Useful Tips

How to use gears on a bike


You became the owner of a brand new bike. You were advised to buy a bike equipped with a gear shifter. But how to use it, you, a beginner cyclist, do not know. Improper use of two-wheeled vehicles can lead to damage to the device, premature wear of the chain. Minimum theories and simple tips are written for you.

Why do I need to switch gears?

What is harder - to raise two ten-liter buckets with water or the same buckets, but without water? The answer is obvious.

Climbing uphill on a simple bicycle, without a gear selector, you will have to spend much more physical effort than to go the same way on a bicycle with the right gear.

Each cyclist pedals with his own, only one convenient speed. This frequency is called cadence.

How is the speed switch

To learn how to switch speeds, you need to understand a little about the speed switch device. It consists of steel gears of different diameters. They are called stars. Stars are assembled in blocks. The unit located closer to the front wheel is called the “system”, the unit located closer to the rear wheel is called the “cassette”. The chain is pulled over the stars.

On the steering wheel (left and right) is a device for switching speeds. It is called the “shifters”. You switch the speed, i.e., turn the shifter - the chain shifts to the star you need.

A “cassette” or rear unit is responsible for the part of the chain located below. It is controlled by the right shifter. The “system” or front block is responsible for the top of the chain. It is controlled by the left shifter.

Where to begin?

Misalignment of the chain (left) and correct positioning of the chain (right)

Sit on the bike and look at the chain from above. The upper and lower parts should lie parallel to each other or at a slight slope relative to each other, but they should not overlap! This position of the chain is called skew. If the left shifter is in position 1, and the right in position 7, skew will certainly happen.

Do not skew the chain, it will lead to premature wear of bicycle parts.

Stars closer to the bicycle frame are responsible for downshifting. External stars - for increasing transmission.

Gear selection

There is no single answer to the question: “Which gear to choose?”. It depends on many factors: the terrain, your personal convenience, the characteristics of the bike. But first, you can use the table, which is compiled for a bicycle with 24 speeds (it has three positions on the left shifter and eight on the right). For a bike with 18 speeds (three positions on the left stick and six on the right) the table will look different.

These tables give an approximate idea of ​​which gears you can choose. (The range of gears for an 18 speed bike is shown in brackets) You will have to draw the exact table that is ideal for you.

TerrainLeft stickRight Shifter
Climb uphill1-2 (1)1-4 (1-3)
Riding on a flat road1-22-5 (2-4)
Descent from the mountain2-34-8 (3-6)

“Up” and “down” gears

The higher the gear, the stronger the resistance of the pedals, the slower you have to twist them. The lower the gear, the weaker the resistance of the pedals, the faster they need to rotate. Riding in a gear that is much too high for you, that is, making more efforts than necessary is dangerous to your health (contrary to the opinion of inexperienced cyclists). Sudden stress is harmful to the heart. In addition, you can overload the muscles of the legs and back.

Beginner Tips

  • Do not be alarmed if it didn’t work out for you to master the speed switch the first time. You need to get used to the bicycle, as well as to the car, to “feel” it. To do this, ride your bike more often
  • Switch speeds only by pedaling
  • Before climbing uphill, you need to slightly increase the speed (accelerate) and change the speed, before lowering, on the contrary, slow down and switch in advance
  • Do not skew the chain.
  • Listen to your bike. Squeak, there should not be a rattle
  • Take care of your health. Driving in high gears is harmful (load on the knees)

There is nothing super complicated in the art of shifting gears. All you need is a bit of patience so that a bike ride brings a sea of ​​positive emotions.

How to find out the number of gears

First you need to figure out what gears your bike has. With the help of our tips, you can easily do this:

  1. Count the number of gears at the base of the pedals. To get the hang of shifting gears on your iron horse, you need to be equipped with asterisks. Checking their availability is very simple. It is enough to look at the pedals, in the center of which there will be one or several rings with teeth from the outside, which enter the chain. They are called front sprockets. And it is precisely them that must be counted.

Most bicycles have 1 to 3 front sprockets.

  1. See how many stars on the rear wheel. After you inspect the pedals, you need to look at the rear wheel. You will see a chain passing from the front sprockets along one row of different rings located in the center of the wheel. These rings will be the rear sprockets.

Count their number. And if your bike has gears, there will be more rear sprockets than front sprockets. Some bikes have up to 10 pieces.

  1. Finally, to understand how many gears your bike has, you need to multiply the resulting 2 values. That is, multiply the number of front sprockets by the number of rear sprockets. The final figure - this is the number of transfers on your iron horse.

For example: you have 3 stars in front and 6 in the back. It turns out that the bike has 18 gears (3x18). In another way, they can be called speeds, because we are talking about the fact that the bike is high-speed.

Another point: if your bike has only one sprocket on both sides, then it only has 1 gear (1x1). That is, it has a so-called fixed gear. And if your bike is like that, then you will not be able to switch the speed on it, because it is single-speed.

