What Bike Gears To Use On Hills – We Have The Answer

Written by Dan Paul
Updated on
what bike gears to use on hills explained

Bike gears are necessary for biking, especially when going uphill or downhill. They help to keep the bike moving at a consistent speed and make it easier to pedal. Most bikes have multiple gears, which can be changed depending on the terrain.

Knowing what bike gears to use on hills can make your ride much more enjoyable, boost your performance and make you less tired.

what bike gears to use on hills

What bike gears to use on hills or while going uphill?

When biking uphill, it is best to use the front gear. The front gear will make it easier to pedal, and you will move faster. If you find that the front gear is insufficient, switch to a higher gear, which will make it easier while climbing hills.

Signs that you have selected the right gear

One of the most important signs that you have selected the right gear is your cadence, or the speed at which your feet pedal.

If you have to push hard to move forward or need help maintaining a steady cadence, then chances are you are using the wrong gear. A good cadence should be relatively easy to maintain while providing enough resistance to maintain a consistent pace.

Another sign of selecting the right gear is your rhythm. If your pedal strokes are becoming choppy or too slow, your gear may be too low, and it is likely time to switch up to a higher gear.

Additionally, suppose you feel you’re pushing too hard and struggling with each stroke. In that case, it could be time to lower the resistance by switching to a lower gear.

Other signs of selecting the right gear include climbing hills without struggling and staying within a comfortable range of effort throughout the ride.

close picture of a bike gear mechanism

How do bicycle gears work?

Bicycle gears work via a bike’s transmission system, which changes the speed between pedaling and wheel rotation.

This system consists of two main parts: the chainring, which is a toothed wheel connected to the pedals, and the cassette, which is a cluster of sprockets attached to the rear wheel. When you pedal, force is transferred from your feet to the chainring.

The chain then engages with one of these sprockets on the cassette, allowing torque to be transferred from your legs to your wheels.

The number of gears on your bike depends on what type it is and what components are used.

Generally speaking, mountain bikes have more gears than road bikes due to their off-road capabilities.

They usually come with 3–12 sprockets on the cassette and up to three chainrings for a total of 18–27 gear combinations or even more, depending on what type you choose. Road bikes typically come with around 11 or 12 speeds.

When shifting through gears, higher numbers mean harder pedaling (smaller front cog/larger rear cog). In contrast, low gear means easier pedaling (larger front cog/smaller rear cog).

You’ll pedal faster as you move up in gear numbers (from 1-10) while expending less effort. Conversely, as you move down in gear numbers (from 10-1), you’ll go slower but need more action at each pedal stroke.

Going uphill requires lower gears or the lowest gears, while going downhill calls for higher ones.

When it comes time for shifting gears, it’s best practice not to shift too quickly into different gears as this can cause strain on your transmission system over time. The rule of thumb is when you want to either drop down or go up a few gears, then change one gear per second.

It’s also important not to exceed recommended shifting speed limits – typically written in maintenance manuals – as this can cause broken chains or other damage that could lead to an accident if left unchecked.

Finally, ensure your bike has been properly adjusted before riding; this includes setting proper cable tension and confirming that all moving parts are correctly lubricated, so they move smoothly during shifts.

Gear types

Bicycle gear types can be divided into two main categories: derailleur gears and hub gears. A derailleur gear system is most commonly found on bicycles today. It consists of a chainring, cassette and derailleur that control how much resistance you face when pedaling.

This gear system provides the rider with various gearing options for easy or hard pedaling, depending on their riding terrain.

Hub gears are a more specialized gear system that is less common but offer advantages over derailleur systems in some scenarios.

These systems have an internal hub within the rear wheel, which houses multiple toothed wheels (known as “planets”) that provide different resistance levels when pedaling. The advantage of this system is that it requires less maintenance than a derailleur system due to its sealed design.

However, it usually only comes with five or six speeds, limiting its versatility compared to other types of gearing systems.

In addition to these two main categories, there are also single-speed bikes and internally geared hubs which both offer their own unique benefits.

Single-speed bikes come with just one gear, meaning you won’t have to worry about changing them while riding – although this does significantly limit your pedaling options if you encounter hills or uneven terrain.

Internally geared hubs are similar in design to hub gears, with the exception being that they have multiple different-sized sprockets that allow for a greater range of speed options, making them ideal for those who want more versatility out of their bike.

bike shifters that change gears

What’s the difference between front and rear gears?

There are two types of bike gear: front and rear. The front gear is what you use when you want to go fast, and the back gear is what you use when you want to go slow. You should use the front gear when going uphill and the back gear when going downhill.

The front gear gives you more torque and power, while the rear gear gives you less. The front gear is usually what most people start with when they first learn how to shift gears on a bike.

Front gears can be changed with a left shifter, while rear gears can be changed with a right shifter.

cyclist going downhill

What gears to use when going downhill?

When biking downhill, it is best to use the rear gear. This gear helps you maintain greater control over your speed as you go down steep hills or curves, making it easier to avoid slips and skids. If you need more power and torque, switch to an easier gear to have a more comfortable ride.

The lower gear will also help increase the efficiency of pedaling, allowing you to conserve energy while going downhill. When using the rear gear, ensure that your cadence is still relatively easy to maintain.

When selecting what gears to use when going downhill, remember that safety should be your top priority.

Going downhill with too much speed can be dangerous and lead to accidents. Therefore, you must select the right type of gearing system and pay attention to what terrain you will be riding to ensure a safe ride.


Cycling uphill can be very draining if done incorrectly. While going uphill, we recommend using front gears (left shifter) for choosing lighter gear. Focus on your cadence and overall rhythm, as there are no right or wrong gear combinations. Don’t forget that switching gears too fast may damage your chain mechanism.

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Dan is the owner of Sportscalorie. His mission is to educate people through his own experience. He proudly says that cycling changed his life.