how to shift bike gears

Discussion in 'Community' started by goodtimes5, Aug 15, 2004.

  1. goodtimes5 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 4, 2004
    Bay Area
    I just got a free bike from a friend, but I'm an amateur biker, and how in the world do you work the gears? I have gears 1,2,3 on the left and gears 1-7 on the right. What do I use for hills and what for downhill? I like to bike, but not when I can barely get up a hill.
  2. rinseout macrumors regular

    Jan 20, 2004
    What really matters is the gear ratio front to back. That said, for a beginner, you basically want:

    Very very steep hills, put the left one on 1 and the right one on 1. If it's too easy, start by increasing the right down to 7. Careful not to make it too easy because if you're on a hill you might have trouble keeping your cadence fast enough to keep your bike upright.

    For normal hills or slight, protracted hills but the left one on 2 and the right one wherever it feels comfortable. Again, putting the right one on 1 will be very easy, and it gets more difficult as you go up to 7,

    For cruising around on flats or downhill, put the left in 3 and the right wherever it feels comfortable (probably between 3 and 7).

    Basically to make it easier to want the smallest chain ring (front) and biggest (sized) gear (back). The left controls your chain ring, and the right the gear. Higher numbers on the right shifter are smaller sized gears.

    I know there are some hard core cyclists around here.
  3. friarbayliff macrumors regular

    Jul 20, 2004
    MN / IN
    Granted that I am by no means the all-encomassing bike guru, I will offer my simple understanding of how it works:

    Your bike has numbers (1-3) on the left and (1-7) on the right. The way I understand it is that these numbers are in essence multipliers of gears. You configuration is probably rated as a 21-speed bike (3x7 = 21). Multiply the left number by the right and you get the number gear you are in. For instance, 3-left and 4-right gives you "speed" number 12. As a general rule, you want to have a lower number for hills, and a higher number for flat terrain and faster speeds. From a stop, you start out at a lower gear and work your way up as you gain speed. On a hill, you gear down, thus allowing you to turn the pedals easier. The tradeoff is that you do less work per revolution and therefore cover less ground going up a hill.

    At least, this is my simple understanding of it all. Good luck.

    Yeah...somebody beat me to the post, but okay
  4. rinseout macrumors regular

    Jan 20, 2004
    Also, if you cycle in traffic it's a good idea to always crank the right shifter down a few gears before stopping three or four pedal revolutions before you stop. This way you can accelerate much quicker when the light changes. It's much safer, too, since you become stable much more quickly after stopping.

    After a while feel free to sneer at SUV drivers and give impatient left-turners the finger when they nearly crash into you in intersections. That's advanced traffic cycling.
  5. friarbayliff macrumors regular

    Jul 20, 2004
    MN / IN
    Ah, the fine art of angering motorists.
  6. Neserk macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2004
    Wow this brings back bad memories :p I have a 21 speed out on my patio. I first learn to ride a geared bike at Valley Forge National Park in Valley Forge, PA. Talk about hills! Before I got the hang of it I'd have to get off the bike and walk it up the hill, especially if I lost my momentum! I haven't ridden in a while. I'd much rather shift the gears in my car!
  7. pseudobrit macrumors 68040


    Jul 23, 2002
    Jobs' Spare Liver Jar
    What you want to work on is your cadence. Gearing will follow naturally. As you cycle more, hills will crumble beneath you at progressively higher gears. Get a cyclocomputer to gauge your speed and you can figure your cadence from there, but you want to aim for 90-100rpm, which is a fast cadence.

    If you tell me what make/model of bike (and/or type of bike, road/hybrid/mountain) it is and/or happen to know the groupset (Shimano, Campagnolo), I may be able to give you more info about your particular bike and its gearing.

    Simply put, gearing and difficulty goes like this:


    chainwheel (front):

    smallest (1)---(2)---(3) biggest

    cassette (rear):

    biggest (1)-(2)-(3)-(4)-(5)-(6)-(7) smallest

    It's not as simple as multiplying the numbers together because there are often wide, nonlinear disparities between the gears on particular cassettes and chainrings. For instance, I have a Trek mutant that has megawide Shimano gearing on the cassette, from 11-34. If I'm in 1-2 or 2-1(front/rear gear), you'd think the gearing would be the same, but I'm actually at 28/26 or 38/34 in those gears, and the ratios are noticeably different to me when hillclimbing (1.08 and 1.12, respectively) some of the truly murderous hills in my area. Tighter ratio cassettes coupled with normal double chainrings provide even wider differences.

    And don't forget to follow the special rules of the road for cycling and wear at least a helmet. A jersey and proper shorts are fantastic if you can get over looking like a, well... like a biker.

    I suppose the best way for me to advise you is if you give me as much detail as possible about the bike, your physique and your level of fitness. You can PM me if you want.

