How To Shift Gears On A Mountain Bike

Last Updated on August 16, 2020

If you are intended to own or already have a mountain bike, then you must be familiar with bike gears. Nowadays, almost every mountain bikes are facilitated with seven to twelve gears in the back. Through proper pedaling rhythm, a geared bike makes our ride easier, faster, and efficient to hold our energy longer. Though shifting gears is not a big deal for the old riders, but beginners may find it complicated.

How To Shift Gears On A Mountain Bike

Even some older riders may not have precise knowledge about gears mechanism and functionality. Thus, the guideline about how to shift gears while riding on a mountain is essential for every mountain bike riders.

An efficient gears shifting also saves our time, and energy.No matter what the terrain, shifting gears makes our rides easier and comfortable. Gear shifting keeps the bike’s chain in such a condition that helps us to sustain our energy for a long time. It also helps us to get an enjoyable bike ride.

Shifting gears is a fundamental mechanism of any mountain bike. There is five functional part of a mountain bike that makes you able to shift gears and makes it smooth to pedal the bike.

So, before discussing how and when to shift bike gears, it is essential to have precise knowledge about the framework and mechanics of a mountain bike. Here, we put together everything that you need before knowing when and how to shift gears on a mountain bike.

Fundamental Parts of Mountain Bikes


It is also called a crankset. The chainring is a part that attaches to pedals and shaped like round cog including jagged teeth on the edges. Generally, mountain bikes have one, two, or three cranksets in front.

Most of the bikes have three chainrings, also called a triple. Chainrings transfer the energy that created through pedaling into the rear wheel.


Cassette is the stack of cogs or gears located on the right-hand side of the rear wheel. Each cog has many teeth that connect with the chain. The largest cog closest to the wheel and the smallest cog is farthest from the wheel.

Cassette provides various pedaling cadence that ensures smooth motion. More cogs in the cassette offer you a broad range of gear choices.


By pressing the trigger on the shifters, derailleurs move the chain between front chainrings or rear cogs. Most of the bikes having two derailleurs, known as front and rear derailleurs, located on the front chainring and rear cogs. It is effectively spinning the chain around the cogs and make up the chainrings.


Shifters located on the handlebars regulates the movement among the chain, cassette, and chainrings. It is generally used to change the gear manually. Each shifter is attached to one cable that controls derailleur.


The chain connects the chainrings to the cassette. As you pedal, the chain rotates all the cogs and forces the bike to move forward.

Mountain Bike Shifters

Gears shifting happens when you apply pressure to the shifters. There are two different types of shifters available on mountain bikes. For a comfortable ride, every biker needs to know it.

How To Shift Gears On A Mountain Bike

Thumb Shifters

Thumb shifter activates two levers for each hand. One lever moves the chain in upward motion, and another runs the chain in the downward movement. The top lever of one shifter provides more resistance on the gears while the top lever of the different shifter eases the resistance.

Grip Shifters

Grip shifter on each handlebar is activated by twisting the indexed grip either backward or forward. The right shifter controls rear derailleurs that ease the pedaling resistance while twisting it towards and increases the resistance while twisting backward. Besides, the left grip shifter controls front derailleur. It works in the opposite directions of the right shifter.

How to Shift Gears and Find the Right One

You need to find a quiet nice road and practice riding at different cadences to understand the cadence and get the right gear for biking. The optimum cadence on flat terrain and for climbing are respectively up to  80-90 and 60-80 revolutions per minute.

While shifting gears, we need to keep pedaling otherwise the chain may fall off. We should also avoid operating both shifters simultaneously because it gives much tension on the chain and forces off track.

Most of the bikers prefer higher cadence in a lower gear. If we are riding over uphill, it is preferable to shift into small front chainring and large rear cogs.

For riding in downhill, shifting into large front chainring and multiple rear cogs is also preferred. Finally, shifting into small front chainring and small rear cogs is best for flat terrain.

Cross Chain

Cross chaining can be an obstacle to the gears shifting mechanism. Cross chain refers to the cadences when the chain takes the position on the front largest gear with the largest rear gears or smallest front gear with lower rear gears.

It not only creates stress on hardware but also limits our shift options. We can prevent cross by selecting gears that keep the chain straight between the cog and chainring.

Final Words

It is essential to riding the mountain bike consistently. A consistent ride at high pedaling speed helps the body to get the extra strength to clear lactic acid and adjourn fatigue. Safety is also essential. If the chain started to drop after every ride, it would be better to go to the local shop and tune the derailleurs.

Though shifting gears facilitates a comfortable and time-saving ride, we need to make sure that all hardware is in working order. In short, precaution is mandatory while gears shifting takes place. So, Good luck with your next trip to the mountain.



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