How bike gears work

Types of speed switches

There are two main types of speed derailleurs. external and internal shifting.

How to properly switch gears on a bike

No matter how many speeds your bike has, you definitely need to know how to use them correctly in order to extend the life of the transmission components and the ride does not turn into a nightmare with crackling or slipping of the chain. It is important to remember a few rules that will help make gear shifting easy, and most importantly safe.

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  • Study the transmission of your bike. you should know how many gears you have in total; how many stars are in front and how many are behind; where to move the shift knobs to increase or decrease the load.
  • Pedaling is a prerequisite for speed shifting. It is not enough to simply push or turn the crank, it is important to make one full turn of the front pedals so that the chain takes up the sprocket of your choice in front or behind.
  • Gear changes will only occur when no or minimum load is applied to the pedals. Even the most expensive derailleur will not be able to move the chain onto an adjacent sprocket if you are not pedaling with all your might. Therefore, practice doing this among flat areas, and over time you will be able to change gears even in the most difficult conditions.
  • Monitor the technical condition of your bike’s shifting system. When the components are not worn out, lubricated in time, and the switches are adjusted, then the gear change occurs in an instant.
  • Remember, the main thing is to ride your bike as much as possible using the gear shifting system. The developed muscle memory will allow you to change gears in spite of the transmission or indicators on the steering wheel with light finger movements without squeaks and other troubles.

Shifting when going uphill

Novice cyclists are often frightened by the fact that it is categorically impossible to switch uphill. But this is not the case! The rules for switching uphill are simple. If you need to slow down on the chainrings, then you should slow down the torque with the pedals, that is, make the shift as smooth as possible.

Decelerating the torque with the pedals when shifting forward gears should be because the difference between the stars on the front transmission is usually about 10 teeth, and this requires a smooth shift. Therefore, moving uphill (and just on flat terrain), you need to slow down the torque with the pedals, then there will be a smooth and correct switching.

If, while driving uphill, you need to switch the speed on the rear transmission, then on the contrary, you need to increase the torque with the pedals.

The only thing that you should definitely not do when going uphill is to increase the speed on the chainrings (switch from 1 to 2, as well as from 2 to 3) You can increase and decrease the speed on the rear stars when going uphill, you can absolutely calmly, without fear that something will happen to your bike.

If, after changing the gears, you hear a clicking or other extraneous sounds, this means that the change has not occurred, and you need to squeeze the shift knob. But it can also mean that your switches need to be configured.

To be honest, personal experience will teach you how to switch gears correctly, so ride, try, train, and then you will succeed.!

And remember that proper gear shifting is not only a guarantee of the health of your bike, but also maximum riding productivity in any terrain.!

Optimal cycling gear range

Depending on the training of the cyclist or the terrain on which the bike rides, you use a certain set of ratios of front and rear sprockets, which leads to their accelerated wear.

If you never include at least 50% of the speeds on your bike, it is worth thinking about optimizing not only their number, but also the gear ratio. For example, your bike has 22/32/42 chainrings and a 12–32 cassette at the back.

In this case, you most often include gears 22 and 32 in front, and only middle sprockets at the back. In this case, consider changing the cassette to a model with fewer teeth on the large side. For example, modification 11-28 or 11-25.

In this case, instead of 3 sprockets at the back, you will use at least 5-6, because the load between adjacent gears will not be as noticeable as on version 11-32.

The same can be done with chainrings, but in addition to reducing their size, you can reduce the number of speeds by removing 1 or even 2 stars.

In addition to optimizing the load and more rational use of transmission parts, you will slightly reduce the weight of the bike;).

In the case of a lack of downshifts, it is worth installing a set of rear sprockets with an increased number of teeth on the larger side or reducing the size of the chainrings.

Bicycle Speed ​​Shifter

A bicycle drivetrain is perhaps one of the most complex mechanical parts.

And of course the most important one, because it is he who sets the bike in motion, transmitting the efforts of the legs through the pedals, cranks, sprockets and the chain to the rear wheel.

  • single speed
  • multi-speed
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With the first point, everything is simple, we have a classic composition of elements: a front rear sprocket, and a chain between them. The size of the gears (the number of teeth) will determine the ratio with which the efforts of your legs are converted to transfer them to the rear wheel.

Often, manufacturers use average values ​​to make the cyclist on a single-speed bike feel confident on level areas, he had enough strength to conquer a slight rise and accelerate a little off the slope.

