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Using Higher Gears

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Using Higher Gears

Old 07-29-10, 04:50 PM
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Using Higher Gears

I got into "serious" road cycling a few weeks ago. So far I haven't really had the need to use the higher gears, I'm talking anything in combination with the larger chainring. unless I am going do a hill.

How do you use your higher gears?
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Old 07-29-10, 04:54 PM
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Flat roads, especially when accompanied by a tailwind. Downhill. Riding in a pack. Even riding uphill sometimes if the grade isn't too steep (it helps that I have a compact crank).
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Old 07-29-10, 04:59 PM
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I use the big chainring unless I'm going uphill or coming to a stop. On my road bike if I'm going below 18mph, I'll usually shift into the smaller chainring. While commuting, I tend to stick in the smaller chainring, which is a 42. I sometimes use the 52 on a flat or downhills.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:06 PM
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In Before the "It's not 'serious' cycling if you're not on the big chain ring" Comment!

I run a compact, so my big ring gets used quite a bit. Do you find that when on your small chainring, that you're on the small cog on the back?
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Old 07-29-10, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by zachsilvey
I got into "serious" road cycling a few weeks ago. So far I haven't really had the need to use the higher gears, I'm talking anything in combination with the larger chainring. unless I am going do a hill.

How do you use your higher gears?
I used to be like you. I had a triple and used the middle chainring for almost everything. One day I just decided to start pushing bigger gears. I got stronger, but I get a knee problem to go with it that took the better part of a year to go away. The moral of the story is, if you want to ride faster, just start pushing bigger gears than you are currently comfortable with, but progress slowly and don't just slam the bike into the big chainring like I did.

Now, I have no knee problems and I ride the big chainring almost everywhere except for on hills.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by zachsilvey
How do you use your higher gears?
Anytime I'm not going up a slow hill.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by zachsilvey
How do you use your higher gears?
On flats. I've got two chain rings in the front, so I'll use the small one when I'm climbing hills, and the big one in most other cases.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by zachsilvey
I got into "serious" road cycling a few weeks ago. So far I haven't really had the need to use the higher gears, I'm talking anything in combination with the larger chainring. unless I am going do a hill.

How do you use your higher gears?
I use the large chainring pretty much any time I'm going over 18mph or so.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by zachsilvey
I got into "serious" road cycling a few weeks ago. So far I haven't really had the need to use the higher gears, I'm talking anything in combination with the larger chainring. unless I am going do a hill.

How do you use your higher gears?
It took me about 3 or 4 months before I could pedal the road bike at a good cadence (80-100, depending) using the big ring for any significant length of time. Just keep riding, focus on keeping a good cadence (80+ RPM), and keep pushing yourself. Eventually you will probably find yourself using the big ring more than the small/middle one.
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Old 07-29-10, 06:04 PM
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I have a triple - 53/43/30 with a 12-25 cassette.

I rarely use the 53 ring until I spin out on the 43/12 combo - that gives me about 46km/h at 100rpm. Staying on the middle chainring keeps the gear ratios closer when changing gears on the cassette. Being on the 53 all the time made the gaps between gears too wide.
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Old 07-29-10, 06:43 PM
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I usually ride on big chainring except for following occasions

- Easy ride/cool down
- Going up a hill
- Feeling tired at the back of the pack and knowing I will be dropped

The textbook definition would be keeping the cadence around 90-110RPM, so if you're spinning faster than that on small chain, then you should shift into the big chain.
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Old 07-29-10, 07:07 PM
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well now every now and again i have low cadence climbing workouts so for those workouts im never out of my large chainring unless the grade is larger than about 15%. yeah its tough but makes you a ton stronger
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Old 07-29-10, 08:13 PM
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I've had my bike for about 7 weeks now (and had not rode a bike in years before that), and just started getting on the big ring. I live in flat SWFL but recently took a trip into the blue ridge mountains and had a phenomenal introduction to road biking in hilly/mountainous terrain, and my big ring. I finally got some work on it on the hills and am now using it quite a bit more, albeit mostly on the 2nd , 3rd and 4th largest cogs in back, on the flats. I have found that my quads are the first thing to get tired now since I'm spinning a bit less and using more power, and they are more sore after the ride, but sore in a good way. My cadenece is staying above 80 and I'm riding faster, which is awesome. Yay big ring.
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Old 07-29-10, 08:16 PM
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HA, "serious" road cycling. Seriously slow if you aren't using the big ring.
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Old 07-29-10, 08:18 PM
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I'm on the big ring pretty often but if I just want to light pedal and ride casually then I'm on the 39, and on long climbs as well.
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Old 07-29-10, 09:24 PM
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im in the same exact boat. Ive been riding for about 2 full spring - fall seasons (last year and this year). I do about 3 - 4 rides per week.....anywhere from 20 - 30+ miles per ride. IM still on the small gear and my legs are screaming. Calves mostly...but my knees bother me if im on the small in front and the small in the rear. I typically ride small in front and 1 or 2 up from the smallest in the rear. It is really starting to drive me nuts because i cant seem to get any faster / stronger. im running 80 - 110 cad depending at about 20 - 22mph and as high as 24 - 25mph if i really push it but my distance suffers at this speed . Maybe i just need to start riding the big gear up front and start on the big gear in the rear and work my way down the set in the rear. IM out of ideas. I searched this topic and this thread came up

