Our Guide to Shifting Gears
Bike gears are just as important as the brakes. Whether you ride a commuter bike, road bike or a mountain bike the gears are just as important as the brakes, for example. Gears is what allows you to accelerate to great speed along flat smooth roads, or allow you to power up steep rocky climbs
Most bikes will have two sets of gear cogs. The rear cogs together form the cassette, and the derailleur that shifts the chain up and down these is controlled by the right shifter. The front set are known as the chainrings, and they give big changes in the gears. The front derailleur that shifts the chain between these chainrings is controlled by the left gear lever (or shifter).
It’s really tempting to stay on one chainring, and just shift the gears at the back. Sometimes this is okay, but you need to avoid using the opposite extreme ends of the gears. For example, don’t use the smallest cogs on the back and the front, or the largest cogs on the back and the front. Because this pulls the chain between them at an angle, which can cause it to stretch and deform. Overtime this will wear out both the chains and gears.
When approaching a climb, get ready and anticipate. Start shifting down the gears as soon as the climb starts, because then you won’t be caught in too hard a gear halfway up, unable to pedal, which means you might have to get off and walk.
Especially long or steep climbs, it is easier if you shift to the easiest gear and pedal. Shifting to the right gear at the right time for you will take a bit of practice, so it’s better to go to too easy a gear then shift up than the other way round.
If you do find yourself in too hard a gear on a climb, try and ride sideways across the slope and change gear. If the chain is under a lot of pressure, like when you are pedalling up a hill, it can’t shift properly. Riding something flatter even temporarily will relieve the pressure enough to allow you to get to an easier gear.
If there is a big climb ahead, it’s easier and quicker to shift down using the left shifter, which will shift the front gears, instead of the right, which controls the rear gears. This will take you to an easier gear, and then you can fine tune using the rear gears.
It is tempting to go up a gear, as soon as possible, if you accelerate down a hill or even on a flat. Try not to do this, because on some bikes it can cause the chain to jump off the gears completely, which means you’ll have to stop and put it back on. Change the gears slowly, as this makes sure the chain has engaged with each new gear before moving onto the next one. Different gear systems will respond differently to get to know how sensitive your bike is to this.
Lastly, practice is always the best thing to do. As they say practice makes perfect. Changing gears (both front and back) up and down climbs and along flat roads is the best way to get used to bike gears. Give it a try and have a go.