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Gear shifting?

Old 02-12-11, 02:08 PM
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Gear shifting?

I think my understanding of how to change gears for climbing or decending is not right.

I have 21 speed bike 3 Cogs on the front and 7 on the back.

What is the proper setup for going uphill?

Currently I use my First gear in front and 4-5-6 in the back for flat to semi hilly roadways. On longer climbs over 1/4 a mile I am dropping my front gear into 2 and dropping my back gear into 1-2-3-4. I met up with a cylist who was on this route I made and he told me I might be going about my climbs the wrong way.

Could anyone explain to me or impart to me the common ideas/practices for proper gear shifting?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-12-11, 02:33 PM
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The first thing to know is that numbering gears in sequence (1-2-3) doesn't have a lot of meaning. Which way does the order run? Left to right? Top to bottom? Back to front? When talking about gears, you want to specify the number of teeth on the gear or the relative size (ex: the front chain rings are often designated as "small", "medium", and "large" on a bike that has three).

In general, using larger gears in the front or smaller gears in the rear makes the bike harder to pedal. The most difficult combination will consist of the largest front gear and the smallest rear gear. This is also the combination that will produce the most speed. Conversely, small gears in the front and large gears in the rear makes the bike easier to pedal. The easiest combination will use the smallest front gear and the largest rear gear. This is also the combination that will produce the most speed.

In general, you should aim for a gear combination that allows you to spin the pedals relatively freely without putting a large amount of stress on your knees. Obviously, there may be many possible combinations that meet this goal, especially if you have a bike with three chain rings. Many people select a gear based on the cadence (= rpm) with which they turn the pedals. On flat ground, a cadence of 80-100rpm is often recommended. When climbing hills, a slower cadence is often necessary; I typically shoot for 60-80rpm based on the steepness of the hill and the length of the climb.

To be more specific: for hill climbing, you'll probably want to use the smallest or middle front gear and one of the larger rear gears.
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Old 02-12-11, 02:44 PM
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its all about ratios, and their relative proportions , this will help you with the Math.

https://sheldonbrown.com/gears/ then once you see the numbers, you can figure out the sequence..

IG hubs, do that for you , but derailleurs the sequence depends on the cog,
tooth count and combination, choices

Example 4:1 is 44:11. 48:12, 52:13 .. its the same ratio.

Last edited by fietsbob; 02-12-11 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 02-12-11, 03:21 PM
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+1 on Sheldon Browne's site. Go there and read the essay on gear shifting. Basically, what gears do is allow you to (hopefully) achieve a regular cadence while either uphill, flat or downhill. This is the ultimate goal and nobody achieves it really, but that is the goal. You shift as you need to, to maintain your rhythm.

Also, next time someone makes a comment to you like the rider you met, stop and ask him what he means. He might be able to give you some pointers. But remember, bikes are different, components are different and we all know people are different, so there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. It is something you are going to have to figure out on your own. But that's the beauty of it! Have fun and don't be afraid to experiment.
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Old 02-12-11, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Chadlay
I think my understanding of how to change gears for climbing or decending is not right.

I have 21 speed bike 3 Cogs on the front and 7 on the back.

What is the proper setup for going uphill?

Currently I use my First gear in front and 4-5-6 in the back for flat to semi hilly roadways. On longer climbs over 1/4 a mile I am dropping my front gear into 2 and dropping my back gear into 1-2-3-4. I met up with a cylist who was on this route I made and he told me I might be going about my climbs the wrong way.

Could anyone explain to me or impart to me the common ideas/practices for proper gear shifting?

Thanks in advance.
You could be correct. I'm thinking your bike has the gears numberd at the shifter. If that is where you are getting your numbers then you are probably correct. I would think you could use any and all of the rear gears with the middle front chainring which is your 2. Use the largest rear gears with the smallest front chainring which is your number 1 as the hill increases in length or steepness. As the hill climaxes or becomes easier, you can move up on the numbers 1-7. Use the gear combination that will allow you to spin about 60 revs per min. The largest chainring, your number 3 should be used mostly for very flat to downhill riding still keeping your cadence above 60 unless you have reached the speed you wish to be at and of course then coast.
Hope this helps.
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Old 02-12-11, 03:53 PM
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Another article on gear shifting in addition to Sheldon. Sheldon should be required reading for all new riders.

