A key ingredient to road cycling success is knowing how to properly operate a bike’s gears. Most road bikes have two or three chain rings on the front tire and seven to 11 gears on the rear tire. If used appropriately, a cyclist will be able to maintain his or her speed, momentum, and efficiency.
Upshifting is used when the cyclist wants to accelerate, and involves moving the chain to a smaller cog on the rear wheel. When a cyclist wishes to reduce speed and effort, such as when he or she is approaching an incline, downshifting is necessary. Downshifting involves moving the chain to a larger cog. When a cyclist wishes to make large changes, he or she should utilize the front cogs with the left hand. Small changes require shifts to the rear cogs with the right hand.
Expert cyclists advise anticipating terrain changes and adjusting gears prior to climbs or descents so the cyclist doesn’t lost momentum. Experienced cyclists work to maintain a cadence, or constant pedaling speed, of about 80-100 rotations per minute. Shifting properly can help a cyclist achieve that goal and ultimately reduce the risk of muscle fatigue.