using gears most efficiently

edited July 2013 in Tandem
We have the tandem TT, have ridden hills most of season, but recently started riding on a paved bike trail. I'm not real experienced at figuring out gearing, and since there are no numbers to go by, how do I best utilize the 27 gears I have? The gears on the left side affect the rear wheel right? Hate to sound like a bit of a dummy on this, but I guess I am. We want to get the most speed on a flat terrain with the least amount of effort. Did some experimenting today, but don't think I got it right. We both have sore knees.


  • All the gears are in the rear wheel. However the left shifter changes the front deraileur and the right shifter controls the rear gears.
    Here's an easy way to think of it.

    Think of the front (left) shifter as your multiplier. You have 3 positions on that shifter - lets call them 1X, 2X, 3X
    On the rear you have 9 speeds (1-9).
    If you're front (left) shifter is in the first position (first chainring or 1X) then your back gears are basically speeds 1-9.
    If you shift the left shifter one click to the second position (second chainring or 2X) then your rear gears are now effectively speeds 10-18.
    Shift your left shifter to position 3 (Third chainring - 3X) and now your rear gears are 19-27.

    Now the only caveat is that some of the gears kinda crossover in speed. For example, you may find that speed 9 and speed 10 are very similar as are 18 and 19.
    Most people stay in one chainring for most of their riding and only adjust the rear gears with occasional shifting of the front derailuer when needed. You may use the front gears a little more with the tandem though.

    Hope this helps
    Jeff "Chonk" Yonker
    Marketing Dude @TerraTrike

    You miss 100% of the shots you don't take - Wayne Gretsky
  • Maybe because I was an elementary teacher, but I like making sounds to remember things.

    R R Right is R R Rear. That's how I remember.
    Kelli B
    Sales, TerraTrike
  • Thanks for the explanation. I think I have a better understanding of the gears now. Changing from constant hills to the flat bike trail was so different. I'll just keep playing around with the gears, like I did for hills, eventually i'll find something that is comfortable for both of us.
  • I am also wondering about using gears as we get used to our new trike. We are S-L-O-W--used to riding around 12 mph on our regular tandem, now we're at 8 mph. We've been riding mostly bike trails as we get used to the trike. I feel like I'm pedaling really hard, and using mostly the big chain ring. I don't want to spin too fast--we call that "clown car" pedaling. Any tips? Is this a typical speed? Will we get faster?
  • For me, the key to using gears efficiently on any bike is to use the cadence feature on my Cateye Strada Cadence bike computer. The idea is to keep cadence (# of pedal rotations per minute) in an efficient range. For me, as measured by the computer, that means keeping the cadence reading over 100 (which I think is really 50 RPM) and not so fast you can't peddle smoothly. My upper limit is 180 (90 RPM), but 140 (70 RPM) is my average, and my stoker's is lower.
  • It would actually be important to be familiar with the gears you have before actually diving into conclusion of what is to be changed and tinkered on each side. Most likely, the thing you are actually describing is the left shifter which really changes depending on the balance you have going with it. I am not sure though how you are to work accordingly with it.
  • If you are still feeling slow on your tandem, our solution for that was adding a BionX SL350 assist, and a bigger chainring at the stoker position. That upped our average speed from 4 to 12 MPH, with cadence of 60-70 RPM.
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