Author Topic: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs  (Read 1530 times)

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Offline Jennifer109

Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« on: June 07, 2013, 11:06:11 am »
Hi All...

I am new to long distance cycling and am preparing for a long ride in September.  One thing I have noticed is that my shifting on climbs (downshifting into it and then up shifting out) don't seem to be very efficient.

Wondering what advice I can get or methods I can practice from those of you who are experienced riders.

Thanks!
-Jennifer

Confidence through preparation.  -Aaron Rodgers

Offline John Nelson

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2013, 11:48:39 am »
Well, experience is the best teacher here. Just keep riding and you'll figure it out.

It's best to shift down before you need it. As you approach the hill, study it. Predict what gear you will need at each point of the hill and shift into it before you get there. Learn to pedal standing up and use it for 100 yards or so from time to time on the steepest sections. When you get ready to stand, briefly increase your cadence, then shift up two gears and then stand. After 50 or so stokes, shift back down and sit back down.

To preserve your knees, use as low of a gear as you need (until you run out of them). Don't try to stay in a larger gear.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2013, 12:43:21 pm »
This is one of those things where better components make a difference.  If are able to anticipate your shifts, any component group will work.  This is easier said than done sometimes, and more expensive components seem to handle this better than cheaper ones do.  It is one of the reasons why they are more expensive.

That said, venerable bar end shifters may make a difference.  If your derailleurs can shift, then these bad boys can shift them.  You have not said what kind of bike and more importantly, what you have for shifters and derailleurs.

As the previous post said, although I will word it differently, the best thing you can do is anticipate your shifts.  If things are so screwed up that you have to stand on the pedals to make them barely crank, no shifter on the planet can deal with that much force and pressure.

I might disagree slightly with John's climbing strategy, but it is only in the name of diversity. 

Once again there are two kinds of people on this planet: mashers and spinners.  John is a masher, and I am a spinner.  I never get out of the saddle, except to get off the bike.  I maintain a pedal cadence (fancy word for revolutions per minute) of 80 to 90.  Always.  When I drift above 90 I up shift and when I drift below 80 I down shift.  I have mountain bike components (including a compact drive front crank) as this favors being a spinner.  My touring partner is a masher and it works for him.

Either strategy works, and you can decide which one you want to be. :)
« Last Edit: June 07, 2013, 12:54:49 pm by paddleboy17 »
Danno

Offline DaveB

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2013, 01:06:41 pm »
Assuming you have a derailleur bike (i.e. not an IGH) be aware that the front derailleur is far less tolerant of shifts under load than the rear since it has to move the high tension run of the chain. 

So, in anticipation, if you think there will be any need to shift, shift the front first before the pedal force gets too high.  If you wait too long and are really putting weight on the pedals, no front derailleur, expensive or cheap, will shift properly or even at all.

Offline Jennifer109

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2013, 05:52:01 pm »
Thanks guys; this is all very helpful.

I think I am waiting too long to shift (ie. waiting until it gets pretty hard before downshifting).

Also..  I hate to admit this, but I only ever use my right shifter -- I think it's the rear derailleur.  I think I need to practice this on flat road and then put it into action on the climbs.

I also have not yet pedaled my road bike standing up... only seated.  I have stood and pedaled in my spinning classes -- just lack the confidence, balance, etc. on the road bike. 

I have a Fuji.. I think it's a Roubaix.
-Jennifer

Confidence through preparation.  -Aaron Rodgers

Offline John Nelson

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2013, 10:21:30 pm »
I might disagree slightly with John's climbing strategy, but it is only in the name of diversity.
Hats off to you paddleboy! I think that's the most diplomatic disagreement I've ever seen. I'm all in favor of diversity.

Offline Pat

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2013, 01:16:04 pm »
Hi Jennifer,

I envy you, starting out with bikes.  My wife and I started out, together, on Mountain Bikes, and graduated to touring.  We are old (I am retired now), and our first bikes were 10 speeds.  It took us a while to get the hang of shifting.

I'm sure you figured it out, but the smaller the front gear, and the larger the rear gear selected, the easier it is to pedal.  If you are like us, and the hill is very steep or very long, it's just a matter of time before we wind up in 1 / 1 (smallest front gear and largest back gear).

A couple of things we found out.  First, we try to keep our cadence in the 80 - 90 range - as was stated earlier, if you are pedaling faster than than, move to a smaller back gear - if you are pedaling slower, move to a bigger back gear.  Second - it takes a long time to shift the front gears, and you cannot pedal hard as you do it - so shift to the small front gear a little before you need to.  And, third, when you are in the smallest front gear, you might want to stick with just the first five gears on the back.

Just go practice on some hills.  Take a friend with you and experiment.  Laugh at each other.  Laugh at yourself.  Have fun.  You will figure it out.

Happy Trails,

Pat

Offline Jennifer109

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2013, 01:50:04 pm »
Pat,

Thanks.  Actually, I should probably disclose that I grew up on bikes.  My dad founded a company called Wheel and Sprocket which grew into an awesome retail bike company in the Midwest.  But then... I got really, really, really fat.  So for a long time I didn't (couldn't) ride.  In the past three years I have worked on my health and brought my weight down and have even done two triathlons in the past two years. 

So... riding across Washington State is my next project.  I'm really excited about it, and also nervous.

I practiced shifting on my ride last night -- I purposely chose a pretty flat path so I could just shift up and down, up and down.  Tonight I am going to try it on some hills.

The cadence is something I have never paid attention to, so I am glad to get that advice!  It will also take some work to get the rhythm and systems of using both gears effectively.

Thanks for your encouraging words!

