Shifting Tips for Better Biking Experience

When it comes to biking, nothing beats the rush of riding really fast and feeling the wind against your face. Fortunately, having gears on our bikes allow us to go even faster than ever. With gears, we can sustain our energy, enabling us to ride longer and with greater efficiency.


In order to make the most out of our bikes, we must understand how gears work. This involves knowing the different parts of the bike involved in shifting. It also means learning how to shift our bikes properly so that it can work better and last longer.

Shift Your Bike Properly

Basically, the standard bike has five major components that are involved in shifting: the chain, crank set, rear cassette, derailleurs, and shifters. The chain is the part of the bike that connects to the crank set and the gears on the rear cassette.

The chain makes it possible for the crank set and the gears to turn the bike’s wheels whenever you pedal. In other words, without the chain, you would not be able to move forward.


The crank set refers to the one, two, or three front chain rings of the bicycle. If a bike has two chain rings, it is known as a double, while a bicycle with three chain rings is known as a triple. The chain rings contain teeth, to which the chain of the bike is connected.

Located at the right side of your back wheel is a the rear cassette, which is a stack of gears or cogs. The largest gear is situated nearest to the wheel, while the smallest gear is placed the farthest. Like the chain rings, the gears have teeth, to which the bicycle’s chain is connected.

The derailleur is the part that moves the chain either between the rear gears of the front chain rings. The derailleur is connected to the shifters through cables. Each time you press the shifter, either the rear or the front derailleur moves as well, to the direction that you want to go.

Although most bicycles contain a front and a rear derailleur, some contain only a rear derailleur. A bike like this has only one shifter, but its rear cassette has a greater number of gears. Even if it has only a single front chairing, the biker still has a variety of gears to choose from.

bike gear

The shifters of the bicycle enable you to move the chain between the gears of the rear cassette and the front chain rings. The shifters make it possible to control the cables, which are joined to the derailleurs.

Mountain bike shifters are usually placed on the handlebars, whereas road bike shifters are either combined with the brake levers or placed on the handlebars.

Different Kinds of Shifters

The kind of shifter you use depends on the type of bike you have. However, in all types of bikes, one shifter controls the rear derailleur, while another shifter controls the front one.

As mentioned previously, some road bike shifters are combined with the brake levers of the bicycle. Since the shifters are along the field of vision and quite easy to reach, there is no need for riders to take their eyes off the road whenever they shift.

Notably, in older models, the shifters are placed in the bar ends, the downtube, or on either side of the bike’s stem.


On the other hand, mountain bike shifters come in two types: grip shifters and thumb shifters. Grip shifters work through twisting your bike’s grip to the front or to the back.

When you twist it one way, the chain moves up, and when you twist it the other way, the chain moves down through the gears.

Thumb shifters, meanwhile, contain two levers, one for each hand. Similar to the grip shifters, one lever moves the chain downwards, whereas the other lever moves it upwards.

How to Use Gears and Shifters

Through the use of gears and shifters, bikers are able to maintain a consistent pedaling speed whenever they ride. Basically, it is more efficient to ride with a higher pedaling speed on an easy gear than to go with a lower pedaling speed on a hard gear.

When you push on harder gears, your energy will burn up more quickly, even if it may seem faster. What’s more, your knees will get tired more quickly this way.

In contrast, when your pedaling speed is high, you will not become tired so easily because you would have reached your aerobic zone. For road bicycles, the optimum pedaling speed is about 80 to 100 rotations per minute.

For mountain bikes, the terrain makes it harder to maintain pedaling speed, but riders should have the feeling of spinning their legs instead of going slowly. In any case, it is important for you to find a pedaling speed that you are comfortable with.


Aside from learning how to shift, it is also important for riders to know how to shift properly. Before anything else, try to visualize the kind of terrain that you will encounter. Whenever you go uphill, shift before you start the climb, and when you are already halfway up.

Another important tip is to utilize just one shifter each at a time. If you try to use both shifters at the same time, you might end up jamming the chain or dropping it off the cassette or crank set.

If you are riding on a flat surface, shifting though more than one gear at a time is alright, but this does not apply to uphill rides.

Moreover, avoid cross chaining, which happens when you use a gear that causes your chain to be at opposite ends of the rear cassette and front gears at the same time. Doing this would only drop, or worse, totally break your chain.

Final Words

Ultimately, learning to shift gears properly depends on the kind of terrain you plan to ride as well as your fitness level. If you ride mostly on flat terrain, then you do not really need a lot of gears. On the other hand, if you plan to ride and climb uphill, then having more gears would be a wise idea.

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