Thanks SO much guys. I can't wait to put this stuff in practice. I love that Coach Levi site; I found some other really good articles, including one about bike handling that I really want to put into practice. I'm not at all as confident on a bike as I used to be.
Since different bikes have different shifting patterns 1st gear, 5th gear, etc are not useful. There are various ways to describe gear ratios. The most common one is "gear inches" If you ever saw an old highweeler or penny farthing bicycle the crank was directly connected to the large front wheel. The way to have a higher gear was to have a larger front wheel. Of course there was a limit to how large a wheel someone could straddle! Since modern bicycles have cogs to change the ratio of crank rotation and wheel rotation we no longer need a large wheel to have a high gear. However, since cyclists historically described their gear by wheel size we still describe a bicycle gear as the size of wheel on a highwheeler in inches that would equal it. For example; if you had a 42 tooth front chainring and a 21 tooth rear cog the wheel would turn twice for every crank revolution, with a standard size wheel (we usually still approximate to a 27" wheel for all sizes of 27" or 700c tires) we would call this a 54" gear. If the cyclist shifted their chain to a 14 tooth rear cog than the rear wheel would turn 3 times for every revolution of the crank most cyclists would call this an 81 inch gear. The simple formula is front chainring in teeth * wheel size in inches / teeth on rear cog. An alternative measurement is gear development or the distance the bicycle travels with one crank revolution. This is used in gear limited bike races because it is easy and straightforward to measure with "roll out" test. There are other less common schemes used to describe bicycle gears including ones that even take crankarm length into consideration. Remember that shifting to a larger front chainring in front produces a higher gear while shifting to a smaller cog in the rear produces a higher gear. You can count the number of teeth on each of your chainrings and cogs in the rear cluster. From this you can make a chart of gears. You will often find that the next closest higher or lower gear would take a double shift (shifting both front and rear deraileurs). In practice few cyclists do this but rather use the front derailleur to make large gear changes and the rear deraileur to fine tune. For most cycling you should stay in a gear you can turn the cranks briskly rather than push a higher gear slowly. Cycling should feel like an aerobic workout rather than like a weight lifting session. Most new cyclists push too large a gear and need to learn to gear down and move their feet faster. Cyclists who turn the cranks quickly are called "spinners" whole those who push a higher gear slowly are called "grinders" or "mashers."
The best way to learn is to climb a hill and play with the gears as you climb, with the idea of finding the most comfortable gear. Do the same going down hill. Eventually, it'll be automatic. Good luck!!
You guys are likely going to laugh at me, but even though I've been riding a bike for most of my life (aside from the last 6 or so) I've never actually properly learned. I have a 15 speed racing bike that was my dad's... it has two levers for shifting gears, but I don't really know what they do, or when I should use them. I've always just... ridden. Hell, I didn't even use a helmet! (No lectures, I know about that. I don't take chances with that anymore.) I figure at 32, it's high time to figure it out. ;)
Does anyone have any patience, or links to some resources, that can help teach me the proper way to do this?
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