How to Ride a Bike with Gears: 7 Tips & Tricks

Bike riding is one of the most enjoyable exercises you can participate in – and one of the easiest. You don’t need a home gym or a ton of fancy equipment or a gym membership. All you need is a good bike under you and the open road ahead of you. With that in mind, you might be wondering what type of bike is best for you – and how to ride said bike. Many great bicycles come with different gears that allow you to switch almost seamlessly between different levels of riding ease.

While the gears are relatively simple to learn, you might feel a bit overwhelmed as a beginner. Fear not – this following tutorial will teach you how to ride a bike with gears. With this post and a bit of practice, you’ll be bicycling like a pro in no time at all.

Here are seven tips and tricks for how to ride a bike with gears:

1. Know the different gear shifters on your bike

In order to learn how to ride a bike with gears, you must become a master with the gear shifters in your bicycle. On most bikes with different gears, the controls – or ‘gear shifters’ – are located on the handlebars. You’ll need to learn how to switch between gears using your shifters; with enough practice, you won’t even have to think about switching gears. It will become a basic habit.

Now, the two different gear shifters control different gears. On most bicycles, the left gear shift will change the gears at the front of your bike. The shifter on the right will switch up the gears in the back.

2. Experiment to see which bike gears work best

Riding a bike with gears will require some experimentation. Many bikes come with at least three different gear settings (and often more). It’s important to familiarize yourself with these different settings (and combinations of settings), especially if you’ve decided to take up bicycling seriously. At its most basic level, changing the gears changes how difficult or easy pedaling is for you (it can also affect your pedaling speed).

If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, you want your legs to become toned, or you want to reach your destination faster, choosing a harder setting might be the way to go. On the other hand (or foot?) an easier gear setting can be good for long distance cycling. It’s up to you!

3. Don’t overwork the bike pedals while shifting gears

When shifting gears on your bicycle, it’s optimal to pedal gently while doing so. You don’t want to be going at a ferocious speed while also trying to change your gear settings. Backpedaling while shifting is also not the way to go. Simply pedal at an even, slow-to-medium speed while shifting gears and you’ll be fine.

4. Know your gear shifts when going up and down hills

Cycling up and down hills can be daunting for bikers with less experience, but changing gears can actually make this whole process easier. While biking up a hill, set your gears to the lowest/gentlest setting – you’ll be able to cycle uphill with much less strain and stress.

Once at the top of the hill, pause and switch gears to the tightest/hardest setting. This gear setting will allow you to speed up as you descend.

5. Focus on keeping your cycling cadence as smooth as possible

As you cycle around, you may find it hard to switch gears smoothly – especially if you’re new to the whole bicycling thing. It can be hard to find the optimal gear setting for every kind of terrain (and/or your skill level).

As with most things, practice makes perfect. Make sure you’re attuned to how your bicycle moves and practice switching to low/high gears as the situation warrants it. If you’re cycling on a lot of flat ground, you shouldn’t have to adjust gears too much. But if you’re biking in more hilly country, refer back to tip #4 for some extra insights.

6. Keep in mind what your two bike gear shifters do

We already talked about gear shifters a fair bit in the first tip. But since they’re one of the most important elements on your bike – especially when it comes to shifting gears – we figured they deserved a second moment in the spotlight. You may still be a little confused when it comes to your gear shifters, especially if there are more than ten gear options available.

However, keep in mind that the left gear shift is best for big gear shifts – such as if you’re rapidly losing speed and mobility while going up a hill. Use the right gear shift to fine tune your shifting choices and you’ll be golden.

7. Focus on quality when it comes to bicycle gears

Maybe you’ve seen a shiny new bike at the sporting goods store that boasts over twenty different gears. You want to go back and buy it right away, especially after reading all this cool information about gears and gear shifting. But you might just want to save your money. Twenty-plus gears are great and all, but you probably don’t need all those options.

Instead, look for bikes that offer flexibility and range in their gear options. You’ll want to downshift going up hills and upshift going down – and you don’t need fifty million gears to do that. Purchase a quality bike, one that might not have as many fancy options…but one that does the job well.