Ask the Expert: What gear should I be in?

If you have bikes with gears, have you ever had a student ask you “What gear should I be in” even after you’ve explained the terrain, cadence and intensity? You know they shouldn’t ride at a specific gear, but how do you explain it to them? The answer also applies to cueing a specific wattage (power output) or even a specific number of turns of a resistance knob.I received this Facebook message from ICA member Cathy the other day and thought I’d turn it into an Ask the Expert post.

I teach on the Keisers at one club and it amazes me how students are blindly led and cued to a specific gear. They are so used to this practice that they will yell out to me during class “What gear should we be on?” I reiterate the same speech over an over and explain why I will never cue to a gear, but instead set them on a flat or climb, give them a range of gears to choose from to meet a desired intensity level and zone. This might be a great subject for an upcoming article. You are so great at putting these issues into words.

Thank you Cathy. It IS a great subject, and not uncommon for instructors to cue by a gear number, and therefore, they are training them to expect a specific gear. If you don’t do it, they might wonder if you as the instructor “know what you are doing”! Ah, little do they realize that if you do not teach by gear, then you are helping them far more than those instructors who do!


  1. I also use the weight lifiting analogy picking up this lady whose body weight is less than 100lbs and the big guy whose weight maybe somewhere above 200lbs. It is obvious that these two people won’t be lifting the same weight and accomplish their workout goals. It is a pain that this repeats over and over…..

  2. …from new folks in my class. My regulars know the drill. I use the weight lifting analogy frequently. Thanks for addressing, I may quote you next time!

  3. I’ve also used a treadmill or local high school track analogy. I couldn’t expect everyone to run at 7.5mph for 5 minutes on the treadmill or run 2 minute 400s on the track. Some members of the class might find it easy, others might find it impossible.

    Keep up the great work!


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