Our days are getting longer and our winter inactivity is slowly ending. We might start to think about racing our bikes along single-track trails or narrow streets in the city. Biking can be a great middle ground. It’s a lot more fun than hiking but isn’t as costly as buying a bike. Perhaps you’re a mountain bike beginner, considering buying your first setup. Perhaps you are upgrading from a single speed. Or you might be considering getting rid of your urban-dwelling folding bicycle and heading out for the hills. You will need to shift gears on your bicycle in order to pedal efficiently. We will now look at the fundamentals of shifting gears on a bicycle.

The basics of bike gear

Your bike’s drivetrain is made up of a gear. Simply put, gears are pulleys which help transfer power from your legs through pedals and cranks to the pedals and then the chain to the rear wheels. One crank is attached to each gear, and the other to the rear wheel for a single speed bike. Bikes that have shifters or derailleurs (more details later) may have multiple gears attached at the rear wheels and one or more attached to their crank. A chain links the crank and rear wheels of both bikes. The outer cogged rim of the gears is connected to the chains by voids. This allows you to transfer power more efficiently.

What is the purpose of shifting gears?

No matter what terrain you’re riding on, gears will help you maintain maximum efficiency. Are you approaching a hill? You can downshift to make your legs do more work than the rear wheels, which results in a lower speed and higher torque. This allows you to pedal more easily. How do you descend a hill? You can upshift your rear wheels so that you make less revolutions with your legs, which results in higher speeds and lower torque. Although this makes pedaling more difficult, you will also be able to go faster.

How do Gear Shifters Work?

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You may also have derailleur if your bike can shift gears. The derailleur, which you can control using the shifter, allows the chain to change from one larger to the other or vice versa. The type of bike will determine whether there is a separate derailleur for the rear or both crank and rear gears. An enclosed steel cable connects the gear shifters to the derailleur(s). Each corresponds to the movement of the derailleur.

What are the best ways to use bike gears?

It all depends on what type of shifting system is used to shift gears. Most bikes, if any, have shifters mounted to the handlebars. Older bikes may have the shifters mounted on the downtube of the bike or near the ends of race-style handlebars. Three main companies make gearshifting components: Shimano and Campagnolo. We will now look at some common shifters.

Thumb Shifter

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These types of shifters are often found on mountain bikes. To downshift, you push the lever closest to your thumb (the one in the picture above). To upshift simply use your thumb to push the smaller lever.

Combination Shifter

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These are often found on fitness or hybrid bikes. They also use your forefinger. To downshift, press the thumb lever. To upshift you need to use your forefinger to push the longer lever.

Twist Shifter

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SRAM’s line of twist-shifters still uses the name Grip Shift. Rotating the grip shift towards you will enable you to change gears. This function is similar to turning a motorcycle throttle in your direction to make it go faster. Rotate the grip shift to your left when you are approaching hills and want to downshift. The twist shifters are compact and don’t take up much room on your handlebars.

Integrated Shifter and Brake Lever

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Imagine a roadbike with handlebars that bend forward, then backward. Two brake levers, which can be found at the bottom of the down curves, are mounted to your hand. The gear shifters are located behind the brake levers. The brake levers can be pulled backwards to activate the brakes. However, the gearshifters can be pushed to the side to shift gears. The streamlined design can improve aerodynamics as well as increase bike speed.

Here are some tips for better shifting

Once you are comfortable with shifting, it is easy. However there are many ways to make your shift easier. These tips will help you shift like a pro.

  1. Maintain your shifting system. Make sure to tension the cables correctly and to keep moving parts clean.
  2. You must pedal while shifting. If you don’t rotate the pedals, your bike will not shift gears.
  3. Avoid shifting under tension. Instead of downshifting halfway through difficult climbs, anticipate it and then downshift before the climb begins. It will ensure that the chain is in a relaxed state, which allows for easier shifting.
  4. You should only shift one or two gears at once. Changing between widely-spaced gears (ex. Shifting from the 8th to the 1st gear too quickly could lead to the chain skipping or falling off completely.
  5. You can adjust the position of your shifters according to your preference. Many gearshifters can be adjusted to fit the shape of your hands and riding style. Take your bike for a ride around the block to find the best position of your hands on the bars. Then, adjust or rotate the shifters accordingly. This is a good idea to think about when you are deciding on the size of your bike.

Practice makes perfect, so practice it! Although shifting gears on a bicycle can seem difficult at first, it will become easier as you practice. You’ll soon learn how to shift efficiently enough so you can get the best speed and save the most energy. You’re now free to discover the rest of the world.


Lower numbers are the low gears, and higher numbers are the high gears. First gear is a low gear. Twenty-first gear is a high gear.

Low Gear

High Gear = Hard = Good for Descending: The “highest” gear on your bike is the largest chain ring in the front and the smallest cog on your cassette (rear gears). In this position, the pedaling will be the hardest and you’ll be able to accelerate while traveling downhill.

Low Gear = Easy = Good for Climbing: The “low” gear on your bike is the smallest chain ring in the front and the largest cog on your cassette (rear gears). In this position, the pedaling will be the easiest and you’ll be able to pedal uphill with the smallest amount of resistance.

The highest gear is when the chain is on the largest cog on the front and the smallest cog on the rear. Limiter screws stop your derailleur from shifting the chain too far inwards or outwards off the cogs. When set correctly they prevent the frustrating occurrence of the chain falling off.

Low Gear = Easy = Good for Climbing: The “low” gear on your bike is the smallest chain ring in the front and the largest cog on your cassette (rear gears). In this position, the pedaling will be the easiest and you’ll be able to pedal uphill with the smallest amount of resistance.


We may want to start biking more because it’s a lot more fun than hiking and not as costly as mountain biking. Bikes come with gears, which help you keep your forward momentum while pedaling more efficiently. To shift gears, you’ll need to adjust the chain by using a derailleur


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