If the ratio does not suit him, you can increase or decrease the number of teeth on one of the sprockets, thereby ensuring the optimal load.

Multi-speed transmissions feature a much wider gear range available to the rider in one or more finger motions. The choice of speeds makes it possible to make the ride more dynamic, faster and more interesting.

But what is there, high-speed bicycles allow you to ride where it is difficult to climb on foot, as well as accelerate almost like a car (albeit for a short period of time).

Bicycles with speeds are much more complex and require special training to handle.

Consider the composition of the transmission on a bicycle with speeds: chainrings, front derailleur, chain, rear stars, rear derailleur, and most importantly, the bike’s gear shift knobs.

In addition, it is worth mentioning such tiny but very important elements such as cables and shirts (wires in the top versions), with their help, the movements of your fingers are transmitted to the speed switches.

In addition to the number of speeds, they are also distinguished by the structure of the switching system: planetary (gears of different diameters are located inside the rear hub or the bottom bracket of the bicycle), or the classic multispeed, where all the nodes are visible to the outside.

Internal switching mechanism

City bikes often use an internal gearshift mechanism that is hidden inside the rear planetary hub. Planetary hub bikes have only one chainring and one sprocket. The number of speeds / gears of the planetary bushings is usually from 3 to 7. The planetary hub has a rather complex internal structure.

Pluses of planetary bushings: they withstand adverse weather and road conditions well, since the mechanism and all its parts are enclosed in a case and, as a result, are reliable and durable; you can switch speeds without pedaling.

Cons of planetary bushings:. heavy weight;. very difficult repairs, impossible in field conditions.

Why bike speeds are needed

In cars, gear shifting is necessary to reduce engine load and save fuel when driving conditions change.

Gear shifting in a bicycle drivetrain serves the same purpose: to reduce pedal effort and reduce cyclist fatigue.

If you slowly ride several times a week along a standard route, then the load on your muscles is more or less uniform and there is no particular need to change gears.

However, if you are driving on tough, rough terrain at high speed or enjoying long rides, it is extremely important to keep an eye on choosing the right gear. To determine the desired transmission, you need to know about such a concept as cadence.

Cadence is the number of revolutions of the pedals performed by the cyclist in one minute. For example, they say: cadence 90. They mean driving at a pace of 90 pedals per minute. There are also concepts such as high, low and optimal cadence:

  • Low cadence. you do a low RPM but still pedal effort. It is unsafe to ride at this pace for a long time due to the enormous stress on the heart and joints.!
  • High cadence. you pedal very quickly. The load on the legs is small, but there is little sense from such a ride. moving at a snail’s speed is not very pleasant.
  • The optimal cadence is the pedaling tempo that is convenient for you personally, it allows you to drive far and for a long time without getting tired. You ride for pleasure, but at the same time your muscles and joints are not overloaded and train endurance. For an amateur, the optimal cadence is 60–70 at the beginning of the season, and after a couple of months of continuous riding, you can pedal with a cadence of about 90–100. Athletes who do regular training are able to maintain an optimal cadence greater than 100.

Changing gears makes it easier for you to maintain a constant cadence all the way, whether you are driving uphill, with a headwind, or racing on smooth asphalt. The cyclist must constantly monitor the maintenance of the cadence. For this, it is convenient to use a cycling computer with the ability to calculate cadence.

How to properly shift gears on a bike?

Gear shifting is one of the main mechanical functions of your bike. Choosing the right gear for a particular section of the road will not only increase your efficiency, but also make the trip more comfortable and save energy on long routes.

How To Use Road Bicycle Gears

The recommendations below are not relevant for planetary gearshift systems that can also be shifted on the spot.

There are a few simple rules that we recommend you follow:

1) Shift gears only while driving, while you pedal and drive the transmission.

2) When changing gear, the chain must not be too tight. In this case, transmission breakdowns up to the chain breakage are possible.

3) We do not recommend jumping over several gears at once. It all depends on the level of the switch itself and the general state of the transmission, but in any case, we advise beginners to shift gears consistently.

4) Try not to skew the chain if your bike has a front derailleur.

Below is a diagram to guide you when shifting gears if your bike has a front derailleur.

For the convenience of the cyclist, some rear derailleurs are marked with the correspondence of the position of the rear derailleur to the position of the chainring to avoid chain distortion.

