Saturday, March 3, 2012

Shifting: A Lost Art. part 1

    Most people don’t shift enough, which leads to premature   drivetrain wear, sore knees (or worse) and one tired rider. Here’s how to shift a bicycle: Think of yourself as the bike’s engine. Like an auto engine, you’re most efficient pedaling at a certain rate, usually from 70 to 90 pedal revolutions per minute. To maintain this efficiency, shift every time you feel your pedaling rate (called cadence) slow or speed up. Following this rule, on a rolling course, you’ll be shifting almost constantly to maintain that steady cadence. But at ride’s end, you’ll be fresh while a ride partner who shifts less will be spent.

How do you know what gear to select? First, don’t get confused by the many choices, and don’t worry about harming the bike by shifting it “wrong” — you can’t hurt it as long as you slightly ease the pedal pressure when shifting (you must pedal to shift). And understand that the correct gear is any gear that allows you to pedal comfortably at the moment. There’s no right or wrong gear and there’s no proper sequence to follow. You just shift when your body tells you it’s time for a change. Just compare to the RPM's on a car.

Shifting the right lever one click makes it slightly easier or harder to pedal. Think of this lever as a way to fine-tune the effort required to pedal. As you pick up speed on a slight downhill for example, you’d click the lever once or twice to shift into a better gear for the speed. Shifting the left lever makes large differences in pedal effort. Think of this lever as a way to make it considerably easier or harder to pedal. Dropping into a valley for instance, you’ll want an easy gear to get back out. But, you’ll probably be in a hard gear because you were just riding downhill. To make the pedaling easy immediately, shift the left lever to move the chain onto a smaller chainring providing much easier pedaling.

If you’re at all nervous about shifting, practice. A good way to do this is to shift the bike when it’s supported on a stand. You might place the bike on a trunk-style bike rack or in a repair stand, hang the nose of the seat on a low branch, or ask a friend to hold the bike off the ground by the seat. Once the bike is supported, use one hand to pedal and the other to shift while watching the chain move over the cogs and chainrings. With a few sweeps of the levers, you’ll get a clear understanding of what’s going on back there and should feel more comfortable about shifting a lot while riding.