Master your Gears to Ride Further and Faster
Good gear use is essential for better bike riding performance. If you can get your gear use right you will find climbing much easier, maintain a good speed, and ride further and faster with less effort. If you have or planning to ride a sportive or a cycling challenge which involves plenty of climbs and bends, say the French Alps, then good gear use will make this far easier and make you more competitive. If you ever ride with us on one of our Mallorca cycling training camps, one of the aspects we concentrate on is gear use.
So read on to discover some good gear use tips to help you ride further and faster.
Cadence is the speed you pedal and is measured in revs per minute (rpm). Most cyclists believe that cycling at a cadence of between 70-100 rpm is optimal. Your body, however, will determine your natural cadence based on your current fitness level and muscle tone.
The trick to good gear use is to use the right gear to try and maintain your natural cadence as much as possible. This optimises your stamina and speed over distance.
Select the Right Gear before the Challenge
Where your gear use will really make the difference is when you come to a climb, descent, or bend. The trick is to select the right gear before you go into the challenge. There are two ways to get gear use wrong and you should look to avoid the following scenarios:
- Changing too early: If you change gear too early you will kill your natural cadence. Riding will feel inefficient and possibly frustrating. As you will have to increase your cadence to make it comfortable, efficient, and get back to your natural rhythm, you will expend energy. If this happens on a ride over and over again where there are plenty of bends, descents, and climbs, then over the course of the ride the setbacks from incorrect gear use accumulates. Also, on a climb, you may struggle to get back into the right cadence.
- Changing too late: If you change gear too late you will experience gear crunch. This not only kills your cadence, changing to easier gears at this point is bad for the chain and durallia. Getting back into your right cadence takes effort and energy, especially on climbs, and again if this happens a lot on a ride, you will expend energy and effort unnecessarily, negatively impacting on your performance.
Getting your gear selection right will enable you to accelerate out of bends and corners, and find a natural cadence on steep climbs. Try and look ahead when you ride so you can judge the gear you will need for the stretch of road you’re approaching.
Try and Avoid Big Chain Ring and Big Sprocket and vise versa
Where possible you should avoid the big chain ring and big sprocket, and vise versa. This puts a lot of stress on your chain and durallia and lessens the life of both components. Instead find the best gear by avoiding the extremes of biggest or smallest sprocket and chain ring.
Cornering and Gear Use
When you approach corner or bend you should try and aim to do the following:
- Change to the appropriate gear for the bend or corner at the right time, not too soon or too late.
- As you ride through the bend, change gear again to get you back into your natural cadence. If you get this right, you will be riding at your optimal level and it will feel better. This can be applied to bends on long descents, as well as bends on climbs and the flat.
Maintaining your Gears and Chain
To ensure your gears and chain don’t let you down when you need them, maintain them. Try and get in the habit of using degreaser after every ride. This will unclog your gears and chain, ensuring the grit and grime that builds up after a ride is removed. This will also give your bike a pro look and feel, and prolong the life of your gears and chain.
Riding in Traffic
Good gear use in traffic can help you considerably. You have to be more aware of what is happening and it is more important to find the right gear sooner. Should you have to do an emergency stop or stop at a junction suddenly, there is a trick you can use to finding the right gear and avoiding gear crunch and losing momentum.
If you are using cleats, lock the front break. Select your starting off gear. Then carefully pedal keeping one foot on the ground. This should make the back wheel rise and spin, changing your gear to the right one. You should now be able to ride off easier when it is safe to do so.
Have fun and keep cycling.
Submitted on: 16/09/2016