Most top-selling bicycles in India would have 21 gears. These bicycles have 3 chainrings near the pedal and 7 cogs on the back. All possible combinations of the front and back gears give you 21 different options to ride your bicycle on. Don’t worry if your bicycle has more or less number of gears, the concept still remains the same.
Do more number of Gears on a Cycle make it faster?
There is a big misconception amongst some beginners and kids that more the number of gears on a bicycle, the faster it is. This is not true. Gears are there on your bicycle to give you more options and to make your ride more comfortable.
Why use Gears:
In simple words, Gears help you in two different ways:
- Imagine you are riding uphill or against a strong wind. On a normal bicycle, you will have a to exert more pressure (on your body and bicycle) just to maintain your speed. If you have gears, you can just shift to a lower gear, You can then pedal fast (but use less energy and strain) on your bicycle to maintain the same speed.
- If you are no a friendly terrain (Downhill), you are already pedaling at the highest possible speed that you physically can. This is the max speed you can hit. However, if you have gears, you can just shift to the top gear, this will help you increase the RPM on your wheels without pedaling at that high a speed.
Let me put try and explain in a different way: (The numbers below are just to explain the concept to you)
- Low Gear – Say you need to pedal 100 times to cover a distance of 100 meters (Effort required – Low)
- Regular Gear – Maybe you will need to pedal only 60 times to cover 100 meters (Effort required – Medium)
- Top Gear – You need to pedal 30 times to cover 100 meters (Effort required – High)
I hope this example clears all doubts.
Which Gears to use on a Bicycle?
With so many Gears available on regular bicycles, it is often confusing to decide which one to use. The section below should help you understand how each of the gears works and which is the perfect one to use.
Use Front Gears [Chain Rings]:
Think of your front gears as tools to make a big adjustment. You will not use these very frequently. You can follow the simple rules below till you familiarize with gears and figure out which one works best for you:
- The Smallest Chain Ring – Use this when you expect the going to get tough, (Going uphill or going up a Bridge)
- The medium Chain Ring – During regular scenarios
- Large Chain Ring – Use this when you can and want to go at high speed. The terrain should support you (Downhill or while riding on a smooth flat empty road)
Use Rear Cogs:
You can use these more often to make minor changes. The only thing that you need to avoid is going cross chain. i.e. You have the smallest chainring on in the front and using the smallest cog in the back and vice-versa.
What is Cross-Chaining and why to Avoid it?
Cross chaining, as defined above, is literally when your chain is at an angle. This increase the friction between your sprockets and the chain to cause damage to them. To ensure your bike lasts you for years, try and avoid this as much as possible.
You can watch the video below, which will help you visualize the gear changes and how cross chaining is bad for your bicycle. The video is a bit long, if you get bored, try and skip the first couple of minutes.
Try to build up your Cadence:
Trained cyclists aim to cycle at a cadence of 70 to 100 RPM per minute. Gears are tools to help them maintain their cadence or rhythm over a longer distance. I am not saying you should aim at this range of 70 to 100 RPM.
Say to cycle to work and notice that you are comfortable cycling at around 40 to 50 RPM. You should aim at using the gear to enable you to ride easily and most efficiently in this range (You can try to up the limit later) – There are various gadget and apps available online which can help you monitor your daily run.
When to Shift the Gear on your Bicycle?
Plan in advance. Usually to start climbing a bridge and then realize it is getting too hard to pedal. You then try to shift gear when the chain and the sprockets are under tremendous pressure. You should avoid doing this.
If you do get in a tricky situation, just release the pressure on your pedal for a few seconds as you change the gear (You have to keep peddling, just don’t exert as much of a pressure). This will help you shift gear easily.
The video below will help you go through all the points I discussed above briefly and will also show you why you should not be shifting gears under stress.
You made it to the end of the article, that really good. However, remember, Its ok if you make mistakes shifting gears at the beginning. You are bound to make mistakes and that fine. Just keep practicing and focus on three things:
- Aim to use the right gear
- Always try and shift gear well in advance
- The gear shifting should be really smooth
Original Post Bicycle XP