How to use gears

To master gear shifting, it is necessary to train a little. We advise you to listen to our recommendations and do everything as follows:

  1. Remember what the right and left switches are responsible for. If you want to reverse gear, use the right switch. And vice versa. This is very convenient, and will help to quickly bring the switching process to automatic. Know also how these mechanisms work. The switch shifts the chain from side to side so that it catches a new gear. This applies to forward gear. As for the back, it has its own switch, which thanks to the handle also moves from side to side.
  2. If you want to pedal easier, switch to low gear. Yes, you can change gears on your bike to make it easier or harder to ride in a variety of areas. And if, for example, you need to go and make a minimum of effort, then a low gear will help to do this. You will start to pedal quickly and easily, but the bike will go slower.

There are 2 methods for downshifting:

  • switch to a smaller star in front,
  • switch to the big star in the back.
  1. If you want to ride better, but harder, switch to higher speeds. This can be done similarly to the situation described above, just the opposite. You switch to high gear, which means that you will go faster, pedal less often, but it will be harder for you to do this.

There are also 2 methods for shifting to high gear:

  • switch to a large star in front,
  • switch to a smaller star at the back.
  1. Learn to shift gears on the road. That is, practice. She will help to thoroughly understand this issue. You just start shifting gears and in one trip learn how to do everything correctly! At the same time, study on a level road where it will be safe for you. It is advisable to choose a park or something like that.

Remember that during the gear shift you will hear clicking sounds. And this does not mean that some part has broken. This will indicate that you are doing everything right. Distinctive sounds inform you that the gear has been shifted. And do not forget that you only need to shift gears while driving. Because the chain can capture new stars only when it is stretched. And she stays in this position only during pedaling.

Learning to understand how and when to change gears

It is not so easy to immediately understand when to switch. But over time, this knowledge will come. In the meantime, continue to read further our guide, which will definitely help.

If you are just starting to ride a bike, choose a low gear. Often the first pedal turns you make are the most difficult because you need to pick up the optimal speed. Every time you start driving, change gear to one of the lower ones to return to speed faster and easier.

Do this when you need to completely stop the bike, and then start pedaling again. For example, you stopped at a traffic light, and then you need to quickly go on.

When you know that you will stop in the near future, it will be nice to also switch to the lower gear, so that at another time it would be easier for you to start moving. Especially if you need to leave some difficult place.

As the speed increases, do not be afraid to shift to overdrive. After all, when you drive fast, you will realize that pedaling becomes too easy. And this means that you need to increase the transmission - this will help to move more efficiently and faster. In fact, the process will look like this: you shift gear and notice that pedaling has become more difficult, but your speed is getting higher.

If you have chosen a gentle area for your trips (for example, city streets with small hills), then use the so-called medium gears. That is, do not let yourself go too easy or difficult - let there be a balance. This is very convenient, because it allows you to develop the necessary speed and cope well with the hilly road. For example, you have an eighteen-speed bike. Use the second front and third rear for a comfortable and optimal ride.

Remember to switch to a lower gear when meeting high hills. This is important, because without such a transition, you just might get stuck. After all, it is almost unrealistic to ride a bicycle to a hill in a very high gear, if you are not a professional. Therefore, reduce gears to a level where you notice that it has become easy to climb a hill.

Note: at first you may find the hill climb very strange and slow. And besides, not too convenient. But if you learn to maintain balance, everything will be in order. You will get used to it and will be able to climb elevations of different heights without much effort.

Also, switch to high gears if you are going to get down on a flat road. If you want to develop tremendous speed on the descent, then turn on high gear. But remember that with such high-speed movement you need to be very careful, because if you move incorrectly, you can damage yourself.

When changing from one gear to another, do this carefully so as not to damage your joints. Of course, squeezing out everything possible is fun and interesting, but always take care of safety. You don’t need to pedal too actively if you don’t want the joints to be very stressed. Otherwise, over time, you will receive painful sensations, and even the most real problems with the joints.

And in no case do not choose a gear in which the chain may become crossed. What does this mean? And the fact that when changing gears, you can see that the chain is sometimes located in a diagonal position. This is not a problem if you shift gears correctly. But if you allow cases where the chain passes through either the largest or the smallest stars in front and behind, then you can rest assured that it will wear out in the shortest possible time.

Additional tips

No. 1. When you encounter strong winds along the way, choose a lower gear. Yes, you will move a little slower, however, it will be easier for you to overcome the wind for a long time.

No. 2. The difference in size between the sprocket front and rear determines how actively you need to press the pedals to drive. For example, if both the sprocket have similar dimensions, then with each pedal rotation the rear sprocket will rotate 1 time. On the other hand, if you prefer a large star in front and a small one in the back, then the rear wheel can rotate several times at any pressure on the pedal. This will provide an opportunity to gain excellent speed, but will require more effort.

Number 3. If you see elevation, always change gear in advance. No need to press the gears in a hurry just before the ascent - this way you increase the risk of injuries.

Number 4. When you climb a mountain, do not ride in the lowest gear.

And most importantly - do not be afraid to learn the bike with all its mechanisms. As soon as you learn to understand the programs, trips on it will become much more pleasant and convenient.