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Noob Gear Question

Old 12-22-19, 10:47 AM
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Metallifan33
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Noob Gear Question

I just started riding my bike and from researching before buying, I read that you don't want to have the extreme opposite gear selected between the front and rear (e.g. biggest gear on the back and the biggest in the front). This to reduce the amount of lateral stress on the chain.
My question, is how do you keep track of what gear you're in on a ride? I looked down yesterday on a climb and noticed that I was in the easiest gear in the back and the hardest in the front. I then shifted the front gear and the expected happened... which brings up my second question: When shifting the front gear, do you place the back gear in more of a middle gear so the change is not so drastic?
Thanks for your responses (sorry for any terminology awkwardness)
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Old 12-22-19, 11:03 AM
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Cross- chaining is not really an issue with 10-11 speed as the chain is thinner & more flexible. Not ideal, but nothing bad happens. Other passionate opinions are held.

If you see a hill coming, make the front shift before getting to where there's a lot of force on the pedals.

I try to make front shifts while the back is somewhere in the middle of the cassette, but more important is to shift gently, with light pressure on the

pedals, and moderate speed turning them.

You get a feel for the gear is after a while, but looking down is sometimes needed (don't run in to anything!).
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Old 12-22-19, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
Cross- chaining is not really an issue with 10-11 speed as the chain is thinner & more flexible. Not ideal, but nothing bad happens. Other passionate opinions are held.

If you see a hill coming, make the front shift before getting to where there's a lot of force on the pedals.

I try to make front shifts while the back is somewhere in the middle of the cassette, but more important is to shift gently, with light pressure on the pedals,

and moderate speed turning them.

You get a feel for the gear is after a while, but looking down is sometimes needed (don't run in to anything!).
Thanks! Yeah... that was the other thing I noticed... the front gear shifts very differently.
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Old 12-22-19, 11:12 AM
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Like Woodcraft suggested, you want to momentarily pause on the pedal pressure when shifting for a smoother shift. You'll get a feel for it after a while so that you don't lose momentum (or much, anyway). If the stops are adjusted correctly on your gears, using the extreme gears puts more strain on your chain, but it shouldn't jump over the outside sprocket, up shifting or down shifting. Some people disagree, but I say use the gears if you need them, that's why you have them and don't give cross chaining anymore thought. Enjoy the ride!
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Old 12-22-19, 11:21 AM
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The thing to keep in mind is that shifting the front puts you in either a high range or low range, and those ranges overlap. If you’re in the big-big, there’s an equivalent gear in the lower range that has a better chainline and access to even lower gears.
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Old 12-22-19, 11:35 AM
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Aside from any potential negative mechanical effects of cross-chaining, my main reason to avoid that combination is you're out of gears to move up or down to (without also shifting in the front). You'll get the feel for it over time (took me a couple dozen rides), and it's really not the end of the world when it happens. Look down at your gears if you're comfortable and safely able to do so, but otherwise in time you'll figure it out!
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Old 12-22-19, 11:50 AM
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We often call it cross chaining. It's better if you avoid it, but I don't have a hard and fast rule for myself. I might shift into one of the cross-chaining combos, especially the one we call big-big. If it's the right ratio for the moment, I'll ride it, but I'll move out of it soon enough.

You can practice looking down at the chain on your cassette to keep track of what gear you're in. But it's not essential to do this, especially when traffic and maneuvering are tricky.

It should not be necessary to shift in the back to prepare for a front shift. Shift the front slowly and gently. It's a big difference in gear sizes, so it's a tougher job for the derailleur to do.
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Old 12-22-19, 12:55 PM
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If I need to keep track I look down.
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Old 12-22-19, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Metallifan33 View Post
I just started riding my bike and from researching before buying, I read that you don't want to have the extreme opposite gear selected between the front and rear (e.g. biggest gear on the back and the biggest in the front). This to reduce the amount of lateral stress on the chain.
My question, is how do you keep track of what gear you're in on a ride? I looked down yesterday on a climb and noticed that I was in the easiest gear in the back and the hardest in the front. I then shifted the front gear and the expected happened... which brings up my second question: When shifting the front gear, do you place the back gear in more of a middle gear so the change is not so drastic?
Thanks for your responses (sorry for any terminology awkwardness)
You will have to purposely develop the habit to keep from cross chaining. With modern 10+ speed chains It really doesn't hurt anything but it can put you in a position of having to double shift rather than single shift on the rear derailleur. This means that you also have to develop the habit of shifting down in the front rather early while you're still in the lower rear cogs which are usually minimal steps apart.
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Old 12-22-19, 03:48 PM
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When I install a new chain I'm careful to cut it just long enough to enable cross-chaining the big chainring and biggest rear cog. That way the derailleur won't be torn off the frame and cause a disaster if I inadvertently shift into that worst case scenario combo.

