Montevallo is home to the oldest settlement in Shelby County. It was Jessie Wilson who claimed the hill on the northern bank of Shoal Creek to create a homestead. Hills have always been a part of Montevallo. Knowing how to utilize a multitude of gears on your bicycle is an essential skill. Many beginner cyclists fail to change gears throughout the ride. Follow this simple guide to shift like a pro!
Chainrings – these are the gears in the front near the pedals. They are attached to the crank arms that your feet turn. There are usually 2-3 gears on the chain-rings. Moving from the larger chainrings to the smaller chainrings will make pedaling easier. Moving this gear makes larger, more noticeable, changes to the drivetrain.
Cassette/freewheel - these are the gears attached to the rear wheel. There are usually 6-12 gears. Moving from the smaller gears to the larger gears will make pedaling easier. Moving this gear makes subtle, less noticeable, changes to the drivetrain.
Shifters – in the United States bikes are commonly setup with the left shifter for the chainrings and the right shifter for the rear gears. When in doubt remember “Right is Rear.”
Purpose – the purpose of gears is to ensure a comfortable pedaling no matter what terrain you are traveling. Utilizing different combinations of the front chainrings and the rear cassette/freewheel will allow you to pedal with ease.
Learning – find a flat and safe area to experiment with your bicycle. Put the chain in your small or middle front chainring. Now experiment by riding around and shifting into different rear gears. Get comfortable shifting while riding and learn which way to shift for the pedaling to become easier and which way to shift for the pedaling to become harder. Be sure you are pedaling while shifting; most gearing systems will only shift when you are pedaling.
When to Shift – Ideally you want to maintain the same cadence in pedaling on whatever terrain you are approaching. Shifting into easier gears when climbing a hill and harder gears while going down a hill would be ideal. Experienced cyclists shift into an easier gear as they approach a hill, not when already on the hill. Shifting while your chain is under load, such as going up a steep hill in a high gear, will be difficult.
Cross Chaining – is when your chain is at the extremes of its tolerance. Cross chaining occurs when the rear and front gears are each on the largest or each on the smallest. The bike chain is placed at an extreme angle. There is usually some additional chain noise associated with cross chaining. This scenario is to be avoided due to an increased likelihood of the chain coming off the gears.
Test out your new shifting skills on our next group ride! We welcome riders of all experience levels.