1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    Best Practices: Shifting and Gears

    I'm new to mountain biking and am waiting on my LBS to receive and build my Hardrock Disc....anxiously.

    I will be riding on easy to moderate trails on the weekends and then commuting to and from work on weekdays. My commute will be roughly 8-10 miles round trip depending on what train stop I get off at.

    I was wondering if you experienced riders out there can chime in and share your best practices for both types of riding. I know it will be different per rider, but figured this would be good to know.

    When do you use the front gears vs the rear?

    What gear range do you stay in on road vs trail?

    Is it bad to change more than one gear before the chain moves?

    There are probably other "best practices" you can share aside from the questions I've posted, so please share!

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Here you go

    here. Jim

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimC.
    here. Jim
    'nough said....

    +1 for you....thanks!

  4. #4
    I like bacon... (clyde)
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    Awesome article, definitely worth a read.

    Generally, I think that the small chainring (front) should only be used with the "low half" or the 4-5 biggest cogs on the cassette (rear). The big chainring should only be used with the "high half" or the 4-5 smallest cogs on the cassette. The middle chainring can be used with every cog on the cassette except the highest and lowest 1 or 2. By doing this, you get access to all the gears possible on the bike while minimizing component wear. The straighter your chain is front to back, the better (in terms of wear and efficiency). This is just my opinion, but I think it is a good place to start.

    As for road vs off-road gearing, see the section about cadence in Sheldon's article. You basically want to be in a high enough gear to maintain your speed, but not so high that it is hard to pedal.

    Shifting more than one gear at once is okay as long as you don't have much pressure on the pedals.

    After you have been riding for a while, you will learn what works best for you and what doesn't through trial and error.
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  5. #5
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    good read indeed.... i try ot take into mind the terrain at hand which really helps me select my chainrain.... If I'm in some flowy sections that has more climbing then descending then i generally use the middle ring... if im climbing or handling technical sections the lower is great.... for the downhills, itll always try nad be on the outer ring as much as possible... the only problem ive had so far is ill get slap on a quick descent to a uphill section, but that what chain guards are made for...
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  6. #6
    offroader
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    Believe it or not, riding single speed will teach you how to ride gears better.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by CupOfJava
    Believe it or not, riding single speed will teach you how to ride gears better.
    oh please enlighten me with your reasoning... sorry, i just wiatched the new star trek...
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  8. #8
    offroader
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    Quote Originally Posted by belowambient
    oh please enlighten me with your reasoning... sorry, i just wiatched the new star trek...
    Once you ride single speed you learn to stay in your "comfort" gear. I usually switch between a 32x20 and 32x17 for most rides. When you ride SS you understand your optimal gear ratio better, for a newbie, all those extra gears can be a bit overwhelming.

    http://www.mtnbikeriders.com/2009/03...eed-bandwagon/
    Last edited by CupOfJava; 05-12-2009 at 01:27 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CupOfJava
    Once you ride single speed you learn to stay in your "comfort" gear. I usually switch between a 32x20 and 32x17 for most rides. When you ride SS you understand your optimal gear ratio better, for a newbie, all those extra gears can be a bit overwhelming.

    http://www.mtnbikeriders.com/2009/03...eed-bandwagon/
    My browser threw up a malware error on your link
    :wq

  10. #10
    crash test dummy
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    Here's some basic shifting advice:

    1. Look ahead on the trail / road / whatever. This is really the first mistake people make with shifting. They're surprised by every hill, and shift while ON the hill, rather than before it.

    2. Spin lightly while the chain is in the process of shifting. That horrible CRACK CRUNCH occurs if you apply too much pressure to the drivetrain while shifting. If you've already started up an incline, give a couple solid, hard pedal strokes to build momentum, then simultaneously pedal lightly and shift quickly. Resume hammering as soon as your desired gear has engaged. I hate loaning my bike to novices because they ALWAYS shift under load - see point #1.

    3. On technical inclines, really low gears can be a detriment. You can't build enough speed to get over obstacles. Some suspension designs will push back on the pedals if you hit an obstacle in a very low gear (called pedal kickback) - my older Blur does this. Low gears have A LOT of torque, which is a bad thing if traction is low. Too much torque on slippery surfaces can cause the rear wheel to spin - this is particularly true on wet roots. On hardtails in particular, you are better off standing and hammering a hard gear up a technical hill. Suck it up and pedal! A caveat: some of the newer suspension designs (e.g. DW link) actually work better if you sit and spin an easy gear.

    4. On rough downhills I usually keep my chain in the middle ring (front). This is to keep some minimum chain tension as it bounces around on the rough descent, which keeps the chain from falling off to the inside of the crank.

    5. On rolling, technical trails I often use the small ring in front and the biggest four cogs in back (easiest 4 gears). This is so I can keep my pedaling cadence up and allow my legs to stay fresh for any hard pushes up steeper hills.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by simian23
    Here's some basic shifting advice:

    1. Look ahead on the trail / road / whatever. This is really the first mistake people make with shifting. They're surprised by every hill, and shift while ON the hill, rather than before it.