    The best way to hillclimb is to pick a gear at which you can turn about 85-90rpm, ride it hard until you're about out of breath, shift up about 2-4 clicks into a harder gear and stand on the pedals. You'll turn slower and use a different set of muscles -- anaerobically -- which will allow you to make up for your oxygen deficit from spinning. Alternate sitting and spinning in a easy gear and pounding it in a higher gear until you're clear of the hill.

    Remember this general rule for avoiding fatigue failure: if your lungs burn, pick a harder gear;if your legs hurt, pick an easier one. If both hurt, you probably are going up a really long and steep hill and only intestinal fortitude can get you up.
  8. Apple //e macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2003
    shifting the right way

    the left hand shifter shifts the front gears. forget the numbers and thing of chainring sizes. the small chainring is for steep climbs. the middle for flats/med climbs and the big ring is for hammering the flats

    on the rear the large cog is for steep climbs and the small is for going fast.

    to get the hang of it, keep the front in the medium and use the rear just to get used to it. when you get more used to it, experiment with the front shifter.

    to properly shift, you want to ease off on the pedal pressure. you also dont want to shift while standing until you get used to shifting properly. the front gears are more sensitive to pedaling with pressure. modern shifting has been remarkably honed, but it still pays to shift the old fashioned soft pedaling way

    you also want to avoid cross-over gears. these are the big ring+big cog/small ring+small cog. the chain angle on these combinations are too extreme and you can break a chain in the worst case scenario. normally you just grind your gears and chain to premature death

    anticipate and do your shifting before braking so youre not in a humongous gear going out of a turn or a full stop

    keep the chain lubed.
  9. Apple //e macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2003
    ok, you live in san francisco. keeping it in the middle ring might not work for you.

    on a steep climb, use the granny ring (the small one)

    on a long climb you might want to alternate sitting and standing. if youre legs are burning, spin faster (sit) and if your lungs and heart are screaming, stand and use your legs. for seated climbing, choose a high cadence. as you get up, soft pedal and drop down one or two cogs (rear) while standing. let the bike sway side to side naturally

    if youre having a hard time climbing even in the easiest gear, your seat might be too low (common newbie error). without proper leg extension you cant pedal efficiently. basically you want you leg just slightly bent at full extension. dont put it low even if you think you like it, because you will damage your knees.

    on the downhill, use at least the middle ring (large ring preferably) even if you dont pedal. this will keep the chain taut and lessen the chance of throwing the chain on a bump

    have fun with the bike
  10. AmigoMac macrumors 68020


    Aug 5, 2003
    I would recommend...

    Never use the 1 on the left with the 5-6-7 on the right, doesn't make sense, because it would be almost the same like 2 on the left with 3-4-5 on the right, and do not use the 3 on the left with 1-2-3 on the right... it will kill your bike slowly... for very hard hills, try 1 on the left, combining 1 2 3 on the right... 1-1 will be much easier, if you're doing downhill, try 3-7 and use a helmet! ;) ... do not forget to get one, lights and spare pieces... have a nice time...
  11. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    it's amazing how someone in a car can nearly kill you and they get out of the car swear at you and drive off i had this happen to me once when a car over took me and turned left infrount of me (we drive on the left in the uk) i hit his back bumper near takeing the thing off and he had the nerve to get out of his car and swear at me.
  12. rinseout macrumors regular

    Jan 20, 2004
    The thing I hate most is (speaking in North American here) approaching an intersection where somebody in the oncoming direction is waiting to turn left, and once the cars are clear they proceed to turn left even though doing so requires literally RUNNING INTO or OVER the cyclist, or at best risking a T-Bone collision with the oncoming cyclist. I have crammed on my brakes and swerved pretty steeply to avoid that fate more than a few times. I have learned to be extra careful of old pickup trucks and souped up Honda Civics in this situation particularly.

    To the guy asking for help: get yourself some degreaser and a good dry lube. Nothing is more irritating that gears that don't smoothly change.
  13. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    have you been got by someone opening there car door yet? if not it will happen and after that you will check every car and cycle as far away from doors as you possibly can.
  14. rinseout macrumors regular

    Jan 20, 2004
    haha. i had a paragraph about this in my last post which i deleted. anyway, it hasn't happened to me yet, but i live in fear of it. i guess that's a good thing.

    the day it happens i will have made the mistake of letting my mind wander or looking down at the road. i try my best to keep an eye on the parked cars, but sometimes my mind wanders during the commute. and i hate tinted windows --- you can't see if there are people in the bloody car waiting to open their doors at the exact wrong time :)
  15. krimson macrumors 65816


    Oct 29, 2003
    Democratic People's Republic of Kalifornia
    For some reason i wanted to reply Hold down the clutch, put foot under the shift lever, click up once to each gear, slowly release clutch , slowly reingage throttle. Careful not to shift into neutral when going from 1st to 2nd.


    On a bicycle, it just takes a few turns, you'll know what gears you should be using after a while.

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