ok, that is what I know. I have problems judging the ‘throw’ of the shift levers to solidly set my chain on chain-ring and cog. It seems that I constantly hear the chain chattering until I play with the shifter for a while. This seems to be bad form. I should be throwing the shifter in the perfect spot to move the chain fully from cog to cog and chain-ring to chain-ring. How do I mange to do this? Is it just time and feel? Is this a sign that my front and rear derailers are out of alignment?
    What type of shifters do you have? Unless the front shifter is indexed, you have "trim" the front derailer as the chain angles change. Nothing big, just slight movements of the shifter in the correct direction. I'm now using an old-school friction downtube shifter for the front derailer on my road bike after a brifter self-destructed.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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  6. #6
    Chubby super biker bdinger's Avatar
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    Definitely +1000 to what Tom said. His advice will definitely get you going, quite literally, in the right direction.

    Really, mashing up hills is the way I built up, and continue to build strength. The hill right out of my driveway I generally mash up as hard as I can in the morning, but on off days I've been known to take it easy and spin my way up it . As you get stronger, you will be able to judge this for yourself. But for now, embrace the burn. Love the burn. You'll have it around for a bit

    With the shifting, again, what tom said. You have three rings, don't be afraid to use them! Figure out a good cadence for you, everyone is different in this respect!, and work on picking gearing to keep you in that range. If you want, use a bike computer with a cadence sensor, but I found that I personally learned much more about my body by just "feeling" what was right for me. By doing that for almost a year, I've gotten it down to a good rhythm, I can tell exactly how much effort and shifting needs to be done.

    Also, do you have indexed shifters? I know the pics you had showed barends, but for some reason I thought barends were indexed. Those would help

    And yes, you can do big changes. I generally use about three different gears when I'm riding, and double or triple-tap my shifters to get in the right ring for me. I'm weird in that I basically am always in the middle ring on my Trek FX, in fact I've never actually used the small ring on it! But I find that it does very well at avoiding cross chaining, and by sticking to the middle ring I can avoid trying to kill myself by mashing on the 48x11 big gear . Deraileurs seem to be pretty resistant to abuse, I'm notorious for getting all worked up and slamming mine into gears... generally with a very solid "CLANG" from a ring . This is hard on components, though, and should be avoided.

    Basically, just find a good rhythm and system for you. I know people that shift constantly, and some who will plant themselves in a gear when they have gotten moving. Of course everyone criticizes every technique, but if it works for you I say go for it!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JumboRider
    I know that I will get smoother at shifting and using my gearing more efficiently, but I currently suck. I have 3 rings up front and 8 cogs in the rear. Spending time on some web sites I know a little bit about the gear ratios, but I don’t really need to go into that at this time.

    On the largest chain-ring I should not use the largest cog and when I am on the smallest chain-ring I should not use the largest cog. This is because of the angle the chain takes is bad for the chain and the sprockets as I understand it. Using the smallest chain-ring with the largest cog/sprocket gives me the least resistance to pedal against. This would be used for climbing etc.

    Next, I know that I need to change gears while pedaling forward, but not mashing the gears. The optimal gearing would allow me to keep me at my ideal cadence/spinning. This is supposed to be the best use of my energy while riding.

    Ok, that is what I know. I have problems judging the ‘throw’ of the shift levers to solidly set my chain on chain-ring and cog. It seems that I constantly hear the chain chattering until I play with the shifter for a while. This seems to be bad form. I should be throwing the shifter in the perfect spot to move the chain fully from cog to cog and chain-ring to chain-ring. How do I mange to do this? Is it just time and feel? Is this a sign that my front and rear derailers are out of alignment?

    Is it proper to jump gears in one swoop, or should I be changing one gear at a time? I seem to really get messed up when I am moving to different terrain. There are a lot of hills where I ride. The bike will stall as I move up a hill in a big gear and then I find myself spinning uselessly as I go down a hill or onto a flat. Because I am so pitiful at shifting I stay in the middle chain-ring and move between the middle three cogs.

    Spinning is supposed to remain at my optimal cadence. How does this work with climbing? Even in the smallest gear I have I need to mash pedals to go up my hills. Well, go up them until I need to walk. Are you guys able to spin up the big hills, or do you need to mash the pedals as well?
    There are about 4 gears you never want to use, small-ring with the smallest two gears, and the big ring with the largest two gears. This is because the order is reversed, and the chain angle makes it hard on the chain. The middle ring in a triple crank, should work fairly well with all the gears, the 4 you don't use, are typically duplicates (or very close to) other gears. So you don't really lose anything. Simple rule to follow, small-ring (granny) is for uphill, middle ring is for flat (or close to flat), big ring is for downhill.

