How To Use Gears On A Mountain Bike

Mountain biking is crucial for building strength, endurance, and agility. Whether you are using a mountain bike for fan or cross-training, using the right mountain bike gear will help you cruise faster, more secure, and comfortable.

The mountain bike's gears might seem simple to understand, but there is a lot of knowledge you should learn to maximize the performance. Rather than giving one-off answers, we have created this guide to help you understand how to use gears on a mountain bike.

Different Parts Of A Gear System

So, why do we need gears in mountain bikes? For the downhillers, gears are important for carrying them up the climb. They also help to roll over that difficult terrain while helping to maintain your pedaling strength.

To understand how to use gears on a mountain bike, it is vital to check on different parts that make a gear system.


The cassette is designed on the back tire and is mounted to the hub. This part is compiled from several sprockets. It varies in size and is the key determinant of providing a range of gear alternatives. A broad range of cassettes would be something resembling an 11-tooth sprocket and a 36-tooth sprocket.


The chainset is a critical part of the gear, and it sits on the front of the gear system of the mountain bike. This part is made up of various designs and may vary from one bike’s brand to another.

It has cranks and chainrings for improving the efficiency of the gear's system. A bike that has 1 to 3 chain rings is good for the mountain. It is advisable to consider your style and purpose when settling for a certain bike based on its chainset.

Rear Derailleur:

Mountain derailleur is the mechanism that makes it easy to shift gears. It is made of a small piece of metal and plastic for durability and helps riders climb hills easily.

The rear derailleur hangs on the rear of the drivetrain to allow easy shifting of the chain. Moreover, the rear derailleur helps keep the chain's tension, especially when you are changing through the gears.

Front Derailleur:

The front derailleur works almost the same as the rear mech. It also helps in changing the chain from one sprocket to the next. The only big difference is that the front derailleur is not made to adjust the tension.

Front derailleurs are mostly applied to bikes with more than two rings of chainset. They work efficiently for bikes with three chainrings.


These are the levers installed on the handlebars as an element of the bike's drive cockpit. They come in the form of a cable and operate by pulling the front and the rear derailleurs using a ratchet and an advanced lever mechanism.

How To Use Gears On A Mountain Bike

How Mountain Bike Gears Work?

Now that you understand the various parts of gear let's check how these parts work altogether!

When you push the bike's pedals, the crank arms start rotating. And because the cranks are work in harmony with the chainrings, they make the chainring spin. This process causes the rear mech (gear) to start rotating through the chain. 

If the gear turns, it means the back wheel will start rotating too. And that’s how the ride begins. The chain helps pedals to spin freely, causing the bike to move. It connects the two gears (the front derailleur and the rear derailleur).

What Is A Low & High Gear On A Mountain Bike?

What Is A Low Gear?

Think of it as your easy gear. It is something like cruising a manual transmission car. Low gear is one that you will use when the speed is at the lowest point. With low gear, you are sure of facing the least resistance when turning the pedals.

Low gear is suitable for climbing. The "lowest" gear, as some call it, is a perfect combination of the largest back cog and the smallest front chainring. It is easier to continue pedaling on a monster hill with low gear because the front chainring spins multiple times.

What Is A High Gear?

High gears are similar to hardened gears. They play a great role when the mountain bike is traveling at a higher speed. You’ll be changing into a higher gear when you want to increase the speed on a downhill terrain or a flat section.

High gear is the direct opposite of low gears. They are a combination of the largest front chainring and the smallest back cog. In high gear, every turn of the front chainring leads to countless rotations of the rear cog and the tire. This allows you to move faster with fewer efforts.

How To Use Gears Effectively?

  • Ensure you have the right type of mountain bike for mountain biking to avoid chain damage.
  • Don’t install extra gear. Research and learn how to use the ones that come with the bike.
  • Stay calm when going for a ride and change gears only when there is a need.
  • Use a low gear for rough terrain and high gear on a flat and downhill surface.

How To Maintain Mountain Bike Gear?

Cleaning The Gears:

Use hot soapy water and brush to clean the drivetrain of your bike. Keeping your drivetrain clean will improve the bike’s performance and avoid accidents.


It is crucial to oil the chains when you feel they are getting dry. You can get a special chain oil from major spare shops. The oil allows smooth change of the gears and reduces noise, shifting gears through a dry chain.

Realigning The Derailleur:

The front and rear derailleurs can get out of alignment. You have to ensure the primary mechanism of the bike is always in good condition. A properly aligned derailleur is quiet.

How To Shift Gears On A Mountain Bike?

Mountain bikes come with gears that are suitable for any terrain. If you are new to biking and you would like to understand how to use gears effectively, check this out:

1. Achieve A Comfortable Rhythm:

You don’t start changing gears immediately after pedaling the bike. First, start riding until you achieve a comfortable flow (rhythm). If you are biking on flat terrain, you should consider larger chainring. The mountain’s bike handlebar shifter will function as a shifter.
The left shifter of the bike controls the rear ring, while the right shifter takes charge of the front ring. You should ensure you change through the gears as you pedal.

2. Click the Front Shift to Shift to the Middle Gear:

After achieving a perfect rhythm, change the gear to middle chainring. To do this, click on the front shift, and you will move to the middle gear. This shift allows the biker to easily climb on a hill, and other soft terrains.

Change your Gear Up and Down: Try to maintain your front gear and try to keep the change on the gear up and down. Shift-click to enable you move through the gears.

3. Shift To High Gear:

High gear will help you to cruise smoothly on a hillside or a flat surface. It would help if you changed the rear cassette from the medium-chain by clicking the right shift. This will change the front gear to the large chainring.

4. Shift To Low Gear:

You need to use the lower gear when near a mountain. Change the gear before climbing the mountain. It is easy to damage the gear’s chain if you make a shift when climbing the hill.

5. Practice More:

It would be best if you practiced more often to understand how to use gears effectively. Gear shifting is about timing. Ride on different terrain and learn how the various ways of using different gears. The art of gear shifting will be natural with time.

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Q: Is gear one high or low on a bike?

A: Like manual transition cars, gear one on a bike is low and keeps the bike cruising at three mph.

Q: How do you use uphill bike gears?

A: Click the shifter and change the gear to the lowest chain. Do this before climbing the hill to avoid damaging the chain.

Q: What is the easiest gear on a mountain bike?

A: The low gear is also called the easy gear. Gear number one is the easiest gear on a mountain bike.

Q: How do you use gears on a bike for beginners?

A: First, achieve a comfortable rhythm and use the shifter to change the gears based on your terrain.

Q: Do you change gears while pedaling?

A: Yes, it would help if you pedaled while shifting gears, especially when going uphill, to reduce the tension.

Q: How do you change gears on a mountain bike smoothly?

A: Consider backing off your pedal pressure to enable the chain and the derailleur to shift gears smoothly.

Q: What is the best gear ratio for a mountain bike?

A: The best gear ratio for climbing bikes is 2 * 10. This ratio gives you a lot of flexibility for cruising hills.


Riding a mountain bike is an adventurous moment. Learning how to use the gears of a mountain bike makes this moment more treasurable. Understanding the mechanism of gear shifting makes your rides smooth and safe. 

I hope at this point you have the right information on how to use gears on a mountain bike. Ensure you wear light and tight clothes when riding to avoid your clothes getting into the gear system.

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