Most modern road bikes have between 20
and 22 gears, and changing gear can be as
intuitive as pedaling, but are you doing
it right? Welcome to GCN’s How To Change
Gear Like a Pro.
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To a large extent, how fast you pedal, or
your cadence, is self-selected.
There is an optimum range, however, of
between 70 to 100 revolutions per minute.
Gear changes should be made to keep
yourself in this range, whilst maintaining
your desired effort level. There is no way
of telling what gear should be used in a
given situation, as it depends on a
rider’s personal ability, but if you can
keep your cadence in this region,
you know you are doing okay.
For most riders, a compact chain set at
the front is a good idea,
with a 50- and 34-tooth chain ring, and an
11-to-25 cassette. This gives you a nice
low gear for steep climbs, but a top gear
that is the equivalent of 53/12.
Now, one of the things you shouldn’t
do is change gear under load.
Creates a lot of hassle. The ideal thing
to do is select the gear nice and early,
especially on a steep climb, as we are
now. Now, Tom’s going to get the gear
wrong, and I’m going to get the
gear right by selecting it early.
Here’s how to do it.
I’m in the gear now, spinning quite
nicely. There’s quite a steep hairpin
here. Now, I’m not going to change gear
under load, I’ve selected the gear
already, I can just cruise around this
corner nice and easy. When Tom changes
gear, already got a bit of a gear
crunch, and I’ve left him behind.
Again, it’s all about selecting the gear
nice and early and thinking ahead.
Avoid extremes on the cassette.
Now, when choosing your gears,
you should avoid using the smallest chain
ring and sprocket at the same time,
and conversely, the big chain ring
and big sprocket. It can be done,
but it puts the chain and the
derailleur under a lot of stress,
so for the health and longevity
of you gears, avoid it.
Another thing you need to get right,
especially in a race situation,
is changing from the big ring onto the
little ring basically on a very, very
quick approach to a steep climb. A
good example would be in the Tour of
Flanders when they’re riding at 50, 60
kilometers an hour before the Mur
de Grammont timing is essential. You don’t
want to get caught out on the big ring on
the steepest part of the climb. So get it
early, in the middle of the block,
from big ring to little ring efficiently,
and you’re on the climb,
full acceleration, and you’re away.
Keep your gears clean. Now, one of the
best things you can do for your gears,
and probably the most pro, is to keep them
clean. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to
get a toothbrush out after every single
ride and scrub, but buy some degreaser and
use it every time any black residue builds
up. It looks pro to have shiny gears,
and best of all, it makes them work much
better and also last a lot longer.
Big rings are cool up to a point. While
we’re talking about being pro,
yes, it’s cool to be on your big ring, but
pros also use really small gears to save
their legs. If you’re the kind of person
that likes to grind their big ring all
day, have a think about using your little
ring, and actually looking pro.
The limit screws are normally there just
to stop the chain dropping off the end of
the cassette and getting wedged into the
frame or between the cassette and the
spokes. But there’s also sufficient
adjustment to force the mech up a couple