Biking for Beginners: Using the Gears

Biking for Beginners

As a healthy means of getting around, many new cyclists are excited to start using their bike for short trips to the store or long journeys into the countryside. But if you want your trip to be smooth, you need to learn some basics such as properly using the gears, crafted by experts.

Tip #1: Practice

Similar to the brakes, the gears are something you will use a lot.  So you need to practice how to use them well before heading out on your own.

Find a safe area, preferably with an incline, to practice shifting gears. You need to learn when to shift so you can avoid mishaps on the road, especially when going up or down slopes.  It may be tricky at first, but you can manage if you keep practicing.

Tip #2: Using the gears

The number of gears on a bike can be quite confusing.  A key phrase to remember here is “right means rear.” This means the gears at the back are controlled by the right gear lever, while the front gears are manipulated by the left lever.

The front gears have a big impact on speed. The rear gears, on the other hand, help you fine-tune your ride, making it smoother for you.

If you are aiming for speed or you are going downhill, a big front gear and small rear gear is needed.  For going uphill, you need a small front gear and big rear gear (as the power will come from the back).

Tip #3: Avoid crossing the chain

Multiple gears can be quite confusing.  This is why some beginners stick to just one front gear and only manipulate the back gears.

But whether you choose to follow suit or opt to manipulate both gear sets, you should avoid “crossing the chain.”  This happens when both the front and back are using the smallest gears or they are both using the biggest gears.

When that occurs, the chain is pulled at an awkward angle, making it stretch.  If it happens once or twice, it should be okay.  But if it happens a lot, both your chain and your gears may be damaged, costing you money.

Tip #4: Be aware of the terrain

Since the gear settings can help you in different terrains, it’s important to be aware of what lies ahead.  If not, you may find yourself in the wrong gear, forcing you to get off your bike to walk as you are not able to pedal anymore – something that happens a lot when going uphill.

Tip #5: Shift gradually

Similar to other devices, when you do things too suddenly on your bike, you might damage something. This means you should gradually shift gears, not suddenly (Tip #4 can help here).

Something many new riders experience when trying to speed up or when going downhill is that they quickly try to shift to a bigger front gear. Unfortunately, this might cause the chain to completely miss its target, forcing you to stop and return the chain.  So when shifting, ensure that the chain is engaged before you shift again to avoid such a hassle.


As an important part of the cycling experience, a new cyclist must learn how to shift gears properly.  Although confusing at first, it is something that needs to be mastered to avoid costly repairs and accidents on the road.

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