26. How to Shift Your Gears
Learn how to use your full range of gears: applies to 21, 24, and 27 speed shift systems.
Most bikes these days come with ’21 speeds’. However, this doesn’t mean you have 21 useable gears. Actually, on a 21 speed system it’s closer to 13. A lot of people get confused by all of the gear combinations available. I myself didn’t understand it when I first started using a multi-speed bike, so today we’ll learn how to use your gears most effectively.
It’s very important not to shift under pressure, as this will cause shift problems and damage your drivetrain. If you’re going uphill and you need a lower gear, keep pedaling, but ease off and pedal lightly while you shift.
Most systems have three gears on the front, which are controlled by your left shifter. The rear gear cluster usually has 7 gears, with some systems having 8 or 9. Not to worry, the concepts here are the same.
For most everday riding, you’ll want to keep your chain on the middle ring on the front, or number 2 on your left shifter. This allows you to use the full range of rear gears. Number 1 on your right shifter is the easiest gear for climbing hills, as it puts your chain on the largest rear sprocket. Number 7 on your right shifter is the hardest gear for going really fast, and it puts your chain on the smallest rear sprocket.
I find it helps to think of numbers 1 and 3 on your left shifter as options for extreme circumstances.
If you’re climbing a really tough hill and your left 2 and right 1 combination aren’t easy enough, you can shift your front derailleur to number 1 which drops the chain down to the smallest front chainring. While you’re in the smallest front gear you can shift the rear gears between 1 and 3 for a finer range adjustment, but you should always shift the front back to 2, or the middle chainring before using gears 4-7 on the rear.
If you’re going really fast and need a harder gear, and your left 2 and right 7 combination isn’t fast enough, you can shift your front derailleur to number 3 which pulls the chain up to the largest front chainring. While you’re in the largest front chainring you can shift the rear gears between 5 and 7 for a finer range adjustment, but always shift the front back to 2, or the middle chainring before using gears 1-4 on the rear.
Never use the full range of rear gears when you’re in either the small or large front sprockets (number 1 or 3 on the front shifter). This causes too great an angle in your chain line, which can cause noise and shifting problems.
I've just gotten my 1980s road bike running again. I'm loving it, except that after over a decade of integrated gear levers, I'm finding the old-school stem-mounted friction levers quite awkward. I've just become too used to being able to change gears while braking, which feels essential for manoeuvring in real-life city traffic.
I'm wondering how realistic a task it would be to upgrade them to use combo style levers. I know I'd probably have to replace the entire gear system, but I think it'd be worth it. But do indexed gear systems take up more space on the a... Read more >>
I bought a set of Aluminum with Ball Bearing Pulleys for my early 80's Peugeot. But before I could receive them, my Wife's 1970 Gitane pulleys broke/crumbled on a ride.. Both Gitane & Peugeot use similar Simplex systems.
They were the ONLY 10 Tooth 6MM pulleys I could find.
When I got them this past weekend, I put them on the Gitane, but found the shim type pulleys were 10.5MM thick, and the aluminum BB pulleys were 6.5MM wide. Chain rubs against side mounts. I found M6 Stainless Steel washers, and put one on each side of new pulleys.. Chain clears the s... Read more >>
Currently going through a DIY upgrade of my road bike. Already made the mistake of trying to turn a 9 speed into a 10 speed but am too stubborn to go back and it's kind of fun to learn how it all works. I now have an Ultegra 6700 10 speed cassette and need to pair it with a new 10 speed shifter. I have been reading about actuation ratios and want to make sure the shifter is compatible. Would a Shimano 105 5700 STI lever fit with this 6700 series Ultegra cassette? Also would I need to upgrade my rear derailleur which is a 105 9 speed or could it do in a pinch?
Thanks... Read more >>
I recently purchased a new 2013 BMC Race Machine with a full Red grupo. Despite everything I had read about the Red Yaw FD and its ability to handle the entire gear range without trimming, I experienced chain rub. So, I decided I would simply take the time to learn how to adjust the FD myself.
I made several mistakes, and I would love any and all assistance:
1. I neglected to tighten the inner limit screw so that the FD was over the big ring, prior to releasing the cable. My understanding is that, having done this, it will be very difficult fo... Read more >>
OK, so a while ago I noticed to get into the lowest gear (largest sprocket) on the rear I had to apply extra pressure onto the shift-lever.
