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Beginner's question on when to shift gears and what "cross-chaining" is in my setup.

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Beginner's question on when to shift gears and what "cross-chaining" is in my setup.

Old 04-20-20, 09:08 AM
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33yearslate
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Beginner's question on when to shift gears and what "cross-chaining" is in my setup.

As some of you know, I only recently learned to ride last week and I have a very basic question. I have shimano gear shifts:
  • The left handle has settings of 3, 2, and 1.
  • The right handle has settings of 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.

Now, I've been leaving the left handle on 2 the whole time during this past week and only using the right gear shift when I encounter hills and descents to deal with those moments. But I am not sure when to use the left handle shifter. I know there is something called "cross chaining" that I should avoid at all costs but I'm not sure what combinations of settings that would be on my bike.

So, in what situations do I use the left handle bar shifts in conjunction with the right ones? And what combinations should be avoided altogether?
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Old 04-20-20, 09:18 AM
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https://www.thegeekycyclist.com/tips...o-shift-gears/
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Old 04-20-20, 10:11 AM
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Does this mean that I should avoid 3rd gear on the left matched with 7th on the right? As well as 1st on the left and 1st on the right?
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Old 04-20-20, 10:41 AM
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let's make this simple, avoid big/big and small/small combinations.
Of these combination, the big/big is the more detrimental one, and when you're in big/big, you will definitely hear the chain grind, and back-pedalling when in big/big may also cause the chain to slip on the cassette, so these are some of the most obvious symptions when in big/big.
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Old 04-20-20, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
let's make this simple, avoid big/big and small/small combinations.
Of these combination, the big/big is the more detrimental one, and when you're in big/big, you will definitely hear the chain grind, and back-pedalling when in big/big may also cause the chain to slip on the cassette, so these are some of the most obvious symptions when in big/big.
This is pretty sensible. The confusing thing here is the triple, so OP may just as well forget for the time being about the big chainring, which I presume corresponds to the "3" on the left shifter. For the most part, start by using the middle chainring that corresponds to the "2" on the left shifter and focus your shifting on the back cogs. Cross chaining is only a problem when using the big or small chainrings, so don't worry about cross chaining when you are using the middle chainring.

Your goal should be to keep your legs moving smoothly in perfect circles at somewhere between 70 and 90 rpms. As you hit a hill, this will get more difficult which is what gears or for. As you slow down, downshift to an easier gear so your legs keep moving. Let off a little on the peddling effort as you shift as the shifts will be smoother and it will reduce wear on the chain and derailleurs. As you start going downhill, upshift so as you speed increases, your pedaling remains at the same cadence. With practice this should become intuitive.

Once you figure this out, you can start trying the small and big chainrings.
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Old 04-20-20, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
This is pretty sensible. The confusing thing here is the triple, so OP may just as well forget for the time being about the big chainring, which I presume corresponds to the "3" on the left shifter. For the most part, start by using the middle chainring that corresponds to the "2" on the left shifter and focus your shifting on the back cogs. Cross chaining is only a problem when using the big or small chainrings, so don't worry about cross chaining when you are using the middle chainring.

Your goal should be to keep your legs moving smoothly in perfect circles at somewhere between 70 and 90 rpms. As you hit a hill, this will get more difficult which is what gears or for. As you slow down, downshift to an easier gear so your legs keep moving. Let off a little on the peddling effort as you shift as the shifts will be smoother and it will reduce wear on the chain and derailleurs. As you start going downhill, upshift so as you speed increases, your pedaling remains at the same cadence. With practice this should become intuitive.

Once you figure this out, you can start trying the small and big chainrings.
I do think I'm at this point. It's the small and big chainrings that are causing me confusion now. When will I know to use them? Is it when the hardest/easiest settings on the right shifter aren't enough? Or is there more to it than that?
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Old 04-20-20, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by 33yearslate View Post
I do think I'm at this point. It's the small and big chainrings that are causing me confusion now. When will I know to use them? Is it when the hardest/easiest settings on the right shifter aren't enough? Or is there more to it than that?
Yes, there's more to it, but you'll be fine doing it that way. Say you're in the middle ring in front, going down a hill and you shift up until you spin out, then shift to the big ring in front. Little chainring for climbing hills, big chainring for descending, middle for everything else.

