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Derailleur Gears: A practical guide to their use and operation.
Gears. Amazing things. The combination of two different sized cogs and a chain lets you power down hills, cruise on the flat and climb up a gradient. What a great invention. Not that I'm knocking single speeds - which we all ride here in the workshop - but the multi-geared bicycle is a formidable invention.
Changing gears, though, is another matter. Most modern bikes are equipped with a derailleur gearing system - stay with me, we’ll get to the terminology - where the chain runs between many different cogs. These cogs are both turning between your feet and attached to the rear wheel, giving the rider a sometimes bewildering number of gears to choose between, the most common being 21, 24 or 27.
Trying to avoid a massively technical breakdown of the physics of how bicycle gearing works, this article focuses more on the practicalities of changing and operating gears.
Click for illustrations wherever you see text in this colour. Where there are multiple images, you can navigate them with your mouse, or by using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard. Use the escape key or click on the X to return to the article.
Riding a bike with gears can be quite a daunting experience. With practice and understanding, though, the relationship between you and your steed can become a truly satisfying experience. When you press that shifter/lever, twist your wrist or change gear with your newly invented, helmet mounted, laser guided unit, it really helps to have some understanding of what is actually happening back there.
If you would like it to be really easy, think about getting a bike with an internal rear hub. With these, the chain runs on just one cog and all the gear changing action takes place in the hub - very clever. Back in the day these generally had just three gears and were found mainly on traditional and ladies bikes. Today there are some excellent modern internal hubs with 7, 8 and even 14 gears. We regularly convert our customers’ bikes to use these.
If your chain moves between different cogs on the rear wheel, then you have a derailleur gear system. At least 95% of the bikes we see in the workshop are fitted with these. They are more complex to use than an internal hub, but have a lot of advantages.
Please note: Throughout this document it is assumed that your bike is in good working order and that your gear systems are correctly set-up and in tune.
Try not to be daunted by your gears. A little understanding can go a long way.
Your derailleur gear system consists of:
Shifter – The device you use to change gear, that is to make the chain move between cogs. This may be a lever, twist grip or other. Most bikes will have two shifters.
Chainrings – These are the one, two or three cogs that are between your feet and on which the chain runs. Combined they are known as a ‘chainset.’ The left hand shifter moves the chain between these cogs using a…
Derailleur – These are the very clever devices that move the chain between the cogs. So called because they 'derail' the chain - not as I thought for many years named after a French man called 'Monsieur Derailleur.' Bikes have both front and rear derailleurs. Whereas your front derailleur moves the chain between your chainrings, the rear derailleur moves it between your…
Cassette/Block/(Multi)Freewheel – These are the rear cogs attached to your back wheel. There can be anywhere between 5 and 10 of these. (In fact on the day I type this I have learned that an 11 Speed version is being released – madness. I mean, really?)
Sprocket – One of the cogs making up the above.
Chain – Well, I'm sure you know what this is.
Cranks – These are the two arms into which the pedals fit. The RHS (Right Hand Side) crank is attached to your chainset.
Transmission – This is a collective term for your chain and the cogs on which it runs (the Chainset and Cassette). The transmission ‘transmits’ your pedalling action into movement of the rear wheel and then off you go.
Components – Pretty much anything that attaches to your frame that is essential for the operation of your bike. (Anything attached that is not essential, we would generally refer to as an accessory rather than a component.)
LHS or RHS – ‘Left Hand Side’ or ‘Right Hand Side’
Low/High - A common problem when discussing people’s gears and their operation is varying terminology for which gear they are in. “It doesn’t work in 3 and 4,” for example can be quite ambiguous. It is more useful to talk about low and high gears. Low gears make pedalling easier and are used for setting off and going up hills. High gears are used when you have built up speed and are travelling faster. On your rear, wheel the low gears are the bigger cogs and the high gears are the smaller cogs. Conversely at the chainset, the smaller cog (often known as the granny ring – can you guess why?) is your low gear, whilst the big cog is your high gear. Complicated, isn’t it?
