Experienced cyclists seem to almost glide when they ride. They move efficiently between gears, and don’t experience the clunks and lurches that amateur cyclists do. Being able to quickly shift between gears and determine the best gear for a given terrain will make your ride much more pleasant. It will also mean less wear and tear on your chain.
How to Change Gears on a Bike
Inexperienced cyclists often ride heavily in high gears, exerting plenty of effort at a low speed. Some may pedal vigorously in low gears, barely moving as they churn away. There is, however, a happy medium. When you are in the right gear, you will be able to pedal at a steady rhythm or cadence without over (or under) exerting yourself.
How do Bike Gears Work?
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The left-hand lever or shifter allows you to make large jumps between gears. It controls the front derailleur and should be used when you are making significant changes in gears. The right-hand lever or shifter allows you to fine-tune your gears. In controls the rear derailleur and allows you to find just the right precise gear. Begin by experimenting using the right- and left-hand levers to shift between gears. Find a wide open area where you can ride without being in danger or interfering with another cyclist.
Low gear is best for climbing. Transition down to this gear just before you near a climb. You will be able to proceed up the hill at an even pace with far less effort. Middle gear is perfect for normal, average terrain. Whether on flat terrain or mild hills, you will exert some effort and feel the resistance, but it will be steady, even, and moderate in intensity. High gear is perfect for going down hills, accelerating, or speeding along on flat terrain. When you ride in high gear, you will travel greater distances for each pedal turn.
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Some gear combinations should be avoided in order to maintain a smooth ride. “Crossing the chain” refers to using the most resistance (large chainring) at the front and the least resistance at the bank. It can cause your bike to not shift smoothly, and can damage your bike chain. Another example of chain crossing is the small chainring (least resistance) and the smallest cog (most resistance). Again, this can damage the chain and cause it to slip.
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When riding, consider your cadence. You only have a certain amount of energy you can use for each ride. Imagine it in terms of video game health points. If you are riding in a low gear at a high cadence you will be able to power along with less “damage” than if you are riding in a higher gear with a slower cadence. You will have to experiment in order to determine what feels best to you, and you can feel free to change things up based on the amount of time you plan to be on the bike, the intensity of the route, and your energy level.
Your cadence can be used to help you determine the right gear when you are on your bike. If you are traveling over flat terrain, a cadence of 80-90 revolutions per minute is a good rate. You should feel some resistance, but not feel an undue amount of strain on your legs. When going uphill, your cadence should drop to around 60-80 revolutions per minute. When you are beginning to learn how to shift, try out different hills and practice shifting between gears and monitoring your cadence. Over time, you will develop a smoother, easier transition between gears.
Changing gears on a bike does not need to stress you out! I liken shifting between gears efficiently on a bike to learning to drive a car with a manual transmission. Early on, it requires a lot of concentration and there is a fair degree of clunking about. The ride is not yet smooth, and you have to focus on what you are doing or you may end up chugging along in the wrong gear and putting too much stress on your engine (or on your body). In time, however, you will learn to move effortlessly from gear to gear, knowing instinctively which changes to make based on terrain. It will become a thoughtless, automatic behavior and you will wonder why it initially caused you so much consternation.
At Kass & Moses, we are all about getting out and riding regularly! We are all avid cyclists and take cycling seriously. That’s why we work so hard to get our clients who have been injured in bicycle crashes back on their bikes again. If you have been injured in a bicycle crash, contact the team of experienced bicycle crash attorneys at Kass & Moses. We are always available to take your call and are happy to offer you a free consultation. We know you want to recover both physically and financially after your crash, and we will work to make that happen for you!