The thing about a two-derailleur system is that some of the possible combinations--even disregarding those you should avoid--result in less-than-ideal gear ratios. For this reason, some people learn to perform simultaneous shifts with both derailleurs to obtain the optimum step up or down in gearing. I've ridden 3x systems for years and never bothered to learn that trick.

One thing you will want to get in the habit of is shifting down before you stop.
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Old 04-20-20, 12:09 PM
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Unless your bike has a very unusual setup, the smallest chainring in the front is referred to as the “granny gear”, which is usually used only for very steep hills. Most of the time, you will be using the middle and large ring in the front. Ignoring the granny gear for now, with the two remaining front rings, avoid small-small and large-large combinations with the cassette. I try to avoid my TWO largest sprockets in back with my large ring in front. Likewise, I almost never use my two smallest sprockets in back with the smaller (middle in your case) in front. As you get more comfortable with this, the next step is to compute all the ratios of front-back teeth. You will then see the logical transition points of your gearing.
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Old 04-20-20, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by 33yearslate View Post
I do think I'm at this point. It's the small and big chainrings that are causing me confusion now. When will I know to use them? Is it when the hardest/easiest settings on the right shifter aren't enough?
Pretty much. Big ring for power descents and strong tailwinds.
Small ring for endless and/or steep climbs. Or moderate climbs in 3” of snow.
Originally Posted by 33yearslate View Post
Or is there more to it than that?
One thing is that the rear derailer works on the slack run of the chain while the front derailer works on the tension side of the chain. If you wait until you need it, you might not get the gear to go in. So try to pick the right front gear before you hit the climb. Or ease up on the pedals as you shift.
Also, it’s a tiny bit more efficient to run the chain on bigger sprockets. So there’s a small advantage to be on a mid-size sprocket and the big ring compared to being on a small sprocket and the middle ring.
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Old 04-20-20, 12:29 PM
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He just learned how to ride a bike and has already started a thread about crosschaining?
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Old 04-20-20, 12:30 PM
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Using your lingo:

3 to 1 and 1 to 7. You can go 3 to 3 and 1 to 5 should be OK, but again - listen to your gears.

Use the small chainring on the front (1) for the easiest gears so:

1 to 1,2,3, possibly 4.
2 can handle 1,2,3 but good for 4,5 & 6
3 is best for 6 and 7, but it can cope with 3,4 & 5.

But in the end it's all about feel and using the right gear for what your body can handle and the terrain. I don't really think about it. I know that 1 is for the big hills and 3 is for the flats / downhills and 2 is the kind of plodding gear with a good range for light hills, flats and small descents.

Although in truth I don't have numbers on mine.
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Old 04-20-20, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by JayKay3000 View Post
Using your lingo:

3 to 1 and 1 to 7. You can go 3 to 3 and 1 to 5 should be OK, but again - listen to your gears.

Use the small chainring on the front (1) for the easiest gears so:

1 to 1,2,3, possibly 4.
2 can handle 1,2,3 but good for 4,5 & 6
3 is best for 6 and 7, but it can cope with 3,4 & 5.

But in the end it's all about feel and using the right gear for what your body can handle and the terrain. I don't really think about it. I know that 1 is for the big hills and 3 is for the flats / downhills and 2 is the kind of plodding gear with a good range for light hills, flats and small descents.

Although in truth I don't have numbers on mine.
Oh interesting.. I thought 2 would be able to handle everything. I may have been doing this wrong.
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Old 04-20-20, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by SpectrumTi View Post
Unless your bike has a very unusual setup, the smallest chainring in the front is referred to as the “granny gear”, which is usually used only for very steep hills. Most of the time, you will be using the middle and large ring in the front. Ignoring the granny gear for now, with the two remaining front rings, avoid small-small and large-large combinations with the cassette. I try to avoid my TWO largest sprockets in back with my large ring in front. Likewise, I almost never use my two smallest sprockets in back with the smaller (middle in your case) in front. As you get more comfortable with this, the next step is to compute all the ratios of front-back teeth. You will then see the logical transition points of your gearing.
I know that is what it is known as, but I would urge people to think of it as the bailout gear. Because as long as you are riding, there is no shame in using the bailout gears to get you up a tough climb. Better than walking up the hill, IMO.
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Old 04-20-20, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by 33yearslate View Post
As some of you know, I only recently learned to ride last week and I have a very basic question. I have shimano gear shifts:
  • The left handle has settings of 3, 2, and 1.
  • The right handle has settings of 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.

