Understanding your bike gears and how to use them is a great way to help you feel more confident so you can goRide more places, more often.
They say a great way to test your understanding on a subject is to teach someone else. I was confronted with the reality of my ‘knowledge’ on bike gears when I had to try and support my daughter, Hollie, to learn how to use her bike gears. As a family we were beginning to ride in more challenging environments. Environments that required Hollie to be able to use her gears well for her to be able to feel that the ride was manageable. Her ability to use the right gears at the right time was imperative to her success and enjoyment on her bike.
Now that Hollie understands her gears and is getting better at knowing how and when to use them, we have gone from “I can’t do this” , “my legs are too tired” and pushing her bike, to giving things a go, getting stronger and loving to ride.
I want you and your family to feel that success, so join me as we make sure you understand your bike gears so you too can teach someone else. If you take the time to learn you will be amazed at the places you could go…
What is the purpose of gears on a bike? The reason you have bike gears is so you can pedal relatively comfortably no matter what the terrain. If you have bike gears you are able to pedal in a comfortable rhythm. That means your legs are turning around at a comfortable rate – or cadence – not going too fast or too slow when you are riding down or up a hill, or on the flat or into the wind. Using the correct bike gears allows you to bike places that you might not otherwise have been able to go. As well as biking for longer and having the ability to bike faster or slower.
Sounds like bike gears are worth knowing about so lets learn how to use them efficiently
What are bike gears? Simply put it is a system, a mechanism, on the bike that allows you to make it harder or easier to pedal. How do you use this mechanism? To alter the gears on your bike you use your shifters located on the handlebars. By using your shifters you can control and move the front and the rear derailleur. The derailluers act as guides moving the bike chain onto different sized chain rings at the front and different sprockets at the back on the rear cassette. Unfamiliar with some of these terms then check out Know your bike chain
How does being on different sized chain rings at the front and sprockets at the back effect how easy or hard it is to pedal? This gets a bit technical but if you can hang in there and get it, it makes the whole gearing thing so much easier and more purposeful. On both the chain rings and the sprockets we have chain teeth that the bike chain connects with. We have different numbers of chain teeth on the different sized chain rings and sprockets. You can find the number of teeth stamped onto the chain ring or sprocket. Have a look on your bike and see what you can find.
My bike is set up like this:
- it is a 20 (2 x 10) geared bike
- 2 x chain rings at the front, 36T and 22T (teeth)
- 10 x sprockets at the back, 36T, 32T, 28T, 24T, 21T, 19T, 17T, 15T, 13T, 11T (teeth)
What do the different sized chain rings and sprockets with the different numbers of chain teeth mean?
One pedal revolution (rotation) – If my bike chain is on the 36T chain ring at the front when I do one pedal revolution the chain will rotate through the 36T. On the 22T chain ring it will rotate through 22T as you do one pedal revolution.
One wheel revolution (rotation) – If my bike chain is on a 36T sprocket at the back the bike chain needs to rotate through 36T to make the wheel rotate one revolution. Compared to the 13T sprocket where the bike chain needs to rotate through 13T to make the wheel rotate one revolution.
Whether it is easier or harder to pedal comes down to the what chain ring (the number of chain teeth) the bike chain is on at the front compared to the sprocket (and the number of chain teeth) at the rear. Chainring : Sprocket.
Lets look at these scenarios on my bike. Yours will differ depending on the number of gears you have but the same principles apply.
- Example One; Chain ring = 22 T : Sprocket = 36 T. As you pedal through a full revolution your bike chain will travel over 22 chain teeth at the chain ring and at the rear only 22 of the 36 chain teeth. Therefore for every one rotation of the pedal you will get only approximately 2/3 of a rotation or revolution of the rear wheel.
General rule = Smaller chain ring to larger sprocket
- Example Two; Chain ring = 22 T : Sprocket = 21 T. As you pedal through a full revolution your bike chain will travel over 22 chain teeth at the chain ring and at the rear through 22 of the 21 chain teeth. Therefore for every one rotation of the pedal you will get just slightly more than one revolution of the rear wheel.
General Rule = Similar sized chain ring to similar sized sprocket
- Example Three; Chain ring = 36 T : Sprocket = 13 T. As you pedal through a full revolution your bike chain will travel over 36 chain teeth at the front and 13T at the rear therefore for every one rotation of the pedal you will get around approximately 2 & 3/4 revolutions of the rear wheel.
General rule = Larger chain ring to smaller sprocket
Example One is an easier (lower) gear as it takes less energy to move you and your bike through 2/3 of a wheel revolution on a single pedal revolution compared to Example three which is a harder (higher) gear because it takes a lot more energy to move you and your bike through 2 & 3/4 wheel revolutions on a single pedal revolution.
Thanks for reading. Used together our stories and resources support you to achieve and develop as a rider.
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