How to change gears on a road bike

How to change gears on a road bike

This is an in-depth guide to changing gears on a road bike.Road bike switches can be challenging at first, but this guide will walk you through the process of using Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo drop-bar shifters.

On road bikes, the converters and brakes are typically combined into one unit. There are a few small differences, but this is the most basic pattern on modern drop-bar bikes. They are also known as “brifters” at times.

Flat-bar shifters are used on the best road bikes. While they are fairly simple, different designs exist, so we’ve provided instructions for the two most common: thumb shifters and grip shifters.

How to change gears on a road bike?

You can shift gears on your road bike while riding on the balaclavas (with your hands on the top of the shifters, which will be your most-used position) or from the falls.

We have a more detailed look at how your gears work, which is well worth reading if you’re a new rider, but here’s a quick refresher to make the language below clear:

Smaller gear = easier gear (smaller chainrings, larger cassette cogs).

Larger gear = harder gear (larger chainrings, smaller cassette cogs).

However, to add to the confusion:

Upshift = more difficult gear

Downshift = simpler gear

Finally, moving ‘up the tape deck’ is a more ambiguous term.

When we use it on Bike Radar, we use the most literal meaning:

Moving up the cassette means moving from a smaller cog to a larger cog.

Going down the cassette means going from a larger cog to a smaller cog.

So, with that as clear as mud, here’s how you use your road shifters.

How to Choose the Best gear Combination?

How to change gears on a road bike

The best gear combination is a matter of individual preference. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find the most efficient and comfortable pedaling rate, or “cadence,” for you.

Shifting your front derailleur (left hand) produces large gear changes, whereas shifting your rear derailleur (right hand) produces smaller gear changes. With practice, you’ll explore that front shifting is useful for large changes on hills, while rear shifting is useful for fine-tuning your gearing until you’re pedaling comfortably.

Most riders find that a cadence of around 90 pedal rotations per minute is the most efficient and comfortable. A slower repetition can feel difficult, while a faster cadence can feel like you’re pedaling furiously but obtaining nowhere. If you want to measure your cadence, many cycling computers or apps have sensors that can do so. Using a sensor to measure your repetition can help you figure out when it’s time to shift gears.

Pro tip: lightly pedal while shifting!

It would help if you continued pedaling to shift, but shifting works best (and is smoothest) when you pedal lightly. When you apply a lot of pressure to the pedals while shifting, the gear change becomes unwieldy and abrupt. This is especially important on hills, so if you see a hill approaching, shift to a lower gear before beginning to climb! And, if you need to shift into lower gears as you climb, try to reduce the pressure you apply to your pedals.

If you need more assistance or advice on transferring, visit your nearest Trek retailer. There are always friendly people who enjoy assisting you in getting the most out of your bike.

To shift, you must pedal

The most important thing to remember when moving a road bike is that you must turn the brakes with your legs while also moving the shift lever. As you change gears, the chain climbs onto and drops off the various sprockets on your bike due to your pedaling. If you don’t turn the pedals, you can try moving with the levers, but the chain won’t move unless you do so.

On Pedal Pressure, it’s Simple

If you shift while riding by hand, you’ll notice that the chain has to move sideways and climb up and down the distinct shafts. The chain must flex sideways for this to happen smoothly. Make every shift with as little pressure on the pedals to ensure that it can.

Yes, it would help if you pedaled to change gears. But all that is required is that the pedals be turned. Your bike will usually shift when you pedal hard, but it will make some terrifying grinding and crunching noises. It may not always shift into the desired gear, and you may become stuck in too high a gear, forcing you to get off and walk. For these reasons, it’s best to keep your foot lightly on the pedals when shifting.

Be Prepared for Changes

To shift smoothly with light pedal pressure, experienced roadies keep an eye on the road ahead and the duration of their shifts so that hard pedaling is not required. An expert riding technique is to take a couple of hard brake strokes to get the bike moving fast enough so that you can soft pedal a couple of uprisings and make the necessary shift with light pedal stress, for instance, on a sudden steepening hill that catches you off guard.

Using the Trim Function

Some road bikes will include a front chain tensioner with a “trim” feature. The trim feature allows you to make minor adjustments to the front derailleur that will eliminate chain rub but will not result in a full shift into another chain ring. This feature comes in handy as we approach the previously mentioned “cross chaining” positions.