-Jennifer
« Last Edit: June 08, 2013, 01:58:26 pm by Jennifer109 »
-Jennifer

Confidence through preparation.  -Aaron Rodgers

Offline csykes

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2013, 07:54:33 pm »
Congratulations on your weight loss and fitness quest Jennifer!  I have struggled with weight gain over the years and find that if I keep riding regularly and have a few goals in mind, I am able to stay slimmer and lose several pounds a year (even as a 50+ old guy.) 

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2013, 12:11:26 am »
Jennifer,

I to would like to congratulate you on you weight loss.  Job well done.

I looked up your bike.    You have a short wheelbase, zippy fast road bike (sometimes called a critereium bike).  Fuji specs it two ways,  105 or Tiagra, but both come with a 34/50 front and a 12/28 rear.  These are not climb friendly gear choices, so please don't beat yourself up.  105 and Tiagra are nice groups.

I could not gleam if you are targeting an al day event ride or a tour with panniers or a trailer.  Your Fuji will do fine on a day ride, but it will not be a great bike to tour on.

What are you plans for this bike?
Danno

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2013, 10:38:39 am »
When shifting on climbs, be sure to ease up on the pressure on the pedals momentarily.  You don't want to shift when exerting full pressure.  That's bad on the gear teeth and results in clunky shifting.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline e46rick

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2013, 02:22:36 pm »
Thanks guys; this is all very helpful.

I think I am waiting too long to shift (ie. waiting until it gets pretty hard before downshifting).

Also..  I hate to admit this, but I only ever use my right shifter -- I think it's the rear derailleur.  I think I need to practice this on flat road and then put it into action on the climbs.

I also have not yet pedaled my road bike standing up... only seated.  I have stood and pedaled in my spinning classes -- just lack the confidence, balance, etc. on the road bike. 

I have a Fuji.. I think it's a Roubaix.
You definitely need to get comfortable using the front derailleur as well.  Start by just shifting the front back and forth while riding in a level place without any obstructions - like a quiet parking lot or local street.  Don't worry too much about cadence at this point, just get used to the operation of the front derailleur.  Once you've become more familiar it will much easier to integrate its use in to your rides.

I also like to alternate between sitting and standing while climbing.  The vast majority of the time climbing (80-90%) I will remain seated at moderate cadence, but occasionally standing helps use the muscles differently and stretches the back a bit - not to mention it gives your backside a brief break as well.  Like another poster mentioned, shifting up a gear or two when standing works well for most riders.  Just remember to downshift back to the easier gear again once you sit back down.     
« Last Edit: June 12, 2013, 02:24:35 pm by e46rick »

Offline zzzz

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2013, 10:29:04 pm »
Hi Jennifer:

There's some basic information that I think will help you to know for shifting properly.

How hard or easy a gear is to push is expressed in "gear inches". It is nominally the amount of distance your bike travels per rotation of your pedals/crank so the lower the gear inch number is, the easier it is to pedal.  A previous poster looked up your bike and said it had a 34/50 on the front and a 12-28 cassette on the back.

This is how that calculates in gear inches:

34T Chainring : 32.8" / 35.3" /  38.3" / 41.7" / 45.9" / 51.0" / 57.4" / 65.6" / 70.6" / 76.5"
50T Chainring : 48.2" / 51.9" /  56.3" / 61.4" / 67.5" / 75.0" / 84.4" / 96.4" / 103.8" / 112.5"

This is not something you need to memorize and there will not be a quiz at the end of this post. The important thing to see here is that the gears between 50" and 75"each have a nearly duplicate gear in the bottom and top chainring. Here is why that is good to know:

Lets say you are cruising along on a flat stretch of road in the big chain ring in the front and 4 from the top in the back, you would be in a 61.4" gear. As you look down the road you see you have a significant hill coming up, you know you will eventually need one of your easiest gears to go over it. As soon as the going gets even the slightest bit harder you shift down to the small chainring in the front and simultaneously shift down 3 clicks in the back, now you are in a 57.4" gear. And for the rest of the uphill you will be in the chainring you want to be in and just click it up one cassette ring at a time as needed until you get to the top. Going down is the opposite. You've just gone over the top of the big hill, you've got a mile in front of you at a 8% grade, as soon as you pick up any real momentum, take it out of small chainring and move it to the big one because you know you'll soon be going 30 -35 and you're going to need that 112" gear.

This method, particularly used while going up hill will keep you from ever having to shift between the front chain rings while you're under load. Something you may have noticed you were warned against by several previous posters.

This has already been a long post but a couple more things:

1) the gearing you have on your bike is most likely a little stout for a 400± mile trip carrying gear. You probably want to get a bigger cassette or a triple on the front before your go. And if you want to look up your new gear inch ratio's, here is a link : http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/

2) I don't know how new your bike is and if it has the shifters in the brake levers, but if it doesn't you may want to update it or at least get bar end shifters. As a relative newbie it would be a good idea if you can keep your hands on the handlebars while you shift. I've been riding for a long time and the brake lever shifters are the only improvement in bicycles that I consider really important in the last 40 years.

Congratulations on your new lifestyle and keep at it, you are a inspiration!

Pete








Offline driftlessregion

Re: Need Help With Shifting on Climbs
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2013, 10:27:17 pm »
Jennifer,
Packer fan, Wheel & Sprocket. Hmmm. I'm thinking you're in eastern Wisconsin and don't have much in the way of hills . You'll need to come west to the Driftless Region (e.g., Dane, La  Crosse counties) to find some real hills before you tackle Washington. Few places are more beautiful to ride either. Good luck!