Keep on spinning
Keep on spinning
Watch an experienced cyclist during a ride over variable terrain (and that, in reality, is any route which is anything but pan-flat) and you will notice they are constantly changing gear. A quick flick or the lever here, a subtle shift there, and it’s all to ensure they are using their gears as efficiently as possible.
Gear systems on bicycles range from single-speed (one gear), through various hub gear systems, to the most popular of all: the derailleur. Derailleurs are the usual gear setup on road bikes, but there are multiple options. At the rear the number of sprockets can range five to 11, depending on the age of the bike and similarly, at the front, double chainrings are normal but single and triple options are both available. There is no right or wrong, just choices.
When it comes to using road bike gears it’s all too easy for a beginner to get confused about which gear to use and when. However, mastering the art of using the front and rear derailleur will make climbs easier and descents faster as you’re able to match the gear to your speed, just as you do when driving a car.
Learning how to use the gears correctly can also help to prolong the life of your bike’s drivetrain components. Common mistakes such a mistimed shifts and cross-chaining (which we’ll come on to) can put unnecessary strain on not only the chain but also the derailleurs. Selecting the wrong gear can also put unnecessary strain on your body, namely your knees, as well your bike.
In this guide, we’ll run through the basics in order to determine how many gears your bike has and how to use them, how to select the ‘right’ gear and common mistakes to avoid.