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  1. #1
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    NEW to cycling and gears

    Hey, you guys will think I am stupid but I need some help here. I bought a 200 hundred dollar cheap mongoose (xr-250) mountain bike to commute to work daily - only about a mile away with some hills. I have no idea how to use the gears properly. I have them on the handle bars and they click with numbers - left side goes 1-3 and right goes 1-7. I generally use the combination of 1 on the left with 6 and 7 on the right because it is comfortable. Out of curiousity, I sometimes will try other combinations but wheels spin to fast or I have no control of the pedaling. Please, any help without being made fun of, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks guys

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    A good intro here

    1,2,3 are the ranges at the front (chainring).
    1-7 are the cogs at the rear.

    Small chainrings and large cogs are easier to pedal.
    Large chainrings and smaller cogs go faster.

    Keep the chain in the middle chainring most of the time and use all the rear cogs.
    For climbing hills, switch to the small chainring if needed and use the largest few cogs

  3. #3
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    thanks - my bike seems to work better on the 1st chaining - but will try to keep it on the middle (2nd) one as you suggest and use all my cogs

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcmcm5
    thanks - my bike seems to work better on the 1st chaining - but will try to keep it on the middle (2nd) one as you suggest and use all my cogs
    Actually, it's probably you who works better on the 1st chainring. As a beginner you won't have developed the specialist muscles and fitness to use the higher gears.

    But don't worry - we've all been there. Eventually you'll use pretty much all of them, altho' 3 and 1 will most likely be downhill.

    Welcome to the club and start saving for you first (of many) new bikes

  5. #5
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcmcm5
    thanks - my bike seems to work better on the 1st chaining - but will try to keep it on the middle (2nd) one as you suggest and use all my cogs
    On most bikes, 1-6, 1-7 combos you say you're comfortable with is roughly equivalent to about 2-3, 2-4. However, it is much preferable to run 2-4 than 1-7 as your "default" flat-terrain gear for a couple of reasons:

    - The extreme combinations (1-7 and 3-1) put too much strain on the chain, wearing it and the cogs out quickly.

    - When you're in the middle range in the back (3 to 5), it's easy to shift both up and down if necessary (to 6 or to 2 respectively). If you're on 1-7, however, you can shift down to 1-6 easily, but if you have to shift to a higher gear (because there is a slight downhill, for example, or a tailwind), you'll have to go to 2-7, which is quite a jump (shifts at the back result in more gradual changes than shifts in the front).

  6. #6
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    It's tough for most folks to get the hang of "shifting at both ends", because you tend to think of the whole thing as sequential (1-1 through 1-7, followed by 2-1 through 2-7, followed by 3-1 through 3-7). It isn't.

    The easy way to think of it is to think of the 1 through 3 (front) being "ranges" and the 1 through 7 being "gears".

    For most riding (at least until you get "legs of steel") you'll be in your middle range (2 on the front) most of the time, and just use the rear shifting to deal with most conditions. Grab "low range" (1 on the front) when you're climbing a big hill, and grab "high range" (3 on the front) when you're going down the other side.

    Just remember never to go faster than you can see and stop...
    Riding the Ohio MS Central Ohio Challenge tour, July 12th.

  7. #7
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    When your right foot is down, click the left shifter to change the gears up front. As your right foot comes around to the top and then over, the chain will move. It's very difficult to shift to a smaller gear up front when you are climbing up a hill, so be sure to shift down ahead of time. When shifting the front or rear gears, try to go "light" on the pedals as the shift is made.

    If you look at the chain from behind, you'll see that if you have it in the lowest ring up front and the lowest sprocket in the back, the chain is at an angle. A bit too much of an angle; this will cause excessive wear on the chain and the gears. So don't use this gear. Likewise, don't use the big ring/big sprocket gear, either. These gears are duplicates anyways so it doesn't matter.

    Check this link out: http://sheldonbrown.com/gears.html

  8. #8
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    First of all, you should know where your chain is, not where your shift levers are. Start glancing down at your chain to see what ring it's on in front and what gear in back. However, don't get fixated and run into the back of a parked car (been there, done that.) Practice taking quick glances when there's no car passing you inches away.

    Here's how I do it. First of all, I save my smallest front chainring (the "granny gear") for really steep hills. Otherwise I don't use it. So that leaves two "gears" in front and, in my case, 7 in back.

    Here's the progression: When the chain is all the way to the right (looking down) it will be on the big gear in front and the small gear in back. This is "high gear" and is used for going fast - either on level ground (with a tailwind?) or downhill. It's hard to push high gear up any hill, or into any wind.

    When the chain is all the way to the left, it will be on the smaller of the two gears in front (remember, I keep my granny gear in reserve) and the biggest of the gears in back. This is "low gear" and that's what I use to climb hills (unless the hill is really steep, in which case I use my granny gear.)