Now, I've been leaving the left handle on 2 the whole time during this past week and only using the right gear shift when I encounter hills and descents to deal with those moments. But I am not sure when to use the left handle shifter. I know there is something called "cross chaining" that I should avoid at all costs but I'm not sure what combinations of settings that would be on my bike.

So, in what situations do I use the left handle bar shifts in conjunction with the right ones? And what combinations should be avoided altogether?
Okay, I’m going to make some assumptions here, so take it as you will. Let’s assume that you have a hybrid of recent manufacture (within the last 5 years). It is likely to have a 48/38/26 crank on it. (The outer ring has 48 teeth, the middle ring has 38 and the inner most ring has 26). I’ll also assume that it’s a freewheel and is probably a Shimano “mega-range”. It likely has a 14-34 cog set with cogs that number 14,16,18,20,22,24,34.

All that information can be taken to calculate “gear ratios”. You can calculate them yourself if you want by counting the teeth on the chainrings and the teeth on the cog on the back, dividing the chainring teeth by the cog teeth and multiplying by the diameter of the wheel. This give you a “gear inch” which is the equivalent of the old big wheel (aka an ordinary) bikes with the pedal connected directly to the crank. The size ordinary a rider would need would be one with a wheel radius of the rider’s inseam minus a bit for the saddle. A person with a 32” inseam could ride a wheel that was about 30” in radius...maybe 32”. That a 60” wheel or a 64” wheel. The rider might want a slightly smaller wheel so that they could go up hills without struggling too much or then might what a taller wheel so that they could go downhill faster. There’s a balance that has to be met while also taking into consideration the size wheel a person could physically ride.

If you did the math above, you’d find that in the 48 tooth chainwheels and the 20 tooth cog, that would be about the size “wheel” in gear inches that a average height person with an average inseam would ride. But, through the magic of gear reduction, you can actually ride a much “taller” wheel in the 48/14 gear, the “wheel size” is 93”. There are no 93” ordinaries because people don’t have inseams 47” inseams.

As I said, you could do the math or you can use the Dunem theory of scientific research. (“Don’t do the calculations if someone else has already dun ‘em.”) There are gear calculators out there that do all the work for you. Often you don’t even have to enter the data since it is in pull down menus. My favorite is Gear calculator.com which already has my assumed gearing in it. To me the gear inches make sense since I’ve been using them all my life and generally know what the different gears feel like. For you might make more sense to see the gears in terms of speed or in In terms of development which is how far down the road one revolution of the crank takes you (it’s in meters in the calculator so multiply by 3 to get an approximation in terms of the feet).

Now to put this all together, look at the chart for speed above. Say you are riding along on a flat road in the 48 tooth ring in the front and the 18 tooth cog in the back at 13mph. You come around a corner and there’s a giant hill looming over you. As you start to climb, it gets harder and harder to pedal. Before it gets too hard, you should downshift. If the hill is short and you can see the top, shift down in the back one gear to a speed of about 12mph. If you need to shift again, and it is a smallish hill, I’d probably shift on the back again to the 22 tooth cog and slow to about 11 mph.

But let’s say the hill is large and you know that you will probably struggle on it. I’d shift on the front to the middle ring. It’s going to be a larger loss of speed (9mph vs 12mph) but it will be easier to climb. As you climb up the hill and it becomes harder, shift down one cog on the back as needed. The shift from the 24 to the 34 on the back is a huge jump and it will feel weird because there won’t be much resistance on the pedals at first. It will feel a little like the chain has fallen off. Try and spin through it as best you can.

Now if the hill is really long and steep, you may want to consider going all the way down to the smallest chainring in the front. Do that before you get to the largest cog in the back because that feeling of losing the chain is even worse if you shift from the middle ring to the inner ring in the largest cog in the back. Depending on the hill, I would probably drop to the inner ring while on the 20 or 22 (middle two cogs on the back). This gives you more cogs to work with while in the smallest chainring.

These are only guidelines and are not set in stone. Try to shift to find a comfortable gear. If that means shifting often, don’t worry. There’s no limit on the number of shifts you can do. Read the article that trailangel linked to. It provides pretty good information.


