Part 1 – Basics of Shifting

Photo Hill Hilly 2008 - Photo by Connie Szabo SchmuckerCaveat – It’s much easier to discuss this while on the bike where you get immediate feedback on how your bike shifts and it’s a lot easier to describe on the bike or with a bike to point to.

Here are some of the basics regarding shifting in general. I will then get into some finer points related to shifting in the hills (part 2).

Basics of Shifting:

Cadence = Pedaling speed – you put much less strain on your knees if you "spin" (pedal at least 80 rpm). It also is a lot easier to maintain speed and endurance. At a proper cadence, the pedals should feel relatively easy to push. If it feels relatively hard to pedal and you’re pedaling slowly, that is not very efficient and you’ll get tired a lot faster. Try shifting into an easier gear and pedaling faster.

You don’t really want to have the chain at too much of an angle – bikes don’t shift as well and it puts more strain on the chain and parts. In general you don’t want to be in the smallest ring in the front and the smallest cog in the back. There should be another gear that would be the same as that without as much angle to the chain (such as maybe middle front ring, middle rear cog). You also don’t want to be in the largest ring in the front and largest cog in the back. There also should be another combination that would give you the same gearing in the middle ring.

When you shift here’s some rules of thumb:

For easier pedaling = shift so the chain moves closer to the center of the bike (to the left when you’re on the bike)
For harder pedaling = shift so the chain moves farther from the center of the bike (to the right when you’re on the bike)

Large changes = left shifter (front chainrings)
Small changes = right shifter (rear cogs)

Shifting your front chainrings results in large changes in gear.Front (chainrings)- going from large rings to small rings makes it easier to pedal (moves chain to the left – closer to the bike center)
Rear (cogs) – going from large cogs to small cogs makes it harder to pedal (moves the chain to the right – farther from the bike center)

If you shift in the wrong direction (i.e. you wanted it to be easier and it got harder), just shift back. It’s not a big deal. It’s how we learn.

For more tips and links, visit the Bicycle Garage Indy Hilly Hundred Resource Page.

Bicycle Garage Indy now has three locations to serve you; Bicycle Garage Indy North (Indianapolis, in the Clearwater area on 82nd St.),  South (just west of I-65 on County Line Rd, Greenwood), and the new BGI Downtown, in the Indy Bike Hub YMCA at City Market, the perfect stop for those last minute items before you leave work on Friday.