Changing your bike gears while cycling takes some practice in order to accomplish the change fluidly. Avid cyclists know that if you ride your bike off road or on any kind of terrain that isn’t flat you will need to change gears. Most bikes contain anywhere from ten to twenty-seven gears that are split between the front and back wheels. Knowing when and how to change them is an important part of cycling.
The Anatomy of Your Bike Gears
The bike gears are toothed rings which hold the chain to the wheel and control the speed of the pedals. The derailleurs are the loops which carry the chain from one ring to the next when the gears are changed. If you are shifting gears properly then the amount of effort you have to put into maintaining your speed will be constant.
The control for the gears will be on the handlebars so that they are easily accessible to your fingers. The gear control for the back wheel is usually on the right handlebar whereas the gear control for the front wheel is on the left handlebar. Make sure you know where your gear controls are and in which direction you have to push/pull in order to gear up or down.
When to Change Gears
In the course of your bike ride you may find yourself on different terrain and therefore will need to change gears. If you have to slow down or are preparing to go uphill, gear down. Likewise, if you speed up, are going high speeds, or are going downhill, gear up.
Steps For Changing Gears
1. Practice Before You Go
Practicing changing your gears before you leave for your bike ride will help to make sure that changing the gears will go smoothly. Have a friend help you hold the back tire off the pavement and move the pedal. Change the gears while the back tire is in motion so that you get the general idea of how the gears of your bike work. This step is helpful for getting to know a new bike.
2. Gearing Up
You will know when to gear up by the way your bike feels and works. As your speed begins to increase, your pedaling may feel too easy and your cadence will begin to increase. When you need to put in more effort to maintain a steady pedal speed, this is a sign that you need to gear up. (make the gear more difficult) In order to do that smoothly, soft pedal for a split second in order to decrease the pressure on the chain while shifting your bike gear up, this will allow the shift can happen smoothly.
3. Gearing Down
If your bike suddenly becomes increasingly difficult to pedal then it is a sure sign to gear down. (make the gear easier) When you gear down it is even more important to soft pedal or even completely stop pedaling for a fraction of a second in order to decrease the pressure on the chain. Many amateur cyclists continue to hammer on the pedals while changing gears, this can make the shift seem very clunky and in some cases it will not allow you to shift gears. If you are unable to shift gears while going uphill you will eventually slow to a stop and topple over… very embarrassing… and very common.
So, remember to soft pedal, make the shift then continue to pedal so that you don’t fall over.
Changing bike gears fluidly simply takes practice. The more bike rides you go on and the more you familiarize yourself with the bike the easier this will be. Even if you have to practice by mounting your bike on a stationary stand in order to practice, you will still be getting to know the gears. This solution may be the best for you if you have a new bike with a different gear system that what you’re not used to.