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How do I shift?

Old 09-13-11, 05:15 PM
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How do I shift?

I've been lurking for a while, hoping someone would ask this silly question--but that 28 mile ride is two weeks away and I have no idea how to ride for real! The way I currently do it is wrong--I basically set the front sprocket on the highest gear and use the rear gears for all my shifting. When I'm completely tired out I throw it into what I learned was the "granny gear" and relax.

I also realized through tons of reading that my cadence was too low and any serious biking distance will ruin my knees in short order. So, cadence sensor is in the mail for my forerunner 305 and I'm rethinking the way I pedal, but I can't find a consensus on this here interwebs about the correct way to shift...

...I hope this thread doesn't offer a different way with every post
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Old 09-13-11, 05:22 PM
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https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears.html ?

If the trend ahead is uphill I shift to my 39 (your middle chain ring) if it isdownhill I shift to my 53 (your outside)
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Last edited by cranky old road; 09-13-11 at 05:29 PM.
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Old 09-13-11, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by shawmutt
I've been lurking for a while, hoping someone would ask this silly question--but that 28 mile ride is two weeks away and I have no idea how to ride for real! The way I currently do it is wrong--I basically set the front sprocket on the highest gear and use the rear gears for all my shifting. When I'm completely tired out I throw it into what I learned was the "granny gear" and relax.

I also realized through tons of reading that my cadence was too low and any serious biking distance will ruin my knees in short order. So, cadence sensor is in the mail for my forerunner 305 and I'm rethinking the way I pedal, but I can't find a consensus on this here interwebs about the correct way to shift...

...I hope this thread doesn't offer a different way with every post
It sounds like you're using a tripple chain ring. If this is the case, you should spend most of your time in the middle ring. Find a rear cog that feels comfortable riding all day but will not be too high that will injure or leave you exhausted. Only shift to the high gear when going down a large hill or if your riding in the burbs where there are no lights for quarter of a mile.

Once you see a hill, pick up speed and try to go as fast as possible. This will give you momentum and once you slow down to a crawl, drop the chainring to the granny gear first and spin up the hill. If you need to to go lower, use the rear derailuer.
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Old 09-13-11, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by cranky old road
I saw that site, and I understand the basics of shifting, but he doesn't really say anything about how to shift. I read in one place that the shifting should all be in the front, with the fine tuning reserved for the rears...
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Old 09-13-11, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by shawmutt
I saw that site, and I understand the basics of shifting, but he doesn't really say anything about how to shift. I read in one place that the shifting should all be in the front, with the fine tuning reserved for the rears...
No. Ideally, you should be shifting the rear more frequently. The rear shifts much faster and those shifts are less problematic than front shifts.

The steps between gears is larger in the front than the rear.

There is also some overlap.

The basic idea is to pick a gear that will allow you to maintain a particular cadence (within a reasonable range).

For example, if your preferred cadence is around 80 RPM, shift down (easier) when your cadence goes below 70 and shift up (harder) when your cadence gets above 90. (You should be using a cadence greater than about 60 RPM. As you cycle more and work on your cadence, your preferred cadence will likely get faster.)

When you are going up hill, you have to shift earlier because you lose momentum quickly. Thus, one strategy for long hills is to shift the front down and the rear up before the hill so that you can just downshift the rear as the hill gets harder.

You want to get into the habit of reducing the force on the pedals while shifting.

Last edited by njkayaker; 09-13-11 at 07:02 PM.
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Old 09-13-11, 06:54 PM
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Yeah, I use the front chain rings for gross trend adjustments when cresting a hill or heading up a long hill and try to maintain an even cadence by running up and down the rear cassette.
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Old 09-13-11, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by cranky old road
Yeah, I use the front chain rings for gross trend adjustments when cresting a hill or heading up a long hill and try to maintain an even cadence by running up and down the rear cassette.
Yes.

Many riders see the gears as something like "pressing a button". There's actually subtle things going on that one can learn by paying attention.

To get the most out of a triple (with a wide range cassette), one can double shift to get just the right gear. To be able to do that, one really needs to run a gear chart. (But that's not the "Shifting 101" class.)

