How To Use Gears On A Mountain Bike

Adventure is the first thing that comes to our mind when we think about a vacation. It is always a great way to unwind yourself on a trip that includes exploration beyond your expectations. How about a tour on a mountain bike? Sounds great right?

Traveling on a mountain bike is very advantageous. It is easy to move and carry it whenever required. Repairs can be easily done when in case of complications. Above all, mountain bikes are the most convenient vehicles to travel on hilly terrain. However, people might think that it requires only a strong physique to go on a journey on a mountain bike. Certainly, the assumption is not right..!!

We should have a technically sound knowledge and mind to understand and operate it. Gears are predominantly the most important aspect that we should essentially concentrate. Let us get started and learn the basics about the gear system and know how to use it optimally.

Understanding Gears

Mountain bikes gear and chain on crankset

The gear system is divided into two sections.

  1. A Sprocket refers to an individual gear. A cluster of sprockets located at the rear end makes the Cassette.
  2. At the front end, we have the chain ring which is in the form of a round shaped cog with sharpened edges like the teeth.

The number of gears is determined by the combination of the chain rings in the front and the sprockets in the rear end. For example, if a mountain bike has two chain rings and four sprockets then it is an eight gear bike. It can accelerate at eight different levels of speed.

Different types of chain rings at the front end Cassette at the rear end

Shifting Gears

The challenge exactly lies in the appropriate choice of the gear and applying it at the right time. The levers used to shift the gears are called the shift levers.

They are located on the handle bars. When you strike a movement on the shift lever a wire cable either releases or pulls the component called as the derailleur which further moves the system from one gear to the next. The left shifter moves the front end derailleur which changes the chain rings. The right shifter is connected to the rear end to change between the sprockets in the cassette.

The shifters will have the numbers representing the gears. For example, the left shifter will have 1, 2 or 3 and the right shifter will have 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. For the lowest and easiest gear, we should be keeping both the shift levers at 1.

How to use gears efficiently?

Silhouette of mountain bike in words related to parts and riding style

Cadence is a term used to refer your pedaling speed. It is always advised to maintain a fair cadence level. Let us understand how to bring about this optimum level. Consider a ride to a hill and down from that. Using the gears turns appropriate based on the terrain. These are the basic steps:

  1. Flat surface – Generally when you start on a flat surface, we will have to keep the middle cog at the front end if it is a triple chain ring. The rear end also should be one among the middle rings. If it is an eight sprocket rear end, it should be placed say, at 4 or 5.
  2. Up shift – As you move ahead on the hill, to get more flexible and be at ease we will have to change the front end gear system to a lower chain ring which means 1 in this case. Further, at the rear end we will have to move to a bigger cog such as 1 or 2. After you reach the hill and move on a flat surface, you can bring it to the initial levels that are, to the middle cogs both in front and at the rear.
  3. Down shift – As you move down on the hill, we have to move the front end derailleur to touch the third chain ring and at the rear end to the smallest cog such as 7 or 8 depending on the number present.

Keep repeating this process as and when the road changes. Further, there are certain other relevant tips that we need to keep in mind.

  • On any long travel try to reach optimal speed. Once you attain it, keep shifting the gears frequently to maintain a steady state even when there is a topographical change.
  • On the contrary, as you keep speeding ahead do not be hasty about changing the gears. Be on one gear at a specific point in time. This can have serious repercussions. The cassette should always be aligned to the chain rings. This will ensure a safe and comfortable ride which is very smooth. If there is any hasty shifting of gear that happens, then the connection between the front and rear end gets slanted which causes extreme strain on the gear system completely. This can cause even a sudden skid.
  • At the first instance of driving a brand new mountain bike, learn the sounds thoroughly. Keep listening to the gear shifting sounds as well. Every time you travel, keep listening to your bike to sketch out any abnormalities. Always keep the chains clean to avoid any slow damages.
  • It is always natural to make a mistake. If in case you have taken an inappropriate gear, always stick on to soft-pedaling. Pedal hard on a downshift so that you can go on soft-pedaling over the next few minutes.
  • Try to anticipate the right gear well in advance looking at the road. This will avoid hard shifts on the gear.
  • Always ensure that there is good coordination with your hands, legs and the movement. Every time you shift the gear, ensure the pedaling does not stop.

Watch this video to practically acknowledge all the points.

We have seen the basic gear shifting techniques and also some additional tips about it. It always takes a lot of time to learn and master over this art of riding a mountain bike with efficient usage of the gear system. So just keep practicing hard so that you get perfect over a period of time.