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Thread: Gear Selection?

  1. #1
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    Gear Selection?

    I decided to post my question here instead of the "Beginner's Corner" because I'm a Clyde. 5' 11", 285lbs....I'm trying to get back into shape and thought mountain biking would be perfect because I loved riding my bike back in the high school days and mountain biking looks like a blast....Anyhow, I'm just riding the neighborhood to get my legs and lungs back into shape so I can better hit the trails but half of my ride anywhere in my neighborhood is uphill. I wanted to see if I can get some advice as to what gears I should stay in to help make my ride a little easier. I always seems to be shifting gears because there are lots of transitions from uphill to downhill and visa versa. There is not much flat riding. Most of the uphill grade is moderate but it's very difficult to me due to my current biking fitness level. I've tried staying in the middle gears but always seems to be to low of a gear when a hill levels out and too high of a gear when starting up hills.

    I know I'm being a wuss but, I feel like I'm going to die by the end of a 30 min ride. Any advice or links to other threads regarding gear shifting would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance.

  2. #2
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    It may be frustrating, but the hills you're riding up and down right now on pavement are providing you with good shifting experience that you'll need on the trails. You'll learn how to anticipate shifts, what gear you need for a particular slope, and how to shift cleanly and smoothly.

    As you're no doubt learning, the hills are also a great workout, giving you a good form of interval training (periods of high intensity followed by lower intensity recovery periods). Painful, but good for rapidly increasing your cardio endurance.

    As far as trying to make sure you're always in the right gear, here's my 2 cents. Unless I'm sprinting, I usually try to be in a gear where I'm spinning a little bit (i.e., I feel like I could shift up to a harder gear if I needed to). This approach takes some stress off of your knees, allows you to accelerate rapidly at will, and is generally less tiring, especially on inclines.

    You also want to anticipate the change in slope with your shifting. You want to preserve your momentum and maintain a fairly constant pedaling cadence. Changing gears is not instantaneous and is easier if the drive train isn't already under a lot of pressure. If you're transitioning into a steep hill, down shift just before you start up it. If you don't shift until you start slowing down, you've lost your momentum and you'll also have trouble changing gears under your added pdaling pressure.

    If coming up on a steep hill, it's often easier to first shift down to a smaller chain ring (downshift with your left shifter) than to shift down to an easier cog a bunch of times (downshifting with your right shifter). Make rapid, larger shift changes with your left shifter and then fine tune with your right shifter. This becomes automatic as you get the hang of it, but everyone mis-shifts now and then.

  3. #3
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    I started at just barely a Clyde

    With some hills I could not get up on my ride home from work 5.5 km.

    I selected granny slowed down and got set. Then slowly and painfully started to ride up the hill. I took my 2 weeks to finally make the top. I actually saw stars. I then worked slowly at getting better.

    Now 10 months later I go fast in middle chain ring and I can get halfway up then down not to granny.

    My point is work at it slow and seady seeing stars doesn't really help. Day to day you will get better.

  4. #4
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    well you start off good by asking I had to learn the stuff the hard way I am 6'2" and 300lb. you get what you pay for but we do not need the weith wennie stuff that cost a fortune.
    the thing to be concerned with is the stem, crank, seat, seat post. and suspension. this is waht take the abuse. look at fsa altas crank, thomson stem and seatpost and brooks seat. the rest is how much realibity you want because the better the stuff is machined the more it cost but the bette it preforms.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by btanner
    well you start off good by asking I had to learn the stuff the hard way I am 6'2" and 300lb. you get what you pay for but we do not need the weith wennie stuff that cost a fortune.
    the thing to be concerned with is the stem, crank, seat, seat post. and suspension. this is waht take the abuse. look at fsa altas crank, thomson stem and seatpost and brooks seat. the rest is how much realibity you want because the better the stuff is machined the more it cost but the bette it preforms.
    Did you even read the original post? Step away from the crackpipe and the keyboard before you hurt yourself...

  6. #6
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    My philosophy is pick whatever gear feels best to you. If you are shifting a lot, then you are using your gears for what they are there for. Just try to remember what gear you tackled that hill in last time, then when you go for it again try to make it in one gear harder. There is a fire-road kind of ride that is outside my house that I ride frequently. The first time I rode that ride I was pegged in the Granny Gear (easiest) almost the entire ride other then the downhills. Now I ride the ride in the middle chainring on the front and some of it in the biggest. It's just a matter of getting stronger. So ride what feels good to you. In my opinion this is a personal prefference kind of question. BTW: Whomever said that those hills are helping you learn how to shift made a really good point!

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the advice and encouragement

    Well, I guess it's pretty much as I feared....I just need to get back on, ride, experiment and get back into shape. I will be doing just that this weekend and try to mix in a few rides during the week.

  8. #8
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    If it is as hard for you as it was for me to get back into the saddle have your wife hide the car battery.
    gear to look at as you learn is fsa altas crank (life life time warranty), sram x9 shifter, deraieurs, the best custom wheels you can have bulit, stay away from shimano hub if you don't want to worry about maintance, avid hydralic brakes, thomson stem and seat post, yeti lock on grips, brooks leather saddle.
    these are the top of the line for big guys in the way of gear. Look at peter white cycling for wheels when that becomes a issue.

  9. #9
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    Gear selection is easy...

    When you don't have to think about it while you're riding.

    Get rid of the derailleur and shifters.

    Depending on where you're riding, a 2:1 ratio is a good place to start. I like my 34/17 set-up on the less demanding stuff.

    For more rigorous rides, I swap the front ring for a 31 which is more like 1.82:1.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for asking this question, I just got a bike myself and I'm riding to get back into shape as well. 6' and 275.

    Around my neighborhood we have a loop I ride that is about 1/2 a mile. Half of the ride is a small incline and I still find myself shifting down to make things easier, because of my fitness level. My goal for a while is to ride 5 to 10 miles a day and I also use an elliptical machine about 30 minutes per day as well.

    Thanks for the question and the reponses, it definitely helped me out as well.

  11. #11
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    Honestly, there is no "best gear". If you pedal in a really low gear, you will work out your heart/lungs, but give your legs a break. If you pedal in a higher gear, you work your legs, and give your cardio a rest. But, both need work (in everyone, not just you) so it's a good idea to switch it up.

    I'm still very much a clyde (240 lbs) but I'm a life-long hockey player, so my legs are pretty strong. I tend to use that to my advantage and pedal in a higher gear than normal. But, I need to work my cardio, so I force myself to gear down from time to time.

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