So, if you’re in the largest chain ring and start shifting into the larger cogs on the cassette with your right hand, you might hear a grinding noise, which means your chain is rubbing against the front derailleur. To accommodate this chain position, click the small lever with your left hand once to move the front derailleur slightly.

Similarly, if you’re in the smallest chainring and start shifting into smaller cogs on the cassette and hear a grinding noise, you can move the derailleur slightly by clicking once with your left hand on the larger lever.

How to use Shimano road bike shifters

Shimano Total Integration (STI) shifters employ a split-lever design to change gears.A tiny lever just behind the brake pedal moves the chain to a smaller cog, while the entire brake lever can be pushed to the side to move the chain to a larger cog.

The right-hand shifter controls rear shifting: To shift down the cassette into a relatively small cog (a bigger/harder gear), push the inner, relatively small paddle inboard (sweeping from right to left). Push the brake lever centerboard to shift the cassette into a larger (easier/smaller) gear (the small shift paddle will come with it).

The shifter on the left controls front shifting: Push the smaller inner paddle inboard (from left to right) to drop down into the smaller (smaller/easier) chainring.Push the brake lever inboard to shift into a larger (larger/harder) chainring (the small shift paddle will come with it).

Shimano shifters also have a trim purpose on the front (left) lever. Shifting the inboard lever with a relatively small throw (roughly half the amount of a normal shift) moves the cage of the front gear reduction inboard, preventing the chain from rubbing in certain gears.

Shimano Di2 (electronic) gears work similarly, but the electrical innards of the shifting mechanism are replaced with tiny buttons. On the other hand, these can be re-programmed to suit your desires and needs.

Grip movers

Grip shifters are associated with this approach to thumb shifters, but instead of a pedal system, they require you to grip them and twist your hand toward or away from you to shift gears.

Grip shifters were once common on road bikes but are now more commonly seen on the best kids’ bikes. On the other hand, SRAM continues to manufacture grip shifters for its mechanical mountain bike groupsets.

The left-hand and right-hand grip shifters, like thumb shifters, are used differently to change up or down:

Right side: The grip shifter on the right side of your handlebar changes the cassette sprocket.

To move up the cassette into an easier gear, you twist it towards you.The grip shifter on your handlebar’s left side operates the front derailleur and moves the chain between the front chainrings. You twist the grip towards you to change to a larger chainring and a harder gear. To change to a smaller chainring and easier gear, you twist the grip away from you.

Best Recovery Ride Gear

You will require simple equipment if you intend to ride slowly or recover.Use the small chainring at the front and the larger cog at the back to avoid the temptation to push too hard. Despite moving slower, your legs will feel less stiff, and your heart will work less.

Mountain Bike Accessories

You’ll have a few more options if you ride a mountain bike on flat roads.However, the fundamentals remain the same. It would be advantageous if you chose gears with the highest speed and lowest RPMs. Because mountain bike rides are frequently uphill, the gears are more ‘easy’ and less complicated.

FAQs(Frequently Asked Questions)

How to Use Campagnolo Shifters on a Road Bike?

A shift lever behind the brake lever shifts into a larger cog/chainring on both the front and rear, while a thumb-operated paddle on the inside of the hood shifts into a smaller cog/chainring.

How to Use Down Tube Shifters and Bar-End Shifters?

Bar-end shifters attach to the end of the handlebars and provide a lever for shifting gears. These are similar to thumb shifters and come in both indexed and friction shifter varieties.

These have recently appeared, offering a simple way to combine a hub gear with drop-bar brake levers.Down-tube shifters function similarly to up-tube shifters, but they are located on the bike’s down tube.

Why Do I Have to Change Gears?

Gears allow you to pedal with peak effectiveness no matter where you are. Are you approaching a hill? Downshift so that your legs turn faster than the rear wheel, resulting in lower speed but greater torque.


Practice, practice, practice, as with anything. Shifting gears on a bike can be difficult at first, but it will become easier with practice. Soon enough, you’ll figure out how to shift well enough to maximise your speed while conserving energy. The world is then yours to explore.

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