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  1. #1
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    New To Bikes-when Should I Change Gears?!

    hi,
    I've just taken up cycling and got myself a second-hand bike with shift gears. There is gear knob on both handles. On the left hand is numbered 1-4 and the right hand knob is numbered 1-7!
    This probably sounds dumb, but which ones should I select?!
    Help on this would be greatly appreciated...by the way the gear is Shimano.

    thank you,

    Ruhelraj

  2. #2
    Senior Member Dang's Avatar
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    Good for you for getting a bike! I'm sure you'll get the hang of shifting just by riding the bike for a little while. I suggest you ride to the library and pick up a few books about cycling and about bicycles. The more you learn about how you bicycle operates the better your rides will be. Oh! And if you haven't already done so get a lock for your bike!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruhelraj
    hi,
    I've just taken up cycling and got myself a second-hand bike with shift gears. There is gear knob on both handles. On the left hand is numbered 1-4 and the right hand knob is numbered 1-7!
    This probably sounds dumb, but which ones should I select?!
    Help on this would be greatly appreciated...by the way the gear is Shimano.

    thank you,

    Ruhelraj
    The one on the left probably is rally only numbered 1-3, right?

    Think about your bike as having 3 gear ranges. One for uphills, one for flatlands, and one for downhills. The three numbers on your left shifter correspond to those three gear ranges.

    Within those 3 ranges you have 7 gears on the right hand shifter for fine tuneing. If you think that your feet are pedaling too fast, shift into a higher number. If you think that it's too hard to pedal, try a lower number.

  4. #4
    tsl
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    Hmmm. 1-4 on the left? On the left, that usually shifts the chainrings, on the cranks by the pedals. Count the gears there. It's likely there are only two or three, despite the numbers on the shifter. I'll assume three actual chainrings for this discussion.

    The simplest use of the chainrings is to provide the right range of gears for the ride or a part of a ride. In my case, I use the middle one (2) for most around-town riding. The big one (3) is the go-fast range that I generally use on the open road or on downhills. I use the small chainring (1) for poking around slow and for climbing steep hills. After a time, you'll figure out which one works best for you and when.

    Once in the appropriate range, most people do the rest of the shifting with the right, 1-7 in your case, which controls the gears (cogs) on the back wheel. 1 is a slow and easy gear, for starting from a stop or going up hills. Each gear after that gets faster (and harder to push) the higher the number you go. Shift through them as you would in a car. Upshifing (higher number) to go faster, downshifting (lower number) for easier pedaling and more power, but slower speed.

    With experience and learning your body and route, you'll likely vary from there, shifting either end as conditions warrant. Just remember never to shift both ends together. That can make the chain pop off. When you need to change both, shift the left (chainring), let the shift complete, then shift the right (cog).

    It's also advisable to avoid regular use of combinations like 1-7 and 3-1 which work, but give a bad "chainline" causing undue wear on the chain. For example, if you find 1-7 is what you need, try using 2-5 instead. It'll be pretty close. Likewise, 2-2 will be similar to 3-1 and easier on your chain.

    Hope this helps!
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  5. #5
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    For starters, it's all about ratios. Remember your basic physics, effort distance to resistance distance, so on and so on? We won't get into the details (because while I am verbose I don't feel like writing THAT much) so we'll start with basics.

    In a nutshell, the larger the front chainring is (the one by your pedals) in comparison to the rear cog, the more revolutions your wheel will make per turn of the crank (pedals). BUT, that also means that the crank is more difficult to push, depending on riding conditions. If the ratio changes to a smaller front with a larger rear, the wheel makes fewer revolutions per turn of the crank, but the cranks are easier to spin.

    The shifters move your chain back and forth onto different chainrings and cogs, so you can select the ratio that works for you at the given time.

    As you pedal, the cadence you want to maintain is a MINIMUM of 60 RPM, ideally 80-100 RPM, at an effort level that you can sustain for a long time. I.e. if you are in a ratio that you can accomplish 60 RPM, but to do so you are "mashing", meaning PUSHING like you are lifting weights, you need to either make the front chainring smaller, or the back cog bigger, to alter the effort.

    Imagine you are going down a hill, with an uphill following. As you start going down the hill, you start on your biggest front chainring (probably "3" on your shifters), and somewhere in the middle on the rear (likely "4" on your shifter). As you pick up momentum going down the hill, it gets easier to pedal, and you start "spinning out", meaning that no matter how frenetically you spin, you aren't ever pushing anything. You will then start releasing on your right shifter, dropping it towards "1", or making the rear cog smaller. As you do this you start getting some "bite" in you pedalling. By the time you reach the bottom, you are clipping along with your biggest front and smallest rear.

