How to Shift Your Gears
Learn how to use your full range of gears: applies to 21, 24, and 27 speed shift systems.
- 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.
- Jim Langley: How to Shift A Bicycle
- Sheldon Brown: Shift Your Bicycle's Gears
- Bicycle Torque Specifications
- Park Tool CG-2 Chain Gang Chain Cleaning System
- Park Tool GearClean Brush GSC-1C 11
- Finish Line Wet Chain Lube (Cross Country)
- Phil Wood Tenacious Oil
- Park Tool SK-3 Starter Mechanic Tool Kit
- Park Tool PK-3 Professional Tool Kit
Discuss this topic in the Bicycle Repairs and Mechanics Forum
I am building a Mongoose MTB for my wife and the front cable pull is on the opposite side of the chain and I am having a hard time finding the right Derailleur for the bike. Any suggestions?...Read more
Crosspost from Reddit. I have a Cannondale road bike with a BSA bottom bracket (I think; I need the Park Tool BBT-9 to remove them) and a Truvativ Elita 2-piece crankset with splines. I've been having a creaking issue on the right (drive) side for quite a while now. It happens during the bottom 1/3rd of the right-side pedal stroke. There's also a little bit of play on the right side (i.e. I can s...Read more
Hello! I have a 2010 Specialized Allez Sport Triple bike and I would like to upgrade to an Ultegra groupset. I am super confused with the different options for derailleur (SS Cage or GS cage/Long cage) and cassette (11-25 or 11-30). If anyone has any input or can help it would be greatly appreciated. This is the bike: Specialized Allez Sport Triple This is the groupset I would like to buy: Ult...Read more
Here's my repair situation: I have a what seems like a relatively nice road bike which I found for free on the side of the road years ago. Around three years ago, while cycling, there was a stuck link in the chain that caused it to jam. As I was pedaling uphill, the force caused the metal near the mount screw on the rear derailleur to shear. I have recently wanted to repair this bike. Unfortunatel...Read more
Hey Everyone, New here and I'm currently taking on a small project on converting an old-school Fuji to a SS/Fixed flipflop. Firstly I want to thank you for your time and I'm looking forward to being in this forum as a regular 😁 So im currently having trouble figuring out how to remove the DT Shimano shifters seeing as I don't want to ruin the frame, but do want a nice clean frame look. is the...Read more
I'm fairly new to bike repair aside from regular maintenance. Lately I've noticed by rear wheel has not been spinning properly--it's a Shimano 105 hub and axle. When I spin it freely on the bike, or when I spin it when the wheel is off, if feels clunky, like the axle is spinning into 'grooves' or 'notches'. I have two videos to show: On bike: https://imgur.com/a/SQX0I3P Off bike: https://imgur.c...Read more
Ok, so I am not real fluent with bikes, however I am attempting to repair my girlfriends Next PowerClimber 24". The cog that holds the rest of the sprockets on the rear tire is threaded to lock them in place. The cog is cracked and the threads are not holding allowing the rest of the sprockets to fall off. I have attempted to find a place to buy this broken threaded cog with no luck. I am get...Read more
My chain keeps falling off especially when I transition from 1st to 2nd chain ring. I also feel like I have to use a lot more pressure to shift from 1st to 2nd compared to going from 2nd to 3rd, which just might be me but I thought it was relevant to include. I am not super mechanically inclined so I can't diagnose an issue on my bike like this. Can you please tell me whats the issue and maybe how...Read more
A short questions for those knowledgeable. I currently have on my bike a Shimano HG50-11-36t 10 speed cassette. Would the HG81-11-36t 10 speed be a direct replacement or will I encounter problems?...Read more
Hello everyone. Are there any podcasts about cycling and more specifically bike mechanics? I have been learning more about bike repairs recently and would love to hear tricks from guys with know-how; need something to listen to during the work....Read more
I was looking into wheels, just for the heck of it, and something is confusing me. I have a cruiser. The tires are 26" x 2.125" (57 x 559) The rim is 1.25". Cruiser wheels, online, are 1.75" The difference between a 1.75" cruiser rim, and the 1.25" rims I have, is approximately half-inch. I bought the bike, new, from a bike shop, and bought white wall cruiser tires for it. It had wide tires o...Read more
Hi folks! I was directed here by the folks over at r/bikewrench as I hear you are a helpful lot! I have a beautiful old Sekine which I think after a little research is a SHC 271 from the mid seventies. Unfortunately I was in a pretty nasty accident last year and it was out of commission for a while. I was using it indoors on my trainer and slowly going about repairs, getting it road ready again wh...Read more
Is that possible without switching out the hub, and is that possible at all? I have a base shimano groupset and I'm in the process of upgrading everything (I'm switching out the crappy tourney der for altus 9-speed, cables etc), and I would really rather switch out my freewheel for a 9-speeder also. Do you think it's achievable?...Read more
20200613_221949.jpg (Size: 64.32 KB / Downloads: 62) Hey everyone. I'm new to working on bikes and have been cleaning mine from using it at college. I replaced the chain since it was very stretched. The new chain was slipping a lot. After searching for why that was happening I concluded that I needed to replace my sprockets. The tool fitting rotates with the sprockets, so I think th...Read more
Hey everyone! I was led here from reddit and told to try my luck with the fine folks here on bikeride. Let me preface by saying I know I’ve seen a lot of criticism when it comes to converting a MTN bike to a road bike due to a variety of reasons. But that’s not what I’m here to discuss. I am in need of direction. My father passed away a little over 5 years ago and a little over a year ago...Read more