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Help, my girlfriend can't shift!(38 posts)

Help, my girlfriend can't shift!lampshade
Nov 24, 2003 8:13 AM
Seriously, my girlfriend just got a road bike. She seems to really like the sport and is an awesome natural athlete. She has the fitness from aerobics and running and the balance from biking as a kid, the only thing is she is not very mechanically inclined.

She is not good with cooking, CPU, electronics, etc. We have been out riding 3 times so far and I just can't figure out how to explain shifting to her. Her bike has a triple and STI. Sometimes I will look over and she will be in completely the wrong gear or really crossed up. It is had to give instructions, it usually sounds like, "Ok, push this lever over. No, not the whole lever, only that little part, now push the big one on the other side, no not that much..."

Has anyone successfully dealt with this? Is the answer to just get her to ride and let her figure it out?
Still struggling after 20+ years, but try this....Cory
Nov 24, 2003 8:26 AM
Shifting is such a natural thing to me that I have to bite my tongue when I ride with my wife. She's been cycling off and on for at least 20 years, we've even done a couple of centuries together, but the location of the chain on the gears is a continuing mystery to her. I keep wanting to snap, "That chainring hasn't moved since you found it two minutes ago!"
One thing that helped was to do a longish ride in moderate rolling hills, stuff she could handle in the middle ring. I just told her not to touch the left shifter at all--when it gets too hard to pedal, pull the right shifter back, and when it gets too easy, push it forward (this was several years ago, with downtube shifters). When she sort of began to understand the rudiments of that, we threw in the front derailleur. She's still not GOOD, but she's better.
Keep quiet and let her learn for herselfbimini
Nov 24, 2003 8:28 AM
Similar situation with my wife (except she has a cyclocross bike).

Best to talk about other things and only offer advice if she asks for it. Over time my wife has gotten better, but she still stays in the large chainring until halfway up the hill and gets completely loaded up before shifting and then complains about the bike being hard to shift. Since we are out for fun and relaxation, I tell her I will look at her shifters vs. pointing out what she is doing wrong. I simply slow down and go with the flow.

If it is enjoyable, then she will cycle more and should catch on.
Let her go out for a ride alone and figure it out...Spunout
Nov 24, 2003 8:28 AM
maybe she'll appreciate that more. Maybe, put the bike on a stand and show here what pushing a lever does to the drivetrain.
re: Help, my girlfriend can't shift!wooglin
Nov 24, 2003 8:28 AM
Just leave it in the middle ring and let her pedal until she's comfortable on the bike. Then start introducing more complicated stuff. I would deal with cadence before I started screwing around with the big or granny rings.
Landshark....I mean Candygram...... : )Scot_Gore
Nov 24, 2003 8:35 AM
Just kidding.

Serioulsy now, you don't say if she's unhappy with the gear ratio she's using, only that you're unhappy with the gear ratio she's using. Different strokes for different strokes.

You've likely been on group rides and looked around and seen vastly different choices of gears for the same circumstance. Is this one of those things and you only care because it's your newbie girlfriend. If that's the case I'd leave her alone and let her find her way. If she's asking for help coach her, like you would anyone who asked.

my 2 cents

Just a dolphin ma'am... nmAsiago
Nov 24, 2003 8:42 AM
Been there, done that.........Len J
Nov 24, 2003 8:43 AM
and (being ahead of you in line) let me point out an approaching pothole.

Keep your mouth shut, let her ask you for help. (that is if you want her to keep riding)

I know it's hard, but she knows you know more, she also doesn't want to be reminded of it. Let it go. Enjoy the day.

Now if she does ask, the advice about keeping her in the middle ring above is good, try it.

Another suggestion, is to find another woman rider who is more experienced than your g/f. Your G/F will be more comfortable asking for help from another woman and it's more likely that the explanation she will hear is in a way she will understand. Things I have struggled to explain to my wife have been explained by another women in less time than it took to respond to this post. Consider it using a translator.