Last edited by njkayaker; 09-13-11 at 07:13 PM.
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Old 09-13-11, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
It sounds like you're using a tripple chain ring. If this is the case, you should spend most of your time in the middle ring.
Yeah, sorry, I have a Jamis Aurora, 3 in the front, 9 in the back.
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Old 09-13-11, 07:17 PM
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If it's not too late, I reccommend that you get your money back on the cadence meter. This is really a tool for advanced training. New and intermediate riders are unlikely to benefit much. You can always count your cadence with a watch if you think it will help. but for the vast majority of cyclists there are only three cadences: Too fast, too slow, and about right.

Try not to worry too much about your shifting and cadence. It won't tbe very long before they are problem-free and totally natural. By the end of your 28 mile ride, I bet you will have it down pat.
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Old 09-13-11, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by shawmutt
Yeah, sorry, I have a Jamis Aurora, 3 in the front, 9 in the back.
Nice bike.

One thing to keep in mind is that you need to set things up for going up for (long) hills.

I've seen riders shift the rear to the largest (easiest) gear in the back while they are in the middle or largest ring in the front. They can run out of gears and have to do a slow front shift (which they often do too late).

The better technique for hills is to shift to the smaller front and up shift the rear 2-3 cogs.

The gap between the front gears is about 2.5 times the gap between the rear gears.
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Old 09-13-11, 07:20 PM
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shawmutt, have you ever gone jogging? Use that same cadence. I'll bet it's between 80 and 95 rpm already.

About the bike itself -- when I ride a triple, I treat it like this: granny ring = hills; middle ring = cruising; big ring = speed or downhill. Once I've picked one of those, I shift the rear to keep my cadence in check.
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Old 09-13-11, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody
If it's not too late, I reccommend that you get your money back on the cadence meter. This is really a tool for advanced training. New and intermediate riders are unlikely to benefit much. You can always count your cadence with a watch if you think it will help. but for the vast majority of cyclists there are only three cadences: Too fast, too slow, and about right.

Try not to worry too much about your shifting and cadence. It won't tbe very long before they are problem-free and totally natural. By the end of your 28 mile ride, I bet you will have it down pat.
I'm a numbers guy One of the first things I got when I started jogging last year was the Forerunner so I could track my pace. The cadence meter and a mount that's made for my Forerunner was only $50 from Amazon, and it also serves as a speedometer. I can download proof of my 30 mph pace and 300 mile ride

Originally Posted by BarracksSi
shawmutt, have you ever gone jogging? Use that same cadence. I'll bet it's between 80 and 95 rpm already.
OK, I was pretty sure I was pedaling too slow--I was pedaling way to slow! Thanks for the point of reference.
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Old 09-13-11, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi
About the bike itself -- when I ride a triple, I treat it like this: granny ring = hills; middle ring = cruising; big ring = speed or downhill. Once I've picked one of those, I shift the rear to keep my cadence in check.
That's how I do things on my hybrid (w/triple). I'm still learning what works best on my road bike w/a compact double. I try to use the large ring all the time and shift the rear, but being an out of shape clyde, I find I need the lower gears, so shift down to the small ring.
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Old 09-13-11, 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by shawmutt
Yeah, sorry, I have a Jamis Aurora, 3 in the front, 9 in the back.
I have the same bike. LOL.

I think what's important is to find a gear that won't leave you injured or in pain. As a beginner, I hurt my knees several times and foot trying to ride in a gear that was too high for my body. Everyone is not the same and some people can ride in higher gears others can't. You'll find out real fast the next day if your knees are hurting, more often than not it's becuase of poor fit and high gear selection. Whatever the case, if it hurt, stop and recover. Do not think more riding will cure the pain.
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Old 09-14-11, 02:58 AM
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When riding a triple, I use the middle ring mostly, using the rear derailleur for most shifts. If 1st gear isn't low enough, shift down at the front while also shifting up two at the back. Likewise if 9th gear isn't high enough, shift to the larger front chainring while shifting down two at the back. Remember also that you shouldn't use the smallest few sprockets with the smallest chainring, or the largest sprockets with the large chainring- this puts unnecessary wear and tear on the drivetrain and gives you a gear you already have somewhere on the middle chainring.

