When I biked to work twenty years ago shifting was a royal pain. So I tended to find a gear that worked for a while and stuck with it; I shifted when I needed to. Last year I started biking again I fell into old habits. Besides, low gears are for wussies, right? I mean, if you aren't working hard where's the glory. Right.
At Christmas my son gave me a new bike and shifting became really easy. I also did a little bit of research and discovered that it is not how hard you work but your cadence that really matters. Consider this power curve from Bicycling Science by David Gordon Wilson:
What this tells me is that I should up-shift when it becomes really easy not just easy. But, how about downshifting? Same thing, I have discovered that I can go faster longer if I downshift as soon as pedalling gets a bit hard. A bicycle computer is really useful for observing this.
Shift to What?
I don't know about you but 21 speeds is a bit much to handle: if I'm in 2-4 do I go up to 2-5 or to 3-4 or what? Find out what your ratios are and you begin to get some insight. After counting teeth here's what I found out about my bike, a Trek 3700:
Feel free to download the spreadsheet and calculate your own. Share with me if you do and I'll publish it.
From this we begin to get some clarity about shifting: If you need to downshift longterm, 5 on the cassette (small, rear, right hand) is a good place to move to a lower range.
Stay tuned, I'm still learning how to upshift.