When shifting gears on your bike, think like your car.
In cycling, a good understanding of your gears, and how to use them and shift correctly is essential in maintaining fitness, being efficient with your effort on the bike, as well as minimizing your chances for repetitive-strain injury while riding a bike. Let me explain:
When thinking about shifting gears and gearing, let’s take a step back for a moment and think about the automatic transmission in your car. Almost magically, your car shifts accordingly into it’s easiest gear, i.e. first gear. As the light turns green and you apply the gas, the car senses the amount of speed, and shifts into the next gear accordingly as rpms (revolutions per minute) get higher and higher.
Your car constantly adjusts to your speed, and picks the right gear for efficiency, and alos ultimately to preserve your transmission, engine and all associated pieces and parts with the drive-terrain.
When riding a bike, we make the choices on what gear we ride in, and in turn how much stress we place on our ‘transmission and engine’ (i.e. the knees, hips, low back back) with repetitive pedaling.
So, take this ‘automatic transmission’ concept to heart when you ride a bike: If you slow down or come to a stop, shift into a much easier gear, then as you get moving faster, gradually shift as you increase speed. Once you then find a gear that allows you to spin freely and at your desired speed, do not keep down-shifting into further challenging gears- this is like driving your car at 25mph in 4th gear!
Practice this simlpe concept on your daily rides, and the habit will eventually become ‘automatic’, with a goal of 80–90rpm cadence pedaling leading to many more pain-free miles down the road!
–Kevin Schmidt, MSPT, CMP, Bike PT — Founder of Pedal PT in Portland, Oregon
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