How to Shift a Bike

Whether you are wondering how to shift a road bike or mountain bike or hybrid bike, etc., the gearing system on most bikes with 10 or more speeds works essentially the same.   Most of these bikes have a shifter on the left handlebar that controls the 2 or 3 gears on the crank (what the pedals connect to) and anywhere fro 5 to 10 gears on the back wheel.

The 2 or 3 gears controlled by the shifter on your left handlebar are for the “chainrings” on your crank, which make bigger changes in pedaling effort — as a general rule keep it on 2 (the middle one), and shift to the smaller one right before a big hill to make it easier, and shift to the biggest ring to go really fast, especially down hills.

As for the 5-10 gears controlled by the shifter on your right handlebar are for the “sprockets” on the rear wheel. The sprockets make smaller changes for each shift, and (opposite of how the chainrings work) for the sprockets the bigger ones are easier gears (less effort/slower) and the smaller ones are harder (more effort/faster). In general, having the left shifter on the 2 chainring and the right shifter on the 3 sprocket is a good way to start cycling, then adjust from there.

How to know when to shift a bicycle: first off, if you start bouncing in the saddle from pedaling too fast, you need to shift to a harder gear.  Other than that, contrary to what most people think you want to select a gear that still has you spinning the pedals relatively quickly, rather than spinning slower in a harder gear (your body works more efficiently this way).  If you try to push too hard a gear, you’re more likely to get some knee strain from that type of cycling. So, play around with your bike gears some to get the best combination of comfort and speed for you.

If you have any questions about how to shift a bicycle, please feel free to ask in the comments box below.  You can also join the discussion on the Cycling for Beginners Facebook Page.

Other cycling articles of interest:

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