How to Use Gears on a Mountain Bike?

If you are planning to take a trip on a mountain bike, you will need to think about the gears and how bike gears work. Part of being a successful biker is being able to shift through your gears with no issues. 

Here’s how to use the mountain bike gears properly.


Understanding Mountain Gears

If you are planning on riding a mountain bike, you will need to understand how the bike is set up and how the gears work. These are some key terms you should know and understand before you start riding mountain bikes. 

Derailleurs – On a bike you will find both a rear derailleur and a front derailleur. The left shifter controls the front derailleur and the right shifter controls the rear derailleur.

Cogs – The cog is a sprocket. There can be several on a mountain bike. 

The chain will run along the cog on both the front and rear gear. When you do a gear shift, the chain will move from the smallest rear cog to the next smallest cog on the bike. 

If you do larger gear jumps, it can skip over a rear cog and jump the next size. The rear cog has various teeth that easily hold the chain in place for the rear gear and rear cassette. 

Chainrings – The front chainrings on a bike are simply the front gears. The front chainrings affect the gear ratios and help provide plenty of power for the bike. 

The front chainrings are similar to the rear cogs and help to maintain chain tension and work with the rear derailleurs and cogs to keep the bike going.

How to Use the Gears

There are a few things you need to keep in mind before you head out on a ride. Here are some ways to use gear shift properly while riding.

Find a Comfortable Rhythm

You will want to maintain a comfortable rhythm while riding the bike. You may notice that it gets harder to pedal at some points when the gears shift and the front chainring adjusts to shift. 

If you are not pedaling up or down a hill, you should maintain a constant pace.

Shifting the Chain

When you shift the chain, it will move from one front chainring to another and also move along the back cogs. This will make it easier for you to pedal in the current gear. 

You will need to click the front shifter to move the middle gear.

Keep Changing the Gear

You will not simply change the gears once or twice while biking. You will change them multiple times to adjust to the type of biking you are doing. 

You will need to move the front chainring up and down as you pedal at different speeds and up and down hills. 

Don’t Change Gears While Going up Steep Terrain

You will notice the most shifting when you pedal up and down different terrain and hills. It’s best to shift before you change terrain. 

Don’t shift while you are moving up a steep area. This could damage the chain and front chainring and prevent the bike from going into the right gear. 

The front chainring could slip off the sprocket or the front chainrings could even break. Make sure to shift one gear at a time.

Ride on Different Surfaces

A lot of gears change through the rear cassette and you will feel it pull as you ride on different surfaces. 

You should try to ride your bike along these different surfaces as often as possible to not only allow your bike to go through all the gears but also make it possible to feel the way your bike shifts on these different surfaces. 

The more variety of surfaces you ride on, the better you will become at shifting and riding in general.

MTB Safety Tips

Riding on mountainous terrain can be dangerous, so you should be aware of simple safety tips that will help protect you at all times. Here are some things to remember.

Know Your Area

Take some time to research the area where you will be riding. Make sure you are familiar with it and find out if there are any places that are dangerous or areas where the terrain gets too rough. 

Tell Someone Where You Are Going

It’s best to avoid biking by yourself, but if you do, you need to let someone know where you will be riding. That way, if you happen to be in an accident, someone will know where to find you. 

Make Sure Your Bike Is in Good Condition

You need to check your bike before you take it out to make sure it is working. Check the front and rear cassette as well as your brakes and chains to ensure they are not likely to break or become loose while you are riding your bike.

Things to Remember While Riding Mountain Bikes

When you are ready to set out on an adventure, you will want to keep in mind some important tips and points. Like most sports, mountain biking can be a lot of fun and a great way to get healthy and stay in shape. 

But like in any other outdoor activity, there are a few things you need to be aware of to stay safe and have a good experience. The next time you take your mountain bike out for a spin, be sure to keep some of these things in mind. 

Use the Front Brakes

When you take your mountain bike out for a ride, you will want to pay attention to the breaks as much as you pay attention to shifting gears. Bikes with both front and rear gears, or mountain bikes with only a single gear, will have front brakes. 

You will not be able to pedal backwards to stop the bike because this will interfere with your gear combinations and how the gears function. Instead, you will need to know which brake is front and which one is back and know when to squeeze them in the proper gear to stop safely. 

Get the Right Type of Bike

Before you start your mountain bike adventures, you will want to make sure you have the right type of bike. If you are planning to get a bike with shifters and gears, you will need to know how to shift them. 

Most mountain bikes have low gears and high gears. You will use the low gears when you are driving slowly or up rough terrain, and you will use the high gears when you are trying to ride faster. 

Think about the type of mountain bike you want and if you can change gears while riding. More modern bikes are designed to make shifting easier so riding is less challenging and more rewarding.

Be aware that some mountain bike styles have a rear derailleur and a front derailleur that control the rear cogs and front cogs. This makes it easier to change mountain bike gears more smoothly.

It allows you to switch from low gear to high gear without missing the correct gear and can help you avoid cross-chaining. It makes proper shifting much more likely and can provide a safer and more enjoyable bike ride.

Don’t Install Unnecessary Gears

When you start biking, you will soon learn which gears are best for the type of riding you do. You will also learn how many gears you usually shift through. 

Of course, different terrain and types of riding may require many gears or a different gear ratio. If you need more gears or feel like you are putting too much pressure on your current gears, you can always install new gears on your bike. 

You can shift gears as you ride on different types of terrain.

Stay Calm and Comfortable

When you are out riding, you want to make sure you stay calm and comfortable at all times. 

Don’t wear clothing that is too tight or restrictive because it can prevent you from reaching a steady cadence and make it harder to shift gears. Also, be sure to stay calm and in control when you ride and shift gears.

Wear the Right Gear

It’s important to wear the right gear when you are biking so you can shift a single-speed bike or one with multiple gears safely. Be sure to wear a helmet as well as other safety equipment. Also wear the proper shoes and make sure there is no way for your shoe strings to get caught in the crank arms or rear wheel while riding.


Mountain biking can be a lot of fun. And while there are many things to keep in mind when shifting gears, changing speeds, and traveling on different terrains, once you get the hang of it, it becomes rather easy. 

If you are nervous about shifting a mountain bike or don’t understand the gears and how they work, be sure to keep the above points in mind or ask a professional for help. Knowing how to use the gears on your bike will allow you to travel to more places and get more out of your trip.