You should work on getting your cadence up. Anything above 60rpm is ok, with 90rpm being the most often recommended. This is also easy to measure without a cyclocomputer- there will be three pedal strokes per second at 90rpm (left-right-left) etc. Just count whenever a pedal hits the bottom of its travel.
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Old 09-14-11, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi
shawmutt, have you ever gone jogging? Use that same cadence. I'll bet it's between 80 and 95 rpm already.

About the bike itself -- when I ride a triple, I treat it like this: granny ring = hills; middle ring = cruising; big ring = speed or downhill. Once I've picked one of those, I shift the rear to keep my cadence in check.
Pretty much sums it up.
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Old 09-14-11, 09:42 AM
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Use music; find a BPM list (easily googled) and look up some songs you know. If you recognize any songs that you've heard a lot that are in the ballpark of 90-96 or 180-190 BPM, get it in your head and pedal to the beat. After a bit of riding at a pace like that, you'll find it much more natural to pop into a halfway decent cadence naturally.
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Old 09-14-11, 09:51 AM
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You are overthinking this shifting business. Keep it simple...if it gets too hard, shift. If it gets too easy, shift.

If you have a cadence sensor, the principle is the same. If it gets too hard to spin at, say 90, shift. If it gets too easy at the same cadence, shift.
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Old 09-14-11, 10:50 AM
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Just use a gear that is comfortable and keep it basic. Ride on the middle front ring as your main one and if you run out of gears- Change ---either up or down. tagaproject6 has said it- you are overthinking so keep it simple. The gear change will come naturally after a while.
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Old 09-14-11, 11:46 AM
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Since you are a numbers guy, take a while to figure out what your gear ratios are.

Here is Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator You may have to count the teeth on each gear to get the info you need.

When you have them figured out, you will see that you have three ranges of gears, one for each gear in front. They probably overlap a bit, and mathematically you can see how they are sorted.

Now, with a good mental picture of where your ratios are, you can use the gears. In hilly country, use the low range and shift up and down with your rear gear. When it flattens out a bit, shift up to the middle range and modulate your pedaling speed with the rear. When you really want to boogie, shift into the large front gear and use your rear gears to fine tune your effort.

Hope this helps.
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Old 09-14-11, 12:19 PM
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I guess I'm a barbarian in the way I shift.

I find a gear that feels comfortable for my legs & body and the speed I want to go and stick with it until I'm not comfortable anymore.

I could care less about cadence and all that crap that takes the fun out of riding my bike.
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Old 09-14-11, 12:49 PM
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Sorry I didn't read the other responses so this may have already been said but here goes anyhow. Find your ideal gear first, not too high not too low for me personally this is on the real ring not the granny.. and usually very near the higher end, even though I'd prefer the highest I leave myself two gears to go up for speed, and that leaves me something like 7 lower gears for dealing with hills, if I really feel like it I don't even down shift the rear and go into granny if I feel REALLY lazy about a hill. I'm just saying find an ideal gear, and make sure you have range around for hills or hauling ass it's a very simple concept
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Old 09-15-11, 07:51 AM
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Why would anyone even consider shifting the chain ring gears more? There's what, two of them....3 at most? Boggles the mind.

Just take the thing out and and ride it. Play with the shifters and figure it out. This isn't brain surgery!
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Old 09-15-11, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by JusticeZero
Use music; find a BPM list (easily googled) and look up some songs you know. If you recognize any songs that you've heard a lot that are in the ballpark of 90-96 or 180-190 BPM, get it in your head and pedal to the beat. After a bit of riding at a pace like that, you'll find it much more natural to pop into a halfway decent cadence naturally.
This is also a good way to drive yourself insane with songs stuck in your head.
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Old 09-16-11, 08:17 AM
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You just need to ride more and more often. You will eventually figure it out.
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