Choosing the Right Gears
Reliable Shifting When You Need It

I’ve owned both mountain bikes and road racing bikes in my life, and while I’ve never been a competitive rider of either type of bike I have enjoyed pushing myself to the limits. If there’s one thing that both of these types of bikes have in common it’s that they both rely on effective gear-shifting mechanisms to perform properly. For myself, part of the overall enjoyment of riding a bike is shifting gears at just the right moment and feeling your bike adjust to the change you’ve made – it’s a real rush!

When you’re making your purchase decision it’s a good idea to know everything you can about bicycle gear-shifting mechanisms, and in particular crank systems, derailleurs, and trigger activation mechanisms. These three components are the essential cogs in any bicycle’s gear-shifting mechanism no matter what type of riding you do.

The Crank System

If you’re not really sure what a bicycle’s crank system is, it’s that large wheel mechanism that’s normally attached to your pedals, as well as a smaller similar-looking wheel that’s attached to your rear rim. These crank systems have multiple sets of teeth that are used for gripping your chain as you change gears. In general, the higher amount of gears that your bicycle comes with, the greater number of rings you’ll find on the crank wheels of your bicycle.

Most bicycles have 2 to 3 rings on the crank sets of their wheels, although there are different configurations out there. When you apply the trigger on your handlebars to change gears, it will move the chain onto the different rings on the crank set. Generally, when your chain is on the smaller rings you’ll find the pedaling much easier, although you’ll have to pedal a lot quicker to move the same distance.

The crankset is part of a system that also includes the derailleur and trigger components we’ve already mentioned above. While a crankset may seem like a simple component, it’s important that you buy a bike with a crankset made from quality components, because if any of the teeth on that crankset are out of alignment it will make for a very difficult time when you go to change gears. You can generally be pretty confident in the bike’s crankset if it’s made by one of the major manufacturers of these types of components, such as Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo.

The Derailleurs is Essential

A derailleurs is the mechanism that drives the gear-changing process on your bicycle; it moves your chain from one sprocket to another. In almost all cases you’ll have both a front and rear derailleurs – it’s the combination of these two components that gives you the different sets of gears. It really is an important component of your bike’s gear-changing mechanism, so it’s essential that you choose a bike with quality parts made by the reputable manufacturers we’ve already mentioned above. If you choose a bike with cheaply-made derailleurs it won’t change gears smoothly and you’ll be in for a very bumpy ride.

Deore

Shimano

Trigger the Change

If you’ve ever owned a bicycle with gears you’ll be somewhat familiar with the triggers on your handlebars that are used to change the gears, but you may be surprised to know that there are different types, depending upon the type of bicycle you own. Entry-level bikes generally include a gear-changing switch that’s triggered by your thumb and is entirely separate from the brake triggers. That’s not usually the case on more expensive mountain and road bikes.

Twist Shift

Toggle Shift

On more expensive bicycles that may feature up to 30 different gears, the gear-shifting mechanism is generally integrated with the braking mechanism – that’s why you’ll often find that the big names that manufacture bicycle components not only make the braking mechanisms, they also make the gear-shifting mechanisms. The entire system is integrated, making for a much more efficient product that ensures that braking and changing gears is as simple as possible. If you’re used to entry-level bicycles that separate the braking and gear-shifting mechanisms it will take some getting used to, but in general these integrated systems are much easier to use once you do get used to them.

Consider the Overall System

When you’re purchasing a mountain or road bike that relies on gear-shifting mechanisms it’s best to consider one that fully integrates the braking and gear shifting mechanisms. These systems work together to control your bike, which is why it’s best to choose a bike that features a totally integrated system made by one manufacturer, such as Shimano, SRAM, or Campagnolo.

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