Your place in all this
Your point of contact with your gear systems is a ‘shifter’ of some type.
In the olden days, to change gear with a derailleur, you had to judge how far to pull a lever to make the chain move between the cogs, known as ‘friction shift.’ These days most shifters are ‘indexed,’ so you ‘click’ to change gear. Indexed shifting is a superb invention, but it does not make changing gear foolproof, far from it.
Firstly - and this really is one of the most important pieces of advice that I can offer - if your shifters have a visual display of what gear you are in, a number or the like, try not to look at it! Riding a bicycle with derailleur gears means that you are operating a mechanical linear machine. It is not like using a TV remote control, cash point, computer or the like.
When you move your shifter, you are pulling an inner cable that is sliding under resistance through an outer cable and forcing a derailleur to change shape, thus pushing a chain sideways and hoping that it will move on to another sprocket. You are in charge of this action. It is a complicated system and requires skill, timing, anticipation and concentration.
Once you have become confident operating them, you will instinctively know which gear you are in. Try to understand when and how to operate your shifters and thus ‘feel’ your gears change, rather than just push a button, look at a dial move next to it and hope that something happens
The two systems
Ok, as outlined above, you probably have two sets of gears on your derailleur-equipped bicycle.
The Rear Derailleur / RHS Shifter
The right hand shifter is on the right of your handlebars (as you look forward whilst on the bike) and controls the rear derailleur, which moves the chain between the sprockets on your rear wheel. This is the shifter you will use the most and can very roughly be approximated to the gears on a car. The lower gears (in use when the chain is on the bigger sprockets) are easier to pedal in and are used for setting off from stationary and riding up hills. Then work through the gears (from the low to the high) as you build up speed and travel along the flat or go down hills. Changing gears with the RHS shifter should be very clean and over time become second nature - just a click and then a smooth transfer of the chain from one cog to the next. Constantly assessing what lies ahead and how to respond to it, you find yourself changing gear automatically to deal with any eventuality. This may sound a bit wistful/idealistic, but it really can be like this.
The Front Derailleur / LHS Shifter.
This is the big one and if the truth be told the reason behind my writing this article. If you have two or more chainrings (the most common is three) then you will have a LHS shifter that moves the chain between these chainrings using your front derailleur. Smaller chainrings are easier to pedal in, but less power is transferred to the rear wheel. Conversely the largest chainring provides more power to the rear wheel, but is harder to pedal in. Which to use and when depends on many different factors. If you only ride on the road and don’t tackle any extreme hills you may never need to use the smallest chainring. I would suggest using the middle chainring for setting off, casual riding and most hills; the largest one for riding fast, pushing the bike hard on the flat and down hill.
Issues with shifting the chain between the chainrings using the LHS shifter are probably the most common problem we see. All is not lost, though; it is not some kind of weird and wonderful black art. However, it is the most difficult part of operating the gears on a derailleur system. The jump in the number of teeth between the different sized chainrings is far greater than between the sprockets on the rear wheel. The front derailleur is a very different device to the rear and the advice to ignore the numbers on the shifter holds even truer for this. Whereas the rear derailleur holds and guides the chain very specifically, the front derailleur essentially just uses two plates either side of the chain to push it sideways. The rest of the work is done by the rotation of the chain and chainset (through your nice smooth pedalling action) and the ‘hook’ effect of the cogs on the chainring that is being changed. The idea is that the hook picks up the chain and engages it on the new cog.
Generally changing down (from bigger to smaller chainrings, so the chain is moving from right to left) is easier as once the shift is made, the derailleur pushes the chain sideways and it drops down through the space onto the smaller chainring, where the teeth will pick it up. Harder is the shift upwards to a higher gear (from smaller to bigger chainrings, so the chain is moving from left to right). When you operate your LHS shifter to move into a higher gear, often two extra things are needed over and above a normal shift. These are the ‘extra push’ and the ‘pregnant pause’.