https://www.intownbicycles.com/how-to...bicycles-gears

My pet peave is watching someone with 21, 24, or 28 gears that try to go up a hill in the wrong gear.
I help when I can but I find myself watching bicyclists go up hills when I drive
around in the car. It drives me nuts.
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Old 02-12-11, 04:15 PM
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Get a bike computer with a cadence meter. Problem solved.
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Old 02-12-11, 04:25 PM
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A bike computer with a cadence meter isn't going to answer his question all by itself without knowing what to do with it. All that will do is give him numbers to look at while he still fumbles his way through every gear combination he has. The key is in understanding ratios and how to use them to produce the most efficient pedaling - maintaining a reasonably high cadence regardless of terrain. Then, if he feels there are gaps in his gearing, where simply shifting to the next available chainring, or the next available cog, is producing too large a change one way or the other, he can look in detail at what ratios are available to him and see where he needs to cross-shift to avoid those gaps.
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Old 02-12-11, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Chadlay
I think my understanding of how to change gears for climbing or decending is not right.

I have 21 speed bike 3 Cogs on the front and 7 on the back.

What is the proper setup for going uphill?

Currently I use my First gear in front and 4-5-6 in the back for flat to semi hilly roadways. On longer climbs over 1/4 a mile I am dropping my front gear into 2 and dropping my back gear into 1-2-3-4. I met up with a cylist who was on this route I made and he told me I might be going about my climbs the wrong way.

Could anyone explain to me or impart to me the common ideas/practices for proper gear shifting?

Thanks in advance.
Gears are easy to figure out if you think of it this way, the small front one is usually #1, consider it the low range, that is for climbing, it matches up with the 5 largest on the rear, the largest is your lowest gear. You will see this referred to as the granny gear and the bailout gear, the more hill work you do, the less you find yourself using it. The middle front one #2 is your mid-range used for flat ground, you can also use it for small accents and descents, it matches up to the middle 5 in the back, the big front one (#3) is your high range for downhill when you want to motor down a steep hill to put on momentum to shift down and keep motoring to go up a steep hill, although usually some genius from the traffic department will stick a stop sign at the bottom.
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Old 02-12-11, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Chadlay
I think my understanding of how to change gears for climbing or decending is not right.

I have 21 speed bike 3 Cogs on the front and 7 on the back.

What is the proper setup for going uphill?

Currently I use my First gear in front and 4-5-6 in the back for flat to semi hilly roadways. On longer climbs over 1/4 a mile I am dropping my front gear into 2 and dropping my back gear into 1-2-3-4. I met up with a cylist who was on this route I made and he told me I might be going about my climbs the wrong way.

Could anyone explain to me or impart to me the common ideas/practices for proper gear shifting?

Thanks in advance.
This is very general, but, with 3 cogs on the front, you should probably be in the 2cnd ring for your flat to semi-flat roads.
On downhill portions the 3rd ring (largest) on the front and for uphill portions use the first cog (smallest) on the front.

This should give you the best chance at maintaining a similar cadence in each circumstance, choosing between the available rear cassette rings to adjust within each of those ranges.
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Old 02-13-11, 12:20 AM
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What if you're not happy with the gearing? I guess I've always had road bikes and now I'm on a mountain bike. The highest ratio (3rd gear on front, 7th on rear) is still not as fast as I'm used to (I'll have to count teeth). I guess I can just live with it. Or do you replace chain rings?
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Old 02-13-11, 01:21 AM
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Shift slightly before you need to, and shift either up or down to maintain a comfortable cadence. Try not to get the chain too crossed up (little ring, little cog/big ring, big cog). That's it in a nutshell, I believe; or at least it works for me. I'm kind of a gear wonk but I don't think you need any more numbers thrown at you at this point .
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Old 02-13-11, 06:24 AM
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If your head isn't spinning by now let me add on to what Seve has said. I try to keep my cadence between 80-90 rpm after I warm up. I use the smallest front cog with the biggest 3 cogs in the back. The middle front cog is good for all rear cogs. The largest front cog is for the smallest 3 rear cogs.

I generally avoid shifting the front cogs and stay in the middle cog as much as possible. When I do shift the front cogs I really back off on the pressure and shift slowly. The reason for this is if you look at the chain, the top part is tight when you're pedaling. The derailleur must move the tight chain from cog to cog. The rear derailleur is shifting the slack part of the chain from cog to cog. The shifts are much quicker. I still back off pedal pressure when shifting the rear but it doesn't take very much time at all. I plan ahead when shifting the front cog.

