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  1. #1
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada fretman's Avatar
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    How to shift on a bike???

    The last bike I rode had no gears and a big banana seat with a sissy bar.

    Can someone explain how shifting gears work. I test rode a few bikes last weekend. On the right handle were 8 gears. On the left handle were 3 gears. The salesperson told me to try and not use the left handle gears.

    All I know is that when I shift to 2 on the right side it is a good ride. If I shift to 3 or 4 it takes more effort to pedal. If I shift to 1 it dosen't even seem like I'm pedalling anyhing as I don't even feel the chain moving.

    So what do all these gears do? Why shouldn't I use the left side gears? And when and in what circumstances should I switch gears. And when I'm shifting gears what is the proper way of doing it? Should I be pedalling forward or backward when shifting.

    All help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Olé Olé Olé Olé T-C...N-J TCNJCyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fretman
    So what do all these gears do?
    -Gears make it easier/harder to pedal. Ideally, you want to always have moderate resistance when you are pedaling (where it's not too hard or easy to pedal). To get that you would change gears. For flat sections of road, you would probably be in a bigger gear up front and a smaller gear in back. For hills, you would probably be using a smaller gear up front and larger in the back.

    Quote Originally Posted by fretman
    Why shouldn't I use the left side gears?
    -I can't think of any reasons why you wouldn't change gears with the left brake lever (I'm assuming that the bike(s) you were on had the shifters positioned right behind the brakes). The left shifter (usually) controls the gears up front (since the left break usually controls the front brake). It's my experience that changing gears in the front produces a more drastic change in pedaling resistance, so you probably won't use it as much as the gears in back.

    Quote Originally Posted by fretman
    And when and in what circumstances should I switch gears.
    -You just have to get a feel for what pedaling resistance feels right for you and change gears when you notice that that resistance changes.

    Quote Originally Posted by fretman
    And when I'm shifting gears what is the proper way of doing it?
    Should I be pedalling forward or backward when shifting.
    -I think you are suppose to reduce how quickly you are pedaling slightly while you are shifting and keep pedaling forward. Gears only shift when the chain is moving.

    I hope I covered everything correctly. If anyone else wants to add to, or correct, my comments, please do so.

  3. #3
    Senior Member arboc!'s Avatar
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    you can use the left ones as much as you please, they work the same way exsept on a larger scale.... gears make it easier to go up hills (the really easy gears) and make it so you can get more speed (the harder gears).... its just like a car, the higher the number the harder it is to pedal, but if you shift with good technique, you are able to get more speed as you cycle through the gears.

  4. #4
    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    OK if the salesman couldn't give you any more advice than that, go to a different bike store. I might even go so far as to say a "real" bike store.

    IN GENERAL: multi-speed bikes rely on the chain being moved or "derailed" onto a different gear that is a different size resulting in a different gear ratio.

    The higher the number, the lower the gear ratio (purely made up examples: 1 = 1:3, 2 = 1:2, 3 = 1:1). This means the higher the number, the more effort it takes to move the bike at a given speed (and the slower the pedals move). The lower the number, the less effort (and the faster the pedals move at a given speed).

    In "1", the amount of effort is SO small that you didn't even feel any resistance. Had you stopped the bike and started again you would have realized that there is resistance and the chain is still connected, but by the time you're moving at a reasonable speed you'd have to be pedalling like mad in order to be accelerating the bike any more.

    With deraileur-style multi-speed bikes, you should be pedaling forward gently (not applying a whole lot of pressure to the pedals) while shifting. Obviously this can take a little getting used to, for example if you leave it in "8" when you stop it will be a LOT of work to get going again (and you can't shift into a lower gear until the pedals are turning).

    There are two deraileurs, the front, and the rear. The right handle (8 gears) controls the rear one, the left handle (3 gears) controls the front. Technically this gives you 24 combinations (3 * 8 = 24) but in reality you probably shouldn't use 3 - 1 and 1 - 8 because they are on opposite ends of the rows of gears and wind up angling the chain rather sharply (resulting in increased wear long-term... won't hurt it if you do it like once or something).

    He probably told you not to shift the left one because front deraileurs don't usually operate as quickly as rear ones (I think just because the front gears are usually larger, so it takes longer for the chain to move from one to another) so shifting the rear is quicker and easier for someone who has never used a multi-speed bike before.

    The front gears are widely spaced and choosing a different one results in a different range of gear ratios... you wind up playing with them to find the combos you will use most. For example, my bike is also a 24-speed (3 front 8 rear gears). I usually use 2-1 to start, on up to 2-7 or so when moving at a moderate speed (10-12 mph maybe), and get into the 3rd front gear when going faster then stay in like 3-4 to 3-8 depending on how fast I can get going. I only go down into the first front gear when moving slowly over difficult terrain (gravel road or steep hills).

  5. #5
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Think of it as being three gear ranges.

