important: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.

How to Shift Your Gears

Learn how to use your full range of gears: applies to 21, 24, and 27 speed shift systems.

Video updates

  • 02:14 - Never use either the large/large or small/small gear combination!

Most bikes these days come with ’21 speeds’. However, this doesn’t mean you have 21 useable gears. Actually, on a 21 speed system it’s closer to 13. A lot of people get confused by all of the gear combinations available. I myself didn’t understand it when I first started using a multi-speed bike, so today we’ll learn how to use your gears most effectively.

It’s very important not to shift under pressure, as this will cause shift problems and damage your drivetrain. If you’re going uphill and you need a lower gear, keep pedaling, but ease off and pedal lightly while you shift.

Most systems have three gears on the front, which are controlled by your left shifter. The rear gear cluster usually has 7 gears, with some systems having 8 or 9. Not to worry, the concepts here are the same.

For most everday riding, you’ll want to keep your chain on the middle ring on the front, or number 2 on your left shifter. This allows you to use the full range of rear gears. Number 1 on your right shifter is the easiest gear for climbing hills, as it puts your chain on the largest rear sprocket. Number 7 on your right shifter is the hardest gear for going really fast, and it puts your chain on the smallest rear sprocket.

I find it helps to think of numbers 1 and 3 on your left shifter as options for extreme circumstances.

If you’re climbing a really tough hill and your left 2 and right 1 combination aren’t easy enough, you can shift your front derailleur to number 1 which drops the chain down to the smallest front chainring. While you’re in the smallest front gear you can shift the rear gears between 1 and 3 for a finer range adjustment, but you should always shift the front back to 2, or the middle chainring before using gears 4-7 on the rear.

If you’re going really fast and need a harder gear, and your left 2 and right 7 combination isn’t fast enough, you can shift your front derailleur to number 3 which pulls the chain up to the largest front chainring. While you’re in the largest front chainring you can shift the rear gears between 5 and 7 for a finer range adjustment, but always shift the front back to 2, or the middle chainring before using gears 1-4 on the rear.

Never use the full range of rear gears when you’re in either the small or large front sprockets (number 1 or 3 on the front shifter). This causes too great an angle in your chain line, which can cause noise and shifting problems.

Related Links

Recommended Tools

Categories

Discuss this topic in the Bicycle Repairs and Mechanics Forum

I cannot express enough about the importance of this tool when having to deal with multi speed bicycles. I have been in the bicycle biz in one fashion or the other for over 30 years. Have sold many new bicycles and 90% have been out of wack fresh from the box. With used bikes crossing your path you should just expect it to be bad. And never string new cables without checking the hanger first, ever...

Read more

Went to fix the slow leak on my gravel bike's rear tyre. Found the culprit: a small cut near the middle of the tyre. The good news is it gave me an excuse to order a pair of Panaracer 43c semi-slick GravelKings (most of my local rides are more road-focused) to try out. Meanwhile, I was considering ye olde vulcanised patch repair to the inside of the tyre and superglue to the outside, but I'm thi...

Read more

I am heavier than many cyclists. I ride longer distances then many cyclists. A lot of my riding is on rough tracks. While riding my 29 inch mountain bike, spokes broke in the back wheel. https://forums.bikeride.com/thread-8373.html I replaced them with 3 mm spokes. Not long after, cracks formed in the aluminum rim in two places. It became obvious, I could not go on repairing this wheel. I came...

Read more

Modern rims crack at spoke holes

Latest post 4 days ago

Recently, I was in one of the local bike shops. Someone had brought a bike back to have the back wheel re-trued. There were actually cracks in the rim, originating from the spoke holes. I have had the same problem with my bike. In past decades you could buy a bike, and the wheels were strong. With modern rims, the aluminum is getting thinner and thinner. Now the rims crack. With heavy riders, a...

