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
p6i6rfpm1ip41 (1).jpg (Size: 82.1 KB / Downloads: 29) Is there a way to get rid of that rust or do I need to replace certain components? More pics...Read more
Hey everyone! This is my first time repairing this bike. I’ve done basic maintenance (new tape, tubes, tires)... but then the wheels were stolen! I really enjoy the aesthetic of this bike and I’m hoping the repairs will be possible. I’ll definitely need some direction on what parts to look for and how to approach this. Here is what I’m working with. Nishiki Performance Equipe Sport See...Read more
Hello all, I have a old Antelope 820 in nice condition that has a broken (right) shiftier (Shimano 200GS SIS 7 S). It appears that these old parts are not readily (or cheaply) available. Has anyone swapped out these shifters with a more current model without changing the derailer(s)? I don't want to spend alot as the bike isn't worth much I just have a hard time trashing it since is a nice bike ...Read more
Hi all, New member here . I just bough a new bike and yesterday was my first ride. I noticed a sound when in my 3th or 4th gear (3rd and 4th largest sprocket) . Today I tried to determine the noise and it seems to be because the chain does not seem to fit perfectly on sprockets (if inspected, you can see small gap between chain and sprocket, causing a "click" when pedalling). I checked the usual...Read more
A recent purchase of an Elektra 7-speed cruiser came with a Megarange freewheel. I didn't like it, so today I swapped it for a regular 14-28T freewheel. The second lowest geared cog has 24 teeth. The lowest had 34 teeth. That's a huge jump from one cog to another. I found that in a headwind, when I dropped to the lowest, I had to pedal like crazy just to get up to walking pace. And because of thi...Read more
Took an old 28" front rim from a friend who would otherwise throw it in the garbage. THe rim came with 700 Hutchinson tire and I had to change its inner tube, before putting it on my old road bike. Then came the evening nightmare .. tire was SUPER tight and did not want to come off. I have changed many tubes, but this was so far the toughest tube swap mission. Fingertips hurt and Hutchinson did no...Read more
Hi I'm building up a mountain bike ready for when the summer gets here in the UK, I got given a pair of Marzochhi Bomber 55 front forks that came with a Tektro Auriga Comp hydraulic brake. Wanting to keep the brakes matching I bought a secondhand new old stock rear Tektro Auriga Comp brake, when it arrived it looked in good condition, I had to order a bracket for the frame to allow the caliper t...Read more
I purchased this bike for $75 and it wasn't riding well so I decided to take it all apart and make it new again. I am having the most difficult time removing the fork and pedal cranks (I think that's what they are called). The top of the fork has a black circular piece that I am sure needs to be unscrewed but it won't budge. I have tried using a pipe strap but it just slips. Using a set of pl...Read more
I own an old road bike from the 80’s I quite like. To this day, all the original parts are still on the bike, except the last mudguard that broke this year. The wear and tear is getting more noticeable lately, especially the wheels and the breaks. Shifting is not as smooth as it used to be, but it’s not a major concern. The wheels are probably the biggest problem since the wheel ring is not to...Read more
I recently rebuilt my old 86 Schwinn and replaced the chain at the same time. On the small cogs, when under pressure, the chain seems like it's too short to reach the next cog. I used a 6/7/8 speed chain, but have a 5 speed freewheel. Is my freewheel worn, or am I using the wrong chain? Or, something else?...Read more
Hello My rear break lever is stuck open on my Specialized XC ,also the break pads are in the breaking position on the disc even though the lever is open. Please help...Read more
Oh well, another move of the seemingly and endlessly mobile "skunk works". I had to move in short order due to a friend wanting to make the house into an "air b&b"; good luck with that! Never thought that the garage would be a big rental concern; but I am concerned about my stuff getting damaged or lost, so in a rental space while I reorganize my house for the new/old projects. Managed to fit ...Read more
I suppose I should wait until daylight to do the job. My new lever shifter came a couple of days ago and tonight the handlebars arrived. Maybe I'll just remove the brake levers, twist shifter, grips, computer and light and then get some sleep. Well, it's stripped down. Maybe I'll just put the bars on and then get to bed. Yes, they look good but they'd look better if I just put the new lever shift...Read more
I'm dealing with a V-brake boss that has been slightly mushroomed. Does anyone make a tool to machine it down to spec, or do I just need to go at it with a file? Please disregard, I just realized the post is replaceable. Duh....Read more
Anybody know why replacement Speedplay X cleats are nowhere to be found in bike stores online? (Westernbikeworks, nashbar, performance,trek superstore) I ended up finding (and buying) just the right side replacement cleat on ebay. Can still find Zeros online tho....Read more