Ultra Newbie Questions, Mostly About Shifting


New Member
Jun 19, 2014
Last year I got my first real bike (decades ago I drove a kiddie one, but that's about it). It's a Jamis Explorer 4130 mountain bike, with three front gears and six back gears. The shifter is a Quickshift QS60-61. Nobody taught me how to use it, so I've been trying to figure out the fine points on my own. A few things continue to mystify me:

1. Is it safe to say I'd avoid cross-chaining if I always stay in the middle-ish range of the back gears? I'm not doing anything fancy, don't need use of all gears, just mostly want to drive smooth (and quiet!).

2. What do you do when surprised by a steep hill and you're still in a high gear? It can be awfully tough to keep pedaling so the shift can happen. Any special tricks, or is it just a nasty muscle-through situation, period?

3. Third gear in front stopped working within five minutes of my first ride. I've had it fixed twice by two different shops, but the fix never lasts more than five minutes. I'm assuming it's driver error...I shift very awkwardly. Any guesses re: what might going wrong here?

4. Any general ultra-newbie tips on Quickshift QS60-61? I drive a manual car, but don't find bike shifting real natural. Don't think I'm doing it quite the right way. Outside references to study up on would be appreciated!

1. If the derailleurs have not been adjusted correctly you are going to get cross-chain or noise, or non accurate shifting, or miss shifts or a combination of the previous anyway.

2. If you get surprised by a hill then what about potholes, babies, dogs, birds, traffic lights, mopeds... Just shift before, if you don't, stop put the gear and start really slowly so the gear will change and wont make too much noise-grind.

Btw there are shifting systems which do not require chain motion to change gear. These would be the "internal gear hub" ones, but they got lots of major drawbacks.

3. You mean the derailleur won't pull the chain to the gear? Might be a cable issue, or a derailleur issue. Lots of videos online on how to adjust deraileurs.

4. Ehmmm, don't shift with a stuck cable? That would make things brake...

Good luck!
1. Cross chaining shouldn't be a huge issue. If it's not rubbing enough to make noise, don't worry about.

2. I can't imagine a situation in which a hill would come up so abruptly that you wouldn't be able to drop down a gear in front. Dropping down a gear in front is very easy on the drivetrain and shifting system; it can be done in a fraction of a second. Do that instead of trying to quickly downshift multiple gears in the back.

3. Did they tell you what exactly the issue is? Grip shifters suck. The shops might not be adjusting the cable properly. When you shift, you might have to make sure to rotate the shifter a little beyond the click point to make sure the chain makes it all the way up and over the big gear.

4. Bike shifting is nothing like a car because it's nearly impossible to shift through the gears sequentially (unless you've got a new 1x11 mountain bike). As I said above, grip shifters suck and one thing to watch out for is the occasional need to intentionally over-rotate the shifter to cleanly get into the gear you're shifting into.
1. I cross-chain frequently, but never for long periods. Big-big works OK, but small-small makes the chain rattle against the inside of the big ring.

2. Learn to pedal at snappy cadence so when the hill surprises you, you still have enough cadence and forward momentum to back off jsut long enough to sneak the downshift in. Or, if for some reason you can't downshift, you can drop cadence enough to muscle over the hill without breaking your legs or falling over.

3. This might be related to #2. Derailleur bikes shift better the faster the chain is moving. To make the chain move faster, ride faster or drop down a gear or two. Your standard cadence should be at least 60 rpm.

4. The preferred way to shift a derailleur bike is to keep moving forward, keep pedaling, but reduce chain tension while doing it. We who have been riding for a long time call it soft-pedaling. Think about it. When you shift to a larger cog, you are deflecting a chain off one cog and onto another using cable tension that is actuated by pressure from your fingers or hand. When you shift to a smaller cog, you're releasing cable tension and the spring in the derailleur is deflecting the chain from one cog and onto another. Which would be easier to deflect, a tight chain or a loose one?

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