GETTING TO KNOW YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE GEARS
Getting to know your gears should start at having a good look at the chain rings (the big sprockets at the front near your pedals), the freewheel (the sprockets at the rear wheel) and take a good look at the chain and the mechanisms that help that chain swap sprockets.
LEARNING HOW TO SHIFT GEARS
It is quite difficult to know and be able to feel what is happening at the sprocket level when you are changing gears at the handlebars. It doesn’t take long to work out that you can’t keep peddling in your current gear but the real art of mountain bike gear changing is knowing when to change gears just before you really need to. The goal is to change gears without forcing your derailleurs to shift under a heavy load. That’s hard on your bike as well as it is on you. Focus on anticipating your gear changes so that you can make them before required.
CORRECTING A MIS-JUDGED GEAR CHANGE
If you didn’t do a good job of anticipating your gear change and need to make a gear change in a hurry, the soft pedalling technique works best. Use a power pedal stroke, one where you are pushing hard down on the pedal, so that you can use the momentum for soft pedalling on the next. This is the best time to change gears – take advantage of that soft stroke to make a smooth gear change that is also soft on your components.
AVOID ANGLED CHAIN GEAR SETTINGS
It is best to avoid gears that put your chain at angle. For example, a combination of the smallest sprocket at the front with the smallest sprocket at the back, and vice versa. Just because all those gears are technically available, that doesn’t mean they actually all make good sense. Keeping your chain straight is more important.
LEARN TO HEAR SOUNDS
You can learn the sounds of gears working well on flat ground quite fast. It is well worth tuning your ears to the sounds of chain chatter and other metal on metal noises when things are not aligned as well as they should be. You will get a lot more out of your gear components if you can get to know the good sounds and the bad sounds.
ADJUST YOUR DERAILLEURS
If you don’t have a bike store nearby where you can ask for a quick lesson or pay for a quick adjustment, look up your bike manual and checkout videos on how to keep your derailleurs properly adjusted. Regular adjustment, even throughout a day of biking, will keep them in great condition and have you changing gears with ease.
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