And it can happen even to the most cautious of us.

The first time I cross-chained to the big chainring and big cog after installing a new chain a few months ago was on a fast group ride. Part of that ride transitions from a fast downhill to an immediate steep climb.

You do not want to be looking down at your drivetrain while drafting someone on a fast group ride, especially if the route includes city streets or residential neighborhoods where cars, kids or pets can dart out unexpectedly.

Sure 'nuff, instead of shifting from the big to small chainring, I shifted the rear derailleur down until I felt the sweet spot for spinning. At the top of the climb we regrouped and I noticed I was in the big/big combo. No problems, other than being inefficient (more drivetrain drag) and noisy, which I couldn't hear over the wind noise.
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Old 12-26-19, 04:59 PM
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I have found when I go from the big ring to the smaller ring up front, I automatically shift the rear 3 gears. That puts me in almost the same cadence . Do vice versa, from small to big ring, I shift down 3 gears and cadence is close . I try to remember to shift before I hit the grades to make things easier on the "old" legs.
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Old 12-26-19, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Baldy1953 View Post
I have found when I go from the big ring to the smaller ring up front, I automatically shift the rear 3 gears. That puts me in almost the same cadence . Do vice versa, from small to big ring, I shift down 3 gears and cadence is close . I try to remember to shift before I hit the grades to make things easier on the "old" legs.
Thanks... this is good information; I was actually wondering this on my ride today when I noticed I was in the last gear, but I didn't want to experiment on the road
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Old 12-26-19, 05:31 PM
  #13  
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There is a specific shifting pattern that depends on the difference between the chain rings and the spacing between the sprockets. If you've got a 16T difference in the front, and you come upon a hill, you'll want to shift to the little chain ring and and then 1 to 3 shifts toward smaller sprockets. If you just shift to the little chain ring, you'll get a big reduction in the effort required to spin the pedals. Shifting to smaller sprockets reduces that effect, but how much to shift also depends on the difference between the sprockets. Some 11-34 shimano cassettes have are spaced 11-13-15-17-19.... My Campy 12 speed 11-34 cassette is spaced 11-12-13-14-15-16-17...., so I'm much more likely to shift two sprockets smaller and only make another shift, if needed. I nearly always expect to make a double shift, unless I come upon a very fast change in the slope of the road. Then I might be able to only shift to the little ring and keep on pedaling.

Last edited by DaveSSS; 12-27-19 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 12-26-19, 06:11 PM
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Look at your front derailleur (left hand) as "groupings". On flat(ish) surfaces, you should be able to start in the middle (2) of a triple. I have never ridden a double, up front, so can't say. So, for me on my triple front, 9 speed rear:

Spend most of my time in the middle front (2). Start in 6, as that is my "easy, but not too easy" flat surface move out gear. Quickly shift to 7 for flat running. If hitting the downhills, shift to 3 (large chain) up front and gradually to 8, then 9, as the downhill steepens. For gradual uphills, I downshift to 2 in front, then 6-5-4-3 in rear as needed. I might even shift down to 2, as experience (and advice here) have proven that the chain and derailleurs can handle it.

Coming up stonger hills is mildly more involved: My general tendency is to drop two gears, in the rear (making pedalling easier) to keep momentum (though one at a time is perfectly fine). Depending on how these old legs feel, I might not hit the granny (small) in front. As others have said, keep your eyes on traffic AND the lay of the land: much easier to start shifting BEFORE you start to grind... saves the knees and muscles

So, for my commute: (front derailleur/rear derailleur) 2/6 from dead start, a few strokes to speed and 2/7. Down the lane to short downhill (no shift needed) approaching steep, short, uphill. Quick sequence, approaching uphill: 2/-6-5-4, then down to the granny (1) up front, and 1/3-2-1 as I hit the steep part. Cresting onto a gradually uphill parking lot, 1/2-3-4 and 1/3-2-1 as it steepens, another crest and 1/2-3-4, front shift 2/4-5-6 to flat running again.

First substantial hill (noting that real hill warriors would laugh): 2/6-7 starting down, upshift front 3/7-8-9 achieving max speed for the upslope, and 3/7-5 downshift front 2/5-4-3 as necessary to make the top. Most everything else is variations of the above. My daily commute is just 5 miles/8 km one way and does involve rolling hills at stretches.