From what I've read about cadence is that most people when they begin biking run about 60 rpm. In order to go a given speed there is a trade-off between pedal pressure and rpm. Slower cadence requires higher pedal pressure putting more stress on your knees. Higher cadence puts more stress on your aerobic capacity. Experts say the best cadence is between 80-100 rpm. I sometimes wonder if they studied small guys with lightweight legs. The lighter weight legs have less wasted energy lifting their legs up. I shoot for the lower end of the recomended range. I have found as my mileage accumulates that I naturally have increased rpm. Some people do cadence drills to increase rpm but I've rambled enough for now.
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Old 02-13-11, 06:54 AM
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My dad was a truck driver. The advice he had heard many years ago was "put it in whatever gear it will go in" and that pretty well sums it up.

What works for me: Generally, I keep the front in the middle ring all the time. On "normal" hills in my area, I can go up the hill by just downshifting the rear. On longer steeper hills where I know I'll need the small chainring in front, I'll downshift it first when I first hit the hill, then downshift in the rear as I go up.

In my case, the rear is indexed, the front is not, so the rear is quicker to shift, and that affects the thinking. Also my bike is geared more like a mountain bike and that affects how you shift. There's no law that says you have to hit every gear on the way up or down, either.

In summary, shift to make it easy on yourself. If you find yourself spinning like a madman at 2 mph or doing leg-press exercises in slow-motion, all because that's how someone on the internet said you should do it, then reconsider.
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Old 02-13-11, 09:39 AM
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Do whatever is comfortable for you and gets you up the hill.
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Old 02-13-11, 11:13 AM
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Old rule of thumb. Before all the cadence measuring equipment was if you are running out of breath - uphift. If you legs are hurting - downshift. Ride at a comfortable cadence. Your natural cadence will likely increase as you get in more miles.
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Old 02-13-11, 06:51 PM
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Shifting gets easier with experience. If you ride the same route often, you'll find that you will always change gears at the same point on a hill ride after ride ("just after that speed limit sign"). I strive to maintain same pedal pressure and cadence, so my shifters get a good workout tweaking the gear selection every minute.

Originally Posted by jethro56
From what I've read about cadence is that most people when they begin biking run about 60 rpm. In order to go a given speed there is a trade-off between pedal pressure and rpm. Slower cadence requires higher pedal pressure putting more stress on your knees. Higher cadence puts more stress on your aerobic capacity. Experts say the best cadence is between 80-100 rpm. I sometimes wonder if they studied small guys with lightweight legs. The lighter weight legs have less wasted energy lifting their legs up. I shoot for the lower end of the recomended range. I have found as my mileage accumulates that I naturally have increased rpm. Some people do cadence drills to increase rpm ...
THANK YOU for posting this. I've suspected as much. I have been on my bike 2.5 years/7800 miles and still take flak that I need to "spin" more. I finally put a cadence meter on with a bike computer that uploads to my desktop ... and $$ later, it confirms that my cadence is "slow".

I experimented on my ride today and on a downhill, I couldn't maintain pressure on the pedals over 85 and couldn't even get my cadence to 90. My legs were burning just trying to maintain over 85 w/o contributing to forward motion. 70 was the "sweet spot" where I seem to get the best economy. Besides my chubby legs, I also have a knee that doesn't bend very well.

Last edited by nkfrench; 02-13-11 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 02-13-11, 07:25 PM
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@everyone thanks for the useful info!

I got a cadance meter with a bunch of other function on it.
I got it all setup took my bike for a spin and I was in between 75-85 cadence for most of the ride and I thought about what everyone said. I was shifting so I wouldn't go under under 75 and over 85. The cadence meter put it into perspective of which gear I should be in to be in my sweetspot (average cadence) for the majority of my ride. Also I was practicing shifting my gears down when I would stop and before I knew it I was doing it without thinking about it.

I think my point is I found out which gears to use to maintain a smooth cadence for the most part on my rides. I found that using a slower cadence was better for me when hitting big hills rather then downshifting and spinning faster. Not sure if this is good or bad.

