Cycling Gears: How to Use Bicycle Gears (Explained)

The number of variations in the gear components and how to get the most out of them is not as complicated as it seems. 

In this article, I’ll go over all the components as well as all the things you need to know about your bike gears, like when you need to change them and what each gear means.

Let’s get started.

Key takeaway:

Bike gears help you maintain speed and make it easier to ride uphill or downhill. Different bikes have different numbers of gears. The right number of gears that your bike should have depends on your riding style and where you’re going to ride your bike. 

What is the purpose of bike gears?

7 speed bike gears explained

Bicycle gears help you pedal at a constant pace while traveling at different speeds. As a result, you can ride on varied terrain using your bike thanks to the range of gears. So for instance, if your chain is higher up the cassette, it’ll be easier to go uphill.

A high or big gear is ideal for going at high speeds or when descending. You can get the biggest or highest gear on your bike by combining the largest chain ring size with the smallest sprocket. One example is 53×11. 

On the other hand, you can get the lowest gear by combining the smallest chain ring size with the biggest sprocket size. This will make sure the pedals spin on a steep road pointing up. 

How do you determine the number of gears on your bike?

Determining the number of gears in your bike is easy. You just need to multiply the number of chainrings present at the front with the sprockets present at the rear.

So for instance, if you have a 10-speed cassette at the rear and a triple chain ring at the front, you have a 30-speed bicycle. This basically means that you can use the 10 sprockets with all of the chainrings.

Do more gears mean a faster bike?

bike gears explained

Having too many gears on your bike won’t make the bike faster at all. So if you have a bike with 30+ gears, it doesn’t mean that it’s faster than a single-gear bike.

However, more gears mean more efficiency and more choices for a certain situation.

Bicycles benefit from low gear when it comes to accelerating from zero or climbing a steep hill, just like cars do. Similarly, a high gear helps achieve a higher speed without over-revving.

And just like keeping the car in low gear at a high speed increases fuel consumption, the same is the case with pedaling. So if we were to sum it up, we could just say that with a greater number of gears, you’ll be able to find the pedaling speed you prefer. 

More gears also make it possible to improve pedaling efficiency. This is because cyclists are able to fine-tune the pedaling speed according to their terrain or gradient. In turn, this helps reduce the amount of energy they need to spend.

How do you use gears on your bike?

To use the gears on your bike correctly, you first need to determine the kind of mechanism that changes your gears. 

The different kinds of gear-shifting mechanisms include trigger shifters, bar-end shifters, integrated road gear shifters, downtube shifters, and twist-grip shifters. All of these gear mechanisms are operated by hand.

Next, you need to figure out how you should use the bike gears at the right time. Usually, when climbing, you should put the bike in low gear. This way, you can easily get over the hill. Meanwhile, when pedaling on flat terrain, you should put your bike into high gear. 

How to ride a bike with gears for beginners

As a beginner, you should first familiarize yourself with all the gears on your bike to understand how you should use them. This is important to practice since you can only switch gears when pedaling. 

Then, you need to learn the right gear for the situation. As mentioned above, you should shift to a lower (or easier) gear when going uphill to make climbing comfortable. 

Make sure you’re not always worried about being in the right gear. With time and practice, you won’t have any problem with choosing and shifting gears.

Which is the easiest bike gear?

cycling gears explained

The easiest gear depends on the kind of bicycle you have. But a hybrid 7-speed (or 7-gear) bike has the easiest gear on the top, which is present on the rear wheel. And if your gears’ shifting mechanism shows numbers, then the easiest gear will be marked as gear 1. 

Keep in mind that this gear is ideal for slow-speed riding and climbing. 

What are 7-speed bike gears?

A 7-speed bike features a single chainring at the front along with 7 cogs at the rear, which is called a cassette. 

Since the cassette has 7 cogs or speeds, it offers 7 different gears going from the easiest or 1 to 7, which is often called the high gear. The latter is best for riding on flat surfaces or when doing downhill.

