Bike Gears & Shifting Basics

 bike gear cassette laid down on wood table

When riding a bike, your body can only produce so much power before you run out of energy. Gears on a bike help you ride more efficiently and consistently so you can sustain your energy longer.

Understanding how your bike gears work can help you choose the right components when you’re bike shopping. It will also help you get the most enjoyment out of your bike when you’re out on a ride.

Understanding the Bike Drive-terrain

There are five main parts of the standard bicycle that let you shift gears. They are comprised of the following:

  • Front chain-rings (a.k.a crank-set)
  • Rear cassette
  • Chain
  • Derailleurs
  • Shifters

The crank-set, rear cassette, chain, and derailleurs are known collectively as the drivetrain, pictured here:

anatomy of a bicycle drivetrain


Related image

Bikes have one, two or three front chain-rings, also known as the crank-set. A bike with two chain-rings is called a double. A bike with three chain-rings is called a triple. Each chain-ring has a number of teeth on it where the chain connects.


Image result for Cassette in cycles

Your bike’s rear cassette is the stack of cogs (gears) mounted on the right-hand side of your rear wheel, with the small cog farthest from the wheel and the large cog closest to the wheel. Each cog has a number of teeth on it where the chain connects.


Image result for chain in cycles

The chain connects to the teeth on your front chain-rings and the cogs on your rear cassette so that when you pedal, the chain-rings and cogs turn the wheels and the bike moves forward.


It moves the chain between the front chain-rings or between the rear cogs. Cables run from your shifters to your derailleurs. When you press on your shifter, it moves your front or rear derailleur so the chain moves where you want it to go.

Many bikes have front and rear derailleurs. Some mountain bikes have only a rear derailleur and therefore come with only one shifter.


Shifters let you move the chain between your front chain-rings and the cogs of your bike’s rear cassette. Each shifter controls one cable attached to one derailleur.

On-road bikes, the shifters are mounted either on the handlebar or they’re integrated with the brake levers. In older road bikes, they’re on the down-tube or on the ends of your drop bars. On mountain bikes, the shifters are mounted on the handlebar.

Using Your Shifters and Gears

Gears and shifters help you maintain cadence a constant paddling speed during your ride. Generally, a higher cadence on an easier gear is more efficient than paddling slower in a harder gear.

Pushing hard gears might seem faster, but it will sap your strength more quickly, and it can take a toll on your knees.

At a high cadence, you’re working in your aerobic zone, which means your muscles can clear lactic acid and postpone fatigue.

Image result for Proper Shifting Technique

The optimum cadence for road biking is around 80–100 rotations per minute. For mountain biking, it should also feel like you’re spinning your legs, not powering slowly, though it’s harder to keep cadence on technical terrain.

Once you find a comfortable cadence, shift your gears to help you maintain that cadence for as much of your ride as you can.

Proper Shifting Technique

Shift the chain between the rear cassette cogs for small changes and between the front chain-rings for big changes, but not both at the same time. Only use one shifter at a time, or you may miss-shift, jam the chain or drop the chain off the chain-rings or cassette.

Try to anticipate the terrain, and shift right before you start climbing, not halfway up when you’re nearly stopped with maximum pressure on the pedals.

Image result for Proper Shifting Technique in cycles

On flats, it’s okay to shift through several gears at a time. If you do shift on a hill, shift one gear at a time, and try to momentarily release pressure from the pedals as you’re shifting.

When you shift, don’t pick a gear that will put your chain on opposite extremes of the front cogs and rear cassette at the same time. Called cross chaining, this is where you’re most likely to drop or break your chain. Those same gears can be achieved with different combinations of chain-rings and cogs.

examples of good and bad shifting techniques



Image result for cycling uphill

How To Bike Uphill Without Getting Tired And Do It Efficiently

A low gear ratio is preferred for uphill biking. As paddling becomes hard on high gears which will cause u problem in climbing a hill. The best ratio for hills is preferred is (1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 2-4). These gears will make your ride easier if u are climbing a mountain. In this number of paddling increases but the pressure on your knees decreases.


Image result for cycling downhill

If you are coming down from a mountain and there is a steep slope then u should always keep your hands near the breaks. You should gently press the breaks for slowing down your speed. But if you are in a race you can’t afford to lose speed. So the best gear ratio for downhill is the topmost gears of your cycle. In this the number of paddles will decease and less pressure will be applied on your legs.

3). CITY:

Image result for cycling in city

If you are riding on a straight road you can use all gear ratios according to your mood. If you are just riding your cycle for fun then best gear ratios will be 2-5, 2-6, 3-6 (For a 21 geared cycle).


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7 Thoughts to “Bike Gears & Shifting Basics”

  1. Yashasvi

    Nice blog. Keep it up!

    1. SGadmin


  2. Bobby

    I love cycling ?‍♀️ ?

    1. SGadmin


  3. Aftab Khan Nagra

    Nice blog

    1. SGadmin

      Thanks aftab khan

  4. Sachin chauhan

    Nice content

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