When I started looking for my first bike, I was mystified by its gears. Nor was I even sure if all bicycles had gears. So “do all bikes have gears?” is not such a silly question! Let’s break it down.
The vast majority of bikes have gears, though there are exceptions. The number of gears there are will vary depending on the bike. Some bikes such as single-speed, fixies, and the occasional folding bike, don’t have gears.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at why bikes have gears, how many you should have, and which is best for you.
Bikes have gears because they allow you to get more power out of your legs and as such, generate more speed.
Gears also help when you need to do a climb or accelerate. By changing gears, you increase the amount of torque. This gives you the required speed and/or power.
When you use gears, you can change your speed and the amount of torque. How you use your gears will depend on how much effort you’ll need to put into pedaling.
If you need to climb a hill, you should switch to low gear as you will get more torque.
When you switch to a higher gear, you’ll be able to pick up speed but with less torque. This is useful when you’re on a flat or going down a hill.
Bikes have different types of gears and the range can differ too.
Popular gear ranges are:
Gears have an advantage and in certain circumstances, I wouldn’t want to ride without them.
However, there are situations where it’s better not to have gears as this reduces the weight of the bike. It will also require less maintenance.
Single-speed or fixie bikes only come with one gear. As they don’t weigh the gearing system, they’re lighter.
If you’re on flat terrain, this works out well because you won’t need to work as hard when you’re pedaling.
There is also the benefit of carrying your bike, say on the train or up to the office. It will be lighter and easier to do that.
Having no gears takes a lot of worries away with maintenance. This is ideal for a commuter as you don’t want to be faced with a mechanical issue on the way to work. Obviously, without all of these extra components, when an issue does arise, it isn’t as costly either.
When you’re riding a single-speed bike, there is less to think about. You don’t need to worry about whether you’re in the right gear or not so it does make cycling easier, provided the terrain is suitable.
For riders who travel down the same roads that are largely flat, a bike with no gears could be the ideal solution. When I’m riding around my city, I tend to stay in the same gear for the majority of the time. It’s the same as if I had a single-speed bike. I just use more energy as I have more components to deal with.
There are two different types. Singlespeed and fixed speed.
Single-speed bikes will allow you to coast when you’re not pedaling. This is due to the freewheel at the back of the bike.
The gearing on a single-speed bike tends to be quite low so you can keep a decent speed once you’re moving.
As a bike, they appeal to the commuter as they’re affordable and don’t require as much maintenance as bikes with gears.
Fixed gear bikes are different. You must keep pedaling to move. When you stop pedaling, the bike stops.
Some fixed gear bikes don’t have brakes and rely on backpedaling to brake. If you’re unfamiliar with this, it may sound daunting but once you master a fixed-gear bike, they do become natural and rather addictive.
There is no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on where and how you like to ride.
If you cycle in a location where the terrain changes frequently, or your fitness isn’t where you like it to be, then gears could be a wise purchase. It allows you to maximize your speed and increase your fitness.
For the majority of cyclists, having gears on their bikes is a sensible thing.
A bike without gears means that you have a largely hassle-free mode of transport.
If you tend to ride on flat terrain and have a good level of fitness, then a single-speed bicycle may be better suited to your needs. There is also something quite trendy about riding a single-speed bike.
There are situations when riding a bike without gears can be challenging:
Sorry if you thought I had some magical answer here but if you want to go faster on a single-speed bike, it all comes down to your muscle power.
If you want to go more quickly, then you need to pedal faster.
The moment you reach your maximum cadence, you’ve reached your maximum speed. That’s one of the key differences. When you have a bike with gears, you can change your gear, ride at the same cadence but go faster.
If you want to climb hills, you’re also reliant on muscle power. There are a few things you can do to make this easier.
What’s the difference between a single-speed and a fixed-speed bike? Find out here.
If you’re getting into cycling, then I would recommend going for a bicycle with gears. It makes life easier and it also means that you have a greater choice of bikes.
Let’s say you live in a hilly area. In this case, try to get more gears on your bike. If you don’t plan to ride up hills, then a bike with 3-7 gears should work well.
Do you want to know how gears work? Check out this video:
The big giveaway is that bikes with gears will have something on their handlebars for you to change the gears, otherwise known as shifters.
Some bikes have gears, some don’t. They all have a purpose, though.
If you’re new to cycling, getting a bike with gears is a good starting point.
A single-speed bike is good for those who ride flat roads and don’t want to deal with much maintenance.