When to Shift - Kerry Irons, Where Are You?
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  1. #1

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    When to Shift - Kerry Irons, Where Are You?

    I threw my chain out a few times last weekend when I was climbing, and it's very vexing to have to get off the bike (sometimes) to fix this darn problem.

    I thought I had to be in the middle cog (tooth? gear??) in order to be able to shift smoothly from the big to small (or vice versa) chainring. Am I grossly mistaken?

    p.s. Please feel free to respond even even if you're not Kerry Irons. I just happen to remember that Kerry Irons was one of the few experienced bikers who provided a polite & informative response when I asked a "dumb" newbie question in the past. Cheers.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudatlas
    I threw my chain out a few times last weekend when I was climbing, and it's very vexing to have to get off the bike (sometimes) to fix this darn problem.

    I thought I had to be in the middle cog (tooth? gear??) in order to be able to shift smoothly from the big to small (or vice versa) chainring. Am I grossly mistaken?

    p.s. Please feel free to respond even even if you're not Kerry Irons. I just happen to remember that Kerry Irons was one of the few experienced bikers who provided a polite & informative response when I asked a "dumb" newbie question in the past. Cheers.
    The chain shouldn't have to be in the middle rear cog just to avoid throwing the chain during chainring shifts. I'll blatantly cut and paste from Sheldon Brown's site.

    "The low-gear limit stop stops the derailer from shifting past the smallest chainwheel and throwing the chain onto the bottom bracket shell. If it is too loose, the chain will fall off when you try to downshift to the small chainwheel. If it is too tight, you it will be difficult or impossible to shift down to the low chainweel.

    The basic adjustment for the low-gear stop is to set it so that the chain just barely clears the inner plate of the cage when the lowest gear (small front, large rear) is selected. This will usually be the best position for double-chainwheel setups, and will permit the use of most or all of the rear sprockets with a minimum of trimming.
    "Chainline" refers to the sideways distance of the chain/sprockets from the centerline of the bike.

    Front shifting problems are frequently related to incorret chainline, that is, the chainrings are either too close in, or, more commonly, too far away from the bike's centerline.
    This generally is the result of having the wrong bottom bracket for the particular crankset model in use."

    If you haven't done this before, this is a good opportunity to learn how to adjust your front derailleur. Just follow the directions given on this link. . http://www.parktool.com/repair_help/...railleur.shtml.

  3. #3
    Windrider (Stubborn)
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudatlas
    I threw my chain out a few times last weekend when I was climbing, and it's very vexing to have to get off the bike (sometimes) to fix this darn problem.

    I thought I had to be in the middle cog (tooth? gear??) in order to be able to shift smoothly from the big to small (or vice versa) chainring. Am I grossly mistaken?

    p.s. Please feel free to respond even even if you're not Kerry Irons. I just happen to remember that Kerry Irons was one of the few experienced bikers who provided a polite & informative response when I asked a "dumb" newbie question in the past. Cheers.
    If you are throwing the cahin when shifting between chainrings, it's because your front Der limit screws are not set correctly.

    You don't have to be in the middle cog to shift rings either.

    Here is a few shifting tips:

    1.) Get your front Der limit screws adjusted (or learn how to do it yourself (Zinn and the art of RB maintenance or the Park tool web site)

    2.) When ever I shift chainrings, I shift both the front and back simotaneously. I use Shimano gear so my description is based on that. If I am going from the smaller (easier)chainring to the larger (harder), then I also want to go from a smaller (Harder) cog to a larger (easier) to allow for easier gear steps. So I will push both shifters at the same time.....this effectrivly moves the chain left to right in the front and riight to left in the back at the same time. The opposite also works...try it you'll like it.

    3.) To really understand gearing steps, spend some time looking at a gear chart of your chainring/cog setup at your cadence. It will show you how various shifts affect your speed/cadence.

    4.) If you drop a chain, as long as you have momentum and can turn the crank there is usually no reason to get off the bike to fix it. Just shift the front der back to the ring you started with while still pedaling easily. this will pick the dropped chain back up and put it back on the rings. The only time this doesn't work is if the chain gets jammed between the Der and the chainrings. Again try it on flat ground first.

