Bicycle Gears for Beginners: What Bike Gear to Use on a Flat Road

The bicycle, while great, can sometimes be challenging to use, especially for beginners who are using bikes with gears for the first time What bike gear to use on a flat road? What about on an uphill road? Or for coasting downhill?.

Most bikes have three kind of gears, lower gears, middle gears, and higher gears. Middle gears are what you want to use on a flat road, as these gears will require optimum effort to ride the bike. Similarly, use lower gears on an uphill climb and higher gears when going downhill. 

I remember my first bike with 24 gears; I saw the shifters on both sides of my handlebar and was so excited. But then the excitement quickly faded when I couldn’t figure out what gear to use and when.

So, I’ve put together a guide on bike gear. And what gear to use on a flat road.

What Are Gears on a Bike and Why Do They Matter?

Bicycle gears help you maximize your pedaling power for a comfortable ride. Shifting to the right gears will keep you pedaling comfortably in any terrain. Overall, it allows you to ride your bike more efficiently.

Here are three different gears you should know:

Lower Gears

The lower gear refers to the smallest chainring in the front and the biggest cog on your rear gear or cassette. It’s the lightest gear to ride, allowing you to climb hills with less effort.

You need to ‘downshift’ to get to this position. If your bike won’t shift to the lowest gear, your rear derailleur isn’t aligned well.

Middle Gears

As its name suggests, the middle gear is the inner gear if you have three chainrings at the front of your bike. Since it provides enough power and speed, it’s ideal for beginners and on flat roads.

If you want to make the most of your middle gears, combine it with a triple rear cog for a smooth ride on a flat road.

High Gears

The high gear refers to the largest chainring and smallest cog. Switching to this gear will allow you to travel downhill or ride at high speeds. However, it’ll be the most challenging gear to pedal.

You need to ‘upshift’ to switch to this position.

How to Shift Gears

If your bike has multiple front chainrings, shift gears using the left-hand shifter.

Start with the middle gear and switch to the smallest chainring if you want a more leisurely ride or need to climb uphill. Meanwhile, switch to the largest chainring if you prefer making pedaling difficult or riding downhill.

Meanwhile, if you only have one front chainring, use the right-hand shifter to switch the chain on the back cassette.

Unlike the front chainring, you need to switch to the largest cog for an easy ride or climb. In contrast, move the chain to the smallest cog if you want to pedal harder.

What Are Gear Ratios and Why Do They Matter?

Gear ratio is the ratio between the chainring and rear cog’s sizes.

You can calculate the gear ratio using this formula: Gear ratio = Number of chainring teeth ÷ Number of rear cog teeth.

The gear ratio, along with your wheel and tire circumference, will determine how far you can travel with each spin of the cranks. For example, if your gear ratio is one, your wheel turns once every time the crank turns.

Note that the ideal gear ratio for riding on flat roads ranges from 2.6 to 3.0. Meanwhile, a low gear ratio means less resistance while pedaling, making it suitable for climbs. In contrast, a high gear ratio means it’s harder to pedal but faster to ride.

How Many Gears Do I Need on a Bike?

It depends on your needs. A single-speed bike is enough for riding on flat and mild terrain.

If you’re riding through hilly areas, choose a seven-speed bike. Meanwhile, get a bike with 9-11 speeds if you’re off-roading.

Ideally, you want to get a three-speed bike to cover mild climbs, heavy loads, and headwinds.


Why Do Bikes Have Gears?

Gears allow you to take on any terrain by adjusting and maximizing your pedaling power. Without gears, climbing hills or speeding through flat roads would be challenging, even in your best condition.

Does the Number of Gears on a Bike Matter?

Yes. Having more gears on your bike means more flexibility with the terrain, speed, and riding style.

Note that you should only count the cogs in the cassette, as most sellers market the gears twice their number. For example, some may say a 9×2 has 18 gears, even if they’re not.

What Is the Best Gear for Hard Workouts?

Using a large chainring or cog makes it challenging to pedal your bike. As a result, it’ll work your muscles. However, using a large cog or chainring will decrease your speed.

What Is the Best Gear for Recovery Rides?

Use your low gear for recovery rides since it’s the lightest to pedal. Make the most of your recovery rides by making high-cadence sprints to produce more growth hormones in the body.

Which Gear Can You Go the Fastest?

Try the high gear if you want to reach your fastest speed. It consists of your bike’s small cog and big chain ring. However, remember that using this gear requires more pedaling power to accelerate.

Is Gear 1 High or Low?

Gear 1 refers to your bike’s low gear. Switch to this gear if you want to climb inclines, ride slowly, or pass through rough terrain.

Tips When Using Bike Gears

Here are a few reminders and tips for a smooth ride:

  • Check the terrain before shifting gears to avoid straining the pedals.
  • Shift gears slowly, and ensure the chain engages entirely before moving.
  • Use the front and rear shifters one at a time to avoid damaging the drivetrain and make shifting easier.
  • Don’t do cross-chaining, which refers to aligning the small cog to the small chain and the large cog to the large chain.
  • Practice gear shifting by riding on various terrains to learn which gear to use on specific landscapes instinctively.

Aside from these, remember that proper gear care will improve your rides and prolong your bike’s lifespan.

Make sure to store, dry, and lubricate your bike gears properly to keep them from rusting. If you don’t take care of your gears, it can be difficult to remove rust, and it could damage your bike significantly.

We hope this guide helped you learn more about bicycle gears. As always, have fun riding and keep yourself safe on the road!