How to Shift a Bike: 15 Steps

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How to Shift a Bike: 15 Steps
How to Shift a Bike: 15 Steps

Tired of pushing your bike uphill? Buying a bike with a gear will make pedaling more comfortable and efficient, whether you're climbing mountains or riding the streets of a city. Learning the basics of gearing can completely change the way you ride a bike; so check out the easy techniques below today and start riding in style!


Part 1 of 3: Identifying Gears

This section teaches you to observe whether or not your bike has a gear and, if so, how many there are. Click here to skip to the part about shifting gears.

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 1

Step 1. Count the number of gears on the base of the pedals

If you want to learn to shift gears on your bike, you'll first need one that has a gear. Fortunately, this is easy to verify. Start by looking at the pedals. In the center of the pedals there should be one or more metal rings with teeth on the outside that fit the strap. this is the call forward exchange. Count how many gears there are.

Most bikes will have between one and three front derailleurs

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 2

Step 2. Count the number of gears on the rear wheel

Now look at the rear wheel. You should see the belt come out of the front derailleur, passing through a different series of rings in the center of the wheel. This is the rear derailleur. Count how many there are.

If your bike has a gear, it will have more rear derailleurs than the front ones. Some bikes have 10 or even more

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 3

Step 3. Multiply the two numbers to find out how many gears your bike has

Now, just multiply the number of front derailleurs by the number of rear derailleurs. This will result in the number of gears your bike has. Some people also refer to this number as the "speeds" number.

  • For example, if your bike has three front and six rear gears, your bike has 3 × 6 = 18 gears (or “speeds”). If you have one front and seven rear derailleurs, the bike has 1 × 7 = 7 gears.
  • If the bike has only one front and one rear derailleur, it has 1 × 1 = 1 gear. This type of bicycle is called a "single gear bike" or "no gear." Unfortunately, it is not possible to change gears on these bikes.

Part 2 of 3: Shifting Gears

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 4

Step 1. Use your left hand to shift the front derailleur

Geared bikes almost always have gearshift controls on the handlebars. When using the left-hand controls, a metal hoop called a derailer shifts the belt back and forth, making it lock onto a new front derailleur. There are a few different gear shift mechanisms, which include:

  • The grip shift system, which works with the movement of the wrist
  • Small levers above or below the handlebars, to be actuated by the thumb
  • Larger levers near the handbrake, actuated with your fingertips
  • More rarely, electric gearshifts or levers on the bicycle frame
Shift Gears on a Bike Step 5

Step 2. Use your right hand to shift the rear derailleur

The rear derailleur has its own derailer. Right-hand controls will move the rear derailleur side to side, causing the belt to lock onto a new rear derailleur. The rear derailleur almost always uses the same mechanism as the front.

  • If you can't control the manual controls remember: right = rear.
Shift Gears on a Bike Step 6

Step 3. Slow down to make pedaling easier, although this will make them less powerful

You can shift gears to make it easier to pedal the bike in certain situations. For example, shifting to a “slower” gear makes you pedal faster and easier, but each pedal stroke won't take you that far. There are two ways to slow down:

  • switch to one smaller exchange in front.
  • switch to one larger exchange behind.
Shift Gears on a Bike Step 7

Step 4. Increase your gear and make your pedaling harder and more powerful

The opposite of slowing down is increasing the gear. This makes pedaling harder, but each pedal stroke will push you farther and make you go faster. There are also two ways to increase the gear:

  • switch to one larger exchange in front.
  • switch to one lower exchange behind.
Shift Gears on a Bike Step 8

Step 5. Practice this shifting in a straight area

A good way to learn to shift gears is simply to do it! Go somewhere safe and straight (like a park) and start cycling. Try using one of the hand controls to up or down gear. You should hear the belt snap or rattle, as well as feel that pedaling is getting easier or harder, depending on whether you've upped or downed the gear. Try using both controls to shift up and down until you are familiar with it.

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 9

Step 6. Only shift gears when pedaling forward

If you're used to a bike where you had to pedal backwards to brake, you might have a hard time getting used to it. The belt can only shift gears if it is tight, which requires you to pedal forward. If you shift gears while pedaling backwards or not pedaling, the strap will not be tight enough. That way, when you start pedaling again, it may shake or fall out of the gear. Which is not something you want to happen while you're riding.