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Chain misalignment can adversely affect gear shifting and can lead to rapid wear on the bike’s drivetrain. In fact, if the bike has 3 stars in the front and 9 in the back, that means you can choose any of the 27 speeds. But it is not recommended to use all speeds in a row. Remember the phrase by the artist Charles Monroe Schultz: Life is like a bicycle with ten gears. We all have gears that we don’t use. What’s more, in today’s bicycle industry, bigger doesn’t always mean better or faster.

There is a tendency among modern bicycle equipment manufacturers to provide a bike with a large gear range with a small number of sprockets. So, for example, the modern transmission with one chainring at the front and 12 at the rear completely covers the range with 3 stars at the front and 9 at the rear, not to mention the outdated groups with 6-8 stars on the rear wheel. As a rule, with fewer sprockets, the transmission is more convenient to operate, maintain and adjust, and also has less weight.

Remember one rule: there is NO perfect gear, switch! We often see people spend too much energy climbing a steep incline on a small rear sprocket, as if trying to break the cranks. Or the rapid flashing of the feet of cyclists riding downhill in too light gear. Your goal while riding should be to maintain rhythm (the speed at which your pedals go through a full revolution) as much as possible. The cadence is called cadence. You need to monitor it and maintain it in a certain range. For professionals, it starts at 80 rpm. This is necessary not only in order to keep the drivetrain, but also for the health of your own knees. We recommend switching frequently to improve efficiency while riding.

How to properly shift gears on a bike?

Shifting gears on a bicycle is easy. It is enough to adhere to a few simple rules and then your riding style will be more efficient and comfortable. And your shifters will last longer, saving you money 🙂

bike, gears, work

Gear shifting during ascent

If you understand that you are changing gears as needed. it means that you have already missed the optimal moment to switch. This means that you will not keep the required rhythm and inertia of movement. Be more careful next time. Never shift gears with heavy pedaling, which will lead to rapid component wear.

The most common mistake is rarely using the front derailleur. Shift the rear to a comfortable sprocket and operate the front derailleur. You will feel how much faster you find the right gear, because the effect of one shift on the front sprocket can be compared to the effect of shifting to two sprockets of the rear cassette, and much less time is spent!

It becomes possible to quickly gain the desired speed with a single switch. Then, when you get into the rhythm of the movement, you have the chance to use the rear derailleur to fine-tune the gear.

Remember: first select the correct forward gear, and only then use the rear derailleur to adjust the gear!

Tips for caring for your gearshift system

Many bikers agree that the bike is alive. But don’t let him show character. This is especially true of the gearshift system: if the speeds are changed without your participation or do not change at all when you want it. this does not always mean that the components are worn out or broken, most likely the problem is dirt or grass caught in the transfer, in the chain or sprockets. Be sure to clean and lubricate the chain, sprockets and derailleur. this kind of care contributes to smoother and more precise shifting, and therefore a comfortable ride.

It is very important to feel the bike well, then you will hear any extraneous sound. For example, an extraneous metallic sound may occur due to the chain being stretched. This quickly leads to component wear. Change the chain at least!. once a season.

Do not allow the chain to be strongly skewed (guideline according to indicators 3×1; 1×7, 8, 9), strive to ensure that the chain runs as straight as possible.

Shifting speeds during descent

You need to select the desired gear while approaching the descent. on the very descent you will not have time for this. You will need to keep an eye on maneuvering and controlling the bike, not shifting gears.

As you move, evaluate the terrain in terms of choosing the most optimal gear. Change gears on the bike just like on a car: there is an optimal gear for each speed.

  • When you’re rolling through mud and roots, shift up to a higher gear to help you pedal less often and stay in the saddle. It also reduces the likelihood of getting stuck.
  • Try to maintain an even pace of pedaling.
  • Before going up a steep hill, when you need to switch from medium to small, accelerate before shifting so that the pedals are spinning almost idle, and only then change the gear. In this case, the transition from one speed to another will be smoother.
  • In winter or in unfavorable conditions, it is advisable that the entire cable be covered with a jacket. the speeds will switch noticeably slower, but uninterrupted.
  • Calculate gear changes in advance. Already during the descent, you need to evaluate the steepness of the next climb and decide which gear you will need to switch to.
  • The main thing. choose the right time to change gears. During DH races, it is better to shift before exiting the counter-slope. this will help you quickly pick up speed after it, rather than search for a feverishly needed gear.
  • Be careful when shifting while pedaling: 9-speed cassette chains are thin enough to break under heavy load.
  • On XC, it is advisable to calculate gear changes when approaching an uphill, this will help you maintain the desired pace.
  • If, while climbing, you realize that you have chosen the wrong speed, wait for at least a small area of ​​level ground to switch to the desired speed, otherwise you may damage the chain or sprockets.
  • During bikercross races, the chain wears out very quickly due to the need to accelerate sharply. Sometimes in such modes, the chain is changed up to 4 times a season. Biker cross races are very fast, there is no time to think about the safety of the chain.
  • If you are concerned about chain wear, avoid shifting under load while racing. You will switch anyway, but the chain will not wear as much as, for example, during the switch at the starting jerk.
  • Calculate gear changes in advance when driving on a slope and watch the pedaling force when shifting.
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How bike gears work

