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  1. #1
    Senior Member FatBottomedGirl's Avatar
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    Gear shifting "strategy" with road bike

    Hi there,

    Just bought myself my first road bike! Beautiful machine!
    Rode 150 km on it this weekend.

    Just got me wondering...

    I usually commute on a touring bike (but not too heavy, with skinny tires, a bit optimized for performance,... well, as much as it is possible for a touring bike...) that has 28/38/48 teeth in front and a 9sp 11-34 cassette in the rear.
    With that, any sprocket change really "matters" if you see what I mean... minimum 2 teeth jump at each change and quite quickly 3 teeth and 4 for the last gears (26-30-34).

    On my road bike I have a compact in front: 50/34 and a 10-sp 11-27 cassette.
    And the gearing is so smooth I sometimes even not noticed I changed gear when it is a 1 tooth jump. It is probably great for flat riding to adjust perfectly to your pedaling rhythm, but having this kind of small jump cassette feels a bit strange...
    How should one change gears?

    I noticed for instance that I changed quite a lot of sprockets when climbing so I felt I had to be at the lowest gears, but when checking I was on the 19 teeth which is not that much for climbing, and now my legs hurt ...

    I know I will adjust someday, but,... any advice?
    Are you gonna take me home tonight
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  2. #2
    Coffin Dodger Pirkaus's Avatar
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    Ride by how it feels, don't worry about "what gear" is used
    Just watch the cross chaining
    Pirk
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  3. #3
    I got 99 problems.... thump55's Avatar
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    You have a bike with 20 suitable gears that will handle the vast majority of riding you will ever encounter. Use them to keep your cadence in that sweet spot that keeps your heart rate in it's sweet spot.

    Oh, and your legs should hurt...that's how you know you did good. (Assuming of course that by "hurt" you mean "sore" and not specific joint pain, etc.)

    Ride on.

  4. #4
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    Yeah, experienced road riders don't think about gears. You may have heard people say, "I was in my 14th gear." That is driving a Ferrari, not cycling! And most important of all knowledgeable riders don't try to progress through the gears in order by going back and forth between the front chain rings. The idea is to select one of the front chain rings suitable for the type of riding you are doing at the time, say head wind or tail wind, climbing or descending, flat, or some combination. Then use the rear cogs only to get a selection of gears within the range of the chosen front ring. When the overall type riding changes like you turned into the wind or crested the hill, it MAY be time to change the front, but not otherwise. So the front rings provide two ranges in which you can comfortably stay for a specific type of riding. Oh yeah, and don't do extreme cross chaining, i.e. don't ride the big ring-biggest cog and small ring-smallest cog; that strains the system too much. Yes, I know you bought 20 gears, but you will just have to throw two of them away. Sorry. There are similar ones on the other ring. Hope this helps.

  5. #5
    Senior Member FatBottomedGirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    Yeah, experienced road riders don't think about gears. You may have heard people say, "I was in my 14th gear." That is driving a Ferrari, not cycling! And most important of all knowledgeable riders don't try to progress through the gears in order by going back and forth between the front chain rings. The idea is to select one of the front chain rings suitable for the type of riding you are doing at the time, say head wind or tail wind, climbing or descending, flat, or some combination. Then use the rear cogs only to get a selection of gears within the range of the chosen front ring. When the overall type riding changes like you turned into the wind or crested the hill, it MAY be time to change the front, but not otherwise. So the front rings provide two ranges in which you can comfortably stay for a specific type of riding. Oh yeah, and don't do extreme cross chaining, i.e. don't ride the big ring-biggest cog and small ring-smallest cog; that strains the system too much. Yes, I know you bought 20 gears, but you will just have to throw two of them away. Sorry. There are similar ones on the other ring. Hope this helps.
    As far as x-chaining is concerned, I consider that with two chainrings in the front, I use the 2 thirds of the cassette in the corresponding side, is that conservative enough? or should I be even more conservative?

    As for the front switches, I mostly ride the big on the flat and downhill, the small when climbing or when strong front wind, seems alright?

    And yeah, for the bigger climbs, I tend to switch gears but I tend to slow down on changing cogs when it "feels like I've already switched a lot of them" and that I feel I must be reaching the end of the cassette (whereas it is on the 3 last cogs that the gaps are the highest and I could get the best benefit from switching that one extra cog).

