7 Tips to Shift Gears on Your Bike Efficiently

Jan Poshenko
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1. Left for Front, Right for Rear

When shifting gears on your bike, which way do you turn the crank? Confused? Don’t worry, a lot of people think they are shifting the wrong way. While the accepted way to shift gears has changed over the years here are some general tips.

Learn Your Gears

The first thing you should know is that there is nothing wrong with knowing you're geared.

2. Keep Pedaling when Shifting Gears

Most cyclists are taught that when shifting gears you stop pedaling for a moment to make the change in gears more effective. This is true for some cyclists. Certainly, if you are doing sprints and need to change gears quickly, it is important to stop pedaling for a moment to avoid changing cassettes and chains in the middle of a race or a sprint.

However, for the average cyclist, it is important to note that you don’t need to stop pedaling when in fact you should keep doing so. Changing gears is hard enough, try changing gears while you are not pedaling and you’ll discover that it’s much harder.

Instead of stopping to change gears, simply use your other foot to make the change in pressure on the pedals and keep pedaling while you change gears. This will make your pedaling process more efficient, and you’ll get to your destination sooner.

3. Back Off the Power

For serious cyclists and triathletes here is an actual training tip. Instead of jamming down on the pedals and staying in the easiest gear as long as possible, learn to back off the power, especially if you are going uphill.

Shift down out of gear six. Now, this may or may not be easy for you depending on the kind of bike you ride, if it's a flat bar you will need to get used to letting go of the bars to shift. If you are climbing a hill in good gear, why shift to easy gear? If you do decide to shift down, aim for a gear that will be easier to pedal than the one you are in, but a gear that isn’t so easy that you don’t train your leg muscles as you ride your bike. A good rule of thumb with gearing up hills is to keep your cadence (revolutions per minute) above 90, to help keep your legs in shape.

4. Avoid Cross Chaining

To shift your bike efficiently, you need to avoid cross chaining. That means shifting up in the front and shifting down in the back or vice versa.

While some cross-chain is inevitable, you should avoid it as much as you can because it will make your bike more efficient.

5. Maintain A Consistent Cadence

When shifting gears on a bike, the objective is to make the change as smooth and gentle as possible. You don’t want to take off or slow down abruptly, because this causes pain and can lead to nerves and tendons being damaged. However, if you don’t shift while pedaling, the pedaling can cause the bike to tip. To avoid these issues, pay attention to a consistent cadence. Always emphasize your pedaling when shifting, to avoid disrupting your cycling rhythm.

6. Shift in Sequence

Bike shifting is not easy and it takes time before you can do it efficiently. Once you master it, you will be able to downshift and upshift gears from any position in the saddle, without even thinking.

Shift in Easy Gear

Before you start to change gears, make sure that your bike gear is in an easy gear. Changing gears in hard gear can cause the chain to drop off the chainrings and cause an accident.

Shift in a Diagonal Pattern

Shift to the bigger chainring when you need speed and shift to the smaller chainring when you need to recover. The diagonally opposite rings move in opposite directions, which makes it easier to balance.

Keep Your Hands Weightless

While you move your hands, you need to keep in mind that you need to keep your hands as light as possible, especially when you are downshifting.