I'm new to road bicycle with gears. I have 3 gears in front and 8 at the back. The principle behind Bicycle gearing is too difficult for me to understand.

Please tell me what gears to use

When riding on a level road When riding up a flyover bridge and When riding down a flyover bridge.

Now I use front gear 2 and back gear 6 to 8 when riding a level road and front Gear 2 t and back gear 4 to 3 when going up a slope or flyover bridge.

When I use Front Gear 1 and Back gear 3 for to ride a steep upward slope, I find it easy to ride but the number of revolutions of the pedal increases sharply.

Am I using the right gears in the above conditions?

Thank you for your help.

  • On most modern bikes with 3 chainrings you would typically use the front derailer to pick a "range" and then "fine tune" your gear with the rear. Eg, use the large front ring if riding fast on smooth roads, the middle on more variable roads, and the small when climbing a fairly steep hill. Then shift the rear up/down to find the most comfortable gear for the conditions. If you bump into the limit with the rear shifter, shift the front up/down as appropriate to select a new range. May 5, 2016 at 2:13
  • Yeah, you may read about riding some older bikes with two rings, where the two shifters were often operated simultaneously, because of the way the gear ratios worked out. But, aside from some racing bikes, modern bikes aren't designed in a way that makes this shifting complexity necessary/advantageous. May 7, 2016 at 12:23

3 Answers 3


Pedalling efficiency/difficulty is related to the ratio between your front and rear gears.

Front :

  • The big crown is the hardest one
  • The small crown is the easiest one

For rear gears this is the opposite.

In general, you should avoid crossing the chain, which is:

  • Putting the small front and rear gears at the same time
  • Putting the big front and rear gears at the same time (especially this one that might break your chain)

After that, the terrain you are riding pretty much determines the front gear to use:

  • For flat, you should be either on the biggest or on the middle front gear
  • For uphill, you should use the smallest front gear
  • For downhill, you should use the biggest front gear

Then, you tweak the difficulty with the rear gears.

For reference, the ideal number of rotations per minutes (of the cranks) is 90 in road cycling (that looks fast, but is efficient).

  • 1
    The OP need not worry about crossing the chains. Its very debatable if its important not to, but more importantly its a complication they don't have to deal with. Hell does not freeze over, the world does not end if you do cross chains.
    – mattnz
    May 4, 2016 at 21:20
  • 1
    The chain will be noisy, the shifting won't work well and soon we will have yet another newbie question. You can cross chain all you want, just don't tell anyone else to do it.
    – ojs
    May 5, 2016 at 10:01
  • Thank you, Boris, for the detailed guidance. I understand as follows: Front gear 1 is the small, 2 medium and 3 large. Rear gears 1 is the largest and 8 the smallest. So in order not to cross chains and damage it I should NOT use the following combo: Front 1 and Back 8 or Front 3 and Back 1. Do I understand you correctly.
    – Ali
    May 7, 2016 at 5:03
  • @Ali - You will not damage a standard modern bike by "crossing" the chain. You may have more noise and increased chain/sprocket wear, but if the noise doesn't bother you then the added wear is not significant. It's just that it's best to avoid riding long distances with the "big-big" or "small-small" combination if you can. May 7, 2016 at 12:29

I recommend that you start with #2 on the front and use only the rear cassette to change gearing until you understand gearing more naturally.
So... Use the shifter on the left bar until the chain is in the #2 (middle) gear on the front. From then on, use the right shifter. If it's too hard to pedal, shift one click. If it's harder, then shift the other way, two clicks.
Once you get the hang of that, then experiment with the front (left) shifter.

For riding around town as a beginner, you will be just fine with that setup.


I find it much easier to think whether I want a lower or higher gear at each moment than to try to think which specific gear do I want. If pedaling is too hard, shift to a lower gear. If pedaling is too easy/fast, shift to a higher gear. As the others have said, you get a lower gear with large gears on the back (the right shifter) and small gears on the front. Usually the shifts at the back are smaller than the shifts at the front, so you only shift the front when you are close to the end on the back. Some shifters have indicators to show where you are.

The other thing I find useful is to think about low gears as intended for low speeds, rather than up hills. They allow you to keep the pedaling cadence in your range. One reason you may be going slowly is because you are going up hill, but there are others. You could be in traffic, riding with a slower rider, starting from a stop, etc. A lower gear helps with all of these. When I come to a stop I automatically shift down at least two gears, four or more if I was going fast. That makes the start much easier. Shift back up once you get going.

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