Should I strive to spin faster on hills rather then using a slower cadence with more power?
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Old 02-13-11, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by LongT
Old rule of thumb. Before all the cadence measuring equipment was if you are running out of breath - uphift. If you legs are hurting - downshift. Ride at a comfortable cadence.
Right. Cadence is really just a way to trade-off between cardiovascular strength and muscular strength. At a low cadence, you use more muscular strength and less cardiovascular strength. You also put more strain on your knees. At a high cadence, you use more cardiovascular strength and less muscular strength. Obviously, you also put more strain on your heart and lungs.

The goal should be to find the cadence that works for you! Fast enough that you're not killing your legs, but slow enough that your heart rate isn't in the "red zone"...
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Old 02-14-11, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Tony N.
Use the gear combination that will allow you to spin about 60 revs per min.
Cadence that low is unlikely to work well if you want to ride hard on a regular basis to be faster, loose weight quicker, not get dropped on your group rides, etc.

The problem is fatigue. Trying to ride hard at that low of a cadence recruits more fast-twitch muscle fibres which fatigue sooner than slow-twitch fibers so you can't continue at the same level and get a good work-out today or tomorrow . _Racing and Training with a Power Meter_ has an anecdote near the beginning about a masters racer who got dropped whenever he had to spend more than five minutes at 70 RPM and a power that he could otherwise deliver for an hour.

I can ride hard today at 80-90 RPM or 90-100 RPM and be about as comfortable either way, but at the slower cadence tomorrow my measured power output at the same perceived exertion is going to be 25% lower at the same RPM and even after a rest day my peak wattage will be down.

Most experienced cyclists find that somewhere between 80 and 100 RPM works best (produces the most power, results in the lowest perceived exertion for a given power, lets them ride longer or more days at high power) for them. There are a few which operate at extremes like Jan Ullrich (where people have suggested 75-80 RPM average) and Lance Armstrong (110-115).

There's also a limit to how hard you can push on the pedals. Past some point if you want to go faster (so you're not stuck waiting for that traffic light, as part of a high-intensity training program where research shows you can gain strength faster with shorter workouts, etc.) you need to make more power by turning them around quicker like 100-120+ rpm.

You can increase your cadence my riding more at high cadences for shorter intervals.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 02-14-11 at 04:52 PM.
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Old 02-14-11, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Chadlay
Should I strive to spin faster on hills rather then using a slower cadence with more power?
The issue with hills is to hold the RPM, and not worry about speed, if our going up a hill at 80RPM and the bike is going 5km/h(3MPH) that's fine, although much below that and stability becomes an issue, in that it's harder to keep the bicycle from falling over, that's the point where I simply get off and push, which will probably be faster
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Old 02-14-11, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt
Cadence that low is unlikely to work well if you want to ride hard on a regular basis to be faster, loose weight quicker, not get dropped on your group rides, etc.

The problem is fatigue. Trying to ride hard at that low of a cadence recruits more fast-twitch muscle fibres which fatigue sooner than slow-twitch fibers so you can't continue at the same level and get a good work-out today or tomorrow . _Racing and Training with a Power Meter_ has an anecdote near the beginning about a masters racer who got dropped whenever he had to spend more than five minutes at 70 RPM and a power that he could otherwise deliver for an hour.
I can ride hard today at 80-90 RPM or 90-100 RPM and be about as comfortable either way, but at the slower cadence tomorrow my measured power output at the same perceived exertion is going to be 25% lower at the same RPM and even after a rest day my peak wattage will be down.

Most experienced cyclists find that somewhere between 80 and 100 RPM works best (produces the most power, results in the lowest perceived exertion for a given power, lets them ride longer or more days at high power) for them. There are a few which operate at extremes like Jan Ullrich (where people have suggested 75-80 RPM average) and Lance Armstrong (110-115).

There's also a limit to how hard you can push on the pedals. Past some point if you want to go faster (so you're not stuck waiting for that traffic light, as part of a high-intensity training program where research shows you can gain strength faster with shorter workouts, etc.) you need to make more power by turning them around quicker like 100-120+ rpm.

You can increase your cadence my riding more at high cadences for shorter intervals.

I don't disagree with any of your comment but starting out, 60 is a good place to actually count the rpms and one should gradually go up from there. That is how I did it and don't cound now but when I check, I'm usually spinning at 80 to 100 and hardly ever stand which is what I working on now. On some long climbs, I want to shift up and then stand for a hundred ft or so depending on the grade. For me, it is very hard to do as my bike has down tube friction shifters.
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