ASK COACH FRED

How Can I Shift More Smoothly on Hills?

Question:

It's hilly on my home roads, and I struggle to ride efficiently. I usually shift to an easier gear at the bottom of a hill while I still have momentum. But if I need to shift again as the grade steepens and I'm mashing the pedals, the gear change is noisy and clunky. It makes my riding buddies cringe. How can I smooth things out? -- Barry O.

Coach Fred Matheny Replies: 

Like the vast majority of us, it sounds like you’re riding a bike with mechanical shifting. The secret is to plan your shifts. It sounds like you're doing that well to start hills.

But on the way up, anticipate when you'll need an easier gear and shift to it a few seconds ahead of time. This way, you won't be mashing on the pedals quite so hard. The chain will flow more smoothly and quietly.

In a situation where you're hammering and need to shift, here's the trick: Just as you move the lever, ease up on the pedal pressure. The shift will occur during one crank revolution. Then you can pour on the coals again.

If you time it right, you won't lose significant speed. To maximize momentum, push a bit harder for several strokes before lightening the shift stroke.

Bottom line: Any time you shift either derailleur, be conscious of your pedal pressure. Shifts made during a moderate application of power have the best chance of being smooth, quick -- and inoffensive to your riding buddies.

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