How to Shift Gears on A Bike: Tips for Quick and Effective Shifting

So you’ve just bought a bike and want to know how to shift gears? There are many different types of bike gears and they can be pretty confusing for beginners.

This article will give you tips on how to shift gears on a bike so that your ride is smooth and quick.

Table of Contents

What are Bike Gears?

Bike gear changing has been around for over 125 years! It is a combination of different sizes of gears in both front and back chainrings that can control the speed and effort to achieve that speed.

Gears are important for bikes as they allow you to change how hard your pedaling is. They can make it easier or harder depending on the terrain you’re riding on and how intense your ride is.

Types of Gear Shifting Systems

There are basically four types of bike gear shifting systems. These are:

Thumb Shifters

These are the most common type of shifters that you’ll find on road bikes, and can usually be found on mountain bikes as well. To change gears, riders use their thumb to push down or pull up on a lever attached to the handlebar.

By using your fingers in this way, it is possible for riders with different hand sizes to change gears without having to alter their grip on the handlebars.

Twist Shifters

Twist shifters are a little more difficult to use than thumb shifters but they are still relatively easy. Twist shifters work by twisting the grip in one direction or another, which changes the gear ratio.

To change gears with this system you need to take your hand off the handlebar and reach for the lever attached to the side of it.

This can be tricky for riders with smaller hands or those who want to ride in a more aerodynamic position.

Combination Shifters

As the name suggests, combination shifters put both thumb and twist shifters together into a single unit.

The levers on combination shifters are located in the middle of the handlebars, which is great for riders who want to ride with their hands close together or those who do not have much arm strength.

These types of gear changes require less force than other systems, but they can be tricky for riders who are new to cycling.

Integrated Gear Shifters

Integrated shifters are attached to the frame of the bike, near the brake levers. The advantage of this system is that it takes up less space on your handlebars and allows for more aerodynamic riding positions.

The disadvantage can be a lack of adjustability in height because integrated gear shifters always attach at one point on each side of the bike handle.

How Many Gear Does Your Bike Have?

The number of gears on your bike will depend largely on the type and style.

Road bikes typically have 21 gear combinations, which give cyclists a wide range to cover different types of terrain with enough power for high speeds.

Mountain bikes generally only offer about six or seven options because they are designed to be used off-road where riders encounter less variation in the terrain.

Mountain bike riders might choose a gear that has low gearing for climbing up hills and high gearing for riding on the flats or downhill, whereas road cyclists would look to have as many gears in between those two extremes as possible.

Why Shift Gears on Your Bike?

Shifting the gears on your bike lets you control the level of effort you want to exert.

For instance, if you know that a hill is coming up and it will require more force than what your current gear allows for, then shifting gears would be necessary.

Again, when you find the road relatively flat and easier to ride, you can shift gears back down.

When to Shift Gears?

We’ve now covered the basics of gear shifting on a bicycle, but when should you do this?

You might be surprised by the answer as it is not very often.

The only time that you will feel the need to change your bike gear up or down would typically be either going uphill, downhill, or if there is an unexpected obstacle.

You may also shift gears when you intend to change the riding mode. For example, you may try to cover a long distance in a short time, in that case, despite the road condition, you will need to gear up.

How to Shift Gears on A Bike?

Gear shifting works by changing the chain position on the front and rear sprockets.

Most bicycles have a single chainring in the center of the bike to engage with either one or two sprockets on the back wheel, but some designs use multiple chainrings with more than one set of engagement points.

Depending on how many gears you are using, your shift pattern will change.

No matter how many chainrings and gears your bike has, the basic principle is the same. You need to change the chain position from one sprocket to another.

Changing Chain Position in the Front Chainring

To change the chain position in the front chainring, rotate the crank arm clockwise, which will move the chain from one front sprocket to another.

Start by moving your chain to the middle of three front chains, and make adjustments up or down as needed. If you only have two rings in the back or want to go easier while climbing hills, put it on either side of the small ring.

If you want pedaling to be easier on a hill climb, for example, move it to the smallest ring in the back; if you’re going downhill and need more control over speed, put it on either of those.

Changing the Chain Position in the Back Chainring

If you need to change the chain position in the back chainring, rotate the crank arm counter-clockwise. This will move the chain from one back sprocket to another.

You can control how easy or hard you want to ride by shifting your chain from one gear on the back wheel to another.