Great point about the translator!PseuZQ
Nov 24, 2003 11:39 AM
I encountered something similar when I was learning to windsurf. That can be very complicated sport to pick up, given rigging, selecting equipment, selecting a sail for conditions, and then adjusting what your doing on the board to accommodate something you can't even see. When I'd go with my BF at the time, he would either a) ignore me or b) make loud sighing sounds as I was was attempting to rig and make little digs about how incompetent I was.

Now, contrast this with sailing with my female friends. Eveyrone helped everyone else get rigged as quickly as possible, offering pointers that acutally make sense (usually 'cause they didn't require brute strength). It was a much more collaborative process.

Long way of saying that maybe lampshade's GF should ride with some women to improve skills and confidence in a settig where she's not getting nagged.
Collaborative is part of it................Len J
Nov 24, 2003 2:40 PM
but, at least for my wife, woman seem to see space differently and explain it differently. Either that or I'm not a very good teacher. In the end it really doesn't matter if I really want her, & she want's to, learn.

Either way, I agree he might want to try someone speaking a "different language".

Same problem with my wifehudsonite
Nov 24, 2003 8:50 AM
The only thing that has helped is working with her with the bike mounted in a trainer. It is an easier forum to teach her how to shift and the effects. Give the trainer a try!
Did she ask for your advice?Keeping up with Junior
Nov 24, 2003 8:59 AM
When she wants your opinion she will ask for it.

Seriously, there is a lot to get used to riding and shifting can be one of those low priorities. There are people I see on club rides who rarely shift and they seem to do just fine. Most bikes are sold with a generic gear set that is inappropriate for riders needs and the terrain of the are. One thing that might help is for you to have the same cogs setup. Many new riders use the same cog (i.e. 4th cog) as the person they are following even though the actual gear ratio may be different.

I always know I am riding with an experienced group when everyone in the group shifts at the same time. No discussion, no reaction to others, everyone saw the same rise in the road, turn into the headwind, etc. and shifted.
When she wants your opinion she will ask for it.wooglin
Nov 24, 2003 12:05 PM
What planet are you from? When my gf wants my opinion she'll tell it to me....

Sorry. Just couldn't resist. ;)
re: Help, my girlfriend can't shift!FTMD
Nov 24, 2003 9:09 AM
My GF got her first road bike this year. Actually, I think she had only had it a week when we met. Our first ride out, she was brutal. It didn't help that she and I mostly rode together only on a weekly group ride that is flat as flat can be, so she'd get it in a gear and just leave it there. I offered advice, but I think it just made her nervous.

Just like you learned through trial and error, so must she. Get her in the hills and she'll figure it out. The light didn't come on for my GF until she started hitting some rollers, etc., that forced her to learn.

The best "line" or phrase I can give is that moving the chain closer to the frame makes it easier to pedal, and moving it away from the frame makes it harder. I think that one helps conceptully.
I think it just takes practiceColnagoFE
Nov 24, 2003 9:10 AM
My wife had the same problem the 1st time out with her new bike.
get her a Flight DeckPmbH
Nov 24, 2003 9:24 AM
then she can see what gears she is in, on a graphical display. Works great to learn chainlines and whatnot. I did this for my wife.
If it's FlightDeck compatible...namaSSte
Nov 24, 2003 9:43 AM
you just found your next Christmas gift for her. Just a thought but maybe "seeing" her gears optically would help.

Otherwise, I agree with the others, let her sort it out. She'll figure out soon enough that pushing a huge gear uphill is just not that much fun. If she doesn't have Flight Deck compatible stuff, maybe a computer that shows cadence would help. She can then just play around with gears until she gets the right rpms.