    Now you start uphill. Your momentum carries you for a bit, but you find you are starting to "mash" the pedals. So you start "upsizing" the rear, making it easier to spin. Still, it gets hard to keep up, so it's time to make big changes; drop the chain in the front down to a smaller chainring. Since this is a monstrous hill, by the time you reach the top, your legs are spinning at 70 RPM, and you are moving at 5mph in your smallest front and largest rear...but you are spinning, not mashing, and you can keep that up all day if you need to.

    Does any of that make sense?
    Good night...and good luck

  6. #6
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    Dang, the longer this thread goes on the more complicated the advice gets. I'd just start with Retro Grouch's advice and practice when you ride around, then if you want a more sophisticated understanding, come back and read the next posts.

  7. #7
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    My recommendation:

    Ride on the middle front gear (ie chainring) most of the time, and use the rear gears to control how hard you pedal. If the easiest gear on the rear isn't easy enough, shift to the smaller front gear. If the hardest gear on the rear isn't hard enough, shift to the biggest front gear.
    Eric

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  8. #8
    Senior Member Mash Master's Avatar
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    OK, I have a stupid question. I pretty much always stay in 3-7 all the time. Including downhills, flats, and small hills. My last hill is an 8% grade, That I start at 2-7 and drop to 1-1 on the way up. Am I riding in effieciently? Should I drop a couple of gears and work on uping my cadence?

    Oh and sometimes when downshifting going up the grade my chain does the most annoying thing. I flys off the gears and gets jammed between the small gear and the frame. Only seems to every happen when going up the big hill.

    -Dave

  9. #9
    Non Tribuo Anus Rodentum and off to the next adventure (RIP) Stacey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodinville guy
    Oh and sometimes when downshifting going up the grade my chain does the most annoying thing. I flys off the gears and gets jammed between the small gear and the frame. Only seems to every happen when going up the big hill.

    -Dave

    Dave, it sounds like you either need to downshift a bit earlier or un-load the drivetrain prior to downshifting.

  10. #10
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    Thank you to everyone who responded.

  11. #11
    your god hates me Bob Ross's Avatar
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    I change gears every Thursday.

  12. #12
    Non Tribuo Anus Rodentum and off to the next adventure (RIP) Stacey's Avatar
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    ... and underwear on Friday.

  13. #13
    Banned Bikepacker67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Ross
    I change gears every Thursday.
    Are they "happy lil' gears"* ?

    *Obscure Bob Ross reference...

  14. #14
    Senior Member Pedal Wench's Avatar
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    For real beginners, this helps figure things out. The closer the chain is to the bike frame, the easier it is to pedal. This applies to the front and the rear. Close to the bike is easier to push, further away from the bike is harder.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Caspar_s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodinville guy
    flys off the gears and gets jammed between the small gear and the frame.
    Your rear derailleur limit screw needs to be tightened - it is letting the chain move too far so the chain gets off the cogs and jams. Just shift all the way and then turn the screw slowly - the der cage will move in a bit and that should stop it from happening again.

  16. #16
    Senior Member tbdean's Avatar
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    Pedal Wrench: what a great way to explain it!

  17. #17
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    Thank you to everyone who responded, I am training just to get fit and beat my boss who loves to show off

  18. #18
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    I am trying to understand with time I sure I will get use to the gears has anyone heard of a flight deck?

  19. #19
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmy View Post
    I am trying to understand with time I sure I will get use to the gears has anyone heard of a flight deck?
    Yeah. It's a bike speedometer that cool little ovals on it's face that darken to show what gear you're in. As you might imagine, they are on the expensive side and they won't work with your shifters.

  20. #20
    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    You might want to try a gear calculator just to get a view of what the different gear selections mean. Here's a Google search...pick one (or a few) and see what they say: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...ear+calculator

    Notice that there will be lots of overlap of the ranges.

  21. #21
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    Try this. Use the middle chainring and try to keep your cadence the same, or within a range, and vary the cogs in the back according to speed.

    So at a dead stop, you are in your smallest gear. As you start to move, concentrate and increasing your rpm's. When you reach your target rpms, shift up a gear and then continue to increase rpms and shift until you feel yourself doing too much work.

    As you slow down, downshift, and right before you come to a complete stop, get back down into your smallest gear.

    Its very similar to going through the gears in a car. You never start off in 4th gear and you don't want to be going 55 mph in 1st gear. You Start in first, go up through the gears as you speed up and downshift as you slow down.
    Il faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace

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