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Newbie- Understanding Gear/shifting

Old 04-09-14, 12:48 PM
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Boppsie
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Newbie- Understanding Gear/shifting

Back on a bike after 30 years! New bike(Specilized, Vita Limited). The gears confuse me
My old Sundance bike had 12 gears- there were numbers printed so I could see which gear ,choose my gear as I moved the gear shift lever. There was one gear lever.
My new bike has two gear levers on each side of the handlebar- left side governs the front wheel, right side governs the rear wheel the larger lever on each side, purportedly, move from large to small cog light, easy to hard- i.e smaller cogs and the smaller lever allows stepwise gearing.But without numbers I do not know what I am doing.

I am still re learning my balance,practice runs in the alley behind my home, getting going and trying to ride straight , not weaving side to side, as I pedal.So I am not touching the gear levers But at some point I will want to get out and ride. And I realize I am clueless how to use the gears correctly.

Any, all thoughts welome
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Old 04-09-14, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Boppsie View Post
Back on a bike after 30 years! New bike(Specilized, Vita Limited). The gears confuse me
My old Sundance bike had 12 gears- there were numbers printed so I could see which gear ,choose my gear as I moved the gear shift lever. There was one gear lever.
My new bike has two gear levers on each side of the handlebar- left side governs the front wheel, right side governs the rear wheel the larger lever on each side, purportedly, move from large to small cog light, easy to hard- i.e smaller cogs and the smaller lever allows stepwise gearing.But without numbers I do not know what I am doing.

I am still re learning my balance,practice runs in the alley behind my home, getting going and trying to ride straight , not weaving side to side, as I pedal.So I am not touching the gear levers But at some point I will want to get out and ride. And I realize I am clueless how to use the gears correctly.

Any, all thoughts welome
The guru explains.
How To Shift Your Bicycle's Gears

I'm trying to imagine what bike you had 30 years ago that shifted 12 speed with one lever. The only thing I can think of like that was the Sachs Elan 12 speed internal gearhub, but I don't think it was around 30 years ago.

Last edited by Dan Burkhart; 04-09-14 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 04-09-14, 01:12 PM
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If you shift based on feel, the numbers should not be that important. It takes a little time to learn, but soon it will be second nature.

That being said, it looks like you now have up to 20 speeds to pick from (number of rear cogs X number of front chain rings). In reality you may have slightly less as some of the combinations may overlap. As far as shifting goes, If I were you I would stay on the larger (front) chain ring for now and ignore the shifter on the left side of the bars; you can shift just using the right shifter for now to get comfortable; that should be almost identical to how you would shift your old 12 speed. If you find yourself facing a challenging hill, then you can shift to the smaller chain ring. When riding you'll mostly be shifting the rear derailleur.

A basic rule of thumb: larger front chain ring or smaller rear cog = harder to pedal and faster speed, smaller chain ring or larger cog = easier to pedal and climb, but slower speed.
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Old 04-09-14, 03:15 PM
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Rule I heard concerning truck driving long ago- "Put it in whatever gear it will go in".
For now, get it in sort of a middle gear where it's comfortable to ride and get used to it. You don't need the gearing until you start uphill or want to go fast or have a hard headwind.
If you have a triple up front, you can put it in the middle ring and just leave it there while you fiddle with shifting the rear. With a double, either large or small ring up front and fiddle with shifting the rear.
The way the shifters worked seemed odd to me when I tried to associate moving one way with "higher gear" but if I associate moving them with "smaller cog" it makes more sense.
I'm like one of the posters above- I don't recall there being a way to shift 12 gears with one lever on older bikes, a 12 speed would generally have 6 sprockets in the rear, 2 up front, and require shifting both front and back to hit all 12 speeds.
Normally, you don't have time to look at what gear you're in, just shift up or down as required.
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Old 04-09-14, 06:09 PM
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Roughly, the idea is: "if pedaling is too hard, I want an easier gear, that means either larger cog on rear or smaller ring on front". "if pedaling is too easy, I want a harder gear, so smaller cog on rear or bigger ring on front". Also, generally, if you want to make a small change, change the rear (right hand shifter). If you want a bigger change (like at the bottom or top of a hill), change the front. If after changing the front, it changed a bit more than you wanted, then use the rear to go the other way until it feels right.
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Old 04-09-14, 06:26 PM
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Caution: don't shift from a large cog in the front to a small cog on the front while mashing up a hill with all your might, or you will quickly learn about a phenomenon called chain suck.
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Old 04-09-14, 06:49 PM
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As you get used to riding you will get better... But in general, the rule I tell people is to shift down right before the pedaling gets too hard. If you wait until it is too hard, you have probably lost momentum and will shift down several gears at once to finish the job.

For hills, your objective should be to pedal at about the same cadence as you do on the flats...

I am a large guy, and on a small hill I ride pretty regularly, I try to have good momentum at the bottom, then tend to shift down about every 10 seconds or so, because that is about how long it takes for my cadence drops below the range I like it... you may be stronger and be able to hold each gear longer. Once I get to my lowest gear I just gut it out... I usually don't shift the front unless I really need to.
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Old 04-09-14, 10:29 PM
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Wow, this is a pretty expensive bike for someone who has not ridden in 30 years. According the the specs you have 2 chainrings in the front - large (high gear) is 50, small (low gear) is 34. The rear cassette is a 10 speed SRAM with the smallest cog (hardest gear) 11 and the largest cog (easiest gear) is 32 tooth. Read up on "gear inches" at the sheldon brown website mentioned above and you will understand that it is just a way to compare the gearing on vastly different bikes (with different sized tires). In the smaller chainring in the front your range is 27.4 to 82.3 gear inches. That would be a pretty good range for someone who hasn't ridden much. The larger chainring in the front is 50 tooth so that would give you a range of 40.3 to 121. You would have to be a very fit cyclist or be going downhill to use the highest gear with the larger chainring. You will find it a lot easier to find a comfortable gear if you leave the front in the smaller of the two chainrings, not the largest as has been suggested before.

