A Beginner’s Guide on How to Shift Gears on a Bike

The reason bikes have gears is so you can pedal (relatively) comfortably no matter what the terrain. But if you’re new to cycling, the concept of shifting gears might be a bit confusing. So we put together a handy guide that incorporates everything you need to know about how and when to shift your gears.

The Gears

Most geared bikes have one, two, or three chainrings in the front (the rings attached to the pedal crank arm) and anywhere from seven to 12 gears—or cogs—in the back (or the cassette attached to the rear wheel). Moving the chain from the smallest rear cog to the largest eases your pedaling effort incrementally. Moving it between the chainrings in the front results in a more noticeable change—pedaling feels easier in a smaller chainring and harder in a bigger one. The best way to get a hang of what your gears feel like is to take your bike to a safe place away from traffic (maybe a parking lot) and shift through all the gears in the front and rear to understand how they feel while riding. Cyclists spend most of their time shifting the rear gears to find their cadence sweet spot.

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