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  1. #1
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    This is my second post here so far. I've been commuting to work by bike for 32 days now and I can't seem to understand shifting. My husband tried explaining it all to me, but he gets realllly technical and I get completely lost.

    Here's my issue: I have a 21-speed bike. On the left side of my handlebars I have a shifter with lots of intervals that don't seem to do anything and take a bit of effort to push up on. On the right side there's about 7 intervals. How do I know when to use the left side and when to use the right?

    I've read a few articles online but they're quite technical as well. However, I did learn why my knees ache so much! I have to let myself take it easier I suppose.

    I don't commute via road, but on a rocky trail that has a bit of an incline on the way home (which is lovely for me after working 9-10 hrs!). Thanks for any help!

    jenn

    ps. Anyone know why my left hand always falls asleep while cycling?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Why that's easy.

    1. Before you ever start out, move the shifter on your left handlebar until the chain is on the middle front sprocket. Leave it there most of the time.

    2. Now you can concentrate on just the right shifter. If your legs hurt, shift into an easier gear in back. If it seems too easy, shift into a harder gear in back. Most of the time, that's all that you need to know.

    3. If you see yourself approaching a big hill, shift the left shifter into the smallest sprocket in front just as you get to the base of the hill.

    4. Two or three times a year you will get a tail wind or want to ride downhill real fast. When that happens, shift your left shifter so that the chain goes into the biggest sprocket in front.

  3. #3
    cab horn
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    If you're still seated and you're climbing and you want to get out of the seat shift up instead of down. Cadence decreases when you're out of the saddle.

    If you shift down too early before the hill you will lose momentum, too late well same thing.

  4. #4
    The Rabbi seely's Avatar
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    Or just get a singlespeed and forget shifting!

  5. #5
    I couldn't car less. jeff williams's Avatar
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    I give a shot, Left shifter is for the sprokets on the pedal arms, Right shifter the rear on the wheel.
    Most flatland riding you only need to shift the rear, As Retro>G said start in the middle.
    The biggest ring you shift with the left\ front gears on the pedals is for speed. The smallest is for big hills.

    Why you have so many options is: THAT you do not want to cross chain, this means the chain is not straight.
    The sprockets if you look are big to small front, and the opposite rear. The cog closest to the wheel\ rear is lange and in front opposite.

    What does this have to do with crosschaining...well.

    If you are going up\ down and flat you have to change the front derailler. What you attempt to do is avoid having the chain go from either one extream, large or small front, going to the opposte side cog rear.

    If you only shift rear, staying on the middle front ring is best to avoid this.

    Example to the extream, your large cog front,(outside ring) to easiest (largest) cog rear next to the tire. The chain is now not straigt, but running at an extream angle and your bikes unhappy.

    You are to TRY to shift the chain straight as in the big ring to the first 3 rear cogs, middle front middle rear cogs and small (granny gear) is to run the last say 3 cog rear next to the wheel.

    Some variation allowed, to much of an angle the shifting is poor, stretches the chain, shiftings hard.

    Whew. Try flipping the bike over, or put in a stand, get your husband to turn the cranks and run the shifters.

    Don't engage a shift while hard pedalling, you have to play clutch to some degree.

    the hands knumb can be. Seat to high, seat too foreward, or perhaps entire posture is off. Generally its a seat hight\ distance.

    Goodluck!
    >Jef.

  6. #6
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    Retro seems to have covered this quite well.
    mrdoright0405
    howtobuyamerican.com

  7. #7
    Senior Member joeprim's Avatar
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    Your hand maybe getting numb because you are hold on too tight. Relax a little, if it still gets numb let go of the bar and lower the hand while wiggling your fingures. Padded gloves may help too.

    Good luck
    Joe

  8. #8
    pluralis majestatis redfooj's Avatar
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    smaller cog = easier to pedal
    shift to wherever you feel comfortable pedalling
    try to keep the chain straight (combo of front & rear cog)

    cant see how it can get more complicated than that

  9. #9
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    On the front the small cogs are easier, and the larger harder to pedal...but the larger they are, the higher a speed can be obtained from it.

    On the rear, the smaller the gear the harder it is to pedal, and the larger ones are easier.....same speed concept applies..

    Like if I was riding in my center front ger and my 3rd back gear, i can average about 12mph and start from a stop with relative ease (I own a 21spd as well), but if I go to my largest front and smallest rear, i can go at about 30mph but it takes a great deal of power to move the pedals at that point, so I have to climb through all teh gears first.

    Think fo it like a car with a manual shift. If you try to move with too easy a gear you stress the motor too much (in this case, you are athe motor), and if you try to start moving in too high a gear you might stall out (in this case stall out is just not being able to move)....but if you start low, move up the gears, and stay at the right gear, then your cruising along nicely.

