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It's hard to give you a useful answer without a little more information. Bike setup, kind of terrain you are riding? How long have you been riding? What is your average (comfortable) cadence?

Depending on your gearing, as you get down to the smaller cogs on the rear you will start to get into the range of the large chain ring and the second or 3rd cog. You can figure out where they start to overlap with a little bit of math. Divide the chain ring tooth count by the cog tooth count to get the ratio for each usable combination. You will likely find some of the ratios are very close to one another between the large and small chain rings. Once you have this figured out try using the large chain ring ratio closest to the small ring one you would normally use.

Note: You should not use large chain ring with largest rear cog or the small chain ring with the smallest cog. This is even more important on a triple crank set.

Pedaling in circles will also help as apposed to only using the down stroke of your leg, you want to keep force applied to the cranks all the way around the pedal stroke. Mastering this skill is important to improving your performance. You will be able to go faster with the same effort and get a better workout as well. Google “pedaling in circles” to get some pointers on proper pedaling techniques.

Hope this helps.

Shawn
 

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A friend told me when i first started riding that you wanted to divide the rear gears up. With the smallest ring in front, only use the biggest half of the rear gears. For the middle, use the middle half of the rear, and the big ring goes with the smaller gears in the back. I've found that's a good place to start. Obviously you can stretch those a bit, but like said before, don't use the small ring up front with the small gear in back.

My guess is that you're just not switching as often as you should. I'm guilty of the same sometimes when i get lazy. Switching rear gears seems much quicker and easier, so I fool around with the back derailleur much more than the front. Just practice using the front derailleur, and try using the easier gears in the back in conjunction with the hard gear in the front. Just remember to not make that cross over like I said earlier.
 

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How long have you been riding? If you are fairly new, yes your abilities and strength should improve.

What cadence are you riding? Are you mashing or spinning?

I rarely ride the small ring, I'm on the large ring 90% of the time. As others have posted, there is a fair amount of overlap in the gears. When on the large front ring, I try not to use 3 largest gears in rear, if I find I do, time to shift to smaller front ring. The rules of thumb above are good to prevent excessive wear on the chain on the "crossover" gears.
 

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If you have a regular chainring on the front, which is like 54 teeth on the big ring and 39 teeth on the small ring (count the teeth), then you will be spinning at up to 17 mph on the flats in your small ring.

Most everyone now has the dreaded compact crank which is usually about 50/34. This means that while you are comfortable in your small ring, they are using their big ring.

Compact cranks are meant for climbing, so they reserve the small ring for climbing.

I think it has less to do with fitness than you might think.

I hope that helps.
 

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edhchoe said:
I use the big gear only for going downhill. Am I doing it wrong? Will I move up to the big gear as I get stronger?
The only way you could say you are doing it wrong is if you are consistently spun out in your little ring. In other words, you are going so fast, pedaling the bike doesn't do anything except spin the cranks. If that is the case, then you should move to the big ring.
 

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robert_shawn said:
.....Note: You should not use large chain ring with largest rear cog or the small chain ring with the smallest cog. This is even more important on a triple crank set.....
We do it all the time. If the bike is set up right this really isn't a problem at all.
 

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Hooben said:
If you have a regular chainring on the front, which is like 54 teeth on the big ring and 39 teeth on the small ring (count the teeth), then you will be spinning at up to 17 mph on the flats in your small ring.
I get more like 20 mph on my small ring using the 13 in the back. Of course, I'm spinning at 105 rpm or something, but really 17 is hardly the top end of the small chainring.

I think there is a little something to the idea that strength is involved, but it's not that it takes more power to turn the big ring--as people have pointed out, there are a lot of equivalent gears on the big ring and small ring.

What I find is that on the big ring the relative change in effort of difficulty is much greater per gear shift, making it harder to find a comfortable gear if you're not strong enough. So if I shift from the 15 to the 16 while on the small chainring, it feels like a small jump. If I do the same shift on the big ring, it feels like a much larger one. You always feel it's too big a gear or too small if you're a little down on power. When you're stronger you can just power through the larger gear if you feel like it.
 

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When I started off on my first road bike a year ago, I was always in the small ring. About two months later, I switched to big ring exclusively. Basically, whatever is comfortable for you is good. I prefer a slower cadence, so I ride anywhere from 53/18-15 regularly.

There aren't too many hills here either, just long slopes, so I just deal with the big ring.

I briefly considered a compact for my new bike, but due to the terrain, my slower cadence, it made more sense to get a regular 53/39.
 

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I have an 11tooth in the back so spin out of my small chain ring well about 20mph.

That being said I have plenty of overlap. I change chain rings strategically. If I am approaching hills then I'll switch it down to the small chain ring. If I think there will be some accelerations than I'll be in the big chainring.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the replies..

I have 50, 34 in the front. And I have been riding for 2 months. And I routinely sustain about 17 mph on the flats when I am not tired.

I move the front deraileur to avoid scraping the chain but sometimes the chain is crossed so far it is impossible to completely prevent scraping. I guess I will shift the front gear next time when that happens.
 
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