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 just bought some spacers on amazon. Can I take these bars up higher? Right now it’s at seat height, maybe. B244096A-8E83-4716-B335-7FC45A98D0AB.jpeg (Size: 56.94 KB / Downloads: 13) ...Read more
Just out of curiosity; has anyone ever tried using those "super lubricants" in the automotive aisle (e.g. "Slick 50", etc)? Seems I remember a commercial with Al Unser Jr. (or some race car guy) draining their oil from the car and then running around the track at full speed. I am, as an experiment, going try a few drops on a "test" bike just to see how the BB and hubs feel w/o grease. I used to kn...Read more
Hi! Many apologies for my state of panic, but a friendly commenter on Reddit (/r/bikewrench specifically) suggested that I cross-post my question here to see if anyone here could help, so please forgive the rough copy-paste-edit job from my original post there. Basically... with the pandemic going on I recently got a nice custom gravel wheelset built for me using White Industries CLD hubs, which...Read more
My Apollo feud rear gear set was trashed when the bike was loaned ,the click on lock on was damaged how can I fix it please so I can be mobile again.thank you...Read more
Hello! I have a grinding sound coming from my front wheel and I can't figure it out. I took apart the hub and cleaned the ball bearings, which made the wheel spin more smoothly but the sound is still there. I have attached a link to an audio recording of the sound. The sound seems to occur at a slow and steady pace, even when i'm biking pretty fast. I have a single speed bike with rim brakes. any...Read more
Hi. I have a fairly cheepish bike, Appolo Evade Mountain Bike. (The reason for it having a freewheel was probably due to price not age). Anyways. So, there is a tiny bit of freewheel wobble which I have come across on a lot of freewheel bikes so I never considered this a problem. Freewheels just tend to get a little bent right? Despite this, shifting is just fine and smooth and the whole drive ...Read more
I have an original 2010 Trek District 1st edition. I need the rear cog 22t 9 spline replaced, I've stripped out my original one. I can not find this part anywhere and if I go to trek website or even gates, they say the part does not exist. When I contacted gates they informed me that they do not have any and that I could maybe find it through a 3rd party source. I really do not want to change it ...Read more
I'm a former racer attempting to build a business selling bike bleed kits, and I am in this class where we are working on a product/service feasibility assignment. If you're a biker or have some knowledge in the cycling industry, could help me out in taking this quick survey for a business idea of selling bleed kits for bikes, motorcycles, and other vehicles? It involves looking over a one-page ...Read more
Greetings all, Looking for a little advice on why and how to fix the Presta air valve on my Park Tools floor pump. It’s a dual presta Schrader attachment (that in not removable) on the pump and air flow simply stopped flowing into the presta despite lock being on to block Schrader flow. There has been some lead up warning as it became harder to pump and would ‘pop’ when whatever was blocki...Read more
I'm looking for a compatible thumb or bar-end shifter for a Campy 9-speed derailleur. The Jtek ShiftMate 3 looked like the perfect solution as it would allow me to use a cheap Shimano-compatible shifter, but they're only sold by SKS Cycles in the UK and I'd prefer not to ship back to the US from overseas. Does anyone know of other solutions out there (besides friction shifters)?...Read more
All, Just had my brakes replaced and repaired. I noticed that my rear v-brakes were skewed to one side. Not sure how to fix or reconfigure this. Any help is appreciated. The attachment shows the skewed v-brakes leaning to one side. rear-v-brakes.jpg (Size: 57.44 KB / Downloads: 107) Thanks....Read more
I am building my dream bike and I want to put a Chris King bottom bracket in it. It is just very hard to figure out which one is the right one. I plan on getting a Sram DUB crankset because it has the look I´m going for, with a decent price tag. I have a Cinelli Vigorell disc frame. I believe that in order to put the DUB crankset on I would need the King Threadfit 30. I don't know what the differ...Read more
Hi, I followed the park tool instruction for the front and rear derailer alignment but the Front Derailer moves to the bigger cog only when I'm not riding the bike. On the stand, it moves to the bigger cog just fine but whenever I ride it doesn't move. It shifts perfectly on the stand but seems to hit the h limit screw when sitting and actually riding (the cables are not being clamped in any way ...Read more
I've watched the Park Tool video on removing and installing a new crank. I've completed the removal/install and torqued to 45Nm (hoping this is correct for a cheap SR Suntour XCT since I can't find manufacturer guidance). I used a tiny bit of grease (but let's not go down that rabbit hole for this question). Here's where I'm starting to find conflicting info. This document on Sheldon's siteexpla...Read more
Hi! I recently got a cheapie old mountain bike. A few minor thing had to be done to it to get it into a good usable condition. The old thing thats still up with it is a slight wobble in the rear freewheel. It makes the rear gears slip a bit. I don't know much about freewheel mechanisms... is there user serviceable bearing in then or is replacing that the only option? i've uploaded a video to sh...Read more