Part 3 of 3: When and How to Shift Gears

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 10

Step 1. Put into a low gear when starting

The first few rides you'll do will be the hardest, as you'll need to get out of a stationary position for cruising speed. Whenever you start pedaling, shift to a low gear so it's faster and easier to pick up the pace.

  • You will also want to do this whenever you come to a complete stop and start pedaling again (such as at a red light).
  • If you know you're going to stop pedaling soon, it's a good idea to shift into a low gear; so you can start over more easily next time. This is also true if you encounter any difficulties along the way - for example, if your house's garage is ascending.
Shift Gears on a Bike Step 11

Step 2. Gradually increase gear as you gain speed

As you start going faster and faster, you'll find that the low gear will start to feel “too easy” after a while. If you want to keep increasing your speed, upshift. You will notice that it will become more difficult to pedal and will continue to accelerate.

If you are riding in moderate terrain (such as urban streets with few hills), a “medium” gear will work for your default speed. For example, if you are on an 18-speed bike (three front derailleurs, six rear), using the second front and third rear will provide a good “average” option

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 12

Step 3. Slow down on hills

This is an important skill to learn - without it, you'll be pushing your bike uphill on foot. It is almost impossible to climb a hill with a high gear. A low gear will allow you to slowly and steadily push yourself forward without too much effort.

The first time around, you might find it difficult to climb hills slowly with a low gear. Since you will be moving at a low speed, it will be a little harder than usual to stay balanced. However, moving slowly means that it would be easy to put your foot on the ground if you lose your balance

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 13

Step 4. Upshift in straight or downhill locations

If you're trying to gain as much speed as possible, upshifting on this type of terrain is the answer. Gradually upshift so you can continue accelerating at a steady pace until you reach your maximum speed. Walk very carefully when you're going fast - you can get hurt more easily.

Starting with a high gear is one of the only ways to be able to accelerate while descending. Slower gears won't cause the belt to change fast enough to keep up with the wheels when you're descending, making it basically impossible to increase speed except for the descent itself

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 14

Step 5. Increase your gait carefully to avoid hurting your joints

It may seem gratifying to push the bike into a high gear, but it can hurt your body in the long run. Forcing yourself to push a bike that is in too high a gear can stress your joints (especially your knees), causing pain and even joint problems over time. It's also not good exercise for your heart and lungs; it's best to pedal in a lower gear at a steadier pace.

You can use a high gear, but you should only switch to it after you've gradually gained speed

Shift Gears on a Bike Step 15

Step 6. Avoid choosing gears that “weave” the belt

When shifting gears, you may notice that the belt sometimes points in a slightly diagonal direction. This is not a problem unless you choose a gear that causes the belt to form a very diagonal angle. This can cause the belt to wear out and break over time, and can cause short-term bumps and slips. In general, it is good to prevent the belt from being on the larger or smaller gears both at the front and at the rear. In other words:

  • do not use the larger front derailleur with larger rear derailleur.
  • do not use the smaller front derailleur with smaller rear derailleur.


  • On an uphill climb, change gears right away. It's not good to slow down in a hurry once you start climbing a hill.
  • The difference in size between the front and rear derailleurs will determine how hard you will have to pedal to ride the bike and how fast you will achieve it. For example, if the two gears are about the same size, then for each rotation of the pedals, the rear wheel will rotate once. On the other hand, if you have a larger gear in front and a smaller one in the back, the rear wheel can rotate a few times for each pedal stroke. This will allow you to reach higher speeds, but to accelerate you will need more effort.
  • When you're uphill, be careful and pedal at a very low gear. Moving your legs faster and making less effort is tiring, but better for you than pushing yourself uphill. This way, you can also walk in steeper places.
  • Many people find that between 75 and 90 revolutions per minute is the easiest speed to maintain for a long period of time. At this speed, your pedal should make one full rotation before you can say “one thousand and one”.
  • When it's windy, pedal one gear lower than usual. You'll pedal a little slower, but you'll be able to pedal longer at a steady pace.

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