‘Extra Push’ – It is a hard trick for your chain to move up to a bigger chainring and it often needs a bit of extra encouragement. If you just gently click your left hand shifter into a higher gear often it will cause the front derailleur to push the chain sideways, but it will not engage with the bigger chainring and instead will just rattle around in a kind of state of limbo - trying to move to the bigger chainring but still actually on the original one. The impetus of the shift has gone as the ‘click’ has been made, but without a corresponding shift. This is why the ‘extra push’ is needed. When you operate your left hand shifter to change to a bigger chainring, depending on its type, give it a bit of extra ‘push’ or ‘twist’. This will push the chain slightly further and give added encouragement for it to be picked up by the teeth on the larger chainring. Don’t release the lever straight away but wait – this is the…
‘Pregnant Pause’ – When changing to a higher gear (bigger chainring) using the left hand shifter, don’t just ‘click’ and then let go. Use the ‘Extra Push’ and then wait for a short moment – this ‘Pregnant Pause’ this will give the chain a moment to engage with the teeth on the larger chainring and then settle onto it. Once you have felt/seen this happen, and then let go of the shifter. With the chain happily moved onto the bigger chainring, the front derailleur will now settle in its normal position.
This may all sound very complicated but once mastered you’ll hardly feel that you’re doing these two things. They really can be very subtle but have a big impact on your gear changing experience.
If your bike is correctly set up, then when you are in the middle chainring (if you have three) and the middle sprocket of the rear wheel, the chain will run in a perfect straight line, parallel with the wheels and direction of the bike. As you use different combinations of gears, the chain will flex from side to side to accommodate the difference between the lateral positions of the front and rear cogs on which it is travelling. This angled line that the chain follows is known as the chain line.
Many riders are unaware that certain combinations of gears should not be used. In the most extreme combinations of gears - either running the chain on the largest chainring and the largest sprockets on the rear wheel, or the smallest chainring and smallest sprockets - the chain line will become very severe. This results in extremely poor operation, rapidly increased component wear and potentially the chain coming off and jamming, even on an otherwise correctly set-up and maintained bike. By not attempting to select these gear combinations, you will enjoy improved performance, greater reliability and increased component and, in particular, transmission life.
The following three images illustrate normal variations in chainline, demonstrated on a bike with a single front chainring. Click on the images for larger versions and further detail.
The next three images show the effect on the chainline of selecting the most extreme combination of gears. As before, you can click on the images for larger versions and further detail.
Hints and tips
Pedalling – Change gear when you’re not straining the chain with effort, but when your legs are just smoothly rotating. Modern cogs have little ramps and ridges built into them to aid the smooth transfer of the chain from one to the next. A naturally flowing chain will follow these, giving that satisfyingly smooth shifting feeling.
Change through the gears one or two at a time - It isn’t a simple as just ‘clicking’ your shifter. Making the chain ride up and engage with another cog is a combination of your smooth pedalling action and a crisp clean shift. Sometimes you need to press your lever or twist your wrist just that little bit more before you release it. Aim for a good firm shift rather than a cautious hesitant one. Every shifter/derailleur combination is different; develop a feel for yours.
Anticipation is key – With derailleur gears, you cannot change gear when you are stationery and changing out of the wrong gear whilst you are going slowly or pedalling up a hill for example can be very difficult. You need to be in the right gear for the moment. Always remember to change down to a low gear before coming to a stop or hitting a hill. This will keep you ahead of the game and help you to avoid the dreaded ‘crunch’. For example, try to link seeing a red light up ahead with changing down. You'll soon find yourself doing it automatically.
Crunch – You know that nasty noise that comes from your gears when you try to change gear when the chain is under excess strain? It hurts your bike. If I said excruciatingly, I’m sure you’d think I was exaggerating, but when you hear it, it means your bike is in pain. I’m not talking about odd clicks and ticks that are a normal part of riding nearly all bikes; I’m talking about the crunch. I reckon I crunch my gears about once a month. (Maybe on a bad month three times.) If you can eradicate the ‘crunch’ from your time in the saddle, then your relationship with your gears will become a beautiful thing.
