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  1. #1
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    Super Noob Question: Shifting

    So, I recently got my first bike in more than a decade. I've looked around this forum and tried searching but I can't find the answer to this.

    How do you use the different speeds. What is the strategy for shifting on a ride. I know that I should use lower gear for steeper hills but beyond that, I have no idea.

    Thanks for your help

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    You should be focusing on cadence rather than finding a certain gear number; optimal cadence will vary from person to person and situation to situation, but trying to spin somewhere around 80 RPM is often a pretty decent starting point. If it's too difficult to spin that quickly, or you're running out of breath, you're going to have to downshift. If you're spinning out, go ahead and upshift. When you start to pedal up a rise, downshift early rather than late to try to maintain a nice cadence.

    I'm sure someone will provide a much better explanation, but I think that's pretty much the basic point to start at. Also, read this: http://sheldonbrown.com/gears.html

  3. #3
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    It's as easy as riding a bike.

    If your legs are burning, shift to an easier gear. If your lungs are burning, shift to a harder one. That's pretty much all there is to it, the rest is just details and you'll figure them out as you go.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  4. #4
    Senior Member clausen's Avatar
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    Shift so your cadence match what your comfortable with at that particular time.

  5. #5
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    On hills use your easiest gear combination. On flats use the hardest possible gear combination....if it feels too hard to pedal, pedal harder.

  6. #6
    Senior Member BruceHankins's Avatar
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    Don't want to hijack the thread but how do you figure out cadence without a cyclometer?

  7. #7
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    You can use any time keeping device and math. For example, count how many times your right knee comes up in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. (I'm not very good at math so I count how many times in 60 seconds and then multiply by 1.)
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    Think of the front chainrings as "low range" for the small ring and "high range" for the big ring. Low range for uphill and easy cruising. High range for fast flats and diwn hill. Fine tune with the rear derailleur.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

  9. #9
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Don't worry about cadence at first. But many new riders pedal a low cadence, pushing hard on the pedals. It's better to be spinning the pedals faster, in an easier gear, so you only need light pressure on the pedals.

    The simplest advice I've heard is to shift to one easier gear than what you think is correct.

    If you get to a slight downhill and you are pedaling fast with almost no effect, it's time to shift to a harder gear or two.

    And like Homebrew01 said above, use the smaller front chainring if you have any hills or headwinds.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Pretty soon, you'll be shifting the rear cogs up and down automatically, without having to think about which lever does what. Then you can try the 15 or 20 second counting revolutions to get your cadence number.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 07-01-13 at 08:40 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    I count the # of revolutions in 23 seconds, then multiply by 2.6
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

  11. #11
    It do, but it don't.
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    if it feels too hard, shift. if it feels to easy, shift. spin those pedals in circles.

  12. #12
    Senior Member koolerb's Avatar
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    Get a cadence computer. I'm hook for about 2 months now. Love it!

  13. #13
    Must... ride... more... Phil_gretz's Avatar
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    Train yourself.

    Short anecdote. My now graduated daughter was a weak and inconsistent rider a few years ago. For her last two years at college, she rode a stationary bike as part of her regular gym routine. She remembered that I had tried to teach her to maintain 90 rpms. Well, the stationary bikes have an RPM readout, so she maintained that for her 30-minute workouts, adding resistance as she grew stronger.

    Fast forward to her first rides with me this spring. WOW. She is putting out power and maintaining a terrifically steady cadence (~90 still). She's taught herself to shift to keep the pedals turning in her comfortable rate zone.

    Bottom line - find a way to measure your rate at first, until your muscles learn what 90+ RPMs feel like.

    Or, count revolutions for 84 seconds, divide by square root of 2...

  14. #14
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    I typically ride between 90 and 100 rpms...sometimes a bit more or less and use whatever gear works for that pace. The gear changes depending on effort...an easy spin day is a different gear from a TT pace day, etc. I also generally use the entire cluster, except the 11 tooth cog when in the small/40 tooth ring...I use a 50/40 chain ring set up and an 11-23 9 speed Campy cassette in the back. I seldom look to see or care really what gear I'm in.

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    I think most people can count out seconds, which is 60 cadence. This is about what most new riders use, but it uses too much muscle strength and is tiring. A 90 cadence is what I average. To get 90 cadence increase that tempo so you get 3 beats for every 2 seconds which is easy to do sounding it out with a watch, using 1,2,3, 1,2,3... a medium/slow "waltz" tempo, but instead of counting in your head let your legs do the counting.

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    The only thing I'd tell a newbie is that if you're on a climb, don't mash your pedals at < 60rpm. Your legs will burn and most likely your HR would max out. It should feel like jogging, not leg press.

    Shift accordingly, and once you get use to the faster crank pacing, and you really want to train yourself, then worry about a bike computer.

  17. #17
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    OP, good to ask questions of the helpful folks on this forum, but in addition to that, I hope you have a buddy or someone more experienced to ride with at first. Hopefully someone who goes with you can help you in person with any shifting problems or questions. They can guide you along until you get the hang of it, knowing what gears work best for what conditions, and when you should be shifting. When I was teaching my GF how to ride a road bike, she had no idea how to use road bike shifters, so it was important that I was along side her to help so we didn't get in any unsafe conditions in traffic, or get stuck on a hill in the wrong gear. It's a lot easier to learn when you are being coached by someone during a ride.

  18. #18
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    Just remember when you are climbing and you feel like you are running out of breath and you are maxed out in your lowest gear you can catch some of your breath by shifting into a harder,,,,,,,yes a harder gear. This will drop RPM and put more work on your muscular endurance system and take some off your respiratory system.

  19. #19
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    Wow! Thanks a lot for the answers guys. It's definitely simpler than I thought. I'll try to stick with 80 to 90 rpm. I'm usually ok at math but to make sure I'll bring a calculator on my ride.

  20. #20
    Senior Member BigJeff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephD View Post
    Wow! Thanks a lot for the answers guys. It's definitely simpler than I thought. I'll try to stick with 80 to 90 rpm. I'm usually ok at math but to make sure I'll bring a calculator on my ride.
    use a TI-85 with zipties to the handlebar... add a tomtom for GPS

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