If you could ultimately lower your heart rate while adding a higher sustained power output—causing you to become more efficient on the bike—would it not be possible to successfully get closer to the podium?
By maximizing your shifting from constantly adjusting levels of subtlety, your muscles can pick up momentum more quickly—while avoiding that horrible bogging effect of overload.
Just think about it: Our bodies are really pretty puny. In measuring human energy, we use watts, a tiny quantifiable value compared to, say, horsepower. Using our own level of "forcepower," our bodies can light up a small row of light bulbs for a relatively short period of time.
For this reason, we need to make the process of riding a bike as efficient as possible. Effective use of gears and a greater understanding of the limitations of our own physical packaging is the most logical means of making that process work for us.
Improvements start with acquired awareness, and follow with action. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but let's review:
Why Proper Shifting Is Important
Measuring revolutions per minute (rpm) is the standard method of determining the cadence of the legs. I encourage my training clients to pin down their most effective pedal turnover rate based on a number of constantly changing variables.
Those numbers are further enhanced when the bicycle industry brings us new toys to play with. Even though I love the simplicity of old school equipment, let's face it: Every mechanical advantage has the potential of making us better riders.
On the awareness side, consider that our individual turnover rate is based on all of the nuances of grade, load, wind direction and--let's not forget--effective training. The type of cycling that you are engaging in must be factored.