Avoid trying to change gear when you are ‘out of the saddle’ (i.e. not sitting on your saddle) when your weight is being borne by the pedals. The pedals are being held back by the resistance of the gear system and rear wheel, as transferred by the chain. Your chain is under full stain and not in a position to smoothly change gear.
Use a good selection of your gears and spread the wear. Try to avoid the temptation just to cane it around in top gear. If you spend most of your time in just one gear it will soon wear out. By varying the gears you use, your transmission will last much longer.
Backpedalling – When in gear, backpedalling is usually fine, but whilst changing or if your gears are not properly in tune, it can quickly throw the chain off - with potentially serious consequences. I’d keep it to a minimum.
Now this may all sound like just too much effort. But really it is not, what is needed is quite simple: PRACTICE.
Just like operating virtually any other mechanical device, riding a bicycle equipped with derailleur gears is a skill. The more you do it and the more concentration and focus you put into learning to do it, the better you will get and the more natural it will become. In addition, every bicycle has its own particular foibles. You need to get to know your bicycle and how it works and responds to you.
We regularly see customers who have gone out and bought a new bike (often a cheap and poorly set-up one) and with little or no experience as how to operate it, set off to use it. They quickly become frustrated and dissatisfied with their riding experience. But little wonder – should someone drive off in a car with no real knowledge of how to operate it? Or perhaps attempt to operate a machine in a factory with no training? It’s true that many people do have experience of riding a bike from their childhood, but this is rarely enough to be able to successfully set off into the traffic on a modern adult bike.
What is needed is practice. Pick a quiet day and go to an empty car park or similar flat, paved, open space. Ride around and practise changing gear. Work your way through them, stop and start, develop a feel for how your bike and its gears operate. Start to build that relationship – where you are in control. Once you feel comfortable on the flat, progress to some more challenging roads.
Even better, go for some lessons. There is an excellent charity based here in Hove called Bike for Life that does adult cycling lessons both one-on-one and in groups. These can be invaluable in helping you develop a good relationship with your bike and your road use as a whole.
Something we often hear goes along the lines of, “oh, I don't use my gears, I don't really need/understand them.”
Fair enough, not everyone needs the latest 27 Speed high specification machine. But gears are there for everyone. Although they can be quite daunting at first, with focus and practice, this will soon pass. By using them you’ll find that your cycling experience will be much improved and your bike will thank you for it. Smooth, regular use of your gears will result in a better-working, longer-lasting and more reliable ride.
The relationship between you and your bike should be of master and servant. You are in control; it does what you tell it. Learn how it works, treat it well and it will give you much benefit and pleasure.
Feedback on this article.
David - 10 June 2013
Just bought a new bike to help with my fitness as I am over 60 the gears were my biggest concern. Your easy to read article gives me a lot more confidence. Thank you.
Lesley - 25 April 2013
The explanation about the 'pregnant pause' - thanks it made things more relevant for me
vince from the philippines - 10 January 2013
Good thing I came across with this article. it'd really help me understand transmission components. Now I'm gonna enjoy more on riding my bike. Thanks!
Becca - 30 November 2012
I recently got a new bike with derailleur gears. Never had one with those gears before. I tried to change gears but failed miserably! I had no idea what I was doing. Thank God I found this website... Thank you so much!
Kir - 27 November 2012
Fantastic piece so glad I read it I understand my gears so much more now thanks
Edwina Cooke - 11 November 2012
Superb. You should write a book 'The Complete Cyclist', or something. You could go into detail about all aspects of the machine, plus peripheral things like how to be seen at night, safe cycling, etc. Cycle route maps could form a part of your book. With the popularity of cycling growing, you could be set up for life. I would certainly buy it. Many thanks!
Amy - 24 October 2012
Really brilliant! Thought I had just one question about changing through the front set and realised when I started reading that there was loads I didn't know. Thanks! going to have a browse around here now and see what other bits of bikery you have shared.
john milliken - 21 October 2012
A brilliant piece of explaining the mystery of these gears. Thanks a lot.