Good luck. Get out there and be shifty!
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Old 04-20-20, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Okay, I’m going to make some assumptions here, so take it as you will. Let’s assume that you have a hybrid of recent manufacture (within the last 5 years). It is likely to have a 48/38/26 crank on it. (The outer ring has 48 teeth, the middle ring has 38 and the inner most ring has 26). I’ll also assume that it’s a freewheel and is probably a Shimano “mega-range”. It likely has a 14-34 cog set with cogs that number 14,16,18,20,22,24,34.

All that information can be taken to calculate “gear ratios”. You can calculate them yourself if you want by counting the teeth on the chainrings and the teeth on the cog on the back, dividing the chainring teeth by the cog teeth and multiplying by the diameter of the wheel. This give you a “gear inch” which is the equivalent of the old big wheel (aka an ordinary) bikes with the pedal connected directly to the crank. The size ordinary a rider would need would be one with a wheel radius of the rider’s inseam minus a bit for the saddle. A person with a 32” inseam could ride a wheel that was about 30” in radius...maybe 32”. That a 60” wheel or a 64” wheel. The rider might want a slightly smaller wheel so that they could go up hills without struggling too much or then might what a taller wheel so that they could go downhill faster. There’s a balance that has to be met while also taking into consideration the size wheel a person could physically ride.

If you did the math above, you’d find that in the 48 tooth chainwheels and the 20 tooth cog, that would be about the size “wheel” in gear inches that a average height person with an average inseam would ride. But, through the magic of gear reduction, you can actually ride a much “taller” wheel in the 48/14 gear, the “wheel size” is 93”. There are no 93” ordinaries because people don’t have inseams 47” inseams.

As I said, you could do the math or you can use the Dunem theory of scientific research. (“Don’t do the calculations if someone else has already dun ‘em.”) There are gear calculators out there that do all the work for you. Often you don’t even have to enter the data since it is in pull down menus. My favorite is Gear calculator.com which already has my assumed gearing in it. To me the gear inches make sense since I’ve been using them all my life and generally know what the different gears feel like. For you might make more sense to see the gears in terms of speed or in In terms of development which is how far down the road one revolution of the crank takes you (it’s in meters in the calculator so multiply by 3 to get an approximation in terms of the feet).

Now to put this all together, look at the chart for speed above. Say you are riding along on a flat road in the 48 tooth ring in the front and the 18 tooth cog in the back at 13mph. You come around a corner and there’s a giant hill looming over you. As you start to climb, it gets harder and harder to pedal. Before it gets too hard, you should downshift. If the hill is short and you can see the top, shift down in the back one gear to a speed of about 12mph. If you need to shift again, and it is a smallish hill, I’d probably shift on the back again to the 22 tooth cog and slow to about 11 mph.

But let’s say the hill is large and you know that you will probably struggle on it. I’d shift on the front to the middle ring. It’s going to be a larger loss of speed (9mph vs 12mph) but it will be easier to climb. As you climb up the hill and it becomes harder, shift down one cog on the back as needed. The shift from the 24 to the 34 on the back is a huge jump and it will feel weird because there won’t be much resistance on the pedals at first. It will feel a little like the chain has fallen off. Try and spin through it as best you can.

Now if the hill is really long and steep, you may want to consider going all the way down to the smallest chainring in the front. Do that before you get to the largest cog in the back because that feeling of losing the chain is even worse if you shift from the middle ring to the inner ring in the largest cog in the back. Depending on the hill, I would probably drop to the inner ring while on the 20 or 22 (middle two cogs on the back). This gives you more cogs to work with while in the smallest chainring.

These are only guidelines and are not set in stone. Try to shift to find a comfortable gear. If that means shifting often, don’t worry. There’s no limit on the number of shifts you can do. Read the article that trailangel linked to. It provides pretty good information.


Good luck. Get out there and be shifty!
So should I be on my largest front ring for a flat road as a starting point?
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Old 04-20-20, 03:34 PM
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Don't overthink this. You're already doing it exactly right. Riding a bicycle isn't nearly as complicated as some people would make you believe.

Think of your bike as having 3 different gear ranges. That's what the left shifter is for:
1 for uphills
2 for most of the time
3 for downhills and the two days each year you have a strong tailwind.

