How to change gears on a road bike

Why bike speeds are needed

change, gears, road, bike

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 pedaling 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, then it is extremely important to monitor the selection of the correct 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”. This means riding 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. it is not very pleasant to move at a snail’s speed.
  • The optimal cadence is a pedaling tempo that is convenient for you personally, 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 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.

  • 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 revolution 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 the pedals are not being applied, or when the pedals are under minimum load. 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 cycle as much as possible using the gearshift 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.

Preparatory operations for setting

All the guides written on how to set up the rear derailleur on a bike, the first paragraph contains advice on how to properly prepare the bike for this operation.

The fact is that the speed switch is a rather thin device located in a relatively inaccessible place.

Before you start to regulate it, it will be necessary to eliminate all the reasons that prevent the correct implementation of such a procedure.

How To Use Road Bike Shifters | Change Gear On Your Road Bike

You should pay special attention to the cleanliness of the bike and its individual structural elements. the cassette with stars and the derailleur itself. In addition, the bike chain will need to be lubricated. Such operations will allow you not to get dirty and clearly see those nodes that you have to adjust.

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The next stage of the preparatory work will be the transfer of the bicycle chain so that it stands on the stars of the smallest diameter, both in the front and in the back.

To do this, you will need to find the adjusting screws located on the switch, which are labeled: H (high) and L (low). Their purpose is to adjust the gears of large and small ranges.

Here you need to unscrew the screw under the letter “L” to the maximum value.

Before you start adjusting your bike, you need to clean and lubricate it.

After the screw is unscrewed, it is necessary to turn the drum until it stops, moving clockwise.

This cable tension drum is not installed on all models of modern bicycles. This is worth bearing in mind. A similar drum is usually placed on the shifter.

It also turns in a similar way, while you will need to stop without screwing about 4 turns all the way.

One of the final steps in preparing the bike derailleur is to loosen the screw that secures the cable directly to the derailleur. If it is rusty and dirty, then it will have to be replaced. In the case when it is not too worn out, namely, it is not visible that it is unraveling, clean it and lubricate.

It will be necessary to check the ease of sliding of the cable through the “jacket”, which is a plastic tube mounted on the bike frame. The fact is that in most cases the gears change poorly precisely because they are clogged with dirt. To prevent this from happening, “shirts” must be washed.

In the event that you do not have sufficient experience in operating a bicycle and do not know how to adjust the rear derailleur on a bicycle, you will need to carefully study the instructions for your bike.

Usually it is written in simple and understandable language, and you can figure it out without outside help.

If it is difficult for you to understand everything, you can contact the master who has sufficient experience in adjusting this unit.

The very same adjustment procedure must be started by checking that the roller intended for tensioning the chain is located exactly above the small sprocket.

If this position is not set, it must be set using the adjusting screw marked with the letter “H”.

Once you are satisfied that the large gears are set correctly, you can begin installing the derailleur cable. To do this, it must be tucked into the fastening screw.

Further work is to tighten it harder with one hand, with the other tighten the screw itself, acting on the hexagon.

If you are new to cycling and do not know how to adjust the rear derailleur on a bicycle, remember that the retaining screw must not be tightened to the maximum torque.

After the cable is installed, it is necessary to adjust the small gears. For this purpose, the chain is transferred to the rear sprocket of the largest diameter. After that, check that the tensioner roller is above the large sprocket, setting it in this position using the screw under the letter “L”. It is configured in the same way as above.

If your derailleur has the ability to adjust the chain tension level, adjust it. After you finish adjusting the derailleur, try changing gears on your bike while moving. They should change quickly and easily. If you feel some difficulties, then adjust the device additionally using the cable tension drum.

Bicycle Rear Derailleur Setting

It will be best if you choose the optimal settings for yourself and remember them. In the future, you can set them, already knowing which position of the adjusting screws or the drum is optimal for you. This will make cycling easier and will significantly extend the life of your bike.

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 the 11-32 version.

How & When To Change Gear On A Road Bike | GCN’s Pro Tips

The same can be done with chainrings, but in addition to decreasing 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;).

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In the case of a lack of low gears, 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.

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 a smooth and correct switching will occur.

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 clatter 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.!

Types of speed switches

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

External switching mechanism

This type of derailleur is used on most multi-speed bikes, from city to mountain bikes. Gear shifting is carried out using the front and rear derailleurs.

Front derailleur
The front derailleur transfers the chain between the chainrings. The derailleur design has a moving frame within which the bicycle chain runs. When shifting gears with a shifter, the frame moves and becomes above the desired star, which ensures the movement of the chain to this star.

Rear derailleur
The rear derailleur is a spring-return mechanism that moves a frame (or foot) with rollers fixed between them within the transverse axis.

The switch is moved in one direction with a cable, and in the opposite direction with a return spring.

When the derailleur is moved, the chain passed through it is thrown from one rear sprocket to another, and the chain tensioner automatically removes the chain slack.

Pros of external switches:
simple construction
light weight
low price
a large number of gears

Cons of external switches:
– are highly susceptible to the influence of unfavorable external factors
– the need for adjustment and maintenance
– risk of breakage when the bike falls
– it is impossible to change gears if the bike is stationary

Planetary systems

In addition to the familiar external switches (in the form of a dangling foot on the rear wheel), there is another fairly common type of gearbox. planetary hubs. The mechanism of operation is such that a system of gears with a set of different gear ratios is located in the housing of the rear hub. This design is very well protected from dirt and moisture, which allows it to work for many years even without special maintenance.

