Why does my bike get stuck when I try to shift?

author : Team BT
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Shifting on hills can be challenging. Here's some advice.

In a recent local triathlon, the bike course was mostly flat, but with two substantial hills that couldn't be seen ahead of time. For many riders new to the course, they were already having a hard time pedaling before the hill came fully into view and they realized they needed to shift.

And then they would try to shift.

And the bike would make lots of noise, but not shift into an easier gear.

Some riders had to stop, and then had an almost impossible time getting started again on the incline. Another rider fell when she couldn't turn the pedals over anymore in the hard gear she was stuck in.

So why does that happen? Why won't your bike shift when you need it to the most?

Well, once you are heading up a steep hill, there is a lot of pressure on the chain and shifters. That makes it hard for anything to move around smoothly. Even if your bike is fresh from a tune-up, you might find you can't shift from the big chainring into the small one under a lot of strain. That's perfectly normal. In addition, your pedals and chain need to make a few circles before the shift is complete, and when you are straining for every inch, it takes a long time to turn the crank around enough to complete the shift.

Here are some tips that can help:



  1. Keep your eyes up and/or drive the course the day before the race so you can anticipate any hills that might sneak up on you. You'll be mentally ready to shift as soon as you feel yourself begin to dig into the hill, and before it's too late.

  2. Try shifting the front chainring first. This is the "gross adjustment" as compared to the "fine adjustment" in the back on the cogs. You'll get the most relief for your effort if you can shift into the smaller chainring right away.

  3. If the front is stuck, give up. The harder you pedal, the less likely you'll be able to shift the front chainring. Switch to trying to shift the rear shifter to easier and easier cogs, one by one. You won't end up in your lowest gear, but you may get enough relief to be able to make it to the top of the hill, or to try shifting the front chainring again now that you can pedal more smoothly.

  4. If you can't shift at all and you are about to fall over, quickly check behind you and if the road is clear, try taking a serpentine path back and forth across the lane. This will allow you to ascend more slowly and at a more shallow angle. 

  5. Find hills near your regular training paths where you can practice frequently. A topographical map of your community might reveal some park driveways or hidden subdivisions with decent hills.


 

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date: September 30, 2016

Team BT