Benefits of timely gear changes

Timely and correct gear shifting on a bicycle will not only allow you to ride for a long time without much fatigue, but also climb slides that ordinary bicycles will not be able to do. Competent and skillful gear shifting on a bicycle will ensure the following:

How a motorcycle transmission works (Animation)

  • The work of the cyclist’s muscles will be at maximum efficiency, their efficiency will be really very high;
  • The wear of all parts of the bicycle transmission will be significantly reduced or completely reduced to nothing. The chain, sprockets and the gearshift mechanism itself will last much longer than usual;
  • The health of the cyclist himself. The load on the knees is significantly reduced, which a cyclist must always and always maintain.

Correct switching of bicycle speeds. we do everything correctly

An experienced cyclist, like a motorist, changes gears very quietly, smoothly and gently. The inexperienced will ride in jerks, the gears will jam, the bike mechanisms will creak and crunch. the ride will turn into a battle with the bike without becoming a pleasure. There are some general guidelines for gear shifting that are recommended for both beginners and experienced cyclists:

  • The process of shifting gears itself should be carried out only while driving. It is highly undesirable to do this business while standing still, as the chain mechanism will break. If you have to change speeds on the spot, you need to raise the rear wheel of the bike and pedal. And only then switch. Most often this is done to lower the gear, in case of forgetfulness, lower it while driving. There is an exception. special planetary hubs, but they are still installed on a very limited number of bicycles for city walks;
  • You need to switch at a time when the load on the circuit is minimal. At the same time, this must be done in a timely manner, without waiting for a decrease in speed. The pedals should rotate easily and naturally;
  • Before changing gear, you need to stop for a couple of moments and not pedal. At all. Only after changing the speed can you start their smooth promotion. Gradually you will understand when the right moment comes and will do everything automatically, correctly;
  • It is very undesirable to switch several gears in a row at once, everything must be done measuredly, gradually and in order. Of course, in this case, no catastrophe will occur, but the switch will fail so sooner or later;
  • It is advisable not to shift reverse and forward gears at the same time. The chain will very easily get stuck between the stars and the mechanism will come to an end;
  • When changing gears, make sure that there is no particularly large chain distortion. For example, if your bike has three stars in front and eight in the back, then it is advisable not to switch like 1-8, 3-1, 3-4, and so on. This can damage the entire switching mechanism, a wedge will occur.

It will be useful for beginners to find out, and for experienced cyclists to remember that the average working star in the unit is usually considered, therefore, most often the reverse speeds can be switched without compromising the speed of the movement itself. The pedaling efficiency will also remain the same and the chainrings will not have to worry about. Similarly, but vice versa, you can change gears from higher to lower. If you change gears on a bike exactly as described, then the above three most important advantages will always be with you.

Cadence. what is it and how is it related to gear shifting

The word cadence refers to the cadence of a bicycle. It is quite logical that cadence is directly related to the speed of the unit. The cadence must be maintained at a certain level. usually around eighty rpm (plus or minus ten rpm). With the correct cadence, you will use your strength more evenly and will be able to protect your knees from unnecessary dangerous loads.

And some recommendations from professionals:

  • If you are passing an area with mud, then turn on an overdrive. so the probability of getting stuck will be much lower than usual;
  • If you are driving on sand, then it is advisable to put a lower gear. otherwise, when the speed decreases, turning the pedals will be very difficult. Although, if the section with sand is short, you can safely pass it in high gear, here the inertia force will help out;
  • Analyze the rise before climbing it. It is necessary to carefully review all areas where the gear change will be optimal. On the highway or off-road, always plan your route slightly ahead of time and calculate gear changes in advance;
  • Regardless of your physical condition, always maintain a single cadence.