How to use your gears.
It’s easy to get a bit daunted when you are faced with the choice of number of gears on your new bike.
I’m not going to tell you how old I am but the 1st mountain bike I saw was many years ago and it was a single speed bike, so no gears! It didn’t take long before I saw 5 speed bikes and then 10 speed bikes. Where would it end? Next 15 speed, then 18 speed and 21 speed. Now we see 24 speed and 27 speed. Sounds really complicated but, in fact, it’s not that scary.
Most adult bikes and larger kids bikes have gears and they are all very easy to use. Bikes can have one gear selector or two. They are usually on either side of the handlebars.
The gear shifters can be several different types but they all do the same task. They pull (or release) a cable that controls the derailleur which, in turn, moves your chain onto the different cogs. There are 3 main types of levers, thumb shift, twist shift and button shift.
The right-hand gear shifter selects gears from the group of cogs on the rear wheel of the bike, there are usually between 6 and 9 individual cogs. The left-hand gear shifter selects individual cogs from the group of cogs attached to the pedals at the front of the bike, there are usually 2 or 3. So, for example, if you have a bike with 6 cogs at the rear and 3 cogs at the front you have an 18 speed bike because you can select 6 rear cogs on each of the 3 cogs at the front, so you have a choice of 18 individual gears or ratios. If you have 2 cogs at the front and 7 cogs at the rear you would have 14 gears.
The combination of cogs selected produces different gear ratios which helps the rider when the terrain changes. To climb a steep hill you will need an “easier” gear and you can do this by selecting the larger cogs at the rear of the bike or smaller cogs at the front, it has the same affect. If you’re on the flat or travelling down hill and you want a “faster” gear you need a smaller cog at the rear or a larger front, again, it has the same affect.
Modern gear systems make selecting these gears very easy, all you need to do is push (or pull) the lever to the next click while you are pedalling and the gears will jump to the next cog. To make the gear shift quicker and to reduce wear on your gear components it’s a good idea to reduce the pressure on the pedals a little.
There are a couple of rules to try to stick to. Keep pedalling when changing and reduce pressure on the pedals. Avoid the extremes! Try not to use biggest cog at the rear with biggest cog at the front, also the 2 smallest cogs together. These “extremes” will work but it puts strain on the components and you probably hear strange noises, that’s your bike complaining!
The rest is just practice, use your gears, they are there to make your life easier!