How to Ride a Gear Bike


Learning to ride a bike with multiple gears is often overlooked as an acquired skill. Some people who own bikes with gears have difficulty operating them properly, which can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. Understanding your bike’s components and how they're supposed to work together is the key to riding a bike with gears more effectively.

Things You'll Need

  • Gear bike
  • Helmet

Shifting Smoothly and Efficiently

  • Locate the shifter on your left hand side of the bike’s handlebar while you’re in a riding position. This shifter controls the front derailleur. The front derailleur moves the chain up and down the chainrings on the crankset. The crankset is made up of pedals, crank arm and chainrings. The smallest chainring makes it easier and you go slower–the larger chainring does the opposite. Depending on your bike you may have two or three chainrings.

  • Shift with your left hand or finger. This will depend on what type of shifters your bike has. The most common is an STI shifter, which requires you to use either your index finger or middle finger to shift. You don’t want to shift with the front derailleur too often. Most of your shifting will be done using the rear derailleur. Shifting up to the largest chainring will increase the tension and make the pedaling harder, but you will go faster. This should be used on flat terrain when you are trying to go fast. The small chainring is used for easier pedaling and climbing hills.

  • Locate the shifter on the right side of the bike’s handlebar while in a riding position. This shifter controls the rear derailleur. The rear derailleur moves the chain up and down the cassette or the gears located at the rear of the bike on it’s back wheel. There can be several variations of gears. A 10-speed bicycle has 10 gears in the back or 10 cog rings on the cassette.

  • Shift the rear derailleur with your right hand or finger. This is where you will spend most of the time shifting. Learn how to shift smoothly and anticipate the terrain. The idea is to keep pedaling consistently. In this case the cog rings on the cassette are different than the chainrings. The largest cog ring makes pedaling easier where the smallest adds more resistance and allows you to go faster.

Tips & Warnings

  • When shifting try to picture yourself as if you're shifting a car. If you have driven a stick-shift vehicle or ridden a motorcycle this will help you imagine it.

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