Typically, this 7-speed cassette is present on children’s bikes, hybrid bikes, and city bikes. Moreover, it provides a range of options but isn’t too complicated to use or maintain. This is also why it’s the preferred choice of many commuters.

What are the differences between 7-speed and 1-speed bikes?

A single or one-speed bike has only one clog at the rear, which means it has just one gear. Such bikes are simple and easy to use and don’t require a lot of maintenance. And while they’re ideal for use in towns or cities, they’re not the best option for riding up steep gradients. 

On the other hand, a 7-speed bike is the best option for varied terrain. In particular, it’s great for those looking for a less sweaty and easier ride to work. 

Compared to one-speed bikes, 7-speed bikes are not that easy to maintain. This is because they have many moving parts that need regular care. Plus, you’ll have more parts to replace in the long run, which can add to the bike’s overall maintenance cost

What are 21-speed bike gears?

Instead of one chainring like a 7-speed bicycle, a 21-speed bike features 3 chainrings at the front. This means that you get thrice as many gear ratios with the 7-speed cassette.

It’s the same 7-speed cassette; the only difference is that it’s coupled with three chainrings to create 21 gears. You’ll also see a handlebar shifter for the front gears on the opposite side of the bars at the rear.

With the new chainrings, you get a wider range, which is particularly useful for those who often ride on varied terrain or go uphill. Meanwhile, the two small chainrings offer lower gear ratios. 

But the most interesting part is that the 21-speed bike is not as popular as it used to be. Still, it’s a good option for those who want a wide gear range. It’s typically used for hybrid bicycles.

What are the differences between 21-speed and 7-speed bikes?

Generally, a 21-speed bike is much faster and ensures smoother pedaling and transitions. 

Moreover, a 21-speed bike has two chainrings, one for the back gears and the other for the front ones. This is why it is slightly tricker to use than a 7-speed bike that only has one chainring. 

Moreover, 7-speed bikes are lighter and slower, and it’s the most suitable option for most riders. However, it limits the range of gears you have.

How many gears should a bike have?

The number of gears you need can vary depending on your cycling demands, such as the experience you have, your fitness level, and the terrain you ride on.

If you’re going to ride in a hilly area, then you should go for more number of gears with lower gear ratios. Meanwhile, if you’re going to ride in flatter areas, a single-speed bike will be sufficient. 

Similarly, more experienced riders may prefer larger gear ratios that can help tackle varied terrains and steep climbs. Meanwhile, those who cycle to work daily might want something more low-maintenance. This is why a 7-speed bike is a more popular choice. 

Since the number of gears comes down to individual preferences, it’s best if you try different speed options by renting or through bike shops before making the final choice.

Does the number of gears really matter?

Yes, the number of gears is important since it determines your bike’s capability. For instance, if you’re going to spend most of your time riding in a hilly area, you’re going to need more than a single-speed bike. 

So, here, too, it all comes down to your style of riding and where you ride. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which gear is 1 on a bike?

Gear 1 on your bike refers to the low gear. It is also often called easy gear and is just like the low gear in cars. It’s best for riding slowly, riding over tough terrain, and climbing. 

What gears should your bike be on?

If you’re riding on regular terrain on a flat road, you should stick to the middle gear. You can shift to this gear if you want a little strength, but not as much as needed for undulating roads.   

And if you want to have a very smooth ride on a flat road, you should combine a triple rear cog with the middle chain ring.

Moreover, those new to biking should also just stick to the middle gear. 

What are the 7 gears on a bike for?

The 7-speed bike is ideal for those who often ride on rough, tricky terrain. The purpose of the 7 gears is to allow the bike to easily deal with rough conditions and be able to handle bumps, inclines, and other similar rugged features. 

As mentioned earlier, the lower gears on a 7-speed bike make pedaling easier, while the higher gears ensure better movement when going downhill.