How To Change Gear On Your Bike | Road Bike Shifting Made Easy
How to Shift Gears on a Bike
Tired of pushing your "fixie" up the hill? Getting a bike with gears makes riding more comfortable and efficient whether you're climbing mountains or cruising city streets. Understanding the basics of how gears work can completely change the way you ride your bike, so learn these easy techniques today and start riding with style!
Identifying Your Gears
This section teaches you how to see whether your bike has multiple gears or not and, if it does have multiple gears, how many. to skip straight to the part about shifting.
Count the number of gears at the base of the pedals.If you want to learn how to shift gears on your bike, you'll need a bike that has gears in the first place. Luckily, this is easy to check. Start by looking at the pedals. In the center of the pedals, there should be one or more metal rings with teeth on the outside that fit into the chain. These are the thefront gears.Count how many gears you see.
- Most bikes will have between one and three front gears.
Count the number of gears on the rear wheel.Now, look at the back wheel. You should see the chain run from the front gears over a different set of rings at the center of the wheel. These are therear gears.Count how many you see.
- If your bike has gears, there will usually be more rear gears than front gears. Some bikes have ten or more.
Multiply the two numbers to find how many gears your bike has.Now, just multiply the number of front gears by the number of rear gears. This tells you the total number of gears your bike has.Some people also call this the number of "speeds."
- For example, if you have three gears in the front and six gears in the back, your bike has 3 × 6 =18 gears(or "speeds"). If you have one gear in the front and seven gears in the back, your bike has 1 × 7 =7 gears.
- If your bike only has one gear in the front and one in the rear, it has 1 × 1 =1 gear. This sort of bike is called a "fixed-gear" or "fixie." Unfortunately, you can't shift gears on fixed-gear bikes.
Use your left hand to shift the front gears.Bikes with gears almost always have hand controls on the handlebars to use for shifting. When you use the left hand controls, a metal loop called aderailleur("de-railer") shifts the chain from side to side to make it catch on a new front gear. There are a few different mechanisms for shifting that are common on bikes. These include:
- Grip shifters that you work by turning your wrist
- Small levers above or below the handlebars that you work with your thumbs
- Larger levers next to the handbrakes that you work with your finger tips
- More rarely, electronic shifters or levers mounted on the frame of the bike
Use your right hand to shift the rear gears.The rear gears have their own derailleur. Using the right hand controls will move the rear derailleur side to side, making the chain catch on a new rear gear. The rear gears almost always use the same mechanism as the front gears.
- If you can't keep your hand controls straight while you're riding, remember: "right = rear."
Gear down to make your pedaling easier but less powerful.You can change your gears to make riding your bike easier in certain situations. For example, shifting into a "lower" gear lets you pedal quicker and easier, but each pedal won't push you as far. There are two ways to do shift down:
- Shift into asmaller gear in the front.
- Shift into abigger gear in the back.
Gear up to make your pedaling harder but more powerful.The opposite of shifting down is shifting up into a "higher" gear. These gears make it harder to pedal, but each pedal will push you further and make you go faster. There are also two ways to shift up:
- Shift into abigger gear in the front.
- Shift into asmaller gear in the back.
Practice shifting up and down in a flat area.A good way to get the hang of shifting is to simply start doing it! Go someplace safe and flat (like a park) and start pedaling forward. Try using one of the hand controls to shift up or down. You should hear the chain click or rattle and you'll feel your pedals get either easier or harder to push depending on whether you shifted down or up. Try using both sets of controls to shift in both directions until you get the hang of them.
Only shift while you're pedaling forward.If you're used to a bike that needed you to pedal backwards to brake, this can take some time getting used to. The chain can only catch on new gears if it is stretched tight, which requires you to pedal forward. If you shift while you're pedaling backwards or not pedaling at all, the chain won't be tight enough to catch. When you start pedaling again, it may rattle around or slip off of the gear. This isn't something you'll want to happen while riding.
Knowing When and How to Shift
Pick a low gear when you start off.The first few pedals you take on your bike are often some of the hardest because you need to go from standing still to cruising speed. Whenever you start riding, shift down to a fairly low gear to make it quicker and easier to get back up to speed.
- You'll also want to do this whenever you come to a complete stop and start pedaling again (like at a red light).
- If you know you're going to stop riding soon, it's a good idea to shift into a low gear so you can get started easier next time. This is especially true if you know you'll have to get out of a tricky spot — like if your home's driveway goes uphill.
Gradually gear up as you build up speed.As you get going faster and faster, you'll find that the lower gears start to feel "too easy" after a while. If you want to keep building up speed, shift up. You'll notice the pedals feel more difficult to push and you'll keep accelerating.
- If you're riding around on moderate terrain (like city streets with a few minor hills), a "middle" gear will usually work well for your default cruising speed. For example, if you're on an 18-speed (three gears in front, six in the rear), using the second gear in the front and the third in the rear should give you a good "middle of the road" option.
Shift down for hills.This is an important skill to learn — without it, you'll be stuck walking your bike up larger hills. It's almost impossible to get up a hill in high gear. However, lower gears let you pump your way up the hill slowly and steadily withouttoomuch extra effort.
