How Do Mountain Biking Gears Work

If you’re new to mountain biking, you may be confused about how to use the gears and how they might differ from the gears on a regular street bike. To help you sort this out, here are the basics.

Gear Basics

Most mountain bikes are equipped with two shift paddles on each side of the handlebars. The paddles on the right control the rear derailleur and the paddles on the left control the front derailleur. There are some bikes, however, that only have one chainring in the front and more gears in the rear, so they would only have the one set of paddles.

When you push these paddles, you move the chain from one gear to another. Shifting the front derailleur results in larger gear changes than the rear derailleur.

The cassette is the group of gears controlled by the rear derailleur. The right hand shifters move the chain across cogs in the cassette. The smaller sized cogs are the harder faster gears, and the bigger ones are the easier gears.

The Perfect Gear

There’s no one gear selection that’s perfect. You’ll have to work with your bike to find what you consider to be the best combination of front and rear gears. If it feels too hard to turn the pedal over, you need to shift into an easier gear, but when your pedals are spinning and you’re not making much progress, shift to a harder gear.

Adjusting the front derailleur will result in more dramatic changes and the rear will cause smaller changes. With a little practice, you’ll find that moving the front derailleur is helpful for big changes in elevation and rear shifting is good for fine tuning your gearing until you’re pedaling at a rate that’s comfortable for you.

Pedal Lightly

You need to keep pedaling to shift gears but shifting works best if you’re pedaling lightly. Otherwise, the gear changes could feel awkward and abrupt.

Where Can I Go?

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