Read more

New Wheel Question

Latest post 4 days ago

I just ordered and received new wheels for my bike. Both the old and new are TLR, but I run with tubes. On my old rim, tape is installed. So…when I ordered the new wheels, I also ordered tape. Today, when the new wheels arrived, I noticed that both included a plastic (?) rim strip. I installed the strip on both rims, which gets me to my question…. Do I also need the rim tape? I would think not...

Read more

New Wheel Question

Latest post 4 days ago

I just ordered and received new wheels for my bike. Both the old and new are TLR, but I run with tubes. On my old rim, tape is installed. So…when I ordered the new wheels, I also ordered tape. Today, when the new wheels arrived, I noticed that both included a plastic (?) rim strip. I installed the strip on both rims, which gets me to my question…. Do I also need the rim tape? I would think not...

Read more

Flat Repair Tools

Latest post 4 days ago

I came across two riders with flats on yesterday's ride. The usual response as I roll by and ask, "Do you need anything?" is, "No, I'm good," but today, someone was in need. The first guy, fit, full kit, nice Colnago, was good to go. Then, about seven miles later, on the opposite side of the road, a guy sitting on the side of the road with a wheel between his legs and with his wife, I presumed, st...

Read more

Hey guys, First post here. I've tried searching, but I don't know what you call this. I have a vintage Schwinn Passage that I picked up a few months ago. At first it worked well, but recently it's been giving me trouble. When I shift, the chain pops into the higher (larger) gear, but then sits on top of the chain ring. What ends up happening is that the chainring will keep turning, and eve...

Read more

Dent on a new bicycle frame

Latest post 2 weeks ago

Two weeks ago I bought a new Trek Checkpoint ALR5 bicycle. Bike rides pretty well. It has aluminium frame. I bought it primaraly for bike packing trips as it has ton of mounting points. After riding it for 2 weeks and hitting some easy gravel roads I found two relatively small dents on bicycle's frame. I don't know when I got them. Maybe they are caused by flying rocks from the wheels. Maybe this ...

Read more

Replacing internally routed brakes

Latest post 3 weeks ago

My hydraulic brake failed, and I replaced it with a cable brake. The brake is internally routed through the frame. The challenge is, how to get the new brake cable in through the frame, and out the other end. Here is what I did. 1. I pushed the internal brake cable through the hydraulic brake hose, while it was still in the frame. 2. I slid the hydraulic brake hose out, leaving the internal br...

Read more

Shimano Crank Recall

Latest post 4 weeks ago

Any updates on the recall? The last I saw was this from CPSR. https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2023/Shimano-Recalls-Cranksets-for-Bicycles-Due-to-Crash-Hazard...

Read more

Hi, So I bought a used Schwinn Meridian sight unseen online auction for $59 & drove 8 hours round trip to get it. It appears to be brand new actually. When I got it home, the next day I checked out my score. When I sat on it and pressed on the pedals, they moved but the bike did not. I inspected the bike and realized that whoever put this trike together, forgot to put what appears to be ...

Read more

I spotted this great mod on YouTube yesterday. In nutshell: " XT cage installed on a GRX 812 11-speed derailleur lets you shift through an 11-51T cassette" I quickly priced it up in the UK. Via shrewd online shopping, you could do this with new parts for around £80. Less, obviously, if you have the 812 already on the shelf/buried in a box of crap. Seems like an excellent, easy upgrade to me. T...

Read more

Liv Tempt Handlebar upgrade

Latest post 4 weeks ago

Hi, I search posts but no luck. I just got my wife a used LIV tempt MTB. We want to make it more of a comfort bike. Looking to Handlebar upgrade recommendations. Thanks in advance....

Read more

Trek domane tyre

Latest post 4 weeks ago

Hi I have a trek domane 2.3, and I have changed the rear tyre to 28 (it was 25 originally) The tyre rubs with the brake arm (v brake), I fear it doesn’t seem to be compatible Is there any way to adjust the position of the brake arm? I just need it to ne around 2mm higher Thanks...

Read more