Bicycle Gears

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Bicycle Gears
Bicycle gears

Endless roads mean endless cycling possibilities. Although it is possible to tackle different terrain with single speed bicycles, a bicycle equipped with multiple gears will ensure that your ride will be most enjoyable.

A choice of bicycle gears allows you to generate more power (and speed) on flat roads. However, “easier” gears also allow the rider to make the grind up steep hills more manageable.

For those concerned about their knees, “easier” gears also allow the cyclist to spin at a higher cadence with less resistance.

What Are Bicycle Gears?

It is easy to become confused when talking about gears – I know I do!

Many overlapping terms cause this confusion: bicycle gears, bicycle gear ratios, speeds, etc. But here is the good news – these terms are practically the same!

These terms, in general, refer to how many revolutions your legs make in relation to the number of revolutions the bike wheels make.

Shifting down (to a lower gear) would result in the pedaling becoming easier (more revolutions). Pedaling at a lower resistance is perfect for steep hills, or to train your legs to move quickly.

Shifting up (to a higher gear) would result in pedaling becoming more difficult (less revolutions). Cycling in a higher gear is ideal for flat stretches, or downhill stretches.

Did you know...?

Bicycle Gears

Did you know that gear slipping is by far the most common gear-related problem?

It is usually caused by a worn out bicycle chain with bent or damaged links.

If your bicycle chain looks fine, the problem probably lies with your sprockets. Check that the sprockets still have rounded edges - if the edges are pointy, you need to replace them. Now you know what causes your bike gears to slip!


Is There Are Ideal Bicycle Gears?

Most bicycles have a cassette (consisting of several bicycle gears) on the rear wheel, and 2-3 chain rings in the front. A gear ratio is that gear resulting in the combination of a front chain ring and a particular gear on the rear wheel.

In order to preserve the health of your drive train, it would be in your best interest to ensure that your chain is not positioned diagonally. This would result from choosing, let's say, a "hard" gear in the front and an "easy" gear in the back.

This gear choice will result in unnecessary wear on your drive train due to friction, and could compromise the ideal functioning of your derailers

Other then this very basic rule, popular opinion surrounding an "ideal" gear becomes cloudy. Some individuals prefer to grind away on harder bicycle gears, while others prefer more revolutions that result from easier gears.

Different situations result in different gear combinations. In order to keep things simple, I would recommend that you find a comfortable gear that enables you to enjoy your ride without causing too much discomfort

I would also recommend that you choose a favorite ride, and then experiment with different gear combinations. Experimentation will help you discover what works best for your body.

How Many Gears Should Your Bike Have?

Compared to the first bicycles that came into mass production, it seems that today's cyclist can choose any number of bikes that have twenty or more gears.

Although it is a wonderful thing to have a choice of gears to help you fly over a variety of terrain, more is not necessarily better.

In fact, the more gears your bicycle has, the higher the chances that you will choose a gear ratio that places your chain diagonally - thus causing stress and wear on the chain.

If you plan on cycling on predominantly flat terrain, perhaps you will only use a few bicycle gears. In this instance, a bike with a single chain ring in the front and a small cassette will be adequate for your needs.

Conversely, if you plan on mountain biking over diverse terrain, a wider variety of gears ensure you are prepared for whatever nature has in store for you.

Gears and Road Bikes

Road bikes tend to have fewer gears than mountain bikes. This is because the road bike is not designed for as wide an array of terrain as mountain bikes. Fewer gears also means less weight - something very important in road cycling.

Road bicycles typically come in 9 or 10 speed models.

Although there are some road racing bicycles with three chain rings in the front, most road bikes designed for road cycling only have two chain rings. The rear cassette also has fewer gears than mountain bike cassettes.

Older style road bikes, and some modern single speed bicycles, have the shifters located on the down tube. However, for convenience and safety, most (if not all) modern road bikes have the gear shifters integrated into the brake levers.

Gears and Mountain Bikes

As previously mentioned, mountain bikes were designed to tackle the widest variety of terrain. Consequently, everything about a mountain bike is designed to this end. Mountain bicycle gears are no exception.

Today's mountain bikes come with as many as 27 gears.

Most, if not all, mountain bikes are equipped with three chain rings in the front, and a cassette with 9 gears in the rear.

Because mountain bikes are not meant to travel over flat terrain as frequently as road bikes, there tends to be less of a selection in higher gears. Whenever I ride my Santa Cruz - Superlight mountain bike around the city, I find my legs spinning furiously, even in the most difficult gear!

However, I really appreciate the wide selection of lower gears when I am panting and grinding up steep and narrow paths.

Where to Buy Bicycle Gears?

If you are interested in buying bicycle gears and related components, such as derailleurs, gear cables and gear shifters, you can buy them in one of these trusted online stores:

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