Shifting gears on a bike can be extremely difficult to people who have never cycled. How frequently should you change? When should you change gears on a bicycle? What equipment is best for climbing? What about descents or flats? You’re probably not getting the most out of your bike—or your rides—if these queries have prevented you from shifting gears at all. So that you can feel confident the next time you’re out riding, we’ve produced a guide on how to change and when to move your bike gears.
How to Shift Your Gears
Here’s a quick, easy-to-digest summary on shifting:
- Use your left shifter to change the front chainring or gear.
- Use your right shifter to select a rear gear; this is the way you’ll do it most of the time.
- Lightly pedal while using the shifter for more seamless shifting. Don’t retreat.
- Change into a harder gear if you’re peddling too quickly and there isn’t enough resistance. Along with moving quicker,
- Don’t be afraid to change into a lower gear if you’re pedaling too slowly and finding it difficult to turn the pedals. In any case, it is preferable to ride with greater efficiency.
- Another way to look at it is that pedaling is made simpler by bringing the chain nearer to the bike in both the front and the back. You accelerate by moving the chain away from the bike.
- Practice makes perfect, as they say. Try out different gears and experiment with shifting to see how it feels.
While that provides a fundamental overview of shifting, you may increase the effectiveness of your rides by learning more about changing gears.
Know Your Shifters
Typically, the left-hand shifter controls the front bike gears, while the right-hand shifter manages the back bike gears. Right equals rear is a handy mnemonic to keep in mind if you find yourself getting anxious on the spot.
Unless your bike was specifically designed to have the rear shifted on the left side, you will only have a right-handed shifter on bikes with just one chainring in the front, also known as “1x” or “one-by” bikes. Although different shifter manufacturers perform somewhat different operations, all shifters are fairly simple to use.
If you want to know how yours work, ask your bike store when you buy it. You may also just go on your bike, cycle, and push your shifters to get a feel for how they work.
Play Around With the Gears
The majority of geared bikes feature one, two, or three front chainrings (the rings attached to the pedal crank arm) and seven to twelve rear gears, also known as cogs (the cassette attached to the rear wheel).
Your pedaling effort is gradually reduced as the chain is moved from the smallest to the largest rear cog. It is more obvious when it is moved between the chainrings up front; pedaling is easy in the smaller chainring and harder in the larger one. The easiest approach to learn how your bike gears feel while riding is to take your bike to a safe location away from traffic, such as an empty parking lot, and shift through all of the front and rear ratios.
In order to find their ideal cadence, cyclists spend the majority of their time changing the back gears.
When to Shift Bike Gears
On climbs or when riding into the wind, you should change into a lower gear. When the terrain is flat or the wind is blowing from behind, use a harder gear (a tailwind). When in doubt, move ahead of the changing terrain, especially when it involves hills. You should change gears in advance of the climb rather than waiting until you can feel it begin. When shifting, keep pedaling but lighten up on the pedals, especially on hills, as the chain may skip or fall off if you cycle too hard or stop pedaling altogether.
Use only the small or middle front chainring and the rear cogs when you’re first getting used to riding a bike. This will give you a chance to practice shifting before moving into a harder gear. You can carefully look down if you’re unsure of what gear you’re in. You can tell what chainring you’re in by looking forward, and a quick glance behind will at least indicate whether you’re in a low or high gear.
Once you’re more at ease, you can experiment with various bike gears under various conditions. It is recommended to utilize the smaller or middle front chainring and larger rear cogs when cycling uphill or into a headwind. Use a variety of smaller rear cogs and the larger front chainring when riding downhill. Use a variety of rear cogs and the middle or big front chainring when cycling on flat terrain.
Additionally, you should avoid cross-chaining, which occurs when the chain is at a sharp angle in either the biggest cog or the smallest ring at the front or back of the assembly. In addition to taxing the system, this constricts your alternatives in case you need to change again. Sometimes when cross-chaining, you’ll hear a noise.
What to Do If You Drop Your Chain
Cross-chaining can also result in a dropped chain, in which the chain slides off the chainring. This often occurs when changing between the front big and small rings of gears or when you shift too quickly. It’s not a good idea to shift when you’re climbing and the resistance is so intense that you can hardly turn the pedals. (This is also the reason it is advisable to downshift before hills rather than during them.) But if changing gears is necessary, it’s preferable to take a minute to slow down, change gears smoothly, and then pick up speed again.
The first thing you should do if your chain does come off is to stop your bike carefully and slowly. Give yourself some slack by pushing the rear derailleur (the tiny wheel that hangs below the cogset) in the direction of the front wheel. Then, take your chain and manually direct it back onto the chainring. To check that everything is working well, raise your back wheel off the ground and turn the pedals a few times with your hand. Fair warning: When you touch your chain, your hands will become smeared in grease. For these reasons, you might wish to bring a pack of hand wipes or a pair of medical gloves in your saddle bag.
A fallen chain can occasionally be fixed without getting off your bike. If you leave the small ring, shift into the big ring using the left shifter while pedaling slowly. It may be necessary to tune your bike’s derailleurs if your chain begins to drop with every ride. The best course of action is to bring your bike to a local shop and have a qualified mechanic adjust it for you.
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