Ever forget how to shift?

The other day, I was out for an easy morning ride with Pat. This is the one where we get to the Veloway, and I speed away from her to complete three laps, while she does two.

So I’m on the backside of the track, approaching the pesky little hill that provides the only real challenge to riding here. Usually, I’m in the small chainring, moving about 21 mph in one of the smaller cogs. I shift down two or three gears to be able to get up the hill without coming up out of the saddle.

This time, though, I zoned out. I pushed the left brifter in — but that’s the one that shifts me into the large chainring on the front. Startled, I realized I was screwing up, and mashed the right brifter in, snick, snick, snick.


By now, I had reached the bottom of the hill, and had to negotiate a sharp right turn to start the climb. But a lady on a mountain bike was in the right lane. Instead of starting in the left, picking the apex of the turn, and shooting across to the right lane to smoothly attack the hill, I had to keep to the left lane.

I hit the hill in the large chainring, several gears higher than I normally ride it. I wound up standing on the pedals this time, pushing hard to get to the top of the short grade, and watching as the lady’s mountain bike stalled halfway up, in the middle of the track. She put a foot on the ground, and I went by her.  (In her defense, I well remember when I first rode the Veloway on my mountain bike. I didn’t stop, but I strained to get the pedals around on that hill.)

I’ve done this route so many times that even in the wrong gear the hill wasn’t a problem. It just wasn’t as smooth a job as I’d like. What bothers me is that it’s not the first time I’ve missed a shift like this. Most often, I’ll mean to downshift with the right brifter but click the little black paddle instead — the one that upshifts. This time, I got the wrong side altogether!

Has this ever happened to you, or is this a case of my Oldsheimer’s taking over?


  1. says

    I’ve done that more than I want to admit. It’s almost always on the front derailer but I’ve done it on the rear before as well…eh…I guess the more miles you ride the more you open yourself up to make mistakes :-)

  2. Kevin says

    I seem to be good for shifting in the wrong direction about once a ride. I don’t seem to mistake the front for the rear or vice-versa though. But then my bike has old stem mount lever shifters with indexing on the rear and friction on the front. Since the left hand and right hand end up operating a little differently, there’s more muscle memory involved. My left hand is conditioned to find the correct lever position with larger movements, and the right hand is conditioned to move the lever in small clicks, and that seems to keep front and rear separate.
    If I ever get a new bike with push button brifters, I’ll probably make front vs. rear mistakes too. And I’ll probably get the shifters and brake levers confused as well… My mind ain’t what it used to be either.

  3. says

    I use gripshit (throttle style twist shifters.. grifters?) and it’s not uncommon for me to roll down when I meant to roll up, but for the most part it’s pretty logical since twisting downward puts you in a bigger gear, thus making you go faster – just as if you were giving it more gas like on a motorcycle.

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