Some of the fantastic people here understand gears far better than I, and major thanks to the one that got my understanding by putting the math into a feet/revolution formula: ((front teeth/rear teeth x tire size in inches) x 3.14) /12

So, for my current setup: 1/2/3 front gears of 22/32/42 gear teeth; and 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 rear gears of 34-30-26-23-20-17-15-13-11 gear teeth.
From hardest to easiest pedalling
3/9 26ft
3/8 22ft
3/7 19ft
3/6 17ft
3/5 14 ft
2/7 14.5ft
2/6 13ft
2/5 11ft
2/4 9.5ft
2/3 8.5ft
2/2 7.3ft
1/4 6.5ft
1/3 5.75ft
1/2 5ft
1/1 4.4ft

So, you can see where the shifting usually will occur, in the overlaps. On the ground, I tend to shift the front (up or down) when the rear is in 7th gear, or 4-3. So a normal progression for me would be 1/1-2-3-4 SHIFT 2/4-5-6-7 SHIFT 3/7-8-9. Noting that when I had larger rings up front (changed within the last year), I was shifting about one rear gear easier to overcome the bigger front.

A lot to chew on, perhaps. Hopefully it is presented to make sense. If not, there are no dumb questions... fire away!
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Old 12-26-19, 09:13 PM
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Thanks Digger Goreman!
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Old 12-26-19, 09:49 PM
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I have a 50/34 crankset and I leave it in the 50 most of the time unless I'm on a steep or extended climb. When coming to a stoplight I shift the rear into a lower gear but I really don't think about it much. Sometimes I look down if I'm not sure what gear I'm in but once moving I can feel what's happening.
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Old 12-27-19, 02:03 AM
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I have a 2x11 bike and I don't use the top 2 cogs with the big chainring, nor the bottom 2 cogs with the small one.

Unless I need a drastic change of cadence or my speed changed suddenly (usual on a mountain bike, but not on a road bike), when moving from big chainring to small I usually upshift a couple or even 3 cogs to compensate. I do the opposite when shifting to the big ring.
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Old 12-27-19, 11:48 AM
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Don't worry about it too much. It will always be the big-big combo. The bike isn't going to explode.

Make sure your front derailleur is set correctly. Most shops don't do it right. I have a video explaining some of that:
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Old 12-29-19, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Metallifan33 View Post
I just started riding my bike and from researching before buying, I read that you don't want to have the extreme opposite gear selected between the front and rear (e.g. biggest gear on the back and the biggest in the front). This to reduce the amount of lateral stress on the chain.
Don't stand in big x big because an uncommanded shift to the small ring from a worn big ring and excessive chain angle can cause a crash.

Otherwise your biggest problem is increased chain noise interfering with your quiet meditative ride.

My question, is how do you keep track of what gear you're in on a ride?
Usually you don't. Shift if the increased noise from being cross chained is less pleasant.

A rider producing 250W at 95 RPM using 53–39 x 11–28 11 cogs pays a 1W 0.4% penalty for large ring x large cog and 3W for small x small where 1.2% is the difference between 20.00 and 19.92 MPH. That decreases moving towards the middle of the cassette, with outer x second biggest dropping to a 0.5W penalty and small x second 2W.

If you care about those marginal gains, pairing the big ring with the 3 largest cogs is less efficient than using the equivalent small ring combinations. Using the big ring is more efficient than pairing the small ring with the 5 smallest cogs. The asymmetry exists because the big ring is more efficient due to lower chain tension at a given power and it takes more friction from chain angle to offset that advantage.

https://www.ceramicspeed.com/media/3...ize-report.pdf

When shifting the front gear, do you place the back gear in more of a middle gear so the change is not so drastic?
I shift the rear mechanism at the same time to arrive in the next gear which can be 2-5 cogs depending on how wide the cogset and chain rings are.

Electronic shifters can do that automatically.

Most right shifters can move three cogs larger in one motion.

Campagnolo Ultrashift levers and units made before 2009 not using the Escape mechanism can shift at least five cogs smaller.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 12-30-19 at 12:50 AM.
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Old 12-30-19, 12:45 PM
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Rather than looking down at your chainrings, have you considered just bumping the shifter to see what gear it's in? If I'm in my big ring, the shifter is noticeably "stiffer" if I try to upshift because the FD is on or near the limit stop. If it's in the small ring, it "gives" because the derailleur starts moving.

This will all be moot at a certain point, as you'll start changing into the correct gear combos without thinking about it. I always know what gear I'm in based on my cadence at a given speed. Example: Most Shimano cassettes lack a 16t cog, so there's a cadence gap around 19 and 25 mph with a 53x39 crankset. If I'm on a leisurely cruise and I hit that gap, I know exactly what chainring I'm in (39t). If I'm boogieing and hit that gap, I know I'm in the big chainring and things are starting to suck.
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Old 12-30-19, 02:45 PM
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In my experience cross chaining creates a distinct clicking sound, if I hear this, I simply look down, take stock of which gear I'm in, and fix it.
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