How to Use Mountain Bike Gears

How to Use Mountain Bike Gears
Gears allow for a constant rate of pedal action, or cadence, to produce different speeds. They are useful for traveling over varying terrain. The cyclist can keep the same force on the pedals, and produce different revolutions of the rear wheel. A little terminology is helpful when riding: The gear sprockets attached to the pedal crank arm are called chainrings. The gear cogs on the rear wheel are called rear gears, or sprockets. So, for example, pedaling when the chain is on a chainring of equal size as a rear gear sprocket produces a 1:1 gear ratio--each revolution of the chainring is equal to one revolution of the rear sprocket. Using a larger chainring and a smaller rear sprocket produces a much higher gear ratio--each turn of the chainring produces multiple turns of the rear sprocket, meaning that the bike will travel faster if the cyclist can sustain the force. A cyclist will change into lower gears (lower gear ratios) when traveling up slopes, and pop up into higher gears (higher ratios) when traveling on the flats or going downhill.

Instructions

Difficulty: Easy

Shifting the Chainring

Things You’ll Need:
  • Mountain bike
  • Mountain bike
Step 1
Start on the middle chainring when heading off the mark on flat terrain. Your left shifter changes the chainring, the right the rear sprocket.
Step 2
Shift the rear sprockets for a smooth transition through the gears to build up speed. Then change your chainring. You'll find the most comfortable cadence to shift, suited to your riding style. Keep the cadence regular, unless you are racing, or a sudden change in terrain presents itself.
Step 3
Shift the chainring for rapid increases or decreases in gear ratios, for example when coming into a slope. Changing the chainring increases or decreases gear ratios by a factor of nine, on most modern mountain bikes. The reason being there are nine gear sprockets on the rear wheel, and three chainrings. That equals a total of 27 gears.
Step 4
Understand your gears. The first chainring represents gears one through nine. The middle chainring gears eight through 18, and the largest, outermost chainring, represents gears 19 through 27. The lower the gear, the smaller the gear ratio. The lowest gears often mean a number of pedal cycles per revolution of the back wheel. These are food for steep climbs, but slow on the flats.

Shifting the Rear Sprockets

Step 1
Use the right shifter to shift through rear gears in sequence. Smooth transitions between chainrings by cycling up the sprockets in sequence will allow for a constant acceleration.
Step 2
Get the feel of your preferred cadence, and use the rear gears to maintain it. This is particularly useful on long rides. Shifting a chainring will immediately alter your cadence.
Step 3
Start in low gears for ease of pedaling, and shift in motion to the higher gears. Starting off in a high gear means extra work on your part to build up momentum.
Step 4
When cresting a hill, pop the chainring, and snap through the rear sockets into the high gears for increased downhill speed.
Step 5
Keep your derailleur oiled and your chain lubricated. A good derailleur has very little travel time: You pop your shifter, and the gear snaps immediately into action. The difference in mountain bike prices is often due to the accessories. A good derailleur can be more expensive, but makes for a better, more controlled ride.

Tips & Warnings

 
Mountain bikes typically have two shifter types: the grip shift and the shift levers. Grip shifts are simple and streamlined. You twist away from you to go up a gear, towards you to downshift. The levers are typically two-fold on each handlebar, the thumb shift shifts up, and the finger shift shifts down. Both are good systems, but the grip shift is more prone to accidentally shift while cycling, as you pull on the handles. Get the right accessories for your riding style. Lightweight, pedals, cranks and gear cogs, and XT derailleurs make for a better ride.
 
Mountain bikes typically have two shifter types: the grip shift and the shift levers. Grip shifts are simple and streamlined. You twist away from you to go up a gear, towards you to downshift. The levers are typically two-fold on each handlebar, the thumb shift shifts up, and the finger shift shifts down. Both are good systems, but the grip shift is more prone to accidentally shift while cycling, as you pull on the handles.
 
Get the right accessories for your riding style. Lightweight, pedals, cranks and gear cogs, and XT derailleurs make for a better ride.
 
Always wear a helmet. In rocky terrain, or off road, consider knee pads and other protective gear. Always break using the rear brake first when slowing, especially when traveling down hill.

Article Written By Benjamin Williams

Ben Williams is an award-winning reporter and freelance writer based out of Colorado. He has written for conglomerates of newspapers and magazines, supplying news, features, editorial and opinion. While running an Energy Services and Consulting firm, he now writes for multiple websites including the news site, Examiner.com.

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