Paul Monks - 14 October 2012
New to road biking (fitness training). Great explanation of gears now I realise the problem with shifting up onto larger chain ring. The shop never explained the pregnant pause so many thanks
maggieb - 07 October 2012
I too have been having trouble with the LHS trying to shift from 1 to 2. Now I shall practise what I have read, shift , & a pregnant pause.
Lucy - 29 September 2012
A really interesting and enlightening read; thanks! Started riding to improve my fitness a year ago but have had my left shifter on the lowest setting all this time because I didn't know how to use it. I thought it would be safer to just use 1 to 7 on the right hand shifter! I will try to be kinder to my bike in future.
FatCat - 19 September 2012
I have printed this article off. I am so glad I FINALLY found some literature that unravels the myths of gears. I sat with the sheets whilst on my bike and read the relevant text, then slowly put into practice the rest. It came easier and easier. I used to ride an old MTB, very basic my new bike is much more specced up. As time is passing and my understanding and performance grows, I miss my old bike less and fall more in love with my new bike everytime I ride it. Now I have had very infrequent crunches and when I do, I wince with the right amount of sympathy and understanding cursing my lack of timing and should know better now, but thats the point, now I do know better and 'm getting better all the time. Cheers! :-)
Brad - 11 September 2012
New to mountain biking but just bought a brand new bike. Had a minor spill a couple of days ago and the chain came off. After a quick fix, i started Shifting the front chainring to make sure no damage had been done. I was not shifting properly and thought that i had messed up my bike. Took it to a shop and they said that everything was working fine but i wasnt convinced. After reading this article, i have a much better grasp and now know that it was a user error and not an issue with the derailleur system. Thanks!!
Steve - 08 August 2012
Really clear advice, I just had my new bike delivered and was having a bit of trouble with my front Derailleur shift, but after your explanation, I can understand where I am going wrong.
Alan F - 06 August 2012
Fantastic article, I would say most people do not understand gears and wouldn't admit to this, it was just the clear and jargon free information I was looking for. Many thanks.
Gaul - 26 July 2012
Thank you for your clear and concise advice.
WelshRider - 23 July 2012
Great article. My wife found out yesterday what can happen with a poor chain line when the chain jumped off and jammed in the rear wheel throwing her over the handle bars and breaking her arm. I'll be riding alone for a few weeks :(
The Grandma! - 22 July 2012
Many thanks this article cleared up a debate between my husband and I! I said we needed to use gears more regularly, he was of the opinion we staid in the same gear-ha! Great article.
Kieran - 07 July 2012
Cheers, Nice and clear. Didn't know about that the front and back cogs were meant to be in similar gears
Joseph - 01 July 2012
Thanks for writing this article. It really cleared up some terminology, and even better correlated gear size with high and low gear relationship. Once one gets use to it, using the derailed is quite intuitive.
Rich Harris - 01 July 2012
Brilliant! This is technical writing at its best: useful, logical, light-hearted. I learned everything I wanted to know and more. Now I have the perfect reference to go back to again and again as I practice. The captioned illustrations are immensely illuminating. Thank you!!
Manoj - 20 June 2012
I am from india and started using gear bike. Your article is just superb for the newcomer like me in the bike work. Thanks
dm - 16 June 2012
excellent, very helpful indeed, many thanks for posting this
deepak - 06 June 2012
wonderful article. immensely knowledgable
Rahul Dubey - 01 June 2012
Great article - concepts are very well explained. Thank you very much!
Peter Ridgers - 29 May 2012
A really useful trick to learn on multiple front derailleurs is where the rear sets overlap : on very changeable terrain shifting the front derailleur in the mid range can be smoother than changing when in bottom or top of the rear set.
Dominique Humbert - 22 May 2012
Great article. I have recently switched my ride from a mountain bike to a touring bike and have not been finding it an easy transition. I live in Exeter, Devon which means changing gears OFTEN on any (inevitably hilly) ride. Your easy to understand advice should help me avoid crunching too much. Thanks.
