As every cyclist sets out into the cycling world, the excitement of being on a bicycle accompanied by the thrill of a multi-geared bicycle often leads to gearing mistakes. A common problem area with most beginners, but easy to catch and correct in a jiffy.
PUSHING TOO HARD
A commonly occurring error made by many, is to use one's biggest possible gear combination, thinking that bigger gears equal more speed and power. While you may find yourself going at a faster speed initially, this is a sure way to tire your quads within an hour. Do this in a group ride, and an hour or less into the ride, you will find yourself being overtaken by your group with ease and your muscles— too tired to move.
It is ideal to stay at a pace where you are turning your pedals at 80rpm (rotations per minute) or more. It may drop down to 60 or less on hill climbs, but that's alright. If you aren't at least at 80rpm on regular surfaces, you are probably on a bigger gear than you should be.
ATTRIBUTING KNEE AND BACK ACHES TO A FAULTY BIKE FIT
If you notice that after every ride you have a sore back or knees, and you've given your bicycle for a bike fit more than once, it is likely that you're misusing your gearing. Pushing bigger gears when unnecessary can lead to strain on the knees and/or the back causing them to ache after every ride.
Crossing the chain is when the chain is being forced to stretch, which can cause a nasty rattling noise and could result in the chain slipping. Also, it is not very efficient and tends to lead to massive wastage of effort and energy.
To avoid this, when in the ‘big’ ring, try to stay in the cogs which offer more resistance, when you need less resistance on a hill or when riding into the wind, drop into the smaller ring and use the lower effort gears on the cassette.
SHIFTING TOO LATE
One major mistake often made by beginners is shifting too late, or not shifting at all. Very often, once one finds a gear combination that works for them, they tend to stick to it and not shift at all. Bicycles come with gears because they are meant to be shifted in order for the rider to maximize their efficiency on the saddle.
It is best that as soon as you start to feel resistance pushing back against your feet, downshift (shift to a lower gear) and when you feel like you are losing resistance while pedalling, shift to a higher gear till you are comfortable.
Cleaning your bicycle regularly helps keep the transmission smooth and reliable. Cables can also stretch over time, and gears do need adjusting – if one click is no longer resulting in a sharp movement into the next cog, then it’s time to bring out your cleaning tools, or give your bicycle to a store to get cleaned. Mud and dirt tends to collect easily on the cassette, which too can cause irregularities while shifting. It is recommended that you clean and lube your drivetrain at least once in two to three weeks.
While grasping the concept of gearing can be confusing to beginners, trial and error, and a little experimenting does no harm. Check out the feel of different gear combinations on riding surfaces, such as flat roads, climbs and descents, and watch as the cloud of confusion about gearing dissipates.