My technique has always been "easier, then harder". When switching to the big chain ring, I first downshift at least twice on the right (easier) and then upshift on the left (harder). When switching to the small chain ring, I first downshift on the left (easier) and then upshift at least twice on the right (harder). I find this technique effective because it maintains my cadence and prevents loss of momentum in my legs, especially important when switching to the big chain ring.

Does my technique hold water?

  • Your technique works fine as long as it works fine for you. The risk might be that your cadence suddenly increases and loose some momentum because you're on a steep bit. Personally I try and save the front changes for a slightly more relaxed bit of the grade - shifting under high tension is asking for a mechanical. Know the climb and what's coming up will help predict the next 30 seconds. – Criggie Dec 11 '17 at 8:33
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    I've never heard of a 'proper' order for this. If you technique works for you than it's good. I can shift front and back simultaneously both up and down pretty seamlessly on my SRAM Force equipped bike, but YMMV. – Argenti Apparatus Dec 11 '17 at 14:24

It doesn't really work to ask or answer this question independent of rear cluster gear count, range, and chainring tooth difference. In particular, road compact vs standard front gap leads to totally different strategies with shifting.

The more gears in back for a given cluster range, the less downside there is to just staying in the same chainring chosen based on the terrain you're in. The technically most optimal gear may still be on another ring, but there are efficiency and enjoyment downsides to doing all that back and forth shifting to stay on top of it. This effect has increased marginally with each speed generation.

The greater the chainring gap, the more rear shifting you need to do if you insist on sequencing your gearing exactly. That's a big reason why compact really took off in the days of 10 speed and not 5 speed - with 5 speed rear ends you're priced in to doing that sequencing, but with 10 it matters a lot less.

Also the greater the ring gap, the more gear values you're going to have back to back on the same ring at the extremes of the bike's gear range. For example, on 11-speed 34-50 11-25, the top 6 or so gears are all on the large ring and the bottom 4 or so are all on the small, so there's going to be a lot of the time where the most optimal sequencing involves no front shifting at all. Compare that to five-speed 42-52 13-25, where the only the top 1 or 2 and bottom 1 or 2 gears are on their respective chainrings. Again, you're then priced in to hunting around.

If you want to master this topic, studying different setups in a gearing calculator like https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html is a good idea.

  • My browser offers me 12 of my most common web sites every time I open a new tab. Sheldon's gear calculator is one of them. – Criggie Dec 11 '17 at 19:13

I've generally shoved both levers at once when shifting to lower gears and am out of range. The front and back mechs are unrelated on normal bikes (excluding any fancy-pants electric shifting)

For example, If I've ended up in big-big, then stabbing both underlevers once would move me

  • from 46:28 (ie 43.3 gear inches) to 36:24 (39.6 gear inches)
  • from 36:28 (ie 33.9 gear inches) to 26:24 (28.6 gear inches)

So its essentially shifting to a "next" gear ratio without being overly complex.

I use RSX 3x7 brifters, without trim. 46/36/26 and 12-28.

For me, shifts to the big chainring are iffy. The joy of an old bike, so I have no good words on that. Sheldon's gear calculator says the same would function the other way at the small end of the cassette.

To say that mess another way, two shifts on the rear + a shift on the chainring is about the same gear ratio (within 1.9 gear inches or 5% at the low end, or 3.3 gear inches and also 5% at the top end of the cassette).

  • Does this need a screenshot of the gear chart ? Can't tell if that would help or obscure. – Criggie Dec 11 '17 at 8:30

I assume it does. At least I do it all the time with an exception that I press both switches simultaneously, or at least without mentally dividing it into "first left, then right". And yes, it typically has the "two on the rear, one on the front" pattern to have a smooth transition.

Sheldon Brown calls the technique "Double shifting". The goal is to achieve a half-step gearing. The huge teeth count difference on modern front chainring doubles explains why it requires a double rear-shift, otherwise the gearing jump is too big and unpleasant.

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