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Cyclists: how do you shift your compact chainset?

amandaeveamandaeve Member Posts: 706 Member Member Posts: 706 Member
My first road bike came with a triple chainset. For 17 years I easily shifted through any climb or descent without any hitch in cadence. This year I decided I wanted a power meter, and it was more economical to buy a whole new bike. I got the 2020 version of the same bike, and it has a compact chainset. I've been riding it for 6 months, and I still can't seem to change gears very well without losing my cadence and momentum. How do you shift through these gears smoothly? I can take a sudden incline fine, jumping 3 gears at once poses no problems. But what about a gradual change? I'd like to be able to scale up and down in small increments, not just big jumps.
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Replies

  • jjpptt2jjpptt2 Member Posts: 4,912 Member Member Posts: 4,912 Member
    I'm not entirely sure I understand the problem. Are we talking front chain rings, or rear cassette cogs? I assume cassette cogs...

    You can jump multiple cogs with no problem, but not just 1 at a time?
    I assume this is when shifting into easier gears/bigger cogs?
    edited July 1
  • sijomialsijomial Member Posts: 16,632 Member Member Posts: 16,632 Member
    My typical countryside has constant changes of elevation so I'm doing a lot of gear changes, the only time when they aren't smooth are if something has gone out of adjustment or I'm trying to swap cogs under a lot of power (a soft revolution makes it more of a snick and less of a clunk).

    I just change gear to keep my cadence between 80 - 100 where possible (lower cadence for declines, higher cadence for uphill typically until I run out of low enough gears), 85rpm seems to be my sweet spot for an average cadence

    I'm also not really sure what your problem is or when it occurs for you. Can you describe a scenario?

    Are you trying to hang on to gears for too long perhaps?
    Are you reluctant to swap into the "granny ring" where it's more suitable for the gradient? (Some people seem to take that as an affront to their capabilities.)
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 9,789 Member Member Posts: 9,789 Member
    Sounds like maybe something is out of adjustment?

    I do most of my shifting one cog at a time. Shifting chainrings happens a lot less often. Garmin says my last ride was 35 front shifts and 744 rear shifts. (Almost two hours.)
  • scorpio516scorpio516 Member Posts: 947 Member Member Posts: 947 Member
    My main bike is Sora and compact - 2x7. It never shifts great ;)

    But I spend 95%+ on the large chainring, so those 6 gears are pretty good most the time. Over 8% grade, I'll shift up 3 or 4 rear cogs as I shift down up front.
  • amandaeveamandaeve Member Posts: 706 Member Member Posts: 706 Member
    I went to a bike shop, shared my issue with them, and they made adjustments, so it's not that.

    I'll describe the scenario: Let's say I'm going up a hill that slowly increases in slope. I am in the large front chaining. I'm pedaling along, slowly shifting the rear chain rings. If I gear to the end in the rear and then shift from the large to the small chaining in the front, then I lose momentum because I have to jump more rpm's in cadence than I can to keep up the spin. If I switch the large chaining before I get to the end in the rear, I can do that at the same time I change a couple of chain rings in the back and maintain the momentum, but I do have to change cadence a bit.

    On the triple, I could reliably shift quickly twice from one spot and get to an equivalent gear even though I'm on a different from chaining. I can't seem to find equivalent gears on the compact bike.

    @sijomial, I have a compact now, so I don't have a granny gear any more. The granny gear definitely gave me a small climbing advantage. I don't understand why it is so offensive to people. Several blocks at 18% is harder to maintain on the new bike, but it's not a big difference. Even though I have less range now, I don't have issues with gears themselves, it's the shifting from gear to gear.
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 9,789 Member Member Posts: 9,789 Member
    You can shift front and back together.

    I shift to the other chainring when I'm about 2/3 the way across the cassette, not at the last cog. Avoids cross chaining, and the front never shifts quite as quickly so I don't want to rely on it when I'm out of gears.
  • amandaeveamandaeve Member Posts: 706 Member Member Posts: 706 Member
    front and back together- do you hit both shifters at the same time? Does your chain ever fall off?
  • sijomialsijomial Member Posts: 16,632 Member Member Posts: 16,632 Member
    amandaeve wrote: »
    I went to a bike shop, shared my issue with them, and they made adjustments, so it's not that.

