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I usually would set the gear to one level and leave it at that if I felt comfortable -- however, I just heard of someone changing gears on stops and whatnot to help with the initial inertia from full rest and such.

I never have done this, as I just forced myself to deal with said level in both full stops and top speeds.

Is there anything bad about this, maybe having to do with the chain? Because I have a history of chain problems on every bike I've had (all cheap-ish, but some better than others). Is gear-shifting more good or bad or makes not much of a difference? I don't really shift ever as riding. Can this affect things more with the chain, both down to the tires and/or the mid-drive area itself of the bike?

Common issues I have are: chain breaking; getting stuck; shifting but not falling to the right links/gears.

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    Sounds to me like you would be a perfect candidate for a single speed bike... – Gabriel C. Apr 26 '19 at 18:42
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    re chain breaking - how often do you replace a chain? If the answer is "when it breaks"... then consider buying a new chain sooner ;) – Terry Seidler Apr 26 '19 at 18:52
  • If not bad but it is inefficient, if it works for you keep doing it. If you want to go faster or go further with less effort, learn to change gears. – mattnz Apr 26 '19 at 20:04
  • I hate chains. I wish they had actual, usable bicycles that didn't need chains. – SeneJerry Apr 26 '19 at 20:45
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    There a belt driven bikes, but they are generally quite pricey – Nate W Apr 26 '19 at 20:53
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There's an old joke. Man says to his doctor "It hurts when I do this." Doctor says "Don't do that."

If you've got a multi-speed bike and the shifting doesn't work well, the solution is to fix the shifting mechanism, not to avoid shifting. As others have said, the whole point of having multiple gears is to let you ride at a more efficient cadence, which lets you be more comfortable, faster, and (at the extremes) saves your knees.

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If you are a casual cyclist on flat terrain, without a lot of stops you can get away with not changing gear very much. Learning how to effectively change gear at stops and as the grained changes can make cycling more comfortable and efficient.

Never shifting is possibly contributing to chain problems. You will be putting more stress on the chain when you have to pedal hard. That’s accelerating chain wear which can lead to the chain snapping and contributes to shifting issues

A lot of the shifting issues you are experiencing are very likely due to poor adjustment and a dirty chain, so a tune-up at a bike repair shop should help.

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Bad for you or the bike ?

For the bike, I don't think so, unless the selected gear has the chain is "cross chained", this will wear the chain quickly.

See: https://road.cc/content/feature/213468-cross-chaining-it-really-all-bad

For your body, yes, maybe, if you need to put too much pressure on your knees when climbing.

The goal of shifting is to keep a stable cadence (rpm) whatever the terrain you ride.

If you decide to roll at a cadence of 100 rpm (for example) , then you will shift up or down to keep that cadence stable if going up a hill, or going downhill.

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Two mechanical issues come to mind:

  • Cross chaining. When you use the smallest or largest sprocket the chain runs at an angle, which is bad for wear and efficiency. It’s usually not much of an issue (since most people ride in the middle of their gear range) but probably not a good idea to do constantly. With two or three chainrings you should avoid the large-large and small-small combinations.

  • Uneven wear of the sprockets. Your favorite sprocket will wear down faster than the others. If it’s one of the smaller sprockets it will be especially bad since the wear is distributed over much fewer teeth.

If your chain is breaking it’s probably because it’s worn down or hasn’t been closed/riveted properly.

Bad shifting performance is usually caused by it being out of adjustment, friction in the cables (due to old or badly routed cables), bent derailleur hangers or worn components. Even cheap-ish gears usually shift quite nicely when the components and cables are in good shape and well adjusted.

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