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  1. #1
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    I'm A Newbie. Can You Explain Gears And How Best To Use Them?

    Hi.

    I don't know a damn thing about gears, and was hoping for an explanation on how they work on how to best use them on my bike.

    So here is what my bike, a hybrid, has, although I don't really know exactly what this means:

    "Front chain rings with sizes 48/36/26, and a 9 speed cassette with cogs ranging from 11-32 teeth give the rider a wide range of gears to choose from whether ascending a steep climb, or bombing a fast downhill."
    So I've determined that the three-sized gear area is controlled with the left gear shifter, and that the one with many speed gears (cassette?) is controlled by the right.

    I get shifting up and shifting down make you go faster, etc.

    What I don't get is how to decide when to do the three gear one and when to do the many geared one.

    Its seems like you can make the same speed with different combinations 1 one on the 3 gear and a 5 on the multi gear, or a 3 on the big fear and a 1 on the multi gear. ...Not sure if that make sense.

    So when do I use the 3 gear and when do I use the multi gear? One for downhill, one for flat, one for uphill?

    Any starter advice on gears welcome.

  2. #2
    Light Makes Right GV27's Avatar
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    Many gear ratios are duplicated - different combos make similar ratios.

    Sounds like you basically have the right idea. Use the front chain rings (the three on the crank) to select a range. Then use the rear to fine tune within that range. So if you're, say, going up a long moderate hill on the street that varies in steepness, you might put the front in the middle chainring, then when the road steepens shift to a larger cog in the back and when it levels off shift to a smaller one.

    The small chainring is usually only used on steep hills - but of course what "steep" means depends on your own personal fitness.

    The best advice is to relax and pedal whatever gear feels comfortable. Your body will tell you if your feet are spinning faster than they should or if the gear is too hard. It's not a stairmaster - pedaling is not step-step-step-step, it's turning the cranks in circles fairly fast. But not so fast that your legs are whipping around out of control.

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  4. #4
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    As a general rule of thumb, if you are bouncing around on the seat you are spinning too fast and losing control. As you get better you will be able to spin at very fast speeds without bouncing out of the saddle. If you are leaning into each pedal stroke, you are spinning too slow.

  5. #5
    Administrator CbadRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GV27 View Post
    Many gear ratios are duplicated - different combos make similar ratios.

    Sounds like you basically have the right idea. Use the front chain rings (the three on the crank) to select a range. Then use the rear to fine tune within that range. So if you're, say, going up a long moderate hill on the street that varies in steepness, you might put the front in the middle chainring, then when the road steepens shift to a larger cog in the back and when it levels off shift to a smaller one.

    The small chainring is usually only used on steep hills - but of course what "steep" means depends on your own personal fitness.

    The best advice is to relax and pedal whatever gear feels comfortable. Your body will tell you if your feet are spinning faster than they should or if the gear is too hard. It's not a stairmaster - pedaling is not step-step-step-step, it's turning the cranks in circles fairly fast. But not so fast that your legs are whipping around out of control.


    ^^This.

    Take your bike out to an area with no cars and play around with the gears so you can see what they feel like. You'll get an idea of what gear you prefer for flat roads, hills, accelerating, etc.

    One thing you want to avoid is cross-chaining. That's when your chain is stretched across the large outside ring in front to the large inside cog on the rear. It can cause a lot of wear on your chain and gears.
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    Two More Gear Questions

    1) Sometimes I shift gears, usually when I'm working with 3 gear ring on the front, and it just keeps making the "shifting gear noise", like a 'zzzzzzzz' sound. It seems to take a long time to shift into place.

    What is happening? Is this bad? Am I doing something wrong?

    2) How many gears does the bike I described have?

  7. #7
    LET'S ROLL 1nterceptor's Avatar
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by RusticBohemian View Post
    Hi.

    I don't know a damn thing about gears, and was hoping for an explanation on how they work
    Gears are ... not on your bike; what's on your bike is cogs, whereas gears mesh with other gears. But in any case, both mechanically function similarly: for every 1 tooth on one, 1 tooth moves on the other. Connecting by chain doesn't change this. Thus, 30 teeth up front, 15 teeth behind, one rotation up front makes two in the back. Rotating something faster than you're pedaling requires twice as much force, of course. A large wheel is also another mechanical factor: the circumference of your pedaling path is smaller than the circumference of your wheel, so that's another multiplied output.


    What I don't get is how to decide when to do the three gear one and when to do the many geared one.
    Use the small gear to climb hills. Big gear when you're downhilling fast. Center gear for cruising around.

    90 is a good baseline (87.2 actually). 60 is often too slow (knee stress), 120 is maintainable for some but be wary--I've stalled my heart more than a few times keeping pace like that. 120-180 is sprinting range, and I follow the questionable practice of treating 110 as a spot on my normal power curve.

    So put a cadence computer on your bike, try to stay around 80-100RPM rather than going low and slow or high and fast. Pedaling at 120 is easy once you can maintain it--which doesn't take much to get used to, but it will offload most of the work onto your heart.

    So, going slow: knee damage. Going fast: Heart failure. Your power band is around 80-100, you can do 60-80 for torque (starts, fighting hills while you downshift to first, etc.) and 120-180 for sprints, but you don't want to maintain either of those ranges for very long.
    Own: 2010 GT Tachyon 3.0
    Own: 2013 Trek Domane 2.0 + Revolution REV22 wheels

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by RusticBohemian View Post
    Two More Gear Questions

    1) Sometimes I shift gears, usually when I'm working with 3 gear ring on the front, and it just keeps making the "shifting gear noise", like a 'zzzzzzzz' sound. It seems to take a long time to shift into place.
    Trim it. You have lever shifters right? Push the lever a bit to force the chain over. If it doesn't go, then you're pedaling too hard to shift. FDR doesn't like to shift under heavy torque load.

    2) How many gears does the bike I described have?
    3, 9 ... maybe 4 and 4 and 7-ish... with those wide chainrings up front ... eh... 14 discrete ratios, maybe 15. Maybe as low as 12 but the spread up front would indicate otherwise, even ignoring the mechanical design of the crankset and rear cassette.
    Own: 2010 GT Tachyon 3.0
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  10. #10
    Senior Member gforeman's Avatar
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    Best advice I can give with you being new, is leave the front chainring in the middle gear, and do all your shifting with the rear cassette. If you get somewhere that needs more power like a hill and you've run out of gears in the rear, drop the front chainring to the smallest one. If you are on the open road and in the top gear on the rear cassette (smallest sprocket), bring the front chainring to the largest.

    You will get the hang of it, but only worrying about the one shifter for a while will help. Only switch the front in dire situations.
    Gary F.


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