When I look down when I think I'm in the middle gear, I see the chain on the big chain ring but isn't the big chain ring for when I'm in downhill mode?

Basically, what does middle gear look like on 2 chainrings?

Bike details: Giant Contend 2, The front is a FSA Tempo, 34-50T

enter image description here

I'm really new to cycling be gentle.

  • 2
    What is the make of your shifter? Maybe upload a photo, that could help. With some shifters you get what's called a "trim" function, that might make you think you have 3 gears, as it offers another little "click". The trim-function is used to prevent the chain from grinding on your front derailleur when in the highest / lowest gears on your cassette. Find out more on that here: bikeroar.com/tips/front-derailleur-how-to-shifting-and-trim
    – dru87
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 9:44
  • I own a Giant Contend 2, The front is a FSA Tempo, 34-50T. Okay so with this trim function, is that the gear that I should nomally be in i.e. flat roads?
    – Scabe
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 10:01
  • 1
    Gears overlap. So some of the gear combinations on the 34t will overlap with some of the gear combinations on the 50t. You just need to be in a gear which allows you to pedal efficiently for the amount of effort (power) you are putting in. Ignoring whether you are in the big chainring or small chainring - just be in the right gear for your effort (and ignoring chainline).
    – OraNob
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 10:19
  • Cool beans, I think I'm getting it now. Thanks dru87 and OraNob :)
    – Scabe
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 10:46
  • This question is a little ambiguous. Do you have little flags on your shifters to indicate gears like cars have for PRNDL? (some trigger and grip shifters label the index points with numbers and HML) or do you have a road bike with 'brifters' and the flags on those? (or no indications at all? on the shifters?) Generally, on a triple chainring, you'll spend most of your time in the middle chainring and just shift the rear cogs. Shifting the chainrings (ones up front) takes a little more time (which you'll have in the flats and downhills).
    – david1024
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 13:27

2 Answers 2


For someone new to cycling you're doing well with the terminology!

The simple answer is that you only have two chainrings, so there's no "middle". With luck there will be a wee display on the top of the shifter, but that's not always present. And with only two, eventually you'll just remember which you're in (link is to a "how do I know" question).

If you're asking about gear selection, it isn't really about "uphill gears", "middle gears" and "downhill gears", it's about what's comfortable for you. Different people are more comfortable at different pedalling speeds, and as you cycle more you're likely to find that that changes. So the "middle gears" are the gears you feel comfortable in at your "middle speed" :) It's hard to expand on this because it really is as simple as "whatever works for you".

For now, I suggest not worrying about which chainring you're on so much, just focus on getting comfortable changing gears. The next step is trying to avoid cross-chaining (the big chainring with big cogs at the back, or small-small). This question has some tips on that, and this one has a different view. After that people tend to worry less about which gear to be in and more about optimal cadence, muscle efficiency, how fast bike parts wear out and other stuff like that.


If you have 34-50T on the front, a common "compact" size, you only have two chain rings. There is no middle gear, which are only found on triple chain ring setups. The smaller gear is for lower speeds, the larger gear is for higher speeds. As indicated in the comments, the ranges available with the two chain rings probably overlap, so the highest gears you can get with the 34 are duplicated by the lowest gears you can get with the 50. That way, if you are in the 50, you can shift down for a while without changing the chain ring, then shift back up when conditions change.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.