How to Shift Gears on A Bike for Dummies

Updated on August 18, 2022

Chains are moved from the rear (right hand) to a larger, easier gear, and from the front (left hand), by applying pressure for an extended period of time and clicking twice (left hand). In the back (right hand) and front (left hand), a quick push (with one click) will shift the chain into a smaller, harder gear (left hand).

Bike Gears Explained

A gear is a part of your bike’s drivetrain. Pulleys that help you transfer power from your legs, through pedals and cranks, to the chain, and finally to the back wheel are known as gears. Only two speeds are available on a single-speed bike: one on the crank and one on the back wheel. One or more gears can be mounted to the crank, and numerous gears can be attached to the rear wheel of a bicycle with shifters and derailleurs (more on that later). It’s a chain that connects the crank and rear wheel gearing on both sorts of bikes. Your chain is made up of cogs that mesh with each other so that you can transfer power more effectively.

Why Do I Need to Shift Gears?

Your pedalling efficiency is maximised no matter where you are riding, thanks to the use of gears. On your way up a hill? Your legs will produce more revolutions per minute than the wheel, resulting in slower speed but increased torque. I find that this makes pedalling feel more effortless. Trying to make your way down a hill? Reduce the number of revolutions made by your legs in order to increase your speed but decrease your torque. This will make pedalling more difficult, but it will also help you go quicker.

You can tell if your bike has a single-speed or multiple-speed gear by looking at the front and back of your bike gear. To ride a bike more efficiently, it’s critical to have a firm grasp of the gear ratios.

Front gears – When checking the amount of forward gears on your bike, pay attention to the pedals, especially the central portion. One or more teethed metal rings should be attached to the chain. These are the front gears, which can have from one to three rings.

Rear gears – Check the pedals, especially the central portion, to see how many forward gears you have. You should be able to see at least one or more teethed metal rings on the chain itself. These are the front gears, which can have from one to three rings on them.

Adding the numbers of the front and back gears together gives you the total number of gears. If your bicycle has three front speeds and nine rear gears, it is a 27-speed machine.

Learning the Basics

Now that you’ve learned about your bike’s various speed settings, it’s time to learn how to put them to use. There is a specific purpose for each gear. Front gears are for left-handed shifters, while the rear gears are for right-handed shifters.

1. Left-hand shifters

By pressing the left shifter, you normally control the forward movement of your first three or four gears. The derailleur moves the chain sideways to catch up to the front gear as soon as you activate the left-hand shifters. When this happens, the bike gear ratio shifts dramatically in your front gear.

2. Right-hand shifters

When it comes to shifting the rear gear, you’ll need to utilise your right hand. Right-hand shifters immediately cause the rear derailleur to slide sideways to keep up with the back gear. With the right-hand shifters, there is a noticeable change in the gear ratio, but it is much less pronounced.

3. Gearing down

Downshifting or gearing down entails putting the vehicle into low gear. To prepare for an incline, cyclists often alter gears. Even when climbing a hill, you may maintain a smooth pedal stroke by using a downshift. It’s easier to pedal and requires less effort. It’s possible to downshift by shifting into a lower gear in the front of the vehicle or a higher gear in the back.

4. Gearing up

As an alternative, if you wish to speed up your movement, you’ll need to change gears or shift into higher gears. As a result, you will need to peddle harder and shift to a higher gear on your bicycle.

How Do I Use Bike Gears?

The way a bike’s gears are changed is determined by the specific gearing system that is in place. Almost all bikes sold today come equipped with handlebar-mounted shifters. Shifters mounted on the downtube or at the very extremities of racing-style handlebars are common on vintage motorcycles. Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM all produce gear shifting components. To get you started, here are a few popular shifter types:

Thumb Shifter

Mountain bikers use shifters like this most often. To downshift, you typically use your thumb to push the larger lever (the one that is closest to you in the photo above). Push the smaller lever with your thumb when you’re ready to shift.

Combination Shifter

Hybrid and exercise bikes typically have forefinger grips. You press the thumb lever to downshift, just like a pure thumb shifter.. However, to shift gears, you use your fingertip to push the longer upshift lever.

Twist Shifter

Trademark Grip Shift remains in use for SRAM’s twist shifters. Like twisting a motorcycle throttle toward you to accelerate, you can upshift by squeezing the shifter’s handle. You can downshift by rotating the grip shift away from you while you’re approaching a hill. There isn’t much room on the handlebars for twist shifters because of their small size.

Integrated Shifter + Brake Lever

Visualize the handlebars of a road bike, which are bent in both directions. The tops of the two brake levers that are attached to the downward curves are commonly utilised to rest your hands while riding. The gear shifters are located behind the brake levers. To shift gears, the gear shifters are pushed sideways while the brake levers are pulled back straight. Aerodynamics can be improved by a more streamlined design like this.

Tips for Better Shifting

After some practise, shifting becomes very simple, although there are always ways to improve.. Shifting like a pro can be achieved by following these guidelines:

  1. Keep your shifting system maintained.Maintain correct cable tension and cleanliness and lubrication of moving parts.
  2. Pedal while shifting. If you’re not pedalling, your bike won’t be able to move gears at all.
  3. Don’t shift under tension. Downshifting in the middle of a difficult climb is counterproductive; instead, downshift before you even begin the climb. This guarantees that the chain isn’t under too much strain, making shifting easier.
  4. Only shift 1-2 gears at a time.The chain may skip or even come off if you shift quickly between widely spaced gears (for example, from 8th to 1st).
  5. Adjust your shifters to fit.Depending on your riding style and hand size, most gear shifters can be adjusted to meet your preferences. After taking a few laps around the block, observe where your hands naturally rest on the handlebars, and then make the necessary adjustments to your gear levers and/or cranks. This is something to keep in mind when deciding on the right size of bike.


The quality of your cycling gear can have a significant impact on its overall performance. If you’ve learned the basics of shifting gears on a bicycle, you’ll be better able to handle the road. Fortunately, we’ve gathered all the knowledge you’ll need to learn how to shift gears on a bike like a pro right here.

You can practise shifting gears on a bike across various terrains now that you’re equipped with the proper information.

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