im pushing around an old steel bianchi but im of the mind that it probably isnt my bike considering no matter how light and nimble it is, im still hauling my 145lbs butt around on it. Thats another thing. Im down from 175. You would think i would be faster with all the weight gone. Science has failed me.

I dont ride the trainer as much as i should in the winter but i find myself on the big ring when i do.......mostly due to less resistance i suppose. Got out there this spring expected to ride the big ring and nope...my spring knees got me right away and i was in wimp pedal mode for a few weeks while my knees settled in for the season.

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Old 07-29-10, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by scale
if im on the small in front and the small in the rear. I typically ride small in front and 1 or 2 up from the smallest in the rear.
There is a lot of overlap. If you are near the smallest in the rear then you can just shift up to the middle of the cassette when you go to the big ring and it will be roughly the same gear. For example a 39x12 is pretty close to a 53x16.
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Old 07-29-10, 09:40 PM
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Umd,
Given that overlap, is there any reason or advantage to use one over the other?
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Old 07-29-10, 09:40 PM
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good point. Ive often thought of just doing that from here on out and working my way down the stack in the rear from there.
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Old 07-29-10, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by scale
good point. Ive often thought of just doing that from here on out and working my way down the stack in the rear from there.
You're overthinking it. Just ride and pick a gear that is comfortable.

Originally Posted by Chef151
Umd,
Given that overlap, is there any reason or advantage to use one over the other?
Generally you want to anticipate what gearing you will be using and pick to minimize shifting between the chainrings. Also it is more efficient to have smaller bends in the chain, so going over a smaller cog is going to have more resistance than a larger cog. Finally, it keeps more tension on the chain if you are on the large chainring, which minimizing chain vibration and slap on the chainstay on rough roads.
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Old 07-29-10, 10:45 PM
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I use the 39/14 on flats up to 21 mph for 40-60 mile rides. Any faster than that, I use the big ring, which isn't very often unless I'm descending a mtn.
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Old 07-30-10, 06:06 AM
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There's no convention on when NOT to use your big gears, so here's an alternative thought.

I use the big ring if I want to get out of the saddle on a low gradient, or short, climb - sometimes it's nice to grind out a climb with some resistance, rather than sitting there in a low gear and peddling like crazy. Plus you can use your upper body much more, to counter-pull on the bars as you press the pedals hard... it's like a short, sharp, full-body workout.
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Old 07-30-10, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by umd
You're overthinking it. <snip>
Great post.
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Old 07-30-10, 07:37 AM
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As I said before, with an 8 spd triple, I found staying on the 53 ring difficult to find a good cadence. The gears were just to far apart. In other words, I'd start to spin out in a gear, switch, then hit a wall because the next gear was too tall.

By staying on the middle ring, the 43, the gears are closer together, making transitioning from one gear to the next easier.
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Old 07-30-10, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
I used to be like you. I had a triple and used the middle chainring for almost everything. One day I just decided to start pushing bigger gears. I got stronger, but I get a knee problem to go with it that took the better part of a year to go away. The moral of the story is, if you want to ride faster, just start pushing bigger gears than you are currently comfortable with, but progress slowly and don't just slam the bike into the big chainring like I did.
This is a very good point. You've only been riding for a few weeks. It's easy to hurt yourself by going too hard too fast without enough recovery time. I have a "no big ring for 500 miles" rule. YMMV.
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