Is there a conventional wisdom to what gear a bike should be left in, when used infrequently?

  • 2
    For a given bike or given set of storage circumstances there may be a difference based on how likely the gears are to jam as you manipulate it in the storage area. But you'd learn this from experience. Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 20:50
  • 2
    Conventional wisdom and the right thing to do based on engineering and measured results in the real world are often poles apart.
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 5:50

5 Answers 5


Unlike @Batman and @Daniel, I think it does matter.

The bike should be stored with the gears set to the highest gear (the chain on the smallest cog), so that the spring in the derailleur is under the least pressure, and the cable is also under the last tension. So the cable will stretch less and the gears will stay in adjustment longer.

  • I do this by the same logic, don't know if it makes much of a difference...
    – gaurwraith
    Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 11:39
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    I have my doubts whether this is at all a significant issue. Far more stress is put on the cable when shifting, and "stretch" is more due to wear/flex on the cable than tension. And standard wire springs will last for centuries under pressure -- corrosion and flexing is what gets them. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 12:24
  • It makes no difference. The tension from a derailleur spring isn't nearly strong enough to cause shift cables to compress and thus go out of adjustment. We used to store team bikes all winter, pull them out in the Spring and the gears were exactly as we left them. Also cables don't actually stretch, they compress.
    – ChrisL
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 22:31
  • I am with everyone in that I'm not sure how much of a difference this makes. Also, when I originally asked this question I was thinking more of the longevity of the springs in the derailleurs than the cables, which I change far more often.
    – C.E.Sally
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 19:54

It doesn't matter for any perspective aside from convenience -- usually the most convenient gear to store it in is the gear you're going to use first when you start riding again.


I leave my bikes in the easiest gear, logic being that that keeps the rear derailleur tucked inwards as much as possible, minimizing the risk of accidentally whacking it in storage. Seems like reasonable logic to me at least.

I’d reckon that the cable issue is not a real problem (I’d much rather replace a $2 cable than a $80+ derailleur), and the springs will be fine as already mentioned in other answers.


Is there a conventional wisdom to what gear a bike should be left in, when used infrequently?

Yes. In most cases, when starting to ride the bike, you are going to ride at least few hundred meters on flat terrain. This means the optimal gear the bike should be stored in is your flatland gear, if you use your bike at all: frequently or infrequently.

My flatland gear is 50T / 17T (or 48T / 17T if the bike has 48T big ring). By storing my bike always on this gear, it means I can get quickly to speed and continue riding at speed on flat terrain. It also reduces the time needed for shifting gears: before parking the bike I'm always in my flatland gear, so I don't have to shift every time before parking and then shift back every time after parking.

The only exception to this is that if you store your bike in an area where you have to ride away at an incline up, then it can be useful to use a lower gear. However, it doesn't matter when you shift to this lower gear: presumably if you ride from the storage area to road at an incline up, then you rode from the road to the storage area at an incline down, and you will do this riding most likely in your flatland gear. So in that case it's perfectly fine to do the shift to a low gear, not before storing the bike, but after storing the bike.

Contrary to what others say, the tension of the rear derailleur spring is minimal. It doesn't cause the steel cable to "stretch", and even if it was strong enough to cause it to "stretch", the "stretch" would be immediate and not gradual (gradual "stretch" would be creep and it doesn't really happen here). What cyclists often refer to as "cable stretch" is actually not related to steel inner cable stretching, but rather cable housing becoming seated. The cable housings become fully seated when making gear shifts, not when the bike is stored in a particular gear. Also you can accelerate the process of cable seating by grabbing a free run of the inner cable and pulling it away hard from the frame tube.

Also a spring doesn't lose its strength even if stored under lots of compression (in cars a heavily loaded car can gradually lose its spring strength when riding over bumps, but it's not the load over time but rather the bumps that make it happen). Springs are made from very hard steel, and if this compression caused a spring to yield, it would happen immediately when selecting the gear, and not gradually when being stored in that gear, because springs don't creep.

  • You are accelerating in your traveling gear?!? Sounds pretty masochistic to me as that means you need to a) put lots of force on the pedals to get going, and b) you don't achieve much of an acceleration even with max effort. Of course, I'm an IGH rider talking, so I'll always use the best gear, even if I only end up using it for a single revolution of the pedals. Of course, chain shifters are more averse to frequent shifting then myself. But I'd never have thought that chain shifters make so little use of their gears as to getting close to riding a fixie. Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 14:10
  • Nitpick: The steel used for springs may be tough, but it's not "very hard". In fact, you can take any kind of thin wire spring, bend it out so that the wire becomes straight, and then rebend the wire into another spring shape. The resulting spring is definitely usable, even though I guess that it won't be as robust anymore. If the material were hard, the spring would definitely break while trying to unbend it. Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 14:19
  • There are plenty of single speed riders who would disagree with the claim that accelerating in the travelling gear is masochistic.
    – juhist
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 16:43
  • Single speed riding also sounds masochistic to me. (Note: subjective statement!) However, you have made the choice that you don't want to be reduced to a single gear, why are you not putting them to good use? Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 19:25

Smallest ring in the back to minimize spring tension inside your derailleur. Biggest ring in front to avoid cross chain. Can't argue with science. Bigger gear in the back put more stress on the spring. It's a matter of physics.

  • I can get less spring tension with the small ring in the front and (assuming you still want to avoid cross chaining) a fairly small one at the rear. The difference between 50 and 34 at the front swamps the difference between 11 and 16 at the rear. The 16 is my fifth smallest cog. Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 3:56
  • Why on earth would you even consider cross chaining for a bike in storage?
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 5:47
  • 2
    Downvote for not knowing what you are talking about: Spring steel does not yield due to being put under tension for extended periods of time (what would your car's suspension do if that were the case?), yet you have the audacity to add "can't argue with science" after suggesting that you'd need to relax the springs. Call me a science extremist, but I want to have some solid arguments when someone claims it's science. Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 14:26
  • Note this duplicates the accepted answer from 7 years ago.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 22:19

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