Now my bike does not even get past fourth gear, this is whilst it is on supposed 1st gear (on the shifter). At the moment it only has a range of 3 available sprockets to use. Also, on the gear shifter, it only goes from 1, to 2, then only just onto 3 (it feels extremely weak, rather than 'clicking' like the front gear shifter does), the rear shifter is not able to go into 4.
I decided to open up the rear shifter and see if there was anything w... Read more >>
Hi, whenever I've got a 6 speed mountain bike, but whenever I switch into the lowest gear, the chain slips off of the freewheel into the frame and is a paint to pull out again. When I put the bike up into the stand, it switches to lowest gear fine without coming off at all. It seems the pressure of my feet on the pedals makes it slip off. Just wondered if you had any suggestions? thanks.... Read more >>
I am trying to upgrade my 50/34T 105 chainset to an Ultegra 6800 46/36T system with all the appropriate 6800 components
Unfortunately there is not enough adjustment on the braze on front derailleur to enable me to achieve the recommended 1 - 3mm gap between the top of the big ring teeth and the bottom of the derailleur. The closest I can get is 4.5mm due to the smaller diameter of the 46t chainring.
I am not sure how critical this is but if it is critical to the smooth working of the system then the only solution I can see is to buy a new 50/34T Ultegra chainset which I don't reall... Read more >>
My son Supercycle 1800 has Falcon FIS 6 speed thumb shifter, which is stuck in 2nd gear and its lever is also broken.
I would like to replace it but could not find anything which worth cost, especially which is with in my rice range ( as the bike itself is not expensive)... Most of the time cost goes up because of shipping cost to Ontario, Canada.
I was wondering if someone could tell me what is compatible with Falcon Derailleurs? As that will help me pick alternates for thumb shifter..
Thanks in advance... Read more >>
my brand new mountain bike's shifting is very bad. the chain keeps moving between gears by its own and it doesnt shift right when i want it to. i must keep holding on the shift down hand a bit so that the chain stay in place.
i thought messing a bit with the limit screws would solve it but i think i have over done it and made it worse.
what should i do?... Read more >>
I've read quite a few posts in other forums about these derailleurs breaking apart while riding. I have one on my 83' le tour luxe in great condition and was interested in finding out more about it. I haven't seen any reference in posts to exactly where the derailleur was breaking apart at. Has anyone had any experience with these and what is breaking apart on them?
Thanks!... Read more >>
New to the forum and it looks like a lot of helpful info here.
Now that that's out of the way,
I have a problem locating a part for my down tube shifter. It's a flat washer that has a small hook or tab on it that sits inside the shifter. The hook part has a crack and is starting to break off. Does anyone know where I can get a replacement part for it?
Thanks... Read more >>
I have just done a complete overhaul on my wife's mountain bike, here is a list of what I have replaced;
Shimano MF-TZ 31, 7 speed 14-34 mega range cog set.
Shimano FC-M 171, 48\38\28T Chain set.
Shimano RD-TX35 6\7 speed rear derailleur.
Shimano FD-TX51 front derailleur.
Shimano CN-HG40 Chain.
I have adjusted and indexed the rear mech. The problem I have is with the front mech, I can change from smallest to largest cogs OK but when I change from the largest it changes to the middle cog fine but will not go to the smallest cog no matter what... Read more >>
I want to convert my Raleigh Rapide from downtube shifters to STI shifters.
So I have Campagnolo 980 derailers, 6 at the back and 2 at the front.
Sanwa Road Bike. 10 Speed. Had for about 10 years. I only have one speed 5th gear. I know videos all over. I watch them and just can't get this thing correct. Thought I'd head here for help and I have a new Schwinn coming. That's pretty inexpensive also. Looks like a nice web site also.
Problem: Start with something simple. Getting from 5th to 10th. When I push the Front Derailleur by hand it snaps back. I can pull the lever on top of bike down to shift to 10th and the lever snaps back. If I put the bike in 10th the derailleur snaps back toward the bike causing the chain to go to ... Read more >>
I've recently bought a women's Schwinn Continental at a garage sale. We think it's a 1975, but we aren't sure. Anyway, I'd like to get a totally different rear (and possibly front) derailleur for it because no matter what we do, it doesn't like to switch into all of the gears. We read that the original derailleurs on the bike don't really work well with it, so we were looking at maybe a Suntour or Shimano, but we have no idea were to start or anything. Could some one give us some information that could help? Thanks in advance.... Read more >>