How to Shift Gears Like a Pro

A transition to a steep climb will likely require a shift to the small chain ring. Shifting too early will leave you spinning out in too small a gear. Before you shift, wait until your cadence slows enough so that a switch to the small chain ring won't result in a dramatic change in cadence. Experience will provide the best lesson, but use your target cadence as a guide.

Making the Shift

One common shifting mistake cyclists make is to skip a gear or throw a chain by placing too much pedal pressure on the drivetrain. True, the latest electronic derailleur systems are designed with the ability to shift even while standing on the pedals during a climb. But the fact remains, the chain must still move to another cog of a different size.

During this transition, the chain and the cog teeth don't have complete engagement. Too much force on the chain can cause a jumped chain or worse, a bent or broken tooth. If possible, ease-up on your pedal pressure as you actuate the shift lever while pedaling lightly. Your shifts will occur quicker and smoother with only light pressure on the pedals.

More: How to Make Bike Shifting Work for You

Unless you're using one of the new electronic shifting systems, your hand provides the mechanical force to shift the chain. Don't be afraid to move the shift lever confidently into the upper positions. A timid shifting motion can cause an incomplete engagement of the shift lever mechanism and lead to the chain failing to engage the next cog or chainring.

Use full-motion movements with the shift lever. If you apply too much movement, the worst that can happen is that you shift an extra gear. Pay attention to what movement works best with your equipment. While different manufacturers utilize different levers and techniques to achieve the same results, they are mechanical systems designed with a specific motion in mind.

The Front Derailleur

Most manual front derailleurs employ a micro adjustment ability that's actuated by moving the lever slightly farther after a shift. This is designed to alleviate the chain rub that may occur on the front derailleur when accessing the outer most gears on the rear cassette.

More: What is the Future of Electronic Shifting?

It works by extending the derailleur a little further away from the front chain ring. If your derailleur stops are not properly adjusted, this action can throw you chain off the large or small chain ring. If this happens, your derailleur will need readjustment to the manufacturers specifications.

Lastly, by maintaining a clean drivetrain, your derailleurs will function better and transfer more power directly to the wheel. A dirty chain or gummed-up jockey pulleys on the rear derailleur may cause sluggish or incomplete shifts. If your drivetrain is clean but your shifting is still erratic, check to see that your chain is not worn out. An inexpensive chain wear gauge is well worth the investment. If you keep a clean drivetrain, you may need to replace your chain once a season.

A clean and well-tuned derailleur system will provide many hours of efficient shifting and with practice, it might even win you that next race!

More: 3 Drills to Improve Cycling Efficiency and Pedal Cadence

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