    For the majority of riding on relatively level surfaces, keep the left hand shifter in #2. Shift the right hand shifter into whatever gear feels good.

    When you see yourself approaching an oh-my-goodness hill, shift the left hand shifter into #1. That'll make it much easier to pedal but you won't go very fast. You can continue to fine tune your gearing with your right shifter to whatever feels good.

    Save #3 on your left hand for downhills or for the twice a year that you have a tailwind.

  6. #6
    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    Note on hubshifters: There is one other semi-common style of shifter which is NOT what you were looking at, and that would be a hub shifter. All the components are internal to the hub so the bike looks like a single speed (one front gear, one rear gear) but it has a shifter on the handle. Hub shifters are more technically complex but user-simple... You can shift at any time, while pedalling, not pedalling, moving, sitting still, whatever.

    Many people dislike them because of (perceived or real) drag from the shifter, many people believe that they are not as efficient as the regular chain-deraileur shifter. They are not common and I have never heard of one on a factory 10+ speed bike (usually they have no front shifter, and the rear hub shifter is 3, 7, or 8 speeds) (I am leaving open the option that someone on here may have build a bike with a front deraileur shifter and a rear hub shifter ).

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    There ya go, Retro Grouch; that's exactly what I tell all my guys. We hire police officers all the time who are supposed to have riding experience. As I'm fitting a bike for them, I always ask, "now, you do know how a modern mountain bike shifts...?"

    "Uh, well, I havn't really ridden since I was a kid..."

    Amazing how many people you see with 24-speed mountain bikes who have obviously found one gear that works most of the time, and never shift. You see them getting off on hills and pushing.

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    Get a copy of "Bicycle Gearing" by Dick Marr. It more technical but it will make sense after a second reading.

    The Left hand gears are incredibly important. I use the left hand (front Derailuer) each time I ride and will no longer purchase a bicycle without the tripple. The reason being, dropping to the tripple allows me to reach a low gear very fast without having to drop two or three gears on my right hand (Rear Derailuer). Once I get to the top of the hill, I simply click the left hand back to the middle chain ring and I'm finished.

  9. #9
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    Get a copy of "Bicycle Gearing" by Dick Marr. It more technical but it will make sense after a second reading.

    The Left hand gears are incredibly important. I use the left hand (front Derailuer) each time I ride and will no longer purchase a bicycle without the tripple. The reason being, dropping to the tripple allows me to reach a low gear very fast without having to drop two or three gears on my right hand (Rear Derailuer). Once I get to the top of the hill, I simply click the left hand back to the middle chain ring and I'm finished.
    But that's really important because you're going down hills really fast. The OP might be in a flat area. I have a two-gear front, and I live in flat NYC; I only shift my rear, because I just don't have the opportunities to upshift on big downhills. If I were on a big hilly ride, I'm sure I'd use the left (front) shifters/derailer more.

  10. #10
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada fretman's Avatar
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    Woe...this is really complex now. Are you all saying that the higher the gear the faster I'll go? Doesn't how fast I go depend on how fast I pedal? I mean I can pedal faster when I'm on a lower gear so I always thought that I would be going faster because of that. I remember I shifted up to 3 once and it was more difficult to pedal fast so therefore I was going slower.

    I also remember having the back gear at 2 and the front gear at 2 and my legs were burning going up a somewhat steep hill. This was on a city street.
    Last edited by fretman; 07-06-05 at 11:34 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Stubacca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fretman
    Woe...this is really complex now. Are you all saying that the higher the gear the faster I'll go? Doesn't how fast I go depend on how fast I pedal? I mean I can pedal faster when I'm on a lower gear so I always that I would be going faster because of that. I remember I shifted up to 3 once and it was more difficult to pedal fast so therefore I was going slower.

    I also remember having the back gear at 2 and the front gear at 2 and my legs were burning going up a somewhat steep hill. This was on a city street.
    Everything you wanted to know about gear shifting... this is a great primer on shifting.

  12. #12
    jur
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    Perhaps you are more familiar with car's gears, and why they need gears?

    On a car, pulling away or going uphill, is done in a low gear. Same on a bike.

    On a car, cruising on the highway is done in high gear. Same on a bike.

    The gears match the engine with the load on the wheels. You are the engine, you can only pedal so hard, so gears are needed to ensure you can keep pedalling on any grade.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    Quote Originally Posted by peripatetic
    But that's really important because you're going down hills really fast. The OP might be in a flat area. I have a two-gear front, and I live in flat NYC; I only shift my rear, because I just don't have the opportunities to upshift on big downhills. If I were on a big hilly ride, I'm sure I'd use the left (front) shifters/derailer more.
    New York City isn't all flat. Just go to the Bronx or Staten Island and you'll see hills! In fact, traveling 15 miles in any direction from New York City will put you face to face with hills. Once you start exploring beyond Central Park, you'll wish you had a tripple!

