Do bikes really need gears? According to whom you ask, multi-speed gearing systems could be one of the best things that happened to the biking world. To keep it concise, gears exist so that us bicycle riders can keep up a comfortable rate of pedalling speed(cadence) regardless of the gradient or terrain. If you are not someone who likes jumping off their bike every time an incline comes into sight, one gear is simply never enough.
Generally, bicycle gear systems can be divided into three:
Hub Gear: Bikes with hub gears are popular with commuters and those who want a simple and relatively maintenance-free drivetrain. The gears are located within the hub of the wheel which gives added protection from the elements.
Single Speed: Single speed bikes use a single sprocket with or without a freewheel. Like hub-geared bikes their owners are attracted to its simplicity, low price-tag and maintenance requirements
External gear: Gear system with a broad option of gears for various situations which helps maintain the efficiency of the cyclist. Although complicated, their practicality in real world scenarios and ability to scale hills or simply ride faster makes them very popular.
Introduction to drivetrains
Chainrings: If your bike has sprockets up front, concentric with the pedal ring, they are referred to as chain rings. They generally offer 3 options to choose from, with the smallest being the “low gear”
Cassette: The gear cluster on the rear wheel is referred to as a cassette and each ring on it is referred to as a cog. On a 24-speed bike, there would be 8 cogs on the cassette and 3 “rings” on the chainring. The largest gear is the “low gear”
Derailleurs: These components are controlled by the shifters and are connected to them via metal wires. When the shift levers, generally located on the handlebar beside the grips, is actuated, the cable alters the position of derailleurs thus slotting the chain into a different gear.
Gear indicator: Shifters will display what gear you’re in via a display unit. For a 24-speed bike. The left shifter will display numbers between 1-3 as it controls the actuation of the chain ring and the right shifter will display numbers from 1-8 as it controls the cassette
Like your car, lower the gear you’re on, the lesser the effort it takes to ride your bike. If both your gears are on “1”, the bike is in its lowest gear. If the left shifter is at 3 and the right, at 8, the bike is in its highest gear.
Gear Shifting Fundamentals:
There is no one gear fits all solution as we tackle varying terrains and gradients. Shifting gears correctly is an acquired skill but here are some tips to help you on that journey.
The term “Cadence” refers to the RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) of the pedal which is determined by your efforts. As mentioned in the previous blog, finding the right cadence can make you more efficient and make your biking experience more enjoyable. Pedalling at a low cadence can mean that you are not in the right gear causing your muscles to fatigue quickly while putting unnecessary pressure on your knees.
Shifting gears becomes intuitive over time. Beyond just activating a shifter, shifting require an anticipation of how you want to ride up or down a hill or a smooth road and coordination between your hands and feet. Smooth shifts take place when there is perfect co-ordination and that the speed of pedalling also fits into the equation. Gear shifts can only take place when the chain is moving which means that how you pedal as you shift can positively or negatively affect the shift. Experienced riders will recommend that you lower your cadence momentarily (pedal lightly) as you shift.
Certain gear combinations are better, both for you and your bike. Etreme gear combinations, such as the small ring(gear indicator:1) and the smallest cog(gear indicator:8) or the big ring(gear indicator:3) and the biggest cog(gear indicator:1), causes an effect called “cross-chaining” puts the chain under a lot of stress due to the angle caused. This awkward angle causes the chain wear out faster and is accompanied by a grinding noise (that can’t be good) and a feeling of abrasion as you pedal.
For the best power transmission and efficiency, the chain must be as straight as possible. Some gear combinations that we recommend are:
Gear 1 on the chain ring and Gears 1-4 on the cassette
Gear 2 on the chain ring and Gears 2-6 on the cassette
Gear 3 on the chain ring and Gears 6-8 on the cassette
Anticipating how much effort will be required to navigate a hill or ride down the flats while maintaining a comfortable cadence will help you choose the right gears for the situation. As you approach the hill, you could drop down to Gear 1 on the chain ring and a lower gear on the cassette (1,2,3 etc) depending on the incline. It is important that make the shift before your momentum wears out and you are stuck huffing and puffing your way up the hill on a higher gear than required. The trick is to shift downwards continuously as you ride up the hill to maintain a comfortable cadence. Similarly, while going down a hill, you will soon “max out” the lower gears leaving you to pedal furiously with a noticeable lack of any effect on speed. On downhill rides, one can shift up continuously to maintain the required cadence. Shifting into lower gears before you come to a halt also makes riding off when you are ready to go much easier.
Gearing systems are designed to make a cyclist’s life easier while making the action of cycling more efficient. This guide only intends to showcase the practicality of gearing systems, but everyone has their own riding style and preferences. If 21 or 24 gears are too much, you have the option of taking an intermediate step by looking out for a cycle with a cassette of 1-6 gears (six speed) and if you prefer a single or hub-based gearing, that’s perfectly alright too. As always, we are here to help and have experience dealing with most gearing related issues. So please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
Happy Cycling !!!!