    Good Luck

    Len



    "Evil....is the complete lack of Empathy!"

    ""We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. " Aristotle

    No one is as bad as the worst thing they have done & no one is as good as the best thing they have done.........think of that when you feel like you understand someone.

  4. #4
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    What they said

    Jess and cloud gave you good advice. You also might consider whether your chain is worn out - measure it over 24 links, it should be less than 12 & 1/16". However, the smart money is on front derailleur alignment, vertical position, and limit screw positions.

  5. #5

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    But, but, but, I JUST had a tune-up and noticed how much "easier" climbing was after my tune up....

    Nonetheless, thanks for your advice, guys, and I'll try the "double shifting" trick on my next ride.

    p.s. I use a Shimano, too. I don't think I'll ever be a campy girl.

  6. #6

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    Use a Jump stop

    Try something like this the Jump Stop chain guide. I have it on 2 of my bikes works wonders. I know if you have everthing set up perfectly you don't need one. It is not a perfect world so something like this works wonders. Plus it gives me piece of mind on my full carbon frame.

  7. #7
    A Canadian in Sweden
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudatlas
    p.s. I use a Shimano, too. I don't think I'll ever be a campy girl.
    This is scandalous!!!
    Albert (5 years old) to Uncle Peter (family friend): "Why don't we play another card game, something you can win at."

  8. #8

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    Here's the LONG answer --

    Probably a "morning" metaphor here because it's sitting in front of me, in the morning --

    Shifting gears is like brewing good coffee. Seems simple enough, but there's a few tricks to getting a really good cup of Joe, and shifting requires a bit of finesse too.

    Properly equiped (set up), adjusted, and well executed, you should be able to shift from any gear cog in the rear while on any chain ring in the the front . . . Some are better than others. and there's little point in running the inside ring on a triple while running the 13 cog in the rear.

    In the broad scheme of bike gearing, "low gears" are on the inside, closest to the frame. "High gears" on on the outside -- on the far right, outside of the casette and chainring.

    It's always mechanically more "adroit" to run the chain in a straight line rather than "cross chaining" -- inside chain ring to inside cogs, outside chainring to outside gears. In theory, on a triple chainring, you have 27 or 30 gears, but in actual use and from the standpoint of mechanical "finesse" you probably have more like about 17 or 18 gears -- maybe a few more.

    Middle chain ring (on a triple) can run ALL the cogs on the cassette. Just like the Yellow Pages, this is "the one that gets used."

    Outer chainring is sort of like "over-drive." The outer ring is for "larger gears" -- mid to outer cogs on the cassette.

    Inner chainring (on a triple) used to be called an "Alpine gear" -- for climbing. I personally call this my "granny gears." These are for long, arduous climbs, steep pitches. The stuff where you're going to be breathing hard and moving slow. *G*

    OK -- Let's talk finesse . . .

    ALL shifters (even the legendary Campagnolo) work best when there's not a great deal of tension (drive load) on the chain. In order to move the chain from one gear to the next, the chain has to be moving -- seems obvious and redundant, and no . . . I'm not giving you grief because you're a girl. This seems obvious and therefore it never comes up in discussion. It's worth discussing . . . The chain needs to move from one gear to the next, and can only do so if the chain and the sprockets are moving.

    Ahhhhhh, but here's the crucial part . . . like cleaning the pot out before brewing that Joe, or using fresh water . . .

    You don't want to put a great deal of drive load on the chain. More basics here -- The chain is pulling on the cogs (teeth) and that's what's moving you and your bike down the road.

    If you're putting drive load on the chain -- mashing gears, climbing -- the chain is tighly engaged in the teeth of the sprocket and resists moving to the next sproket. There are a couple reasons for this:

    First one is that the chain needs to adjust tension (it's working length?) to change gears. The derailleur takes up and adjusts for this change in length -- but this adjustment takes place along the bottom "run" of the chain. There's no tension on the bottom run (from the bottom of the chainring to the idler wheels on the derailleur). Your "drive load" on the chain starts somewhere from the 7 O'clock position on the rear cog, across the top of the chain run, and continues around the front chainring to about maybe 5 O'clock position.