Good luck, "teaching" a spouse of SO can be a challenging and often unrewarding experience depending on your methods. It can also result in you spending a night or two sleeping on the couch, not that I'd know that of course :)
Buy her an autobike!Alexx
Nov 24, 2003 9:56 AM
I mean, really-this is who they make them for!
Get her a fixed gear!cmgauch
Nov 24, 2003 10:35 AM
single speed...._rt_
Nov 24, 2003 11:18 AM
fixie is waaaaay to dangerous for a newbie! ;-)

oh yeah, spread that love!!!namaSSte
Nov 24, 2003 12:00 PM
sorry rt, that REALLY came out wrong! :) I mean single speedlove of course!!!! Granted I have gears on the raod, off raod, it's one and only one. Less really can be more!!
Nov 24, 2003 12:56 PM
i'm thinking about taking my old mtb frame and building it up as a single speed. i've got about 1/2 the stuff i'd need.....but not quite yet ready to take the plunge (so to speak).


Remember the big easy dude...gtscottie
Nov 24, 2003 10:54 AM
STI shifters can be confusing for the first timer. You basically have one lever that does 3 things. When I got my first bike with STI I was quite frustrated because it seemed that I was always shifting up when I wanted to shift down and vice versa.

Until one day I'm riding with a buddy and he said to me Hey just remember the big lever in your right hand is for making it easy to pedal "Remember the big easy dude" after that it seemed to sort itself out.
Never heard that. I like it. (nm)lampshade
Nov 24, 2003 11:27 AM
Exactly my wife's technique, Big Easy (nm)Chen2
Nov 24, 2003 2:34 PM
Memory TestKeeping up with Junior
Nov 25, 2003 6:37 AM
The trick is to find what little tip the user can remember. Here are a few of the ones I use/share.

"R"ight for "R"ear. The right lever controls the rear gears (cassette).

For Shimano STI:
BIG lever for BIG cogs or rings. You press the big lever and chain shifts to the physically/visually larger cog (19, 21, 23...) or chainring (53). Of course the little lever shifts to the little cog (14, 13, 12) or chainring.

For Campy Ergo: Little button shifts to little cogs. Big lever shifts to big cogs (big in reference to the little button).

Never have any problems going between our STI tandem and my Ergo single. On my single speed MTB I am always in the right gear and never miss a shift.
You finally get a girl who likes to ride and already you are complaning.MB1
Nov 24, 2003 11:19 AM

Wonder how long this is going to last?

Put yourself in her shoes-you start to do something with her that she really enjoys and she takes all the fun out of it by constangly nagging (yes that is likely what she thinks you are doing while you think you are helping her to improve).

Perhaps you should just enjoy what you have and not try to make it better right away. Try talking about the view or how much you enjoy riding with her, or talk about what she enjoys about the ride.

Be a boyfriend, not a coach.
I see where you are coming fromlampshade
Nov 24, 2003 11:24 AM
but I have taken special care not to offer too much advice or sound condesending. I agree with your view 100% I know how lucky I am. I think it's funny b/c we each need to work @ opposite aspects of the sport. My bike skills are good, hers are not and her fitness is through the roof, and mine is not.

I can't wait until spring. She has already suggested starting to ride w/ a club and doing some events.
Help, my boyfriend can't leave me alone!litespeedchick
Nov 24, 2003 11:52 AM
No offense,my friend, but you do need to just chill for awhile. Here's your quote : "she will be in completely the wrong gear or really crossed up". Wrong gear is subjective and crossed up is apparently a female thing. I LIKE to be in both the big rings and according to advice I got on this board, it's not really a huge deal as long as the bike still shifts.

Now, if she really is having trouble actually shifting the bike in HER opinion, then here's a tip from someone else who is mechanically inept:

Hard Easy

Easy Hard
Say to yourself " Hard, Hard, Easy, Easy " While you make the appropriate hand motions toward the corners of an imaginary box. Repeat over and over before you go out on the bike. Repeat to yourself right before you need to change gears. If you run out of "easy" on your right hand, then you grab some "easy" with your left hand (and vice versa).

