How To Master Shifting
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,