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Thread: Gear Shifting

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    Senior Member Bike-a-Boo's Avatar
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    Gear Shifting

    I have a few very basic questions about shifting gears.

    For most of my rides, I use the middle chainring on the front and shift between the rear cogs. If I'm on the biggest cog and I need an easier gear, should I shift back to a middle cog and then shift to the smaller chainring? Or should I do it in the reverse order? Do I need to wait a moment between shifts between the cogs, or can I just click to where I want to end up?

    One other question: is there a certain finesse to shifting? Is there a trick to make it as smooth as possible? I know I'm supposed to pedal foward while shifting, but is there any else I can do? I figure it must be sort of like driving a standard transmission car - meaning it takes skill and practice to not grind the gears!

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    cab horn
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    Put enough pressure on the pedals to move the cranks, but no more. When you're on your bike you want the chain to run as straight as possible. If you can, leave it on the middle ring and shift in the back.
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

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    Cheers! 2wheeled's Avatar
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    Check out this article by Sheldon brown, it may help shed some light.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears.html

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    Senior Member Nermal's Avatar
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    What operator said about smooth shifting. Now, if you are downshifting on a hill, summon up some extra oompf in the pedals, then lighten up a little when you actually do the shift. Later on, if and when you go to Power Grips, or clipless pedals, you can practice riding and shifting on level ground while pedaling with one leg only. Initally, you will get a tremendous lurch while pulling the pedals up, especially at higher cadence.
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

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    I don't know if this is, objectively, the only correct answer, but my experience: it is smoother to shift in the rear first, then the front. And, yes, there is a finesse factor, a sense of touch that you will gain from practice and experience, as others have suggested.

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    I find that shifting the rear is easiest.
    I tend to stay in my large chainring up front and shift the back as needed. Several hills require the middle chainring.
    Let up when you are shifting. I keep pedaling while shifting. Just with less pressure. Try and shift before climbing a hill or you tend to loose quite a bit of speed.

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    Would staying in the middle chain ring and using all the sprockets in the back (from smallest to largest) cause the chain to stretch and wear out prematurely?

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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CmpsdNoMore
    Would staying in the middle chain ring and using all the sprockets in the back (from smallest to largest) cause the chain to stretch and wear out prematurely?
    Define "prematurely". My honest answer is that keeping your chainline perfectly parallel with your bike frame will make your chain last a little longer but I doubt the difference will be measureable outside of a laboratory. My question for you is: "Is your prime objective to make your chain last as long as possible or is it to enjoy riding your bike?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    My question for you is: "Is your prime objective to make your chain last as long as possible or is it to enjoy riding your bike?"
    Agreed. Chains are cheap when compared to knee surgery.
    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.

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    Senior Member john bono's Avatar
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    Basically, you should change gears in the front to match your long term conditions, and change gears in the rear for short term variances. For example, on my bike, which has a three gears in the front and 9 in the back, I use the middle gear for all modest inclines to modest descents, and use the middle seven gears in the back. When I am climbing a hill, I'll switch to the small gear in the front, and use the largest five or six gears in the back. When I'm descending or with a severe tailwind, I'll switch to the largest gear in the front, and use the smallest three or four gears in the back.

    A bad habit I had on my old 10 speed was to use only the lowest gear and the highest gear when riding. Using a large portion of the gear set makes for a much more comfortable ride, and takes a lot of stress off the knees.
    Ride a bike. It makes your legs stringy, and less tasty to our Kanamit friends.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Shifting on the front is the equivalent of 2 or 3 shifts at the back, so shift at the front at the bottom of a hill just before there is a sudden increase in gradient.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    Define "prematurely". My honest answer is that keeping your chainline perfectly parallel with your bike frame will make your chain last a little longer but I doubt the difference will be measureable outside of a laboratory. My question for you is: "Is your prime objective to make your chain last as long as possible or is it to enjoy riding your bike?"
    I wish I had said that.
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

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    Senior Member onbike 1939's Avatar
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    Apart from the art of changing smoothly there is something about gear-changing that is too often missed.

    That is, to use the topography of the road along with the optimum use of gears in order to maintain a higher overall speed. This nothing to do with racing but it does aid efficiency. When breasting the crest of a hill in a lower gear, immediately change to the large chain-ring and use the downward slope with the bigger gear in order to build up the momentum to carry you part-way up the next hill before having to change down.
    The result is that a higher overall speed is maintained.
    I find that despite the range of gears now available to the rider, poor gear-changing technique means that too often this is of little advantage. Lack of timing, i.e. when to change, means that riders lose speed either by spinning in too low a gear or by straining slowly along in too high a gear. I find this very frustrating in a touring partner.

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    Real Human Being wild animals's Avatar
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    if you want to keep up your cadence, what's the best way to shift? because there's some overlap, and sometimes if you want to downshift just a little, you'll have to shift both the front and back, right?

    i don't ride a derailleured bike right now, but i plan to get one sometime soon, and i read in a bike book that some bikes are set up in a way that you'd need to shift both the back and front derailleurs each time you want to access the gearing closest to what you're at now. does that make sense? for example, if you wanted to go from the very lowest gear to the very highest, you'd start at the lowest and have to shift the front derailleur, then shift the back derailleur to get to the second lowest, then shift front, shift back to get to the next lowest, and so on til you get to the top. is that something that happens in real life or is it just a theoretical problem?