    The front derailleur moves the chain from one ring to the next at a point where the chain is under tension. If there's a good deal of tension on the chain, you're going to have problems moving the chain from one ring to the next as it tries to "change working length" moving from one ring to the next.

    Let's note here that this "drive length" along the top side of the chain doesn't have any sort of "tensioner" system to adjust length. Tension along the (upper) drive length of the chain is fixed -- because if there was some sort of "tensioner" you'd lose power to the "drive line" between the rear cogs and chainring -- pedal effort would be lost taking up tension in the chain rather than putting drive energy to the wheels. It would be like pedaling with an elastic chain . . . sloppy and inefficient.

    Here's the finesse part . . . assuming your bike is adjusted and properly set up.

    Shfiting gears, particularly shifing while climbing, requires that the chain not be under a great deal of tension so that the "drive length" of the chain can transition -- longer/shorter -- in the shifting process.

    If the chain is under tension, it resists moving from one set of teeth (sprockets) to the next. The finesse move is to minimize tension on the chain while shifting. Back off on the pedalling effort while shifting -- particulalry while climbing.

    On the other end of things -- if you're spinning a gear at let's say 120 RPM, momentum and inertia, along with the change in angle of the chain line, will sometimes have the effect of overshooting the next ring in the front and tossing the chain off the chainring.

    The solution for this, assuming all things are adjusted, is to slow down the RPM's and minimize the tension on the chain. Move the shift lever for the front ring deliberately and with some "feel" (finesse) -- rather than just whacking the lever and expecting the gear to shift. Engagement of the chain in the teeth along the front sprokets is long (lots of teeth), and moving the chain from one ring to the next takes some deliberate, patient, and smooth application. The chain hops instantly from one rear cog to the next, but it moves relatively SLOWLY from one chainring to the next.

    Allow time for the chain to move in shifting from one ring to the next. And release tension on the chain so that the drive length can be taken up and adjusted.

    Shifting while under a lot of drive load puts strain on the drive line -- sprockets, teeth, chains, derailleurs. I've seen chainrings at the LBS which were sheered and worn because some Clydesdale had been shifting under heavy load.

    Develop a "light, smooth, deliberate, and easy" touch in shifting and most of your shifting problems will go away.

  9. #9
    classiquesklassieker
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudatlas
    But, but, but, I JUST had a tune-up and noticed how much "easier" climbing was after my tune up....
    Psst..... The dirty secret is that tuning your drivetrain is not black magic, and does not require a sacrifice of small animals. The other dirty secret is that often, mechnics are no better in doing it than we are, and that it is easy to get one into this level of proficiency.

    p.s. I use a Shimano, too. I don't think I'll ever be a campy girl.
    Why is that?

  10. #10

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    campy vs. shimano

    First, thanks RodeRash for your thoughtful response. I think I might have been "whacking" my lever whilst shifting. We're supposed to climb a lot again this weekend, so I'll try the kindler, gentler approach that you suggest.

    Secondly, re: the whole banal yet contentious topic of campy vs. shimano.... I honestly don't know much about either, except that I've noticed that there's a great deal of snobbery going on with the campy camp. I think road cycling is already riddled with unwarranted snobbery (in fact, I can't think of another sport that is quite like road cycling in more ways than one), so I want to avoid any association with even more snobbery.

    Ultimately, I don't care what kind of bike you ride, outfits & shoes you wear, gruppo you have, etc. etc., as long as you're the type of rider who likes to push oneself, is not afraid of incurring a little or a lot of pain, and respects other riders who do the same. ;)

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by RodeRash
    ....The solution for this, assuming all things are adjusted, is to slow down the RPM's and minimize the tension on the chain. Move the shift lever for the front ring deliberately and with some "feel" (finesse) -- rather than just whacking the lever and expecting the gear to shift. Engagement of the chain in the teeth along the front sprokets is long (lots of teeth), and moving the chain from one ring to the next takes some deliberate, patient, and smooth application. The chain hops instantly from one rear cog to the next, but it moves relatively SLOWLY from one chainring to the next.

    Allow time for the chain to move in shifting from one ring to the next. And release tension on the chain so that the drive length can be taken up and adjusted.