    I'll describe the scenario: Let's say I'm going up a hill that slowly increases in slope. I am in the large front chaining. I'm pedaling along, slowly shifting the rear chain rings. If I gear to the end in the rear and then shift from the large to the small chaining in the front, then I lose momentum because I have to jump more rpm's in cadence than I can to keep up the spin. If I switch the large chaining before I get to the end in the rear, I can do that at the same time I change a couple of chain rings in the back and maintain the momentum, but I do have to change cadence a bit.

    On the triple, I could reliably shift quickly twice from one spot and get to an equivalent gear even though I'm on a different from chaining. I can't seem to find equivalent gears on the compact bike.

    @sijomial, I have a compact now, so I don't have a granny gear any more. The granny gear definitely gave me a small climbing advantage. I don't understand why it is so offensive to people. Several blocks at 18% is harder to maintain on the new bike, but it's not a big difference. Even though I have less range now, I don't have issues with gears themselves, it's the shifting from gear to gear.
    In the UK some call the smaller of two chainrings the granny ring. To me it's just a gear to be used to my advantage.

    Would suggest changing to your smaller chainring in the middle of your rear cassette gears rather than get right to the largest cog on the cassette before changing on the front - cross chaining (largest to largest or smallest to smallest) will quickly shorten the life of your chain which in itself spoils gear changes.

    Yes you do have to change cadence with gear changes, that's normal - something has to change (speed or cadence). But you can make those gearing changes smaller.

    Here's an example from the RideLondon last year. It's 3.5 miles of slightly increasing slope but with a lot of variations. I know it very well so have an advantage in knowing what's coming - riding with a load of other riders revealed how badly many used their gears!
    7rpp9dmdpzc5.png

    Many just ploughed along in the big ring until their cadence dropped far too low, jumped out of the saddle and wore themselves out or did a lot of cross chaining and then struggled with dropping onto the front chainring while already on lowest rear cassette gear. Much leg spinning and frantic multiple gear changes while they lost all momentum. If they had dropped to the smaller chainring earlier the gear ratio changes would have been far smaller and allowed more precise matching of gear to gradient.
    I'm not strong on hills but was far faster than many purely because I was spinning at a comfortable and economical cadence the whole time, which is really what gears are for.
  • amandaeveamandaeve Member Posts: 706 Member Member Posts: 706 Member
    I'm trying to find a right gears to shift at, I don't want to cross chain, lose momentum, or mash and run out of breath. I'm having a hard time transitioning to this new ratio. I'm not nearly as fluid as I used to be. I climb hills pretty well for my pace. Has anybody else changed chain rings like this? Perhaps 6 months isn't long enough to get in the swing of it? Seems like it should be, but I have been dialed in to that old gear ratio for many years. Hard to teach an old dog new tricks?
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 9,789 Member Member Posts: 9,789 Member
    amandaeve wrote: »
    front and back together- do you hit both shifters at the same time? Does your chain ever fall off?

    I used to hit both shifters at the same time. Now I'm using Di2 so it's just set up to shift 2 or 3 cogs whenever I shift Chauvin's chainrings. Some component groups handle it better than others, but I think they should all be able to handle double shifts as long as the chain isn't under a lot of tension. (So I'll get in the small ring when there's a hill coming up.)

