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I have a trike with Shimano shifters. There are 3 gears in the front and 8 gears in the back. Gears are changed by rotating wheels found on each handlebar. The gear shifters have a window telling me which gear it is set to.

When the chain is on the largest-sized gear in the front, the sifter says "3". When it is on the smallest-sized gear, it says "1".

But the opposite is true of the back gears. When the chain is on the largest gear in the back, the shifter says "1". And when it is on the smallest gear in the back, it says, "8".

Are my gears setup the wrong way?

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  • 2
    Nope, perfectly normal. The larger number indicates a "higher" gear. Jul 1, 2017 at 16:06
  • 4
    Higher number = harder to pedal, for both shifters. Everything is fine.
    – EvilSnack
    Jul 1, 2017 at 17:23
  • Some of my bikes have numbered indicators, but they're only recent (to me) and the bikes I grew up with didn't have them. So the only time I use the readout is on a climb, to see if there's one more gear after the current one. All I remember is that the two controls are opposite for easier vs harder gears.
    – Criggie
    Jul 1, 2017 at 22:12

3 Answers 3

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No, it's set up the right way. (In fact, because of the way the front and rear gear systems work, it's essentially impossible to set them up backwards: you'd have to re-engineer the whole system.)

Think about it in terms of how many times the wheels turn for each turn of the pedals. When you change to a larger-sized cog at the front, the chain moves farther for each turn of the pedals, so the rear wheel turns more times. When you change to a smaller-sized cog at the back, moving the chain the same distance causes the wheels to turn a greater number of times. So, in both cases, moving to a higher-numbered gear causes the wheels to rotate more times for each turn of the pedals.

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  • If you used a low-normal derailleur (Rapid Rise) from the early 2000's, you get them the 'wrong' way. Luckily for all cyclists, low-normal took the same bus out of Shimanoville as Dual Control. and became 'not-normal'.....
    – mattnz
    Aug 13, 2020 at 5:10
  • @mattnz I had the normal Shimano trigger shifters on my first bike, built my second bike in 2007 with XT Dual Control levers and Rapid Rise (Low Normal) rear mech. Some 15-20k km later, I still ride this bike and am quite used to the shifting. I often heard people saying things like you just did, but couldn't find anything wrong with either, seems to work good for me. Reliability is also good, shifting as well as >10 years ago. Feb 9, 2021 at 21:44
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The gear ratio is front teeth / rear teeth1, which gets bigger with

  • More front teeth, or
  • Fewer rear teeth

So 32 front and 16 rear teeth is 2:1. For each pedal cycle the wheel makes two revolutions.

1 Front teeth divided by rear teeth

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  • I'm really curious why on bicycles gear ratios are always front/rear. In mechanics in general, it's usually the opposite - driven/driver. When talking about motorcycle final drive, it's rear/front sprocket. When reading motorcycle/car specs, the lowest gears - 1st gear and reverse - have the highest numbers. I tried to find why it's the opposite with bicycles, but so far couldn't... Feb 9, 2021 at 21:46
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Both shifters are numbered so that so that higher number gives larger gear ratio. In front it's the larger cog, in the rear smaller.

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