It was working great for me and then I got Campy. I've had the new bike six weeks and I'm still shifting the wrong way once in a while. Thank God for Grip Shift on the Mtn bike.

I don't know what it is. I got 1320 on my SATs (back in the day before they made it easier), I'm a CPA, and I can even cook. But I STILL can't half tell right from left. I've been riding since 1993 and I still have not changed a tire completely by myself. I have no IDEA what to do with those little adjuster thingies on the brakes and derailuers. I got a dremel tool stuck in my hair this summer. I hate to thing it's a girl thing, though. Perhaps it's just that any guy that was this pathetic with mechanical stuff would be too embarrassed to ride and would just go play soccer or something :-)
I'm not a mean person, reallylampshade
Nov 24, 2003 12:01 PM
I am not all over her about the shifting or anything. It's not a major topic in our relationship. We will not split up over it. I was just looking for some teaching advice.

She is doing great otherwise and I let her know it! I was actually more worried about her learning the clipless pedals, but she picked that up pretty quick (and only fell over while stopped once).

Congrats on the SAT score, you sound like a very well rounded person.
Hope I didn't imply that !litespeedchick
Nov 24, 2003 12:32 PM
I can tell you care about helping her, or you wouldn't have bothered to post the question.

Seriously, the "hard, hard, easy ,easy" thing worked great for me.

Good luck!
My wife rode behind me and shifted when I shifted.dzrider
Nov 24, 2003 12:36 PM
She could shift the bike and this was before indexing, but wondered why her boyfriend who was 20 lbs overweight and smoked could ride faster and longer than she could. I put the same set of gears on both our bikes and she followed me, shifting whenever she saw my chain move. Learned to draft at the same time. The teaching job within a relationship is to take advantage of the "teachable moment" and make learning easy.

Instruction, especically repeated instruction, is a disaster.
you got a dremel tool stuck in your hair?!_rt_
Nov 24, 2003 1:02 PM
LOL! that is the funniest thing i've ever heard. no, no! i'm laughing WITH you not at you! :-D

i think there are a lot of mechanically inept guys out there who refuse to admit their ineptitude. instead they feign disinterest & just take their bikes into the shop to have work done.

rt <---able to wrench her bike with ease, but afraid of power drills.....probably because i have a latent fear of getting them stuck in my hair!
yes. would have got it stuck in my hair AND my eyeball...litespeedchick
Nov 24, 2003 2:03 PM
...if not for the safety glasses (see, I am AWARE of my deficiencies and take steps to protect myself from them).

You'd be amazed at how fast a dremel tool can wind it's way up a foot and a half of hair once it gets ahold! Bounced off the glasses and stopped about an inch from my scalp (I got the switch turned off at that point.) My husband actually managed to wind it out with very minimal hair loss.

About a day later, I also decided it was the funniest thing i'd ever heard. That episode has stopped my husband from trying to get me to use a power hedge trimmer instead of my trusty hand-model. I explained that the hedge is about chest high....
Oh my god...LMFAO!!!!(nm)Greg B
Nov 24, 2003 2:12 PM
Picture in your mind, if you will.............Len J
Nov 24, 2003 2:45 PM
LMAO, I can hear your husband now........

(Cue the megaphone sounds)..."Step away from the Dremel!"

Better yet......."Throw the hedge trimmers to the ground, and put your hands up!"

It's amazing that you got the power turned off. I'd a been laughing so hard, I'd a creased my scalp. This is definatly one of those situitations where you get into the middle of it and think, Damn, that was dumb!. ;-)

Thanks, I needed that mental image.

i knew there was a reason i kept my hair short..._rt_
Nov 25, 2003 7:14 AM
dremel tool safety! hee hee hee hee hee hee hee.

definately no power hedge trimmers for you!

LOL! thanks nmJS Haiku Shop
Nov 25, 2003 7:38 AM