One of the joys of riding a bicycle is using this machine to get exactly the most amount of speed from the energy you put into it. When we teach our hill climbing bootcamps or private lessons, one of the biggest things we teach people is how to shift correctly to maintain momentum, utilize all your cycling muscles at the right cadences and to be smooth so you don’t strain yourself with sudden changes. This is the art of cycling. Using the bicycle as a machine to propel you smoothly to go faster with less effort.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. As I was riding to work, going down a steep hill which led into an uphill, I had to keep it in my big ring and my cadence slowly dropped as I was going through the bottom of the hill, and starting to go upward. I then started shifting with my right shifter 2 gears at a time to make it easier, pedaling as I went, with the goal of keeping my cadence around 80 rpm and applying pressure to the pedals to carry speed
and I continued to shift into easier and easier gears with the right shifter until it was on the easiest and I was beginning to bog down as the hill increased. Now most mechanics will tell you not to “cross chain” but the reality is that your bike should work in every gear combination and “big to big” should be fine, the problem comes when the shift needs to go to the small chainring “small ring”. This can be such a big jump that the slack in the chain can cause problems, or you spin so violently after the shift trying to catch up that your cadence goes to 120 and there is no power to the pedals.
The key is what I call the BAM shift. BAM because you shift both levers at once and they go “BAM!”…in a good way. The right shifter is going 1-2 gears harder and the left shifter is dropping to the smaller ring – AT THE SAME TIME – BAM! This does 2 things, one is that it keeps the cadence in a better range to power the pedals and keep momentum. Two, it knocks the chain inside with both derailleurs, eliminating the problems of chain suck, chain drop, chain hanging on the big sprocket, chain in the mouth, etc…The chain likes staying inside the ranges and BAM knocks it inside from both front and rear derarilleurs at the same time, eliminating these common problems (which shouldn’t be a problem if you bike is tuned properly, but nevertheless can happen on good bikes).
So next time you are doing some rolling hills, or that next downhill leading into an uphill, try BAM! and enjoy better momentum and smoother shifting, or at least try keeping your cadence in a well powered range to carry yourself as far up the hill as possible. Get Ready to Ride!