    Develop a "light, smooth, deliberate, and easy" touch in shifting and most of your shifting problems will go away.

    I know exactly what you are talking about I learned this the hard way on my ultegra drive. Hardest part is to be ready for the gear you should be in before you start to die in middle of a climb. Beginning of a hill that I know for a fact I need the smaller front ring to climb, I shift from large to small up front in moment in time where my momentum matches the slope so that my cadence don't change dramaticaly and I don't spin like a madman.I use this trick also when there is a big downhill followed by a smilar size uphill. I go as fast as I can on hardest gears and have my speed carry me up the hill and start to go to easier gears and staying withing the cadence range.It takes practice and become 2nd nature like driving a manual car after awhile.

  12. #12

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    =CloudAtlas]
    First, thanks RodeRash for your thoughtful response. I think I might have been "whacking" my lever whilst shifting. We're supposed to climb a lot again this weekend, so I'll try the kindler, gentler approach that you suggest.

    Secondly, re: the whole banal yet contentious topic of campy vs. shimano.... I honestly don't know much about either, except that I've noticed that there's a great deal of snobbery going on with the campy camp. I think road cycling is already riddled with unwarranted snobbery (in fact, I can't think of another sport that is quite like road cycling in more ways than one), so I want to avoid any association with even more snobbery.
    Well . . . Just to put it in an historical perspective -- Campagnolo was miles ahead of anything else, notably Simplex (French), Huret (tourist French), Stronglight (More French) back, way back in the days when ALL the really finest road machines -- except the French ones-- were gorgeous Italian rigs with Reynolds 531 (Brit.) or Columbus (Italian) steel tubes, fine lug work, Brooks saddles. Nothing else was close until Shimano came along and -- characteristic of the Japanese -- components were "reversed engineered," a polite way of saying copied.

    You'll note that although lots of pro riders use Shimano, there are no Japanese riders. So, the snob appeal of Campagnolo -- which is splendid stuff, the Rolex watch of bike gear -- the appeal is that it has history, tradition, and is very deeply rooted in European cycling.

    Way back when, like 1960's and earlier, cycling was exclusively a European sport. Not even the Brits -- which seem to be Europeans in some senses -- could hold a candle to the Europeans. AND, there were NO American pro riders . . . except an oddball US geek who moved to the continent to ride, and never finished in the money, and most of the time not even with the peloton.

    So, Campy has this rich European historical framework . . . That's what's going on.

    =CloudAtlas]
    Ultimately, I don't care what kind of bike you ride, outfits & shoes you wear, gruppo you have, etc. etc., as long as you're the type of rider who likes to push oneself, is not afraid of incurring a little or a lot of pain, and respects other riders who do the same. ;)
    Ahhhhhhhh jeez! (swoon) . . . You got a boyfriend?

    Yeah, next ride put some finesse into the shifting, particularly that front chainring which takes a "touch" and much longer to get into the next gear. Even if you're gnashing and grinding on the pedals in a climb, you need to back off the drive load to shift -- which is why we try to shift BEFORE the going gets steep. When you back off on the pedals you of course lose forward motion, and that's where you'll get dropped in a race.

    Finesse, and some experience . . .

    Cycling is about technique. Often I can out-ride a much younger, stronger rider because I have years of technique and strategy/experience while the younger, stronger rider just has brute force.

    -- I ride Shimano stuff, but I don't race these days. My first racing bikes (1960's) were Italian and "All Campy."

    Ahhhhhhh, but you want another sport with a lot of snobbism? Have a look at fly fishing!

  13. #13

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    shifting before dying...

    mmmmmm. I suspect that it will take a looooooooong time before this whole shifting business comes to me naturally, but I'm definitely willing to learn & try - a lot more so than learning how to drive stick. I wish they made "automatic" bikes!!!

    And thanks for not flying off the handle for my seemingly harmless remark about campy vs. shimano. I've already gone through a barrage of verbal assaults on this board (but this was before they found out that I was a girl. sigh... It really shouldn't matter), and I learned the hard way that there are lots of cantankerous bikers.

    Again, much obliged for your wisdom and advice.

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