    I cheat if i'm in a higher gear (like center front and 5 in back)...and just start from a stop by standing up and pedaling, but only do this if you KNOW your bike is in excellent shape, since any failure while doing that could result in a nasty crash.

  10. #10
    cab horn
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    Bah, I almost always have my bike on highest gear (mtb), adapated for road use.

  11. #11
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Basically you have 21 speeds in 3 groups of 7.
    The left shifter moves the chain around the 3 gears in the front where your pedals are attached. The right shifter moves the chain around the 7 gears in the back.

    Basically you put the gears into which ever one you're comfortable with. The speeds means how fast you want the bike to go at a certain speed that you're pedaling at, meaning if you put it into the highest gears and want the bike to go fast, you have to pedal harder. If you put it into a low gear, it will go slow but also be easier to pedal.

    For the front (left shifter): 1st = slow, 2nd = medium, 3rd = fast.
    For the back (right shifter): 1st = slowest, 7 = fastest.

    The speeds work in combinations. Think of it this way, the first number is for the left shifter, the 2nd number is for the right shifter. The speeds are as follows:
    1-1 (slowest, 1st speed), 1-2, (2nd slowest, 2nd speed), 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-7 (speed #7).
    Now you notice, by staying at 1st on the left shifter (thereby keeping your front gears on the smallest gear), you can only go up to speed #7. Put your left shifter in 2nd and now the speeds are as follows:
    2-1 (speed #8), 2-2 (speed #9), 2-3...etc. 3rd is the same with 3-7 (speed #21) being the fastest.

    Remember to only shift when you're moving, otherwise the chain gets all weird when you pedal. Try it in different combinations, no one can tell you what speed to use, it's what you're comfortable with.

    I would start with 2-4. If you feel it's too easy to pedal and you find yourself pedaling too fast to maintain a certain speed then shift the right shifter up, if it's too hard shift down a few gears.

    If you're going downhill and it's too easy to pedal even when you're at 2-7, shift the left shifter up to 3.

    If you're going uphill and even 2-1 is too hard to pedal, shift the left shifter down to 1.

    Just remember that by shifting the left shifter, you're jumping 7 speeds every time. To make the transition easier, instead of going from 2-7 to 3-7, shift down the right shifter to say 2-4 then shift the left up to 3. This helps make the transition easier so you don't suddenly find yourself 7 speeds up or down where it suddenly becomes too hard or too easy to pedal.

    It's hard to describe and for you to visualize it unless you do it. Try practicing on the streets close to home when there aren't many cars around to see the effect shifting has. Just remember, higher numbers = faster but more work, lower numbers = slower but less work and then play around.

    Worry about crossing gears and keeping the chain straight later after you're comfortable with changing gears.

  12. #12
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Front chainrings (left hand shifter) make BIG changes in pedaling ease or difficulty.
    Rear cogs (right hand shifter) make SMALL changes in pedaling ease or difficulty.

    Shift the chain toward the bike when pedaling gets hard. Shift the chain away from the bike when pedaling gets too easy.


    Ride on neighborhood streets and try "playing" with the shifters and moving the chain toward and away from the bike to see how much of a change shifting in the front and in the rear will make. With time and practice you'll be riding like a pro.

    Here is a link to a page that explains shifting and gears from the League of American Bicyclists Bike Ed manual that I scanned. I hope it helps.
    BTW: You may want to download it to make it readable. It is a full sized page of text and a drawing. If you go to the link it looks small. I guess that's so it will fit in the viewable area of the monitor.

  13. #13
    Feral Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    Why that's easy.

    1. Before you ever start out, move the shifter on your left handlebar until the chain is on the middle front sprocket. Leave it there most of the time.

    2. Now you can concentrate on just the right shifter. If your legs hurt, shift into an easier gear in back. If it seems too easy, shift into a harder gear in back. Most of the time, that's all that you need to know.

    3. If you see yourself approaching a big hill, shift the left shifter into the smallest sprocket in front just as you get to the base of the hill.

    4. Two or three times a year you will get a tail wind or want to ride downhill real fast. When that happens, shift your left shifter so that the chain goes into the biggest sprocket in front.
    I thought I might take a crack at this, but hats off to Retro Grouch. He's got it right - for the front sprockets, the middle is your gold, the others you hardly ever use. The simplest and best answer was the first. There's no point trying to muddle it up even more with my own garbled explanation.

    He's used the KISS rule quite well, take his advice (sorry, just assuming it's a guy).
    And don't get too bamboozled by the other posts - I've been riding for years and understand it all, and even I don't get some of their explanations.

    Enjoy your riding!

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