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    Senior Member onbike 1939's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wild animals
    if you want to keep up your cadence, what's the best way to shift? because there's some overlap, and sometimes if you want to downshift just a little, you'll have to shift both the front and back, right?

    i don't ride a derailleured bike right now, but i plan to get one sometime soon, and i read in a bike book that some bikes are set up in a way that you'd need to shift both the back and front derailleurs each time you want to access the gearing closest to what you're at now. does that make sense? for example, if you wanted to go from the very lowest gear to the very highest, you'd start at the lowest and have to shift the front derailleur, then shift the back derailleur to get to the second lowest, then shift front, shift back to get to the next lowest, and so on til you get to the top. is that something that happens in real life or is it just a theoretical problem?
    No, it's not a theoretical problem at all. If an incorrect choice of chainwheels/sprockets are made then this can occur. This can then mean "double-changing" which is to be avoided.
    I seem to recall Richard Bellingham wrote something about this but I daresay it's been covered by others too.

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    cab horn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    Define "prematurely". My honest answer is that keeping your chainline perfectly parallel with your bike frame will make your chain last a little longer but I doubt the difference will be measureable outside of a laboratory.
    This is honestly, an intentional mis-interpretation of my post. I should've just said that cross chaining combos should not be used for an extended period of time. Now i'm going to make a intentional mis-interpretation about your statement.

    My question for you is: "Is your prime objective to make your chain last as long as possible or is it to enjoy riding your bike?"
    Is your prime objective to ride for a month and then replace the chainrings, chain and cassette? If so voila.
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

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    Real Human Being wild animals's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by onbike 1939
    No, it's not a theoretical problem at all. If an incorrect choice of chainwheels/sprockets are made then this can occur. This can then mean "double-changing" which is to be avoided.
    I seem to recall Richard Bellingham wrote something about this but I daresay it's been covered by others too.
    i read it in richard's bike book
    i wasn't sure if it was something that would bother regular people in real life or not. so thanks! is that something that most modern bike manufacturers would avoid or does it come up with stock bikes very often? i wouldn't know how to pick the right cassette so for now at least i'm just trusting the bike makers.

    oh and when you shift on a "good" setup, does that mean that you start with the granny gear, change from the first through the 7th (or whatever) gears in back, then go to the middle front gear, change through the gears in back, and go to the top front gear, and change through the back gears? thanks a bunch!

  18. #18
    Senior Member mlh122's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sharrison
    If I'm on the biggest cog and I need an easier gear, should I shift back to a middle cog and then shift to the smaller chainring? Or should I do it in the reverse order?
    I do it in 3's, if im in the middle chainring i use the middle cog and 1 to the left of the middle and one to the right of the middle. for the little chainring i use the 3 largest cogs. if im in the biggest chainring i use the 3 smallest cogs. i often overlap a little, sometimes a lot, but thats the general idea. so if im in the middle chainring and i shift down to cog 3 and its still too hard, rather than going down all the way to cog 1 i just shift to the little chainring, and usually thats a lot easier, and i still have a few lower gears to go if i need them. going from the middle in front and the big cog down to the little chainring and the big cog on my bike often has me just spinning like a madman and not going anywhere, then you lose speed that you will have to regain.
    Quote Originally Posted by sharrison
    Do I need to wait a moment between shifts between the cogs, or can I just click to where I want to end up?
    i don't really wait but i click kinda slowly and keep pedaling, on my old bike if i clicked too fast and dumped too many gears the chain would fall off. on my new bike it seems i can click as fast as i want but i still dont.
    Quote Originally Posted by sharrison
    One other question: is there a certain finesse to shifting? Is there a trick to make it as smooth as possible? I know I'm supposed to pedal foward while shifting, but is there any else I can do?
    yeah kinda, try not to cross the chain (big/big or small/small) there's debate on whether or not thats bad for your bike, i figure it looks like the chain is pulling the teeth in a funny direction, which could cause chain wear and bending over time. so i don't do it. to make shifting smooth, what the other said about pedaling softer is correct in my opinion too, its pretty easy to do on a flat or downhill, on a uphill it takes a little finesse, what i do is use a little extra energy and pedal really hard, stand up and stomp if i need to, then with that little extra speed slow down your pedalling, it will be very easy until the hill figures out you've stopped pushing so hard, so you only have a second or two to shift. it will make it just as smooth and quiet as shifting on a flat. its not a very valuable skill, but its nice to not hear "TINK TINK TINK TINK KABLAM!" when shifting.

    oh if the hill is too steep to be able to be able to lighten up on the pedals without going backwards, you can try changing your angle. if the trail is wide enough you can go to one side and turn so you're crossing the trail rather than going up it, it will make it a little less steep because you're not taking the hill head on, then shift and turn back up the hill. or you can do a full circle and do the same thing.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Bike-a-Boo's Avatar
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    Thanks very much mlh122 - this is exactly what I was trying to figure out!!!

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