How To Master Shift­ing

Bicycling (South Africa) - - Inside -

SShift­ing is a lot like ski­ing: it’s easy to learn, but dif­fi­cult to master. If you’re new to cy­cling, the con­cept of shift­ing gears can be crazy con­fus­ing. If you’re an old pro, it’s an in­tu­itive part of the sport that’s as sim­ple as it is nec­es­sary. But no mat­ter where you fall on the shift­ing spec­trum, pay­ing closer at­ten­tion to this un­der­rated skill can re­sult in im­prove­ments as sim­ple as a more ef­fort­less spin, or some­thing as mon­u­men­tal as a racewin­ning move.

The Eas­i­est Way to Im­prove: Know When to Shift

Aside from learn­ing how to shift, un­der­stand­ing when to shift is most im­por­tant. Shift to an eas­ier gear on hills or when you’re rid­ing into the wind. Use a harder gear on flats or if the wind is blow­ing from be­hind (a tail­wind). When in doubt, shift be­fore the ter­rain changes, es­pe­cially when ap­proach­ing hills. Don’t wait un­til you feel the in­cline kick in be­fore you shift to an eas­ier gear. When you do shift, keep ped­alling, but ease up slightly on the ped­als – if you’re push­ing too hard, or if you stop ped­alling com­pletely, the chain may skip or fall off.

When you’re just get­ting com­fort­able on a bike, prac­tise shift­ing us­ing the small or mid­dle chain­ring in the front, and the mid­dle rear cogs in the back. If you’re not sure what gear you’re in, look down to the crank and cas­sette to check. When do­ing so, look out for cross-chain­ing, which hap­pens when the chain is at an ex­treme slant – ei­ther in the big ring up front and the big­gest cog at the back, or in the small ring up front and the small­est cog at the back. On some bikes, you’ll hear a click­ing noise when you’re cross-chain­ing.

The In­ter­me­di­ate In­vest­ment: Clean and Check Your Chain

Few tools can re­place reg­u­lar proper main­te­nance on your bike, but there are some af­ford­able es­sen­tials that can help you care for and ex­tend the life of your equip­ment.

While there are sev­eral schools of thought on the best way to clean a bike, it’s hard to ar­gue against the ef­fec­tive­ness of warm soapy wa­ter and clean­ing brushes. Hose your bike down, scrub the cas­sette and chain with a soapy brush, and rinse. Once your bike is dry, and you’ve lubed the chain, it’s time to see if there’s still life in it, us­ing a chain checker.

A chain checker, in its sim­plest form, is a tool that can be linked atop your chain to mea­sure the per­cent­age of wear. De­pend­ing on the num­ber of gears your bike has,

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