  14. #14
    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    Are you familiar with the concept of leverage?

    Using a longer lever means the moving a weight is half as hard but your arm moves twice as far?

    Bicycle gearing does the same thing except with rotating motion (turning pedal, turning wheel).

    In a lower numbered gear, the gear ratio is higher (meaning lets say 5 pedal turns to 1 wheel turn, where as in a higher gear it might be 2 pedal turns to 1 wheel turn).

    When you are pedalling 5 pedal turns to 1 wheel turn, you aren't moving very fast. Your feet are going around and around a lot, travelling a lot of distance, but not having to push very hard on the pedals. At some point you reach your redline (to continue the car analogy) where you just can't pedal any faster. If you then shift to a higher gear, your feet will move slower and you can accelerate again. At some point you reach your maximum strength and can't pedal hard enough to move the pedals any faster. However if you are going downhill, you can get going faster in a higher gear because gravity is helping.

    And if you're going UPhill, a gear which was too low will now feel just right (although you'll be moving slower, your pedalling effort will be a comfortable amount).

    Basically you'll need to move over a different range of speeds/terrain to notice the advantages of multiple gears. If you go for a 5 mph test ride you won't really notice it. Try going as fast as possible, then shift to a higher gear and keep going. Also try going up a hill or incline of some sort in a particular gear, then in a lower gear. You'll start to feel the difference.

  15. #15
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fretman
    Woe...this is really complex now. Are you all saying that the higher the gear the faster I'll go? Doesn't how fast I go depend on how fast I pedal? I mean I can pedal faster when I'm on a lower gear so I always thought that I would be going faster because of that. I remember I shifted up to 3 once and it was more difficult to pedal fast so therefore I was going slower.

    I also remember having the back gear at 2 and the front gear at 2 and my legs were burning going up a somewhat steep hill. This was on a city street.

    There is a term for the speed of pedaling, called cadence.

    Now what cadence is ideal for you? I cannot say since it vaires from person to person, for me 60-70rpm is ideal, for many of the riders on the road forums 80-100 is norm.

    Now what gear combination you pick is based on this...trying to hold cadence is the key to efficient, easy riding. Best bet is to find out what you are comfortable pedaling at, and once you find that, find the gears that feel best for you.

    Basically, some resistance is good, especially if you are using regular, platform style pedals, as it assists in allowing your feet to get some traction on the pedals. If you run toe-clips, then needing resistance is somewhat less important. I'd say stick with platforms for now though, as they are easier to deal with.

    For gear shifting, ease up on the pedals, and shift. The front 3 gears I usually categorize for riding conditions. Big = downhill or speed, middle = everyday stuff, small = hills. Then on the rear it's the other way around, little = faster, as that would increase the amount of times the rear wheel turns for every turn of the cranks. Basically that's all it sums up to is "how many turns will the rear wheel make per turn of te cranks"....smaller front rings = less turn, larger rear cogs = less turn. If you remeber that one bit, it will make it that much easier to pick the ideal gear while riding.

    Basically let your legs do the choosing on what gears you use

  16. #16
    is as Gurgus does. Gurgus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikewer
    There ya go, Retro Grouch; that's exactly what I tell all my guys. We hire police officers all the time who are supposed to have riding experience. As I'm fitting a bike for them, I always ask, "now, you do know how a modern mountain bike shifts...?"

    "Uh, well, I havn't really ridden since I was a kid..."

    Amazing how many people you see with 24-speed mountain bikes who have obviously found one gear that works most of the time, and never shift. You see them getting off on hills and pushing.
    I don't shift gears, but you won't find me walking a hill. ever since I started riding single speed, even my geared bikes are ridden in just one gear.

  17. #17
    Easy Does It monster173's Avatar
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    I don't think I would have purchased my bike if they didn't put me in the trainer and walk me through changing gears first. They let me have as much time as I needed, ask questions and then test ride. The other shop in my area put me on the trainer when I bought my clipless pedals. I love both shops! Only reason I can figure they may have told you to lay off the left side would just be until you get use to it but I would definately be thinking about going elsewhere.

    T

  18. #18
    Will Bike for Beer BladeGeek's Avatar
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    Ok I am brand new to the bike seen I have a Felt F60 (tripple)with ultegra 10 componets. The The larg left shifter I have noticed will move the front chain ring. Does the small left shifter shift the back chain ring? And if so the right small shifter will move the rear chain ring I have noticed but what does the large right shifter move?

  19. #19
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    The two left shifters alllow you to move between the 2 or 3 (front) chainrings. The two right shifters alllow you to move between the rear cogs. The little shifter in both cases selects a smaller chainring/cog and the larger shifter selects a larger chainring/cog. The idea is to come up with a combination that allows you to pedal comfortably at a 90-100 pedal per minute cadence. The reason for so many gears is to compensate for your relative physical condition and the lay of the land.

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