    As a rider gains strength and experience, they get better at finding which gear works with what road conditions, and you may find that you don't use the granny much at all. I know one hill, where at the beginning of last year I walked up it, by the end of the year, I was powering up there in about 1-3, last Saturday I stood on the pedals and powered up the same hill, in 2-3. However if you add a pair of panniers and fill them up with a bunch of gear, then you may find that your using the granny again

    Tires can also make a difference, if you have a mountain bike with knobby "snow" tires attached, at low pressure, then you will lose a lot of effort to rolling resistance, where narrow tires with higher pressure make pedalling easier. Toe clips or clipless pedals may also make it easier, in that you waste less power on trying to keep your feet in the right position on the pedals.

    Friction shifters, are also experience, you put enough shifts on them and you will get much more precise at shifting, another option is indexed shifting, where you push a lever or button, or twist the grip one click to get the next gear. The great benefit of friction shifters is two fold, first their simple mechanics is less likely to fubar, second is that you can adjust it, until it sounds right, rather then hits the next click, because if the deraileur (or hanger) is damaged or out of adjustment on an indexed system, it needs to be repaired or adjusted, where as a friction system can compensate. This is why bar end shifters are popular for touring, they can operate in either index or friction mode, handy when you realize the last bike shop is 175km back and the next one is 175km ahead, and your shifting is wonky.....

    Okay, multiple shifts, I typically will shift one at a time, when up shifting (harder gears), and will use multiple shifts when down shifting, especially when slowing for a stop sign or stop light. I have used multiple up shifts, when slowing for a stop light, and the signal changes, so you can catch up again.

  8. #8
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    The only thing that I haven't seen mentioned yet to help with the mashing uphills is to really focus on the LIFTING of your pedals (for those with the clipless pedals). Which reminds me of another question I have myself... Why is it we call the pedals that actually CLIP to our shoes "clipLESS".

    Anyway, I've found that those big Hammy muscles can really propel you up the hill by focusing on the lift verses the "mash" although you lose all the benefits of our considerable girth. I think that alone has made me much better at getting uphill for the more enjoyable ride down the other side.

    my two cents...

  9. #9
    Senior Member JumboRider's Avatar
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    Why is it we call the pedals that actually CLIP to our shoes "clipLESS".
    Because they do away with Toe Clips and straps. I actually think they should be called strapless, but many hate bra's .

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    Riding mostly in town as I do, I find that I spend most of my time on the middle ring using the first 4 gears. I also shift a lot because of all the stopping and starting. Basically shifting gears in the manner as you would a standard shift in a car. Bad form, or not?

    -dave

  11. #11
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terrierman
    1. You're finding out first hand (get it?) why indexed shifting is now the norm on most bikes and friction shifters are special order for Luddites. But from what I understand, eventually you'll get good at it, so hang in there.
    Are you callin' me a Luddite? The correct term is Retrogrouch I'll have you know!
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stearman
    Riding mostly in town as I do, I find that I spend most of my time on the middle ring using the first 4 gears. I also shift a lot because of all the stopping and starting. Basically shifting gears in the manner as you would a standard shift in a car. Bad form, or not?

    -dave
    I spend most of my time in the middle ring, using the last 4, if you use an 8 speed, we should swap cassettes after about 1500 miles, then you can use the 4 I didn't use, and I will use the 4 you didn't use..

    I really wonder if usage wise, things have really improved over the 5 speed cluster we all used to use. I do think that a 7 speed Nexus would be enough for most riders, if you ride in mountain goat territory, you run a larger sprocket, and in the prairies, where you can go 500km without climbing more then 2cm, you run a smaller sprocket..... A dual drive flip-flop hub - where the rear wheel has a sprocket on each side, one for low range and one for high range would make things just about perfect. We could call them touring (low range) and non-touring (high range).

    Then you get days like today, a 40km/h headwind gusting to 55km/h, given my normal speed is about 20km/h, that would leave me going in reverse , I decided to skip it. I am wondering though, whether I might be better riding when I get home from work (8am usually), then when I get up around 5PM, less likely of needing to cancel a ride due to T-storms.

