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A Beginners Guide Of How To Use Hybrid Bike Gears

A lot of thought goes into the decision of buying a bike. You want to ride it over to the park with your picnic lunch bundled onto it on a sunny Saturday afternoon; ride it down the block for a quick workout right before work or use it on a hiking trail during a camping weekend

In short, you need a bike that combines the comfort and capabilities of a touring bike with the sturdiness of a mountain bike and the speed of a road bike. The easiest solution to this is a hybrid bike. This is a handy machine that caters for your biking needs under various road conditions.

However, as a beginner, figuring out how to handle your gears for both comfort and speed can be an intimidating task. Fear not! In this guide, we will break down hybrid bike gears for you in simple and easy language. We will also give you directions on how to shift your gears for maximum performance.

A Beginners Guide Of How To Use Hybrid Bike Gears

Bike Gear Lingo:

Cadence: This simply means your pedaling speed. It is important because your pedaling speed directly affects your muscles, and the ease at which you pedal determines how comfortable you will be riding your bike.

Chainrings: The round metal rings near the front wheel around which the bike chain is wound. Can be either one, two or three on a bike. The size increases as you move away from the body of the bike, with the largest chainring being furthest away from the front wheel. Fun fact: the middle chainring is referred to as the "granny gear"!

Crankset: This refers to the set of chainrings at the front of the bike.

Cogs: These are similar to chainrings but they are located near the rear bicycle wheel. Cogs start with the largest closer to the bike's body and reduce in size as one moves away from the rear wheel. Cogs in a cassette can be of varying numbers, with the newest types of bikes containing more than 8 cogs in a cassette.

Cassette: This refers to the collection of cogs at the rear of the bike.

Speed bike: Expert bike riders use the number of cogs in their bike cassettes to refer to their bikes, e.g. a bike with 7 cogs in the cassette would be referred to as a "7-speed bike". However, most ads multiply the number of chainrings at the front with the number of cogs to come up with the bike speed, e.g. a bike with 2 chainrings and 9 cogs will be called an "18-speed bike" and one with 3 chainrings and 7 cogs will be referred to as a "21-speed bike".

Derailleur: Refers to a simple mechanism that moves the chain from one chainring to another, or from one cog to another when the gear is shifted. The rear derailleur also ensures that the chain tension is maintained when shifting from larger gears to smaller ones, and therefore the bike remains steady.

Gear shifters: These are located at the front of the bike near the handlebars. There are two main types of shifters:

  • Grip shifts which are located on the handlebars and is operated by shifting your hand forward or backward on the handlebars and;
  • Trigger shifters which are located beside or under each handlebar and require a thumb and forefinger to shift. Most hybrid bikes use trigger shifters.

In many cases, the gear shifter on the left operates the crankset, and the gear shift on the right operates the cassette. Therefore, the left shifter will have numbers 1-3 depending on the number of chainrings on your crankset, and the right shifter will have numbers 1 up to the number of cogs your bike has in its cassette.

Simple Shifting:

There are two simple rules when it comes to shifting bike gears: the lower number corresponds to the easiest gear, and the bigger cog corresponds to the easiest gear.
The left gear shift experiences longer leaps because it shifts the chainrings on the crankset. The right gear shift experiences shorter leaps between gears because it operates the multiple cogs in a cassette.

You will, therefore, need to use your left gear shift less frequently than you use your right gear shift. When you are riding up a hill, you want your pedaling to be easy so that you do no use a lot of effort. In this case, you will need to downshift, i.e. move your gear to the low gear.

To get to this level, you need to move your chain to the smallest ring, the one nearest the wheel, on the crankset; and to the largest cog, the one nearest the wheel, on the cassette. Once this is done, you will pedal easily but your speed will not be fast.

When riding down a hill, you want to pedal slower because of the increased momentum of the wheels. You do not want to look like a fast-forwarded cartoon! You will, therefore, need to upshift, which is moving your gear to the high gear.

You will turn your left gear shift to the largest chainring, the one farthest from the front wheel; and you will shift the right gearshift to the smallest cog, the one farthest from the rear wheel. This makes you cover a long distance with only a few pushes on the pedals. It is good for going downhill as you will really feel the effort of pedaling on your thighs.

On relatively flat surfaces with no inclines, you can explore the mid-range gears to increase or decrease speed. Remember, lower pedaling frequency gives you higher speed.


By now you must have realized that figuring out how to handle your gears is not rocket science. It is important to note that there is no right or wrong gear, it all depends on what you like. This guide helps you identify the basics and the rest you can figure out by yourself. Remember, do not shift both the right and left gearshifts at the same time.

Also, do not shift gears when you are not pedaling or if you are pedaling backward. With that in mind, get your helmet on, get on the road and have fun on your wheels!

References: Liv Cycling, Quora, Wikihow, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. Protection Status
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