Using gears smoothly is something that comes with practice. After a while you just change gears until you find one that is comfortable to pedal. I change gears a lot, especially when the terrain isn't flat. It sure makes riding more fun. It also takes some time to get used to anticipating changing gears just BEFORE you need the lower gear. I see lots of local riders stand on the pedals as they take off from a stop instead of downshifting before coming to a stop. Some people never learn. You get a lot less tired if you ride at a comfortable cadence.

BTW, I have only had one bike with gears that showed numbers in the past 40 years and I never bothered to look at what was in the window on it. You don't need numbers!
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Old 04-10-14, 05:27 PM
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I suspect that you're trying to make it too hard.

Imagine your bike as having 3 gear ranges - one for uphill, one for flat roads and one for downhills. Since most people initially prefer to practice on flat roads, put your chain on the middle front sprocket and forget about it.

That leaves the rear. If you think that it's too hard to pedal, shift into a bigger rear sprocket. If you feel that your feet are having to move too fast, shift into a smaller rear sprocket. Just ride around like that for awhile and don't be afraid of shifting rear gears.

If you do that for long enough, eventually you will find yourself approaching an "OMG steep hill". Don't panic. As you approach the start of the hill calmly shift your chain onto the smallest front sprocket. Then just use your rear shifter to fine tune your gearing just as you have been doing all this time on flat roads. When you get to the top of the hill, shift back into your middle front sprocket.

That's ALL that you need to know.


Oh - and that great big front sprocket - don't worry about it. Save that for speeding downhills and for the twice per year when you have a tailwind.
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Old 04-10-14, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
Rule I heard concerning truck driving long ago- "Put it in whatever gear it will go in".
That rule only applies when recovering a lost gear on the move, and only with a non synchro tranny.
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Old 04-11-14, 01:02 PM
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If you like Math .. it's a ratio .. X tooth count in front , turns Y tooth count in back , then X:Y is multiplied by the wheel diameter .

that is a common way to say how big the gear is ... as if you were on a penny-farthing bike with a wheel that big.



this may help Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Gear Calculator


[if you have a internal gear hub theres a menu of the various types ., too ]

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Old 04-11-14, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
Imagine your bike as having 3 gear ranges - one for uphill, one for flat roads and one for downhills. Since most people initially prefer to practice on flat roads, put your chain on the middle front sprocket and forget about it.

Oh - and that great big front sprocket - don't worry about it. Save that for speeding downhills and for the twice per year when you have a tailwind.
OP has a front DOUBLE,not a triple. If she rides around in the small ring all the time she'll be cross-chaining.

Boppsie: you basically have two gear ranges;the low gears which are the front small ring and 1st-6th gear in the back,and the high gears which are the front big ring and 5th-10th gear in the back. You want the front and back to match otherwise you'll be cross-chaining;this twists your chain at an extreme angle and can make it too tight or too loose,all of which can shorten your chain's life.

As long as you're matching your front to your rear,ride whatever gear is comfortable. One thing to keep in mind is that your front rings have a big jump in them. When approaching a hill,it's a good idea to downshift the front into the small ring before the climb gets too hard,otherwise you might not be able to shift it.
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Old 06-13-14, 09:39 AM
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[QUOTE=VegasTriker;16657751]Wow, this is a pretty expensive bike for someone who has not ridden in 30 years.

My older bike was stolen; it was chained to the bottom of my rear outdoor stairwell of my apartment building. The thief sawed off part of the staircase bannister and took the bike.
I live in an upper floor apartment and I HAD to have a bike I can carry upstairs and keep safely in my apartment.
I purposefully went to a large bike shop with huge selection, tried and hefted many bikes. My new bike, all carbon, is one I can safely and readily lift up a twisting two flight stair case. And, yes, I know that the lighter the bike, the costlier.
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Old 06-13-14, 10:51 AM
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You are light years ahead of the person who chooses a bike so crappy that nobody wants to steal it. That's the other way to go if you live in an area where bike theft is rampant. Yes, light bikes are expensive but they work so much better than the Bicycle Shaped Objects that many who are returning to cycling after years of not riding buy. The side effect of choosing a bike light enough to climb stairs with it is that it will be much more fun to ride.
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Old 06-13-14, 11:17 AM
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Folding bikes are less cumbersome to haul up stairs + once up there they dont take up much room
in what is a pretty high priced space per square foot.
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Old 06-13-14, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Boppsie View Post
Back on a bike after 30 years!
Congratulations, have fun.
I am still re learning my balance,practice runs in the alley behind my home, getting going and trying to ride straight , not weaving side to side, as I pedal.So I am not touching the gear levers But at some point I will want to get out and ride. And I realize I am clueless how to use the gears correctly.

Any, all thoughts welome
Don't worry about the gears. Just find one you can get going easy enough in and at a reasonable speed. That's probably the smaller front one and one of the bigger to middle ones in the back. Wobbling happens when you're going too slow and tentatively; when you're going a little faster balance is easier. Practice braking and stopping before worrying about gears. Once you get comfortable riding then work on changing the back gears. Eventually you'll want to change the front as well.
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