Understanding Bike Gears – Front, Back, Adjust etc Explained

The process behind the bike gear seems relatively simple but is actually quite tricky at the same time. The process involves pushing the lever by exerting some effort, which makes it easier to pedal. Selecting the appropriate gear for the bike is not a cup of tea and is a time-consuming process. There are a diverse variety of bike gears available in the market, including low and high gear.

Furthermore, you can swap the original gears with new ones through a diverse range of scenarios. However, you must have sound knowledge about these incredible tools before doing so. As ignorance might make things more difficult for you, they actually are. Similarly, the gear ratio varies with the geographical terrain and should be carefully studied beforehand. This article offers a detailed guide on understanding bike gears, including crankset, cassette, amount and method of adjustment, and much more.

Understanding Bike Gears

Front Gears (Crankset)

The front gear of the bike is also known as a crankset and is equipped with around two to three chainrings. However, in recent years single chainrings are also becoming extremely popular among consumers, especially those that love mountain riding. Most consumers prefer smaller chainrings as they are preset closer to the frame and allow for effortless paddling. In case you don’t want to get involved too much in the gearing system, then you can grab an amazing e-Bike just for $500.

But, you might have to compromise the speed in this regard because of the position of the chainring. For faster speed, it is recommended to look for gears where the chainrings are located farther away from the frame. Contrary to the previous scenario, pedaling becomes difficult in this regard and might require a lot of effort on the user’s part.

Rear Gears (Cassette)

The rear gears inside a bike are termed cassettes. The cassettes are made up of multiple wheels arranged together in ascending order. These rear wheels are known as cogs and are generally located at the back of the tool. The majority of the units available in the market consist of 8 to 10 cogs and are usually numbered from inside. Similar to the front gear, the cogs in the rear gears are also present closer to the wheels and contribute greatly to the performance of the gadget.

Closer the cogs are to wheels, easier it is to pedal the equipment; but at the cost of the speed. Bikes that are easier to paddle usually move at a slower speed than others. Hence, if you are looking for an object for professional use or admire bike racing, it is recommended to purchase an item with higher gear and smaller cogs.


Derailleurs are specialized devices located inside the front and back gear and contribute greatly to the performance. Another benefit of these items is their user-friendliness, which makes them best among the rest of the apparatus included in the system. The derailleur located at the front pushes the chain from one chainring to another and assists in pedaling.

Furthermore, the back one is characterized by multiple tasks and helps in moving the chain from one blog to another. Another benefit of the latter is to maintain the chain tension and take up the slack during the movement. Pulleys are also present in the system and assist in chain movement. The upper pulley is known as a jockey, while the lower one is referred to as an idler pulley.

How Many Gears?

The number of gears inside a bike might confuse most of the users as the term speed is often associated with the number of cogs and chainrings present in the equipment. However, the inclusion of large numbers leads to an overlap in the product. Hence, when you read 9 * 2 listed on the user manual, it does not mean that the unit contains 18 gears.

The 9 in the above-mentioned values refers to the number of cogs present in the cassette, and the two refer to the number of the crankset, i.e., either the unit contains double or triple crankset. Instead of mentioning nine cogs and double cranksets, most riders prefer writing 9 * 2. Thus, next time you read the number, think carefully about the number of gears instead of simply multiplying the numbers.

How to Adjust the Bike Gears?

Adjusting the bike gear might feel trickier, but the process can be easily performed if you work under expert guidance or follow a detailed step-by-step guide. Following steps can be followed while adjusting the bike gears. Similarly, there are other difficult methods as well that can resolve complex issues.

  • Firstly, you need to keep the bike away from the ground. This can be carried out by placing it on a bike stand. If you do not have a bike stand, you can place it upside down and hold it with the help of handlebars.
  • Make sure you are able to spin the wheels when placing them above the ground.
  • Afterward, it is time to locate the derailleurs inside the system. As mentioned earlier, these items have the ability to keep the chain in place. Mostly these materials are located near the pedal and the back wheel. Then, clean them properly before proceeding to the next step.
  • Step 3 involves the identification of shifting issues among gears. This can be carried out by peddling the bike with one hand and shifting through one gear per click. Remember to shift between the front and rear gear regularly. While doing so, observe the issues faced while shifting them. The most common issues faced by most users include chain loosening.
  • After problem identification, you need to locate the adjusters, which can be carried out via cables included in the product. There are around two adjusters for each cable and allow you to make smaller modifications while shifting.
  • While lightly pedaling your item, look for the problem while shifting between gears, such as troubles in staying on one gear or issues while shifting the chain. It is recommended to stop shifting in case of an issue, but make sure to remain in the particular gear.
  • The next step is characterized by loosening or tightening the cable adjuster, especially if you are having trouble shifting the chains. But remember to prevent loosening or tightening the adjuster too much as it might create more problems for you.
  • After you have successfully adjusted the issues, it is time to go through every gear for rechecking. This can be carried by moving towards the lower gear and shifting up the gear one by one.
  • You can also try to ride the bike to monitor its performance.

How to Use Gears Properly?

Avoid Cross Chaining

It is crucial to avoid cross-chaining your unit. Doing so leads to the generation of stress on the system and can impact the performance of the apparatus. It can also lead to friction and, thus, might wear down various components of the bike. It is okay to do this once in a while but avoid making it a habit for yourself.

Anticipate Your Shifts

This step focuses on the bigger picture and encourages you to anticipate the situation beforehand. This means that you should carefully analyze the path ahead of you and shift among the gears before the requirement. Doing so will help improve the performance output of the item and will also relieve the stress on various components. Similarly, before stopping, it is advised to downshift among gears ahead of time to prevent any accidental mishap.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which type of gear is easier to pedal?

Low gear is the easiest to pedal. This means that a front gear with the smallest chain and the rear gear with the largest cog will provide more room for paddling effortlessly. Such gears are mostly utilized for uphill rides, as they will allow you to move upward without exerting much effort. However, you might have to compromise the speed in this regard.

Which gear ratio is faster?

A lower gear ratio is characterized by higher speed. Similarly, the higher gear ratio offers better acceleration. Thus, you should carefully analyze the pros and cons and choose the suitable gear ratio for yourself. Apart from this, a final drive differential gear is also an integral part of the system and impacts the performance to a great extent.

What is meant by the highest gear?

The high gear consists of a long chainring in the front gear area and is associated with the inclusion of a small cog present in the rear section. It is opposite to the low gear and makes it difficult to pedal. The item only offers acceleration while moving downhill and might require a lot of effort on the consumer’s part.

Related Bike Guides: Replacing pedals on a Mountain Bike | Fixing Hydraulic Brakes on Mountain Bike

Wrapping Up

The bike gear might seem like a simple unit; however, these items comprise a pandora’s box. Integrated with chainrings and cassettes, these tools contribute significantly to the performance of your bike and, thus, must be studied carefully. The low gears are ideal for an uphill ride and relieve you from exerting too much effort to move the bike.

Contrary to this, high gears are preferred for downhills and are the hardest to pedal. Despite the gear you are using, it is recommended to avoid cross-chaining as it might wear down the associated components. Furthermore, you should carefully anticipate your shifts beforehand to achieve the best performance output.

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Sonia Seale loves to take her bike to the mountains near her place, the bike track has provided her the opportunity to go mountain biking since she was a child. That's where she developed a great deal of interest in cycling, no matter if it's electric or mountain bike, she's all over the place and loves to fix her own bikes along with exploring the new features coming along in the industry. That's why she's here, sharing her experience and learnings with you guys.