If you just do that you don't have to worry about cross chaining because you'll never do it.
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Old 04-20-20, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 33yearslate View Post
So should I be on my largest front ring for a flat road as a starting point?
Um, I would say no, but it really depends on how fast you can go while spinning at 70 to 90 rpm.. Since you just learned to ride, I am guessing you aren't going all that fast, yet. Just use the middle ring on flat ground, switch to the big ring if you are going downhill or have a big head wind, and use the little ring as a bailout on long or steep hills. Most likely 80 or 90% of your riding will be on the middle ring.

Frankly, unless you like in a mountainous area, you would be almost as well served with a single chainring as a triple. When riding in the middle chainring, in one of your middle gears, say 3, 4, and 5, you will likely be riding at 10 to 14 mph, which is a comfortable pace for a recreational cyclist. If you find yourself going faster than 15 mph on flat ground, then maybe the larger chainring should be your default.
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Old 04-20-20, 05:12 PM
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OP, look in the thread "Noob Gear Question", (answer #14 ) for my explanation, if you please
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Old 04-20-20, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by 33yearslate View Post
So should I be on my largest front ring for a flat road as a starting point?
Not necessarily. Either start in the last gear you left it in or one that feels comfortable. I usually start in the outer ring in about the middle of the rear cogs. In the link I provided that would be the 48 and either the 18 or 20 tooth cog. Others might start in the middle ring and the same cogs.

One tip that you should keep in mind is that if you are in the higher gears (48 and the 16 or 14 tooth cog) after a downhill, for example, you should downshift to about the middle of the freewheel before you stop. Starting in the higher gears takes a whole lot of ooomph!
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Old 04-20-20, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Digger Goreman View Post
OP, look in the thread "Noob Gear Question", (answer #14 ) for my explanation, if you please
This is helpful. I guess I need to figure out where the overlaps are in my bike to achieve these smoother transitions. But now I do understand the topic much better. Looks like I have a lot of practicing to do. Not sure why, but this hobby quickly turned from, "I want to learn how to ride" to "I want to push my bike as fast as it will go and be as good of a rider as possible" in about a week.

Last edited by 33yearslate; 04-20-20 at 07:05 PM.
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Old 04-20-20, 07:07 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Not necessarily. Either start in the last gear you left it in or one that feels comfortable. I usually start in the outer ring in about the middle of the rear cogs. In the link I provided that would be the 48 and either the 18 or 20 tooth cog. Others might start in the middle ring and the same cogs.

One tip that you should keep in mind is that if you are in the higher gears (48 and the 16 or 14 tooth cog) after a downhill, for example, you should downshift to about the middle of the freewheel before you stop. Starting in the higher gears takes a whole lot of ooomph!
This is good advice. I did figure this out the hard way.
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Old 04-20-20, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
He just learned how to ride a bike and has already started a thread about crosschaining?
Maybe my next post will be about drafting techniques in a race
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Old 04-20-20, 07:10 PM
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avoid big front and big back (big/big) gear at the same time, and small front small back (small/small) as am sure some have said. The middle ring is fine to leave it there all the time. Probably would never need the small front ring (grannie gear).

As you get stronger, you could leave the front one on the big ring and just work the back gears. I personally pretty much never switch gears up front. Find the right one for you (middle or big ring) and 4-5 gears is plenty
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Old 04-20-20, 07:15 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
Don't overthink this. You're already doing it exactly right. Riding a bicycle isn't nearly as complicated as some people would make you believe.

Think of your bike as having 3 different gear ranges. That's what the left shifter is for:
1 for uphills
2 for most of the time
3 for downhills and the two days each year you have a strong tailwind.

If you just do that you don't have to worry about cross chaining because you'll never do it.
Pretty much how I approach it as well. The majority of the time, I'm in 2. Shift to 1 for a big/longer uphill then back to 2.
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Old 04-20-20, 08:36 PM
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So, after reading this, is "cross chaining" just the one small rear sprocket with the small chainring, and just the one big rear sprocket with the large chainring, or is it more rear sprockets in those scenarios? When I run "big/big or "small/small" on my new bike, I get some chain/derailleur rub. When I say "small/small", or "big/big", it means that I get some chain/derailleur rub from the first to third small rear sprocket snd the first to third big rear sprocket. Can anything be done about that?

Thanks,

Danny

Last edited by kaiserschmarrn; 04-20-20 at 11:48 PM.
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