    Between those two extremes are lots of possibilities, but you're basically moving the whole chain from the left to the right and back. It's not good to have the chain at a diagonal, like from the right side in front to the left side in back, because it puts a strain on the chain and the gears - they tend to wear out a bit faster. However, it's not THAT bad - don't feel like you've wrecked something if you discover you've ridden for awhile with your chain "crossed". The other thing is that when the chain is diagonal, it will make more noise, and there are other, more "kosher" combinations, that will give you about the same advantage.

    After you learn to go from all the way low to all the way high and back, with some variations along the way, start learning what cadence you like, and how hard you want to pedal. Then adjust your gears until you find a cadence that's good, that requires a comfortable amount of effort. If you push too hard you can damage your knees, and get tired. I've discovered that a cadence that's just a bit faster than what "seems" right, actually makes me ride faster with less effort. But spinning too fast wears you out as much as too slow.

    One last thing to realize - riding conditions are constantly changing, and every time they do you'll probably need to shift to find the best gear. I probably shift an average of every 5-10 seconds throughout my rides, unless I find a long stretch of pavement where the steepness never varies, nor does the wind, nor the riding surface. That's unusual.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe
    First of all, you should know where your chain is, not where your shift levers are. Start glancing down at your chain to see what ring it's on in front and what gear in back. However, don't get fixated and run into the back of a parked car (been there, done that.) Practice taking quick glances when there's no car passing you inches away.

    Here's how I do it. First of all, I save my smallest front chainring (the "granny gear") for really steep hills. Otherwise I don't use it. So that leaves two "gears" in front and, in my case, 7 in back.

    Here's the progression: When the chain is all the way to the right (looking down) it will be on the big gear in front and the small gear in back. This is "high gear" and is used for going fast - either on level ground (with a tailwind?) or downhill. It's hard to push high gear up any hill, or into any wind.

    When the chain is all the way to the left, it will be on the smaller of the two gears in front (remember, I keep my granny gear in reserve) and the biggest of the gears in back. This is "low gear" and that's what I use to climb hills (unless the hill is really steep, in which case I use my granny gear.)

    Between those two extremes are lots of possibilities, but you're basically moving the whole chain from the left to the right and back. It's not good to have the chain at a diagonal, like from the right side in front to the left side in back, because it puts a strain on the chain and the gears - they tend to wear out a bit faster. However, it's not THAT bad - don't feel like you've wrecked something if you discover you've ridden for awhile with your chain "crossed". The other thing is that when the chain is diagonal, it will make more noise, and there are other, more "kosher" combinations, that will give you about the same advantage.

    After you learn to go from all the way low to all the way high and back, with some variations along the way, start learning what cadence you like, and how hard you want to pedal. Then adjust your gears until you find a cadence that's good, that requires a comfortable amount of effort. If you push too hard you can damage your knees, and get tired. I've discovered that a cadence that's just a bit faster than what "seems" right, actually makes me ride faster with less effort. But spinning too fast wears you out as much as too slow.

    One last thing to realize - riding conditions are constantly changing, and every time they do you'll probably need to shift to find the best gear. I probably shift an average of every 5-10 seconds throughout my rides, unless I find a long stretch of pavement where the steepness never varies, nor does the wind, nor the riding surface. That's unusual.
    +1
    great explanation

  10. #10
    Senior Member mlh122's Avatar
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    BigBlueToe has a very good explanation, i did mine a little different. When i was getting back into biking and learning how to use the gears i kept looking down to see if my chain was going left or right, while looking i hit a beer bottle and almost wrecked. So then i just used the numbers on the shifters like this:

    lower is easier, higher is harder.
    number 1 on the left i would use 1 2 and 3 on the right
    number 2 on the left i would use 3 4 and 5 on the right
    number 3 on the left i would use 5 6 and 7 on the right

    then just adjust it to how hard or easy i wanted to pedal. i fudged a little bit all the time since nothings written in stone, i just tried to keep the chain relatively straight and avoid duplicate gears.

  11. #11
    Senior Member RussB's Avatar
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    You could try to remember it this way... The small ring in the front is mainly for going uphill. THe large one is mainly for downhill. And the middle one for flat areas. remember to shift to the smaller gears in the front early. I mean is shift to the smaller front gear when you are approaching that hill, not when you get part way up and are struggling. Usually when shifting the front requires an opposite shift in the back. example when shifting the front gear to a larger gear, shift the back to the next smaller gear. The result will be a slight decrease in the speed of your pedaling speed. Remember don't shift both at the same time. Do one gear first, then the second as the first shift is completing. And don't put a lot of pressure on the pedals when shifting. This can wear out your chain faster. Test it out in low traffic areas until you get used to it.

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