Disclosure: I may receive referral fees from purchases made through links on BicycleVolt. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But I always stand by my opinions and recommendations.
If you have recently become interested in cycling, you may feel overwhelmed as pro cyclists whizz past you at alarmingly high speeds. The reason these pros fly past you at seemingly effortless speeds is all because of gears. So, which bike gear should you use on a flat road?
The middle gear is ideal for regular or flat terrain when cycling. It provides a little bit of resistance without making it overwhelmingly hard to pedal. For a smooth ride on a flat road, you should combine the middle chain ring with one of the middle gears on the rear cassette.
As a beginner, getting used to all the ins and outs regarding cycling and gear ratios can be challenging. You may often hear your bike groaning in hesitation as you try to switch gears. Mastering the art of changing gears at the right moment and in suitable terrain will have you cycling just as efficiently and effortlessly as those pro cyclists.
Which Bike Gear Should You Use On A Flat Road?
Finding the ideal gear for your terrain is crucial to having a smooth and pleasant ride. Understanding how your bike gears work will not only make you a more efficient cyclist, but it will also ensure that the chain on your bike lasts a bit longer too.
Efficient gear shifting can save you a lot of time, energy, and money. Mastering your bike gears means you will be able to ride more efficiently, conserve lots of your energy to enjoy longer rides, and save a ton of money by ensuring your bike chain stays in good condition.
For flat roads or regular terrain, the middle gear is the best gear that you should use. Switching to middle gear after an uphill or slope will ensure you have enough resistance to keep pedaling smoothly. Staying in a higher gear on a flat will make pedaling much harder, and you will exert a ton of energy trying to pedal the same distance.
Staying in a lower gear while on a flat will make pedaling seem effortless, but your legs will spin wildly out of control, and you will feel like you are getting nowhere. It would be best if you combined a mid-sized rear cog with the middle gear at the front for the smoothest ride on a flat road. Using this technique will have you cycling like a pro in no time.
Which Bike Gear Should You Use on Hills And Slopes?
The key to cycling is finding the perfect gear that suits the terrain and yourself. Many beginners neglect to change gears when approaching different terrains, making the ride a lot harder than it has to be.
Staying in a higher gear when it is not needed will lead to more significant energy expenditure and leave you feeling exhausted. Sticking to a lower gear when it is inappropriate will be frustrating as no matter how much you pedal, it will feel like you are going nowhere.
Which Bike Gear Should You Use On Hills?
The lower gear is excellent for climbing hills or when you are pedaling into headwinds. This gear is the best for hills as it will allow you to keep pedaling steadily and smoothly without exerting too much effort.
It would be best if you switch to a lower gear as soon as you start approaching a hill, as once you are already pedaling up the hill in the wrong gear, you lose a ton of energy by overexerting yourself. Switching gears on a flat is also easier than while you are busy climbing.
Which Bike Gear Should You Use On Slopes?
The high gear is the best gear that you can use when you are pedaling downhill. You will travel a greater distance for each pedal turn in a higher gear. It will help if you switch to a higher gear before you start descending, as this will prevent you from feeling like you have lost all control of the bike while riding downhill.
The high gear is also great for speed while on a flat road, as you travel longer for each pedal turn. If you’re looking for speed, the high gear is your friend. However, it would be better for you not to stay in a higher gear for too long, as you can quickly exhaust yourself as it is much harder to pedal in high gear.
Bike Gears For Beginners
To protect yourself and your bike from unnecessary wear and tear, you must master the art of gear shifting. Cycling can be a tiring and time-consuming activity when it is done wrong.
To prevent any burnout or thoughts of quitting before you have even started, it is best to thoroughly research how you can have an effortless and efficient ride.
Stick To One Shifter At A Time
To make gear shifting easier for yourself and to avoid any unnecessary stress on your drivetrain, you should avoid shifting both the rear and front gears simultaneously.
The Left-hand Shifter – The left level controls the front derailleur and provides large jumps in gears by guiding the chain over the chain rings near the pedals. When it comes to the front, you will feel more resistance the bigger the chain ring is.
The Right-hand Shifter – The right lever controls the rear derailleur, which allows you to fine-tune your gears by guiding the chain over the back cogs. Regarding the rear, you will feel less resistance the bigger the cassette cog is.
Anticipate The Terrain Before Shifting Gears
It would help if you always switch to the correct gear before an upcoming change in terrain. You should avoid shifting to the right gear when you are already climbing a hill or descending a slope, as this can put unnecessary strain on the pedals.
If you need to shift while climbing a hill, make sure that you shift gears slowly and remember to keep your pressure off the pedals, as harder pressure on the pedals while shifting can lead to grinding and a deterioration of the drivetrain.
Avoid Cross-Chaining When Shifting Gears
Some gear combinations do not work that well. They could cause your chain to slip, feel clunky, make noises, and will lead to deterioration and general wear and tear of your bicycle.
Cross-chaining is difficult for your bike’s drivetrain; this happens when you select gears that put your chain simultaneously on the back and front cassette’s opposing ends, which is bad for your bike. Therefore, you should stick to choosing rear cogs that are somewhat aligned with the front cog you select.
Large Chainring Chain Crossing – This type of cross chaining uses the large chain ring with the most resistance at the front and the large cog with the least resistance at the back, which is bad for your bike as it may cause damage. The chain can also slip or fail to shift correctly.
Small Chainring Chain Crossing – This occurs when the chain is in the small chain ring with the least resistance and the smallest cassette cog with the most resistance. In this scenario, you should instead use the gears around the middle of the cassette or shift into a larger chain ring.
How Changing Gears Affects Efficiency and Cadence
With beginner cyclists it is expected to second guess whether you are in the right gear or not. Without years of experience to tell you whether you are working too hard or if the pedaling feels too effortless, it is all too easy to have the most exhausting ride of your life.
To cycle with the best efficiency, work out according to what your body can handle, and be in tune with which rhythm works best for you, you will need to try and experiment with different gears on all terrains. Taking a few test rides and playing around with your gears on hills, flats and slopes will help you figure out which gears feel best.
Using a higher gear will make cycling feel harder. You’ll gain an incredible amount of speed, but at the detriment to your energy levels. A high bike gear will lead you to use ‘fast-twitch muscle fibers’; this is great for speeds but can leave you feeling fatigued. It is best to stick to high gear only for shorter periods.
Using a lower gear will allow you to ride a greater distance and conserve your energy so that you are able to cycle for much longer. Low gears use ‘low twitch muscle fibers,’ which are great for endurance. Lower gears will also give you a higher cadence, which is the rate at which you are pedaling.
How To Find Your Optimum Cadence
An essential part of making sure you’re in the right gear to be cycling at your optimal efficiency is by ensuring that you have an optimum cadence.
You will need a bit of practice and training to find your optimum cadence; a great way to do this is if you are able to find a relatively quiet and flat road where you can practice different cadences in peace. Starting with your foot at the bottom of the pedal, you should count one complete revolution while pedaling.
On a regular flat terrain, you aim for a cadence of between 80-90 revolutions of the pedal per minute. However, this is just a guideline. The best cadence for you might take a bit of experimenting and practice. The best cadence is whichever feels more natural and doesn’t leave you completely exhausted.
For climbing hills, your cadence will be a little lower, as you should be pedaling much slower due to the exertion on your body. An optimum cadence to aim for while climbing hills is 60-80 revolutions per minute.
The middle gear is ideal for regular or flat terrain when cycling. It provides a little bit of resistance without making it overwhelmingly hard to pedal. Beginner cyclists must experiment and play around with the different gear changes to find their cadence and practice seamless gear shifting.