    What components did the new bike come with?
  • amandaeveamandaeve Member Posts: 706 Member Member Posts: 706 Member
    It's 105 everything except I upgraded the crankset to Ultegra with a stages power meter.
  • lorrpblorrpb Member Posts: 11,170 Member Member Posts: 11,170 Member
    When I change from big to small front ring, I immediately change 2-3 gears in back. I might lose a little cadence but not too much. If I wait too long to shift in front I usually lose more momentum. My hubby says he experiences the same thing.
  • Rogus1Rogus1 Member Posts: 58 Member Member Posts: 58 Member
    I don't think the OP is have mechanical issues with shifting, but having trouble finding the right gearing combination for smooth transitions. I went from riding with a triple for 20 years to a compact double and it took some time to get used to the different ratios available. A triple provided closer ratios which made the shifting smoother with smaller jumps in shift changes. What works for me with the double is to shift the rear before shifting the front. It would keep the ratios in a front ring change much closer and there would be less to no loss of momentum going up hill. I also will shift front and rear at the same time. With my triple, which was mechanical, this would sometimes cause a dropped chain depending on which chain ring I was in and dropping to. Even so, it was rare. My current bikes have electronic shifting and there's never a problem with a dropped chain.
  • ritzvinritzvin Member, Premium Posts: 2,630 Member Member, Premium Posts: 2,630 Member
    Ditto what others said.. I'll usually switch the rear 1 or 2 (depends on how sharply the grade is about to change) either right before or at the same time as switching the front.
  • amandaeveamandaeve Member Posts: 706 Member Member Posts: 706 Member
    @Rogus1 Were you eventually able to shift as smoothly on the double as you could on the triple? Why did you switch to electronic shifting?

  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 9,789 Member Member Posts: 9,789 Member
    Wonder if the cassette is too wide range for you?
  • heybalesheybales Member Posts: 17,601 Member Member Posts: 17,601 Member
    I can usually discern by the hill if going to large cog with large ring won't be enough, and swap to small ring and drop to cogs at same time on approach, not waiting until I'm on the hill under load.

    I know under what speed this must be done for the small ring/small cog to still be correct.

    A drop of ring for me is about 20 increase in cadence if no change of cog, when on the smaller cogs. It's more than that if I wait until the large cogs.

    If I wait until I hit 80-85 cad big ring and smaller cogs 3-5, then do that drop and double shift, I increase back up to 90-95 cad.
    No loss of chain or momentum.

    Now as hill gets worse possibly, I've gotten all the cogs available.

    You perhaps just aren't used to being prepared like that.
    Ditto's to sijomial's comment about doing decent on hills compared to others purely because of being prepared.
    And that is different with your new setup, thinking about that differently.
  • Rogus1Rogus1 Member Posts: 58 Member Member Posts: 58 Member
    amandaeve wrote: »
    @Rogus1 Were you eventually able to shift as smoothly on the double as you could on the triple? Why did you switch to electronic shifting?

    It didn't take long to shift smoothly. The principle is the same with a double or a triple. What took longer is to adjust to the new combinations on the double for where I needed to be for cadence. After 15 years on the triple I didn't have to think about it. It was done almost without thinking.

    I never liked the long throw to shift on Shimano and I prefer the brake lever to be an individual function rather than also for shifting. Mechanical also needed adjustments over time. Electronic has been a set it up and it just keeps working. No effort shifting even under heavy loads. I've had it for 5 years now and still think it's great. It's a have to have in my opinion even though I could get by with mechanical. Cost is an issue, but I have it on both of my bikes. With how much I ride, it's worth it to me.

    One thing is you have to remember to charge the battery(ies). Took me 3 times of losing the front derailleur power (it's how Shimano preserves some shifting ability on low battery power) before I learned that lesson.

    edited July 2
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 9,789 Member Member Posts: 9,789 Member
    I wasn't sure about electronic shifting, but got a good deal on a bike set up with Di2 and haven't looked back.
  • sijomialsijomial Member Posts: 16,632 Member Member Posts: 16,632 Member
    Funny how your mind wanders while cycling....
    Thought of you OP and this thread about mile 26!

    f6u63430caz3.png

    Could you perhaps find a hill that you are struggling with your gears and do some experimental hill repeats to see what technique suits you and your gears the best?

    1/ Change to small chainring early so that you have to do two simultaneous rear gear changes to keep in your cadence range.
    2/ Change to small chainring slightly early so that you have to do one simultaneous rear gear change to keep in your cadence range.
    3/ Change to small chainring at the point your cadence is about to fall out of your best cadence range. No rear gear change required.
    4/ Keep track of your rear gears, when you get to gear 3 on your cassette then your next change (if required) is front chainring.
    5/ Change gear by cadence rather than by feel. For me that would be if dropping under 80rpm change down, if over 100rpm change up.
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