How to Shift Bike Gears

Knowing when, why and how to shift bike gears is an important part of staying comfortable while riding, as well as maintaining endurance. . Maintaining a proper gear is inextricably linked with cadence. The idea is this: on the crankset (gears near the pedals), the bigger the gear you are in, the more resistance you will feel, but the faster you will go per revolution. On the cassette, the bigger the gear, the less resistance there will be, but the less propulsion you will get per pedal stroke.

How to Shift Bike Gears

You should strive to maintain a consistent and comfortable pedaling pace while riding a bike, and this is especially true over long distances. This might mean you inch slowly up a hill while spinning quickly, or fly down a hill while pedaling slowly. Our/Backroads bikes are easy to shift, and they offer a wide gear range. You should not be afraid to change your gears often!

It is important, however, to remember not to cross chain. This means riding in the biggest chainring while also in the biggest cog.  In this position, the chain may cause friction in the drivetrain and could fall off.

There are three instances that call for an adjustment in your gear:

1. You begin to go up an incline or start pedaling into a head wind. In these instances, you will notice it gets harder to pedal. Shift into an easier gear, and “spin” your legs a little faster. You will spend less energy, you’ll be able to ride longer, and, at the end of the day, you’ll be happier.

Backroads Pro Tip

When it comes to knowing how to shift bike gears, anticipation is key. If you know a hill is coming, shift before it gets hard!​​​​​


2. You start going downhill or get a tail wind. In these instances, you will notice your legs are spinning faster and it’s easier to pedal. While you could take a break and coast down the hill, it is more efficient to maintain a consistent cadence. Shift into a harder gear, and pedal your way down the hill—unless it’s really steep! You will keep your muscles warm, and you will go farther, faster.

3. You get tired. It’s OK to shift into an easier gear, even if you’re on a flat road! It helps just to give your legs a change of pace. Making it easier to pedal and spinning faster can help relieve fatigue.

Remember that gears are there to help you. They are your friend. You have to use them, though, for them to be helpful! Tiny adjustments to your gearing—made often—will increase your riding pleasure, comfort and time.

Backroads Pro Tip

Try to shift just one cog at a time, and wait until the chain is settled before shifting again. You can “jump” your chain off the cogs if you drastically change your gear ratio all at once.


When shifting bike gears, don’t be afraid to make your bike easier to pedal, and don’t shy away from giving it that extra juice on a downhill!

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