    Still, most probably will adjust to it with some more rides.... This is a brand new bike, I got it saturday and only have ridden 150 km on it.
    Are you gonna take me home tonight
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  6. #6
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    congrats on the new bike!
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Senior Member topflightpro's Avatar
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    Change gears as frequently as you like. It's okay to be changing gears a lot.

    And yeah, cross chaining is generally bad, but it's not a big deal if you are cross chaining for a few minutes every so often.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
    As far as x-chaining is concerned, I consider that with two chainrings in the front, I use the 2 thirds of the cassette in the corresponding side, is that conservative enough? or should I be even more conservative?

    As for the front switches, I mostly ride the big on the flat and downhill, the small when climbing or when strong front wind, seems alright?

    And yeah, for the bigger climbs, I tend to switch gears but I tend to slow down on changing cogs when it "feels like I've already switched a lot of them" and that I feel I must be reaching the end of the cassette (whereas it is on the 3 last cogs that the gaps are the highest and I could get the best benefit from switching that one extra cog).

    Still, most probably will adjust to it with some more rides.... This is a brand new bike, I got it saturday and only have ridden 150 km on it.
    Some folks are more conservative than others re: cross-chaining, but you almost never hear an authoritative recommendation to lose more that the biggest rear/big front and smallest rear/small front combinations. You would think this would have changed as more cogs have been added in the rear, but no, it has always been to avoid just those two combinations. YMMV.

    I don't know what you mean by slowing down the shifting when you have "switched a lot of them". What are the limits you think you face on the You can easily look down behind you and see where you are on the cassette if you are unsure. But if you are climbing and using the small front, it doesn't make any difference. Just slam the rear to the big end and see how it feels. If too easy come back up one or two. Same if you are sprinting on the big front. You can use the smallest rear, so just slam it over there. No restrictions. If that is what you want, of course. If the RD is properly adjusted you can't "come off" the end so no harm to keep shifting toward the limit. You don't have to know where it is and stop short.

    Enjoy the bike.

  9. #9
    Senior Member FatBottomedGirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    Some folks are more conservative than others re: cross-chaining, but you almost never hear an authoritative recommendation to lose more that the biggest rear/big front and smallest rear/small front combinations. You would think this would have changed as more cogs have been added in the rear, but no, it has always been to avoid just those two combinations. YMMV.

    I don't know what you mean by slowing down the shifting when you have "switched a lot of them". What are the limits you think you face on the You can easily look down behind you and see where you are on the cassette if you are unsure. But if you are climbing and using the small front, it doesn't make any difference. Just slam the rear to the big end and see how it feels. If too easy come back up one or two. Same if you are sprinting on the big front. You can use the smallest rear, so just slam it over there. No restrictions. If that is what you want, of course. If the RD is properly adjusted you can't "come off" the end so no harm to keep shifting toward the limit. You don't have to know where it is and stop short.

    Enjoy the bike.
    Yeah, thanks...

    I don't make a big deal out of the crosschaining,... sometimes it happens, I try to avoid it, but well,... I feel it's quite easy to avoid as there is very little point of riding the 50/27 or a 34/12 ... but alright...

    As for the too many gears things. I have to admit it's a little psychological. Here's why: I read, here and there, on forums, in discussions, that 50/34 with a 12-25 cassette was enough to "climb anything", including high Alps climbs at a 10+% average grade.
    And I have no clue of the climbs I climb currently; the grades given by Google are not reliable but it is hardly over 5%; if that figures were true and I would need the 34/27 to climb them, then I would feel like sh*t facing some of my 50 y.o. friends who climb the Mont Ventoux with 20 lbs of luggage with a similar gears.
    I know this is silly, and maybe my climbs are steeper than I think,... I would have to actually see how 10% look...

    Yeah... I'm an idiot...
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  10. #10
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    You probably have a lot of climbs in your area that hit 10% for a short while...it's just hard to find the ones that average 10% for a long periods in many areas. A 3 mile climb can average 7% and still have sections that are 20%+.

  11. #11
    Senior Member FatBottomedGirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoadMike View Post
    You probably have a lot of climbs in your area that hit 10% for a short while...it's just hard to find the ones that average 10% for a long periods in many areas. A 3 mile climb can average 7% and still have sections that are 20%+.
    I know it is tough to say, but my GPS recording says this: http://goo.gl/maps/dPFmc is 4% grade, and it did not exactly feel that easy. I mean, at no point did I fear I would have to walk the bike but if this is 4% then I have no chance when facing 12% which is standard on some zones of a 10% average...
    Are you gonna take me home tonight
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  12. #12
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    is cross chaining is bad? i use triple crank 50-39-30t 10spd 12-30t a lot cross chaining with out any single problem . when there is climb im always use the lightest gear but not so light, at least not give a lot stress on my foot.