- You may find it difficult to slowly climb hills in a low gear at first. Since you're moving at a low speed, it's a little more difficult to keep balanced than normal. However, moving slowly means it's easy to drop a foot to the ground if you lose your balance.
Shift up when on fairly level ground and for downhill areas.If you're trying to build up as much speed as possible, using higher gears on this type of terrain is the way to go. Gradually shifting to your highest gears will allow you to keep accelerating at a steady rate until you reach your top speed. Be sure to ride especially carefully when you're going this fast — it's easier to hurt yourself.
- Being in a high gear is one of the only ways to be able to speed up while you're going downhill. Lower gears won't turn the chain quick enough to keep up with the wheels when you're rolling downhill, making it basically impossible to speed up except from the hill itself.
Shift up carefully to avoid hurting your joints.It can feel satisfying to "pump" your bike into motion in a high gear, but it may be bad for your body in the long run. Straining hard to push a bike that's in too high of gear can put stress on your joints (especially your knees), leading to soreness and even joint problems over time. It's also not as good of exercise for your heart and lungs as pedaling in a lower gear at a steadier pace.
- To be clear, you can use your bike's higher gears, but you should only shift into them gradually after you've already built up speed.
Avoid choosing gears that "crisscross" the chain.As you shift your gears, if you look down at the chain, you may notice that it sometimes points in a slightly diagonal direction. This isn't a problem unless you pick gears that make the chain run at extreme diagonal angles. This can make the chain wear down and break over time and can cause rattling and slippage in the short term. In general, you'll want to avoid having the chain on either the biggest or smallest gears in both the front and in the rear. In other words:
- Don't use thelargest front gear with the larger rear gears.
- Don't use thesmallest front gear with the smaller rear gears.
QuestionDo I increase the display number or decrease it to get a higher gear in the rear set?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTo get a higher gear and more resistance, you select the higher displayed numbers.Thanks!
QuestionCan I go on 2-6 gears?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOn a mountain bike, you have two sets of gears on either side of the bike which you control with the left and right handle. The left side usually has 3 gears, one small gear ring which you might use for climbing hills. One medium gear ring which you might use on the high street if you prefer to peddle faster but with less resistance, and finally the big gear ring which is most commonly used and is good for the high street. Then on the right, you usually have about 6-8 gears which you can change depending on how fast or hard you want to peddle. Have a play around with all right-hand gears on different gear rings on the left and see the differences they all have.Thanks!
QuestionWhen should I use low level gears and when should I use high level gears?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStep 3 and 4 explain the differences. Low level gears are for going up hills, while higher level gears are for downhill or flat areas.Thanks!
QuestionMy bike has 18 speeds. I want to keep the front gear at a particular gear and just want to use the rear gear. Is it possible?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. Just don't shift the front gear and only shift your rear gears. This is the easiest and most commonsense way to solve your dilemma.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I ride a 21 gear bike?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe same way you would ride any other bike. Jump on the bicycle and start pedaling.Thanks!
QuestionIs a 6 gear bike adequate for small hill climbing?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA 3 gear bike is better for small hills, for bigger ones you use 6-9 gear bikes depending on the size. Rule of thumb, the smaller the hill the fewer gears you need.Thanks!
QuestionDoes this mean that the left and the right hand both need to be on 1 for lowest?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, both low numbers mean low gears. Although the lowest gear is not always equal to the smallest gear in size. A low gear will mean a small gear in size at the front and a large gear at the back and a high gear will be inverted to that.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I stop the chain from coming off the gears of my mountain bike?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPush the rear end of the de-railer forward and seat the chain on the front chain casing. This should solve the problem.Thanks!
QuestionOn my front shifter, does the "+" move the chain to a larger sprocket?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes it does, and with the back sprocket it is the other way around. You can play around with the gears and see for yourself.Thanks!
QuestionWhich are the low gears and the high gears?wikiHow ContributorCommunity Answer1 is the lowest (most resistance) and 7 is the highest (least resistance).Thanks!
How do I fix the rattling sound when shifting front gears on my bike?
Can I shift both the front and the back gears at the same time on a bike?
- When riding into a strong wind, ride in one gear lower than you would normally. You'll ride a bit slower, but you will be able to ride for longer at a steady pace.
- The difference in size between the front gear and rear gear determines how hard you have to pedal to move the bike and how fast you go. For example, if the two gears are almost the same size, then for every rotation of the pedals, the rear wheel will rotate about once. On the other hand, if you have a large gear selected up front and small one in back, the back wheel can rotate a few times for each pedal stroke. This allows you to reach higher speeds, but takes more effort to accelerate.
- When riding up a hill, play it safe and ride in a gear that is too low. Spinning your legs fast but with less effort is tiring, but better for you than powering through the climb. Also, it'll let you climb longer hills.
- Change gears for a hill early. You don't want to be going down gears in a hurry once you've started to go up the hill.
- Many people find between 75 and 90 rotations per minute to be the easiest speed to maintain for a long time. At this speed, your pedal should make a full rotation in just less time than it takes you to say "one one thousand"
- Put a degreaser into your chain and clean it, then put some lube in it to avoid excessive wearing of your cogs.
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Video: How To Change The Gears On Bicycle. Correct Shifting + SAVING POWER. SickBiker Tips.
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