Using Gears and Breaks

Using gears

What is the point of gears? There’s a big point to gears and the point is this: they make cycling easier. Did you have a fixed gear bike when you were growing up? Remember how awful it was riding up hills?

Gears take a little of that pain away by shifting the resistance in the way you’re pedalling. They also help you go faster when you’re cruising down a hill and want to kick back and enjoy the ride.

How do I use gears? You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll take to using your gears without a second thought. You’ll feel resistance mounting as you climb up a hill and you’ll drop back a gear. You’ll notice you’re pedalling way too much for the descent you’re on and increase your gears.

Cyclists have this fancy word for the way you pedal called ‘cadence’. Every cyclist has their own cadence. The cadence is the amount of revolutions you pedal a minute and each person has their comfortable pace.

As you’re cycling up a hill, you might feel that your cadence is slowing down, becoming difficult and taking too much of your energy. In this case, you need to drop down a gear or two.

When you’re descending down the hill, your cadence might speed up to a point you don’t feel is propelling the bike along. When this happens, it’s time to up the gear.

Ideally ride down hills in high gear, that if something happens and you need to pedal out of the way, you are not just freewheeling down the hill but in a gear where you can actually still ride and avoid danger.

The low gears on your bike (1-3) will decrease resistance and are designed for hills, the middle gears (4-5) are for cruising and the higher gears (5-7) are designed for descents. Even so, this is up to you. If you feel comfortable cruising on a 7, cruise on a 7!

The thing to remember about gears is there isn’t a prescriptive way of using them. It’s all about making your ride as easy or hard as you’d like it to be

So why do people used fixed gear bikes? These days the majority of fixed gear bikes are fashion bikes. They’re in vintage styles and they look great. People who use fixed gear bikes either don’t have a hill anywhere near their house or they buy a fixed gear because they look so dang good.

Using brakes

So brakes…? You’re really going to need them.

Brakes are almost the most important part of your whole bike. Nearly, but not quite as important as the wheels. Brakes are important. Have I said that before? I have, because you really need to know brakes are important.

Brakes slow you down. Brakes help you stop. These are two really, really important things in the life of a cyclist.

It’s also important that you know the brake on the left handle of your handlebars is connected to the front wheels, the brake on the right handle of your handlebars is for the back wheels.

If you cycled as a child, chances are you’re all over what a back brake can do and you’re comfortable using it as your means of stopping. Many of us childhood cyclists avoid using our front brakes for fear of flying over the handlebars.

Both brakes have their advantages and disadvantages. If you brake only with your back brakes, you’ll be skidding a lot and wear the rear tyre quicker. If you brake only with your front brakes, you’ll run the risk of the tyre lifting at the back and giving yourself an almighty fright.

The trick when you’re commuting on relatively easy terrain is to use both. Begin with the back brake and follow a moment later with your front brake to come to a quick stop.  Or gently squeeze both together for the same impact.

Ride around your local park trying all sorts of different combinations and stick with the one you feel most comfortable and safe with.

Did you note how many times I wrote important? That’s because brakes are important.