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Using your bike gears

One problem that many new riders encounter is understanding the correct usage of their gears to get the best performance out of the bike, and themselves.

 

Ultimately, we want to go as fast as we can for the least amount of input – so we can feel relatively fresh when we hit the run leg in a triathlon.

If we cycle in too ‘heavy’ a gear – we burn thigh power and the run will be hard.

 

If we cycle in too ‘light’ a gear, our legs will spin frantically for very little forward sped – thus we lose time on the bike course.

 

Below is a quick diagram below to help you try and visualize this:

  • You have a total of 20 gears on your bike.
  • 10 cogs at the back (rear Cassette)
  • 2 cogs at the front (Chain ring)

 

The diagram shows that moving from the ‘Small chain ring’ to the ‘Large change ring’ (or visa-versa) is tantamount to a change of 10 gears in one go.

 

Hence we want to change the chain ring as little as often.

 

Rule of thumb:

  • Small Chain ring for up hills
  • Large Chain ring for flats and down hills.

  

Example 1 – Flat Road Riding into Hill Climbing

Large Chain Ring and 4 on rear cassette – This equals 14th gear.

Result: Legs are spinning nicely = minimal effort/good speed ratio for flat ride.

 

If you start to go up a steep hill you will suddenly feel this ratio become ‘heavy’ to pedal.

Action: Change from the large chain ring to the small chain ring – This moves you quickly from 14th to 4th gear.

Result: Legs are spinning nicely = reduced effort/good speed ratio for hill climb.
 

 

Example 2 – Hill Climbing to Flat Road riding (or down hill)

Small Chain Ring and 4 on rear cassette – This equals 4th gear (you may go to 1st gear if the hill is steep).

Result: Legs are spinning nicely = reduced effort/good speed ratio for hill climb.

 

As the hill crests, you know you will need to move from your low gear (4th) to a higher gear.

Action: Change from the Small chain ring to the Large chain ring – This moves you quickly from 4th to 14th gear.

Result: Legs are spinning nicely = minimal effort/good speed ratio for flat ride.

 

If you start going down hill, you can change the rear cassette from cog 4 to (eg) cog 8 – effectively moving you from 14th to 18th gear.

 

Summary

So remember, moving from Small to Large chain ring is like adding or subtracting 10 gears in one go – this is a big move in pedalling ratio.

 

Hence, we try to leave this chain ring gear alone (unless transitioning from Flat to Hill) - and use the closer ratio gears on the rear cassette to optimally manage the best effort riding, for both our own personal leg strength and the undulating terrain of the road.

 
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