Riding a bicycle is one of the most accessible and enjoyable forms of exercise that almost anyone can do. It doesn’t need fancy equipment, a gym membership, or a home gym. All you need is a decent bike, and you’re good to go! 

However, you must pick the correct type of bike for your needs. You also need to know how to ride your chosen bike to get the most out of it. Furthermore, it’s a great idea to join a cycling community. There are some great services to help this like ChicksWhoRideBikes cycling app for women to connect with potential ride buddies. 

Shifting gears is one of the most important aspects of riding a bike. Most great bicycles come with multiple gears that you can change seamlessly to improve your speed on flat terrains or go uphill more quickly.  

Although using bicycle gears is easy to learn, beginners might easily get overwhelmed, especially on the road. Luckily, this tutorial will teach you how to use bicycle gears.  

What Bike Gears Are For?

Bike gears allow you to maintain your rhythm and tempo while pedalling, regardless of where you are riding. 

The front gears are usually composed of two or three chainrings. In the latter, the inner chainring is the smallest, followed by the middle and outer ring, which is the largest. Using the small chainring makes pedalling easier. On the other hand, using the bigger one makes pedalling tougher but allows you to go faster.

The rear gears are called cogs, and recent bike models have as many as 11 attached to the back wheel. Using the biggest cog makes it easier to pedal, but you’ll go slower. Note that a larger cog means lower gear.  

The mechanics are pretty simple. By changing gears, you’re changing the pedalling speed and the amount of effort required to make the bike go forward. So, if you’re going up a hill, you have to switch to a low gear, which is the smallest chainring in the front and the biggest cog in the rear. This will make it easier for you to traverse the hills.  

Understanding how bicycle gears work might be confusing, especially for beginners. But this is a crucial step you must figure out because once you know when to switch gears, it can significantly improve your riding experience.  

How to use bike gears effectively

How Do You Use Shifters 

Different bike brands typically feature varying types of shifters. Regardless of the kind of bike you choose, it will probably have two sets of gears – one on the front and another on the rear. 

In most bikes, the left shifter controls the front gears or chainrings. The rear cogs, on the other hand, are controlled by the right gear lever. Spend some time practising the left and right gear levers to familiarize yourself with how to shift gears.  

You may also consult your local bike shop where you purchased your bike to give you specific instructions on shifting gears. 

Bicycle handlebar shifters

Do Not Overshift 

Overshifting is a common mistake that beginners tend to make. Since you’re new to bike riding, you must focus first on shifting one gear at a time. This ensures you always make a clean shift before switching to the next gear.  

Also, remember that you can’t switch gears if you’re not pedalling. The chain must be moving before you can shift to a different gear.  

Anticipate The Terrain Ahead 

Make a habit of anticipating the road ahead, so you can shift gears at the right moment. Don’t wait too long before switching gears.  

This is especially true when there’s a big hill coming up. Before you start the climb, shift into an easier gear. It should prevent you from getting caught in a problematic gear halfway through. Switching to the correct gear before climbing a hill requires practice, but it’ll be second nature to you over time.  

Importance of using your gears

How to Use a Proper Shifting Technique 

Shifting bicycle gears is not simply twisting the left or right levers using your hands. Your hands and feet must have proper coordination to make your shifts as clean and smooth as possible.  

As mentioned earlier, you must be pedalling for your bike to shift gears. Once you try to switch gears, you should ease up on pedalling for at least one stroke so the shift goes smoothly. 

Don’t worry about losing speed because you only eased up briefly. You can instantly resume pedalling as hard as you can. 

Bicycle rear derailleur

Importance of Practising Changing Gears  

As with any unfamiliar activity, you should practice using bicycle gears. Shifting gears can be confusing at first, but it’ll eventually get easier if you take the time to practice.  

It’s more convenient to practice independently, so you can have all the time and space you need to learn from your mistakes. Soon enough, you should be able to figure out how to shift smoothly, giving you the most speed while saving energy simultaneously.  

Final Thoughts 

Bicycle gears have a significant impact on your riding experience opening up a wealth of amazing cycling adventures. Learning how to use your bike gears will allow you to ride farther and faster while having fun at the same time. Once you master how to use them properly, you should be able to navigate any terrain on your bike.

If you are looking for further cycling insights read our 5 best nutrition tips for cyclists. Help with the best way to fuel your longer rides.


Having founded Trivelo in 2015 after many years competing in triathlon Billy continues to enjoy cycling and triathlon. Founder Billy enjoys road cycling and mountain biking for some adventure. Generally a fair weather cyclist who come the winter months retreats to the turbo trainer!