When descending, for example, move it towards smaller cogs in order to have more control over pedaling. When climbing a hill and getting tired of pushing so hard with each pedal stroke then shift it over to bigger ones.

At first, shifting gears may seem to be a very complicated process but with some practice, it will become second nature to you.

Tips to Follow for Better Shifting

As you have learned shifting gears on a bike, you may think it is now time to go out and try them. There are some tips for you to follow for smooth gear shifting on your bike –

Do Not Shift More Than Two Gears at a Time

Shifting more than two gears at a time can cause the chain to jam. It is best if you move up in gears one gear at a time, moving down through two or three, and then back again. This way it will be easier for your bike’s system to keep track of all changes that have been made.

Always Paddle While Shifting the Gears Up

When you are moving up in gears, always paddle at the same time. If you need to go down a gear or two, make sure that your foot is off the pedal when shifting so it will not cause strain on your system.

Never Shift Gears When in Tension

When you are about to move up or down, make sure that your bike is not in tension because it will cause a lot of stress on the system and could result in damage to the gear system.

Make Sure the Gear System Fits

The gear system should fit your hand. If it does not fit, you could have a hard time shifting gears and this will cause more stress on the system. So, adjust the system as you will need it to work properly.

Always Maintain the Gear System in Good Condition

The gear system should always be maintained in good condition. To maintain the bike gears, check for greasing or any other problem that is happening and make sure to take care of it before it causes more problems.

Do Not Shift Gears Too Quickly

It is important not to shift gears too quickly as this can damage the bike system or cause more stress on it.

Change the Gear Only When it is Needed

It is important to change the gear only when it is needed. Frequent unnecessary gear change can damage the gear system and this will make it difficult for you to shift gears in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gear Shifting

How can I make the gears of my bike shift smoothly?

You can follow these tips for smooth gear shifting –

  • Inspect the gear system to ensure it is in good condition and clean before every ride.
  • Change gears when necessary, instead of just for fun.
  • Shift gears at a moderate pace that allows you to continue riding.

What gear should I bike in on a flat road?

Depending on the terrain, you may want to start in a gear that is not too hard for your body. If it is flat and there are no hills or obstacles, then you can ride in any gear but be sure not to overwork yourself.

At what speed gear should be changed in a bike?

When you intend to change the gear the speed of your bike should be about 15mph so that your chain position can be shifted without any trouble.

What should I do when the bike gears get jammed?

If it is a sudden jam, try slowing down and shifting to an easier gear before you stop riding altogether.

Forcing the stuck gear could cause damage to it and other parts of your bicycle also.

Which bike gear is the easiest?

It is different for every person and depends on your fitness level.

For beginners, the easiest gear to start with would be a low-tooth rear cog and a high tooth front chainring in order to get used to how gears work. You can gradually shift up until you reach your ideal speed. This also helps prevent stressing out.

What gears for what speed?

Gear combinations for different speeds. High gear is best used at low speeds and climbing hills while low gears are best for flat surfaces.

First gear is easiest to start on when starting out cycling. Use it until you get the hang of how gears work with your bike. As a rule of thumb, you should use the second gear as a general riding speed.

Why are my bike gears so hard to change?

When your gears are stuck and not shifting smoothly, it is usually due to dirt or debris in the gear mechanism. You can use a toothbrush or compressed air to clean out any foreign objects that may be preventing smooth movement of your bike chain and gears.

My bike is not changing gears. What should I do?

If your bike isn’t changing gears, it’s likely that your derailleur is not correctly aligned.

The first step in fixing this issue is to make sure the bike chain is on the largest sprocket and then shift into an easier gear. If you don’t have enough room for larger gear, try turning down both levers at once with one hand while holding onto the seat.

How do I make my bike faster uphill?

When you are riding your bike uphill, you are working against gravity. In order to make your bike go faster uphill, you will need higher gear.

You can either change gears or pedal harder in order to increase how often the pedals turn over and thus get uphill more quickly.

How do you shift a 7-speed bike?

Gear shifting in a 7-speed bike is done by pushing the levers on the handlebars. The gear you are currently in is displayed next to small indicator lights near your shifters and will change as you release one lever and push another.

Things to Do When the Chain Drops While Shifting Gears

Chain dropping is a common issue that many cyclists face. You should always check your chain to ensure it is adjusted and tensioned before riding.

When you are shifting gears if the chain drops off from gear while in motion, do not stop pedaling. Simply push back down on whichever lever caused the drop and continue going until you have shifted into a safe gear.