Keith Hodder Guernsey - 19 May 2012
Just can't help telling you your artcle is superb even for a bit of a veteran of 74 years who takes his now rusty machine to France for a spin. You know what sea water does. Congratulations
Matthew Batten - 02 May 2012
Tony Berridge - 20 April 2012
Thank you for your very clear and concise instructions these have been extremely helpful to a 63 year old beginner.
dan - 09 April 2012
very informative specialy about the chain line now i know which is the best setting
Cat - 05 April 2012 - 05 April 2012
I really enjoyed your article - very informative. Can't wait to get in the saddle for training ride today! Doing Oklahoma Freewheel in June :)
Peter Aspinall - 27 March 2012
Fantastic! I have just bought a bicycle from America, (delivered today), and I have yet to assemble it, but I am really looking forward to using it and your comprehensive and easy to understand article, has made that prospect even more exciting. Thank you.
Spud - 25 March 2012
Great article for a novice like me, thanks! Just picked up a cheap bike with derailleur gears and this was the only thing making me hesitate to start riding it. My last bike was a BMX 20 years ago with no gears :)
Dave - 22 March 2012
Excellent. Been riding on and off for years and never really understood what was going on
Sofia - 14 March 2012
Very helpful, clear and simple. Thank you.
Ray Oldam - 04 February 2012
Great article - very well put together. My partner has had problems with operating derailleur gears, which she found really frustrating and I was struggling to explain them to her. You have picked up on some of the things we just find 'instinctive' after riding for a while. This will be really helpful in explaining to her and I like the idea of getting away from traffic and having a practice to build up confidence - it's best to get the technique sorted out first. Well done! Many thanks!!
bojol - 18 January 2012
u open up my mind dudes..
Richard - 09 January 2012
I built my bike from discarded parts which I coolected.I have never had to purchase anything for my bike,as I have a garage full of parts,tyres tubes collected from skips,abandoned bikes.I find your article very helpful.Up to bnow I have adjusted gears by trial and error,persevering until adjusted satisfactorily.Thank you.
Shirley Stephens - 31 December 2011
Well...I have been riding bikes for most of my life. I purchased a Blade 4 Avanti bike a month vor two ago and have felt too intimated to ride it. However I got into the saddle yesterday afer a brief practice and still felt confused about developing a 'feel' for the gears. This article has provided me with greater onsight to develop a feel for the gears on my new bike. Thank you so much for all the detail.
Steph - 30 December 2011
I just bought a Trek Lexa today and couldn't make it up our steep hill on my practice ride. This article is extremely helpful and gives me the motivation to get back on tomorrow and try again. Thank you!!
Barry - 20 November 2011
Just bought a new 21-gear bike despite advanced years , no previous derailleur experience and recent hip operation. Such valuable information! Already it feels like a new lease of life! Well done.
vijay - 13 November 2011
Clear talk about a complex gear mechanism. Very useful for a beginner like me.
Joel - 23 October 2011
Great, easy-to-understand guide. It answered all my questions about how to correctly operate the derailleur gears. Thank you very much!
Sichu Shakya - 19 October 2011
Just loved the article. WOW!
Awesome Article!! - 04 October 2011
As one of those newbies who buys a bike and then promptly jams the front derailleur, this was a great help - especially the tip about avoiding certain combinations. Thanks for taking the time to set us straight. Back to the saddle!
Nick McCrow - 23 September 2011
Excellent article, just what I needed to know. In particular the sections "Chain Line" + the images", and "Hints & Tips". Many thanks.
alan read - 20 September 2011
many thanks, having just got a bike with all these gears your article has really helped me understand how to use them. I am 67 and my last bike was when i was 15 and only had 3 gears. your article has been a great help.
Dutchman - 17 September 2011
Here in the Netherlands, most bikes use the easy to maintain internal rear hub. After I bought my first second hand derailleur bike for about 30$ today, I thought I could use a refresher. :-) Good article, thanks!
Howard - 07 September 2011
Very helpful should make my cycling a lot easier.