  13. #13
    Senior Member FatBottomedGirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gilaasepeda View Post
    is cross chaining is bad? i use triple crank 50-39-30t 10spd 12-30t a lot cross chaining with out any single problem . when there is climb im always use the lightest gear but not so light, at least not give a lot stress on my foot.
    I think I can answer here.
    Cross-chaining is harmless on a short-term, it will just speed the wear of the chain and the cogs. The big/big combination creates a higher chain tension and is not exactly good for the rear derailleur.
    But the most important is that x-chaining is not necessary, there is always a un-cross-chained combination that can achieve a very similar ratio. Now if you have a very short steep climb that require quite low a gear, it is okay to cross-chain for a a minute or so. It's just not good practice.
    Are you gonna take me home tonight
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  14. #14
    Senior Member cycledogg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
    Hi there,

    Just bought myself my first road bike! Beautiful machine!
    Rode 150 km on it this weekend.

    Just got me wondering...

    I usually commute on a touring bike (but not too heavy, with skinny tires, a bit optimized for performance,... well, as much as it is possible for a touring bike...) that has 28/38/48 teeth in front and a 9sp 11-34 cassette in the rear.
    With that, any sprocket change really "matters" if you see what I mean... minimum 2 teeth jump at each change and quite quickly 3 teeth and 4 for the last gears (26-30-34).

    On my road bike I have a compact in front: 50/34 and a 10-sp 11-27 cassette.
    And the gearing is so smooth I sometimes even not noticed I changed gear when it is a 1 tooth jump. It is probably great for flat riding to adjust perfectly to your pedaling rhythm, but having this kind of small jump cassette feels a bit strange...
    How should one change gears?

    I noticed for instance that I changed quite a lot of sprockets when climbing so I felt I had to be at the lowest gears, but when checking I was on the 19 teeth which is not that much for climbing, and now my legs hurt ...

    I know I will adjust someday, but,... any advice?
    Always stay on-top of your gear.
    Shift down (easy) before a climb.
    Try not to cross-chain.
    Ride what feels good.
    Cheers
    Earn the Burn.... Reap the Gain

  15. #15
    Goodbye Leeroy Jenkins tagaproject6's Avatar
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    Keep the "strategy" simple. Do not overthink the process. If the pedalling gets too hard, shift. If it gets too easy, shift. Ride more and all will fall in place. I believe the cross chaining dilemma is less of a concern as most people claim it to be and I think that people may be doing it a little less than may be percived in the interwebs.
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    The key is using your gears to facilitate spinning and efficient pedalling:

    1. If you're new to road cycling, default to choosing a gear that feels too light. Seek to increase your cadence without bouncing. 9 times out of 10, new road cyclists are pushing too big a gear.

    2. Shift frequently in rolling terrain. Keep an even cadence. Shift prior to climbing. Again, too light a gear is generally better than too heavy.

    3. Don't be afraid of using the small ring, even if you're trying to go fast. Lots of good, useable ratios down there, even at 20 MPH+ in a compact. Use the front derraileur frequently. Avoid cross chaining by shifting the front.

  17. #17
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    Try to keep your cadence between around 90-100. If it's too hard, shift down, if you spin 110+, shift up. Easy as that.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
    but having this kind of small jump cassette feels a bit strange...
    How should one change gears?
    I know I will adjust someday, but,... any advice?
    Hi,

    Your not used to it, and sticking to your normal habits initially
    will probably mean you overgear lower gears by not changing
    down enough, early enough. With closer spaced gears simply
    you should be changing gear more often than with wider.

    rgds, sreten.

    My 20" folder is 48 - 14,16,18,21,24,28, and my 28" road bike
    52/42 - 14,16,18,20,22,24,28, so I don't get confused much.
    Default is the top 3 on the folder, middle 3 on the road bike.

    FWIW I think skinny tyres on a touring bike is not a good idea.
    Fitting the nicest rolling, fastest, fattest tyres that will fit the frame.
    Run at the right tyre pressures will transform your opinion of the bike.

    My road bike has 30mm near slick rear, and a 32mm semi slick front.
    Different 47mm's on the folder, back for rolling, front for grip.
    Last edited by sreten; 06-03-13 at 11:03 AM.

  19. #19
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    What is steep has to do with level of fitness, whether it is the beginning or end of the ride, the actual distance of the ride.

