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How to Use Bike Gears

How to Use Bike Gears

Cycle Carriers

Just like when you drive a car, some bikes also have gears to help you to regulate your speed and cycle easily across a variety of terrain. So, if you know you are going to be cycling up or downhill, changing the gears on your bike could be a game-changer. However, if you've never used gears before, or are unaware of the importance of bike parts, it may be tricky to know when or why you should change gears.

In this guide we will look at:

  • What are bike gears?
  • What do the numbers mean on bike gears?
  • Why do I need bike gears?
  • How do I know when to change gears?
  • Why are there a different number of gears on different bikes?
  • How to use bike gears

What are bike gears?

Bikes have a range of gear combinations so that you can maintain a comfortable pedalling speed across any terrain or incline. The brake levers are on the handlebars so it is easy to shift gears while you are cycling. The left gear controls the front gears while the right gear controls the rear gears.

When you change gears on the handlebars, it causes the derailleur on the wheel to lift the bike chain onto a different gear on the cog. Learn more about the different parts of a bike so you have a better understanding of where everything is on your bike and how it all works.

What do the numbers mean on bike gears?

The lower the number, the easier it is to pedal. When you switch to a lower gear, this moves the chain along the cog towards the centre of the wheel. Although it is often easier to pedal, it does also mean you will go slower when riding in a lower gear. So, if you want to pedal with ease, use the lower gears and if you really want to pick up the pace, then it's time to switch to a higher gear.

The left gear has three gear options which make bigger changes to the tension when you are pedalling while the right gear can have seven, or more, gears and is used to make smaller changes to help you maintain or adjust your speed.

How to Use Bike Gears

Why do I need bike gears?

If you are cycling uphill, downhill or along straight paths, there will always be an easier gear to shift into which suits the terrain best. That's why bikes often have a wide range of gears, so that you can maintain a comfortable riding speed, regardless of the terrain you are cycling along.

Changing gears will allow you to cycle longer distances while using less energy. A high gear will be best suited for riding downhill or at high speeds while a smaller gear will be best suited for uphill cycling and riding at a slower speed.

How do I know when to change gears?

You will be able to feel when you need to change gear by how much resistance you can feel when you are cycling. If you are finding it difficult to turn the pedals then shift into a lower gear whereas if you find you are pedalling too fast then you should move up to a higher gear. This will allow you to feel more in control when you are cycling over any type of terrain.

How to Use Bike Gears

Why are there a different number of gears on different bikes?

The number of gears on a bike varies based on factors such as the bike's type, intended use, and rider preference.

  • Road bikes are geared toward speed and efficiency, typically featuring a higher number of gears, allowing for fine adjustments in speed, crucial for road cycling.
  • Mountain bikes are built to tackle diverse off-road terrain, often sporting a wider range of gears to accommodate steep climbs and fast descents.
  • Hybrid and commuter bikes strike a balance with a moderate number of gears, catering to city commuting and off-road riding.

Terrain and riding conditions further influence gear selection, with bikes intended for hilly terrain featuring more gears for better climbing ability.

How to use bike gears

Depending on what bike you have, you will change gears by either pushing or twisting the lever. Your gears will be numbered on your handlebars so you will be able to see which gear your bike is in while you are cycling.

You should only ever change gears while you are pedalling. If you try to change gears while the bike is stationary or you are not cycling then you will likely hear some unfortunate noises and the chain may get caught.

Once you are comfortable with how to use and change your gears, you can enjoy your cycling trips with ease. Grab yourself a Witter bike rack and start planning your next cycling trip now. If you need to take things back to basics, you can also learn how to ride a bike or how to pump and change a bike tyre in these handy guides.

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