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 thought I would do a thread about how to do a quality refurbish on a bicycle that will be a good user trouble free for quite a while. The scope of this refurb will not contain content about dealing with battle scars it may have endured in its lifetime, primarily because the bicycle is merely an example of a solid platform to build from (vintage lugged frame circa 1990). Purchased for $15us ...Read more
Hi everyone. The young one has been on his bike steering right with the handle bars, the person steering with the safety steering has forced the safety steering bar the opposite way and now the safety steering will not turn in any direction and everything from the outside appears fine. I’m not sure if it goes into anything inside the bike that may have broke. I’m just wondering if anyone has a...Read more
Hi everyone. A bit repetitive from my intro in GF, but this is the correct section for this post. I’m new to vintage bikes, but I’ve been eyeing a vintage Colnago to restore for a long time. Finally found one and the timing was right to pull the trigger. I’m still trying to identify the exact year, but from my research it’s 1991-1993 Colnago Super PiU. Mostly original, I think, apart from ...Read more
I recently bought a mountain bike with hydraulic brakes. When the brake fluid gets low, more needs to be added. There are a number of tutorials on Youtube, and other places on the internet. They involve bleeding the brakes.. That is having brake fluid flow through the brakes lines, to remove the air. The process is a bit involved. I did it an easier way. I put the funnel in the brake lever, and ...Read more
We bleed hydraulic brakes to remove air from the lines. With car and truck brakes, we only bleed them when they have air in the lines. Is there any benefit in bleeding bicycle brakes, other than removing air from the lines?...Read more
Hi folks. My 2004 or 2005? Specialized stumpjumper FSR elite? Comp? has been very neglected, but recently my situation and lifestyle have changed for the better, and I am trying to get it trail ready. I bought a chain cleaner kit, and I've degreased the rear cogs, and lubed the chain. All of the hardware mentioned is original and stock, and came with my bike. I was hoping the maintenance would sol...Read more
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
I apologize in advance if I mix-up some lingo, I have almost no experience in fixing bicycle drivetrain. Previously I had Comet CKM-7159 as crankset (I managed to find this datasheet that seem to describe it pretty good - datasheet) Long story short, pedal track on the left crank got completely destroyed. Since it's two-piece crankset (or I just have not enough muscles to detach left crank from ...Read more
coming at you guys with another newbie question. I noticed the other day while pedaling up hill that I was getting some wheel was rubbing my brakes. I only noticed it when I was really pedaling hard. My bike is a single speed so I have to really get on it when I go up hill. I noticed that my wheels do have a little side to side motion when I apply pressure with my hands. I'm wondering if the wheel...Read more
I inherited an old Schwinn world tourist from my father who has since passed away. Decided to fix it up and make it a little more me. It was completely stock when I bought it. Pretty happy with how it turned out. Upgrades: Single speed conversion 44x17 Tektro 559 brakes with Kool stop pads and 750 levers. Swift Sand canyon 27x 1 3/8 tires Flat bars with vans grips Charge seat PXL_...Read more
I've read other threads and lots of info online, and I'm still stuck. My son is unable to shift the gears on his new 6-gear bike. We tried adjusting the derailer to release some tension and tinkered with adjustments here and there, and nothing seems to be working. Is there anything that we can do? I really want him to be able to shift his own gears. Going uphill today we had to stop several t...Read more
The bolt that feeds into the headset is striped. I have the ability to put the Allen key into the head of the bolt and spin it but it won't come out. I believe the star nut and the bolt are striped from each other. Can anyone help? There is no hexnuts on the stem and the bolt just keeps spinning. I can feel as though there is pressure when I spin it but the bolt does not rise out of the headset w...Read more
Hello, complete newbie here. I have an old 80's Schwinn world tourist. The front wheel has a smaller axel then the rear. Not sure what the size is, I just know it takes a 14mm wrench to remove the front nuts and a 15mm to remove the rear. Does anyone know what size axel the front is? Is it possible to get axel nuts that would fit the smaller front Axel but be 15mm so I can use the same wrench fo...Read more
Sometimes you do something to your bike, and it does not go as planned. Here is a video where somebody shares his experience honestly. Most of us who have worked on bikes, have probably had times when things did not go as planned. These are learning experiences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSbFBqQdCMU...Read more