5 Occasions Where Precise Cycle Gearing is Essential
To become a good road cyclist you have to have mastery over your gears. Being able to select the correct gear improves your times and makes for a much smoother ride. Gears allow you to optimise your energy levels allowing you to take on tougher terrain such as hills. They give you much better control over your bike and allow you to ride at your optimal cadence.
Gear transmission on your bike is the rear mech and the front mech. This allows you to select the correct gear ratios for the kind of terrain you are riding on. For hills, you tend to want lower gear ratios, while on the flat your gear ratios will be higher. With the right selection, you can maintain your optimal cadence at all times.
The rear mech is controlled by the right hand while the front mech is controlled by the left hand. The mechs move the chain across the chainrings to the gear ratios you have chosen. The bigger ring on the front increases resistance, while the bigger ring on the back is the lowest resistance.
Depending on the terrain and gradient you can use the front and rear mechs to select the right gear, maintaining optimal cadence.
It is important to use the gears to protect your chain. This means that you never select the biggest chainring on the front and the biggest on the back wheel and vice versa. This is called cross chaining and is to be avoided as it will damage your chain.
With good gear use, starting and stopping will be a more efficient smooth process. Being able to get up to your optimal cadence quickly will see you in good stead for training rides and sportives. Decelerating through the gears when you have to slow down will help you keep your optimal riding cadence, and put you in a good position to accelerate back up to your normal riding cadence when possible.
Through using the gears correctly your rides will become more rewarding and you will feel more accomplished as a rider. You will also have a safer ride as, if you need to come to a dead stop, you will already be riding slower in the correct gear, so the chances of coming off are minimal.
Many cyclists make the mistake of approaching a climb in low gear. The problem here is that they kill off their energy levels rather than optimising it and start the climb pedalling too fast. Where possible, it is better to approach the climb on the feeling of the gears, changing down when you feel the pressure build-up under your feet.
Also, if you’re taking on a major climb, it will consist of different gradients. It may turn out, that you can use different gears depending on the severity of the gradient that you encounter. It is worth the effort to ride a col in the highest possible gear to keep your cadence as consistent as possible and to optimise energy which is vital to climbing.
Cornering on a bike is much like cornering in any other kind of vehicle. You want to get your gear selection done before you go into a bend or turn a corner, so you can accelerate out of it once your manoeuvre is completed.
When cycling into a bend or cornering, look ahead to avoid obstacles and to react to a situation should one arise.
So just to recap, brake and select the correct gear, make the corner, accelerate through the gears back up to optimal cadence.
It can be argued that gear use is minimal when descending, especially if the descent is quite long. Like ascending, however, there will be times when the steepness of the gradient may demand a gear change should it become less severe.
Eventually, you’ll come out of the descent and once again, good gear use will make the transition back to normal speeds keeping your cadence smooth, easy, and energy optimal.
Whether you are trying to achieve a personal best or fend off an archrival, knowing when to change gear and go hell for leather over the line requires excellent gear use. In many respects, it is a question of timing and keeping optimal cadence as you give it your all to achieve glory.
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