shifting basics

Bicycling Magazine just put out a handy post on the basics of shifting that everyone should read.  Unless you’re a pro, you might learn something helpful.  There’s a nice graphic in the link as well.

In a nutshell:

  • It’s okay to look down at your chainrings to get a visual.
  • Shift up or down before you need to; in other words, anticipate hills and even the wind if you can.
  • Start in the middle – choose the middle gear in the front and back and make adjustments from there.
  • When you’re just starting out, use the middle cog in the front and experiment with the gears in the back.  When you’re comfortable, experiment changing both (but one at a time, please).
  • Let up on the pedals ever so slightly when you’re shifting into a harder gear to put less stress on your chain.

And a couple of my own:

  • When downshifting both front and back cogs, downshift the back first, then the front.  It’s much more comfortable.
  • If you’re in a relatively high gear and you need to stop at a stoplight, downshift into a lower gear before you stop.  Starting up again when the light changes will be easier.

You may find that if you ride the same route frequently you’ll have a favorite gear ratio.  For me it’s what feels pretty effortless but still allows me to maintain a good speed.  I ride on hilly terrain and sometimes I’ll pretend my bike is fixed-gear and I’ll stay in the same gear up and down the hills, just for a fun challenge.  And then there are days when the wind in my face – especially uphill – means I need to move into my granny gears.

Experimenting means you’ll be able to shift effortlessly without even thinking.  Play around and have fun.  You may even discover a more comfortable gear!

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