    2. Spin lightly while the chain is in the process of shifting. That horrible CRACK CRUNCH occurs if you apply too much pressure to the drivetrain while shifting. If you've already started up an incline, give a couple solid, hard pedal strokes to build momentum, then simultaneously pedal lightly and shift quickly. Resume hammering as soon as your desired gear has engaged. I hate loaning my bike to novices because they ALWAYS shift under load - see point #1.

    to #2,,,
    I let my friend use my bike that I had just finished tuning it up. Through the whole ride all I heard was just that, "CRACK CRUNCH" whenever he was shifting. I didn't want to say anything to him because I didn't want to discourage him. So after I got my bike back, whenever I pedal , it's making some weird noises. What could it possible be? My bike ghost shifts all the time meaning that it will shift a gear way later than after I shift into it. It never used to do that until my friend used it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by simian23
    Here's some basic shifting advice:

    1. Look ahead on the trail / road / whatever. This is really the first mistake people make with shifting. They're surprised by every hill, and shift while ON the hill, rather than before it.
    When I ride with new riders, I'm constantly yelling "SHIFT EARLY, SHIFT OFTEN!!" to keep them shifting before the hills and not on the darn things lol
    :wq

  13. #13
    I like bacon... (clyde)
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    Quote Originally Posted by outlaws
    to #2,,,
    I let my friend use my bike that I had just finished tuning it up. Through the whole ride all I heard was just that, "CRACK CRUNCH" whenever he was shifting. I didn't want to say anything to him because I didn't want to discourage him. So after I got my bike back, whenever I pedal , it's making some weird noises. What could it possible be? My bike ghost shifts all the time meaning that it will shift a gear way later than after I shift into it. It never used to do that until my friend used it.
    That really sucks. I bet you wish you would have said something to your friend on the first bad shift now...

    Could it be a stretched shifter cable? Damaged chain or pulley bushings?
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  14. #14
    Let the good times roll.
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    Quote Originally Posted by outlaws
    to #2,,,
    I let my friend use my bike that I had just finished tuning it up. Through the whole ride all I heard was just that, "CRACK CRUNCH" whenever he was shifting. I didn't want to say anything to him because I didn't want to discourage him. So after I got my bike back, whenever I pedal , it's making some weird noises. What could it possible be? My bike ghost shifts all the time meaning that it will shift a gear way later than after I shift into it. It never used to do that until my friend used it.
    A few consequences of bad shifting come to mind.

    Bent chainrings: Spin the cranks, and check if the chainrings are straight. If not, consider replacing them before you experience chain suck.
    Frozen chain links: Make sure every link on the chain moves freely. If not, loosen bad link with chain tool or replace with a SRAM powerlink
    Bent casette cogs: Same idea as chainrings, but hard to spot.

    Or it may be a coincidence and you just need to adjust derailleur tension.


    The easiest way to check for drivetrain problems is to spin the cranks (best to use a bike stand or maybe call your friend back over to hold the bike up ) while shifting gears and looking closely for anything abnormal. At the very least, that should help you pinpoint what part of the drivetrain is causing problems.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by simian23
    Here's some basic shifting advice:

    1. Look ahead on the trail / road / whatever. This is really the first mistake people make with shifting. They're surprised by every hill, and shift while ON the hill, rather than before it.

    2. Spin lightly while the chain is in the process of shifting. That horrible CRACK CRUNCH occurs if you apply too much pressure to the drivetrain while shifting. If you've already started up an incline, give a couple solid, hard pedal strokes to build momentum, then simultaneously pedal lightly and shift quickly. Resume hammering as soon as your desired gear has engaged. I hate loaning my bike to novices because they ALWAYS shift under load - see point #1.

    3. On technical inclines, really low gears can be a detriment. You can't build enough speed to get over obstacles. Some suspension designs will push back on the pedals if you hit an obstacle in a very low gear (called pedal kickback) - my older Blur does this. Low gears have A LOT of torque, which is a bad thing if traction is low. Too much torque on slippery surfaces can cause the rear wheel to spin - this is particularly true on wet roots. On hardtails in particular, you are better off standing and hammering a hard gear up a technical hill. Suck it up and pedal! A caveat: some of the newer suspension designs (e.g. DW link) actually work better if you sit and spin an easy gear.

    4. On rough downhills I usually keep my chain in the middle ring (front). This is to keep some minimum chain tension as it bounces around on the rough descent, which keeps the chain from falling off to the inside of the crank.

    5. On rolling, technical trails I often use the small ring in front and the biggest four cogs in back (easiest 4 gears). This is so I can keep my pedaling cadence up and allow my legs to stay fresh for any hard pushes up steeper hills.
    This is all good advice and pretty much exactly what I was going to say.

  16. #16
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    Got my bike today, so going to put all this to practical use...or at least try to.

    Much appreciated everyone.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnoob712
    I'm new to mountain biking and am waiting on my LBS to receive and build my Hardrock Disc....anxiously.

    I will be riding on easy to moderate trails on the weekends and then commuting to and from work on weekdays. My commute will be roughly 8-10 miles round trip depending on what train stop I get off at.

    I was wondering if you experienced riders out there can chime in and share your best practices for both types of riding. I know it will be different per rider, but figured this would be good to know.

    When do you use the front gears vs the rear?

    What gear range do you stay in on road vs trail?

    Is it bad to change more than one gear before the chain moves?

    There are probably other "best practices" you can share aside from the questions I've posted, so please share!

    Thanks
    As a general practice, when riding on the trail, I always stay in the middle ring as my default ring, unless I need to go lower or higher than it allows. In other words, I only use the lowest (largest) 2 or 3 cogs in the rear in the small ring, and the few largest of the big ring. Actually, it has been years sinse I had a big ring on the MTB, but when I did, it only saw use when I spun out in the middle ring which only happens to me on the road.

    On most rear derailleurs it is ok to shift several gears at a time, just heed the advise of easing up on the pedal stroke as you do it. The limiting factor for me as to how many gears I can shift at once is how long I can ease up on the pedal stroke for. If I am just coasting I can shift all 9 gears in one shot up or down. Usually the derailleur won't move beyond a few cog positions until the chain starts moving, so beyond about 3 gears, you are kind of shifting as the chain is catching up to the derailleur position.

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