Shimano Inter 3 and most Sram hubs use a clickbox as a derailleur. If you look closely, on the right side of the frame, on the rear wheel axle, you can see a cable line or a plastic box on the nut. this is the clickbox. It controls the gears inside, and itself is controlled by the shifter. The speed switch on the handlebars on a bike with a planetary is visually no different from a grip shift, but at the same time it has a set of other indexes and therefore is not compatible with conventional transmissions.

On some bushings, for example, Sasch S7 and in general all versions of those bushings, to switch it was necessary to act like this:

  • During acceleration / deceleration, stop pedaling.
  • Switch the speed on the shifter.
  • Start pedaling in a new gear.

If you do not stop spinning, then the gear will not change. Shimano Inter and Sturmey Archer do not have this feature.

What is the correct grip on a road bike

For some reason, beginners believe that you should always ride a road bike in the lower grip. Through this, they feel completely out of place: the neck is numb, the back hurts, the breath gets out of hand.

And what is the bottom grip really for. to move upwind, to accelerate and, in some cases, to more efficiently sit on the wheel of the cyclist in front.

In normal driving, we hold the steering wheel in the upper grip, and there can be a lot of options. My favorite grip is on the handles:

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Another plus of this grip is ergonomics. On a straight steering wheel, your hands are always turned at the wrists unnaturally, now I will explain what I mean. Stand up straight and lower your arms along your torso.

The palms will be parallel to the thighs, this is the natural position. The grip “on the handles” allows you to maintain this position, at long distances this is important.

In addition to this grip, you can grip the center of the handlebars, this will make the landing even more vertical:

In addition, a good grip to stretch stiff wrists is to grip the steering wheel directly by the bends with your palms up. You won’t go for a long time, but for a change. very good.

In general, the ram road handlebar gives a lot of room for a combination of grips when riding long and far, it helps to prevent fatigue and numbness of the palms and wrists.

Landing on a road bike

If even after the initial adaptation your driving on the highway remains uncomfortable, then the problem is clearly in the landing. There are two options. either the frame size is incorrect, or the saddle and handlebar positions are poorly adjusted.

In the first case, I send you to the link above to read about ETT, and in the second I will try to suggest how to fix the adjustment.

Steering wheel adjustment

On modern road bikes, the handlebars are often too low. This is a problem for beginners accustomed to the tall steering wheel of a hybrid. I would advise you to start with a riser stem (or adjustable stem).

I wrote in detail about how to raise the handlebars of a bicycle, read how you can do this.

But you do not need to get carried away: in order to maintain aerodynamics, the handlebars should in no case be higher than the saddle. it is normal if it is slightly lower or at the same level. As you get used to the new position, lower the handlebars down to a reasonable level.

There is also such a thing. the tilt of the road steering wheel. Here you need to select it individually, but in general, it is recommended to install it, as in the picture on the right:


Breakdowns in the transmission are many times more common than with other components, and sometimes a number of problems can arise during shifting:

  • The chain tries to grab, but jumps back.
  • The rear derailleur on the bike does not respond in any way to the position of the shifter lever.
  • Shift index does not match gear.
  • The chain sags and falls.

All of the above symptoms may indicate a malfunctioning switch or shifter, but in some cases this can be triggered by a simple break in the cable. Damage or resetting of the derailer often leads to incorrect switching. You can correct this in a matter of seconds yourself, even without tools, simply by unscrewing the cable setting on the shifter or near the switch by a few turns. In addition, derailleurs often take over all side impacts and dutifully tolerate your carelessness in speed selection.

Highway maneuvers

Beginners are often afraid that these thin bald tires will not hold them in a corner, which makes them unnecessarily slow down.

In fact, on the contrary, these bald tires hold much better in cornering than the studded tires on the MTB. The only problem is fine sand or wet asphalt. you have to be careful here.

It’s the same with braking. at first it seems that caliper brakes, combined with thin wheels, are a very ineffective solution. In reality, the force of the ticks is quite enough to stop even a heavy cyclist at a considerable speed, the main thing is the competent use of the front brake.

Road bar tape

Even if the asphalt in your city is not of the worst quality, it is best to wind the double wrapping around the handlebars to reduce vibrations. In addition, you can put strips of foam rubber under the winding in the place where the palms rest when gripping “on the handles”. it helps a lot.

Why the road bike feels awkward

The road bike is really very different from other bicycles. a “sharp” handlebar, a short wheelbase, a different geometry, a completely unusual steering wheel and a way to control the brakes and speed switches.

You get on this bike, drive twenty meters, and you feel completely bewildered. Instead of the swiftness and ease that other cyclists have promised, you catch a prowling bike, reach for the brake levers with your fingers, and get confused about where to press to up or down a gear.

The fact is that the highway is most likely not the first great one for you, and a body adapted to a hybrid or MTB gives the brain alarming signals: “It’s not that.” Therefore, you just need to roll a certain number of kilometers so that the reflexes are readjusted.