SHIRISH KOSHTI - 08 August 2011
Very useful. Everyone must read this before riding a bike with derailleurs. Please change "With derailleur gears, you cannot change gear when you are stationery ....STATIONARY.
JM - 30 July 2011
Ditto to commments below. I've been putting off riding my new bike 'cos I was worried about the gears. It's also nice to know I'm not alone! Thank you for this article. Perfectly balanced tech stuff with information & advice.
Diana - 24 July 2011
A massive thank you. Was having trouble Shifting between the chain rings (I have two) and so stayed on the smaller. I now know I need to give the shifter an extra push with confidence,
Si - 10 July 2011
A +1 to all the thanks below - I've been trying to find some clear and easy information on derailleur gears all over the web, and this is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for taking the time to express this so accessibly.
A. Collins - 27 June 2011
Nice article, must pass it to the GF... who has mostly mastered the mechanics of her 27 speed Shimano transmission that I have running smooth as butter for her, yet she persists in holding off her change until mid-hill... drives me mad!!! :)
Paul Moran - 25 June 2011
Excellent article. I followed a like on Bike Radar to it and i'm glad i did. Explained a lot.
Jennifer, King Creek, NSW - 25 May 2011
Easy to understand advice and excellent graphics! I am picking up my new bike tomorrow and not having ridden for many years will really have to practice.............at least now I have an idea of what to do and how to do it. Thank you so much.
terry hennessey - 24 April 2011
once again thanks. have you ever thought of approaching companies and offering them your services, to explain their products. to many companies have no idea how to present their products in simple but concise terms. cheers terry
Liz - 23 April 2011
Thank you for making me understand that I am normal in not understanding my new bike as I've been made to feel I should 'just get on with it!' I feel so much more confident now I know how the gears work.
terry hennessey - 22 April 2011
excellent article, easy to follow. my eleven year old son complained he was having trouble changing gears. no problem now, thank you, terry.
BigDave - 19 April 2011
Fantastic article, answered several questions i had been wondering about, thanks!
bcurious - 17 April 2011
Terrific advice - I'm buying a new bike after not riding for a while & have been a bit baffled by now 'standard' 21 - 24 gears on decent bikes. I'll now be able to manage one without crunches. Thanks,
Bruce Jones - 16 April 2011
As a retired novice, great insights, thank you. Question Are there specs for the sprocket teeth profile. Are all chain teeth (for a 10's) the same
alan mathew - 02 April 2011
The best explanation ! Thank you
Clare Marie - 08 January 2011
Thank you so much for helping my brain to understand what my body--and my bike--have been doing. This explanation was spot on: just enough technical information to make sense of things, but not TOO much. I particularly appreciated the logical organization and clear, almost conversational writing style. Very user-friendly. Kudos from California!
Paranjoy Mitra - 07 January 2011
Great help for engineering course work on the evolution of the bike. Thank you so much.
John Power - 23 November 2010
I have been Riding for many Years since Childhood and I dont get problems on my Bike. I might get the odd Crunch in the Gears if I dont Change in time. The Information that I wanted was about the Front Gear Changing Derailleur and when to use it for best Practice and about not putting Strain on the Bike and your Article has explained it very well ,very simply and easy to understand. Other Sites and Articles did not really give any Information about it properly .Thanks very much Dublin Ireland.
Al - 20 November 2010
Great read! I was so worried about shifting gears in my new bike I have barely gone anywhere with it. Haven't had a bike since I was a kid and so I didn't understand the second gear shifter. Now I understand what it all means and I am itching to get riding. Thanks for explaining it in basic, straight forward terms. Hit a lot of other websites which went into super technical details that maybe good for seasoned bike riders, but was gibberish for me. Thanks again for the help!
X - 16 November 2010
Great help for engineering course work on the evolution of the bike. Thanks!
Arthur MacDonnell - 28 October 2010
Thank you. What a clear and succinct article! It is so refreshing to find experienced, good sense on the internet. I hardly ever use my gears but I shall now endeavour to do so. I shall also set my usual gear to a middle cog so creating a straight chain line.