  13. #13
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    The key to spinning up hills is to increase your cadence just slightly before hitting the base of it. Use the increase in speed to get you going and then keep spinning up the hill. Just don't let it psyche you out. Try increasing your speed cadence wise just before the hill then spinning up the hill. Just keep it in your head that you have to keep your legs moving at the same speed. That right there is a good reason to use your fancy computer that has cadence on it and try to maintain. When you can't go anymore you can't go anymore. Kinda like mashing. Spinning is easier than mashing so there's no way to squeeze extra power by starting to mash when you get tired spinning.

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    Senior Member BeckyW's Avatar
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    I've been having the exact same problem - thanks for the posts! I end up mashing in a low gear on "hills" that wouldn't even register as such to a driver in a car. Glad to know that will get better! I do have one question about shifting, though... I'm a little confused about which gears are supposed to be avoided. I have the same setup, 3 x 8, that has been mentioned above, and I'd thought I was supposed to avoid 1-7 and 1-8, and 3-1 and 3-2, but it seems I had it backwards, and I should avoid 1-1 and 1-2, and 3-7 and 3-8?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BeckyW
    I have the same setup, 3 x 8, that has been mentioned above, and I'd thought I was supposed to avoid 1-7 and 1-8, and 3-1 and 3-2, but it seems I had it backwards, and I should avoid 1-1 and 1-2, and 3-7 and 3-8?
    Probably. Think of it like this. Combining your big chainring and your biggest cogs should be avoided if possible, and combining your small chainring and smallest cogs should also probably be avoided. There are some cases where this isn't as big of a deal, but it's a decent place to start.

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    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    Yet another way to think of it is to use your go fast gear on the front with the go fast gears on the back. Same same with the go slow gear on the front, use with the go slow gears on the back. And your go medium gear on the front is wider range than either side of it, but still, go medium front with go medium gears on the back will work smoothest and with least wear and tear on the chain and the cogs.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BeckyW
    I've been having the exact same problem - thanks for the posts! I end up mashing in a low gear on "hills" that wouldn't even register as such to a driver in a car. Glad to know that will get better! I do have one question about shifting, though... I'm a little confused about which gears are supposed to be avoided. I have the same setup, 3 x 8, that has been mentioned above, and I'd thought I was supposed to avoid 1-7 and 1-8, and 3-1 and 3-2, but it seems I had it backwards, and I should avoid 1-1 and 1-2, and 3-7 and 3-8?
    1-7, 1-8, 3-1 and 3-2 are the ones to avoid.

    Your setup might be different though, number wise, if you shift into one of the to be avoided combinations, you will see that the chain is at an angle across the sprockets, but the sprockets themselves are straight, this is very hard on the chain and the sprockets, and wastes a large amount of energy. To be most efficient and easiest on the chain and sprockets, you want the chain as straight as possible. There are typically only 2 or 3 combinations where it's dead straight, slight angles are a compromise.

    Sometimes logistics comes into play, for example, double shifts (front and back at the same time), you might not want to keep double shifting say between 2-6 and 3-5 so you might decide to use 2-7 or 3-4 to avoid the double shift.

    To improve efficiency more, keep the drive train clean, a dirty gooey chain is not as efficient as a clean one, and is a real chore to fix a puncture. Hint, a pair of those thin plastic gloves, like for painting or auto repair, can be a good thing to keep in the saddle bag, for when you are going somewhere, that blackened grease covered hands do not go with the event.

    Biggest efficiency killer, low tire pressure, your tire should state a maximum inflation pressure, some state a maximum and a minimum, you want to keep your tires as close to the maximum as possible. A pump with a gauge or a separate gauge are must haves. I have a gauge on my floor pump, and I check the tires, before every ride.

  18. #18
    Senior Member BeckyW's Avatar
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    Thanks for the help - aired up my tires, actually used the "1" wheel, and ride was MUCH easier than before. I climbed a big hill... well, big for me, anyway... which meant I got to go DOWN a big hill! However, noisy chain sounds when I shifted into "3," so I think I'll take it in for a checkup (and myself for a bike maintenance lesson!).

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stearman
    Thanks Tom, I'm having the same issues so this is helpful. Writing it down in my notebook now.

    -dave
    Wow...you have a notebook?




    I'm such a slacker....

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    You bet. With my memory, notebooks are a necessity!

    -dave

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