  20. #20
    Senior Member oldbobcat's Avatar
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    Have a pretty good idea where your chain is most of the time--big ring or small ring (middle if you have three), fast end, slow end, or middle of the cassette.

    Downshift before the cadence drops too much.

    Anticipate the climbs. Will it be long or steep enough to warrant dropping down a chainring? Then do it, and adjust your speed/cadence on the cassette. Can you huff it in the big ring? Then try it, especially if you have a bail-out cog or two left on the cassette.

    And shift up if it feels like you're spinning out the current gear.

    And don't get too hung up on cross-chaining, especially for short periods, especially with doubles. 9-, 10- and 11-speed chains are pretty flexible.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by generalkdi View Post
    Try to keep your cadence between around 90-100. If it's too hard, shift down, if you spin 110+, shift up. Easy as that.
    +1 If 90 feels too fast at first, work your way up to it. In the spring I usually find myself wanting to spin at around 75-80 rpm, but after a few rides I'm back up to 90-95.

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    I don't know how those brifter things work, but one glance at my downtube shifters and I know what gear I am in. Also I just mentally keep track. Shifting a 5 speed freewheel is much simpler that selecting from 10 or 11, is there 12 now?. And with 18" chainstays crosschaining isnt a concern. I can also shift from one chainring to the next and one cog to the next with one hand which is nice. So when approaching the bottom of a hill and riding the large chainring I can use my thumb to push the left lever and shift to the small ring and my fingers to pull back on the right lever and shift to a larger cog all in one movement. Much easier than clicking thru the gears and using right and left hands.

    Good to know your gear inches to. My go to fast gear is an 88inch gear, very popular track and TT gear. My topend is a 102in. gear. My moderate pace gears for tooling around are 72 -82in. gears. Anything below 60in. is for hills.

  23. #23
    token triathlete Bah Humbug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
    Yeah, thanks...

    I don't make a big deal out of the crosschaining,... sometimes it happens, I try to avoid it, but well,... I feel it's quite easy to avoid as there is very little point of riding the 50/27 or a 34/12 ... but alright...

    As for the too many gears things. I have to admit it's a little psychological. Here's why: I read, here and there, on forums, in discussions, that 50/34 with a 12-25 cassette was enough to "climb anything", including high Alps climbs at a 10+% average grade.
    And I have no clue of the climbs I climb currently; the grades given by Google are not reliable but it is hardly over 5%; if that figures were true and I would need the 34/27 to climb them, then I would feel like sh*t facing some of my 50 y.o. friends who climb the Mont Ventoux with 20 lbs of luggage with a similar gears.
    I know this is silly, and maybe my climbs are steeper than I think,... I would have to actually see how 10% look...

    Yeah... I'm an idiot...
    There is a specific person here who likes to repeat that so much I blocked him because I was sick of seeing it. Don't worry about what anyone else says is the "right" gearing for you - pick the gearing that works for your fitness and terrain. Nothing else.

  24. #24
    Senior Member FatBottomedGirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sreten View Post
    [...]
    FWIW I think skinny tyres on a touring bike is not a good idea.
    Fitting the nicest rolling, fastest, fattest tyres that will fit the frame.
    Run at the right tyre pressures will transform your opinion of the bike.
    [...]
    Not the main subject of the thread but you are not wrong.
    The reason I got back to cycling (since childhood) was to commute to work and touring.
    And then I started enjoying riding fast so I made modifications to make it faster and skinnier/lighter tires are a part of this.
    And as I enjoyed more and more the "work-out" part of cycling I realized I should get myself an actual road bike hence this purchase.

    So that's the story. For now, the touring bike still has skinny tires.
    FWIW, you are not wrong about fatter tires being more comfortable, but the weight gain with skinny tires makes up for some of the comfort,... that can be a long discussion,... but for now it's not the problem...

    Quote Originally Posted by big chainring View Post
    I don't know how those brifter things work, but one glance at my downtube shifters and I know what gear I am in.[...]
    On my touring bike on the brifters there is an indicator showing the gear but not on the brifters of the road bike.
    Are you gonna take me home tonight
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  25. #25
    Portland Fred banerjek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FatBottomedGirl View Post
    On my touring bike on the brifters there is an indicator showing the gear but not on the brifters of the road bike.
    There is also that cassette thing on the back you can look at...

    But does it really matter? If it's too hard, shift down. If too easy, shift up. If you're out of gears, you know you're already doing the best you can.

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