Helen P - 18 October 2010
Really helpful article, thank you. I'm still a little bit scared of my brand new bike and this has given me some great ways of thinking about it
HARRY - 23 September 2010
Great article. I understand more fully now how my gears work and the most effective way to use them. Thankyou.
James Dunn, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA - 17 September 2010
A lovely and in-depth primer for all! I've been forwarding your link on to others. Great job!
Roisin whittington - 15 September 2010
Excellent article! Very clear and concise. Been having trouble with the chain coming off but can see it's probably more my fault than the bike's. Very impressed with your whole service. You're all very friendly and obviously know what you're doing, rare these days.
Peter Anspach - 15 August 2010
Excellent and reasuring. I have just installed a tripple chainring onto my 50 year old Dawes and the gears jamb when extreem ratios are selected
Susan Horton - 04 August 2010
Absolutely brilliant advice....... simple, concise and easy to undertand. Enables the theory to be put into practice. Many thanks :)
sean bradley - 27 July 2010
At last it makes sense! I've been wincing on gear changes for over a year without knowing what to do - and feeling pretty stupid as the chain repeatedly came off. Thanks, your explanation is clear as a bell!
John mag - 22 July 2010
just started biking again after many years away great article for a newcomer many thanks. Its great to be back
Richard - 18 June 2010
I can only second the advice here. I started back with biking with a fairly poor quality 'mtb (in quotes because it's just a road bike with gearing, big tyres and the look) with 3*6 gears - and also with no real idea of the subtleties of gear changing particularly on the front triple chainring. The chain often jumped off changing middle to big front chain ring (not helped by a slight warp and eventually worn crank bearings) and because it was under-geared for the road, and for fear of the chain jumping, I'd keep it most of the time on the big ring (and so yes even with the biggest sprocket on the back). Then I changed to a real road bike with 3*9 gears which changed sweetly and smoothly but I couldn't quite get the hang of middle-big change. And looking back I didn't use the middle chainring enough, so straining the big one. I looked around on the www and came across advice very similar to this here (the extra and pregnant pause) along with other sensible explanations about chainline. And after wearing out the cassette, chain & largest 2 chainrings in 7000 km in 8 months of commuting (albeit over winter) I've now completely changed my habits and strategy, so as suggested here spending most time on the middle with big just for going fast and the small for hills. And it works, and all the various bits of advise all here together on one page. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED reading for beginners. I'd have done so much better if I'd had this explained to me at the start. For the first bike it was a big sports chain so perhaps I got what I paid for. But the road bike was from a specialised bike/race shop so poor advice there I think. Happy riding...
Ian Thain - 24 May 2010
One of these pieces of gold you find from time to time on the internet that usually end up in the favourites group'. Thank you IJT
Pete S - 23 May 2010
Nice straight forward article. Thanks
Nigel Parry - 19 May 2010
What a great article - thought there was something wrong with my gears when I was on the large chainset and the largest sprokets and my chain came off - now I know why - Many thanks
Sara - 02 May 2010
A lovely article - explains everything perfectly. Can't wait to get out on my new bike.
Mark Smith - 22 April 2010
Thanks for taking the time to explain all of this, it has really helped me understand my bike after all these years !
Damian Hume - 17 April 2010
First class advice that is clear to the layman. Thankyou
CB - 08 March 2010
Ah well, I wish I had read this before I went out on my little adventure yesterday. I had a 'crunch' moment and I almost cried because of the obvious pain my bike was in! Relating this article whilst reflecting on my adventure has given me a better understanding and new found confidence - so much so that I'm going out again today. Thank you.
Jen Meads - 06 March 2010
This was a great piece of information. I'm about to start cycling again after a 10 year lull. Really useful information well presented. Thanks!
dfalbs - 28 February 2010
what a great resource!
Teresa Hastings - 27 January 2010
Great Article - very concisely and clearly presented.
Mike Weaver - 19 July 2009
Great explanation of the transmission components and operation. Very useful tips on good practices for gear changing and minimizing gear wear. Thanks.
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