If you’re someone who owns a bike, you probably already know about bike gears. But still, let’s take a brief introduction to them before we start talking about them in an all professional manner.
What are Gears on a Bike?
Bike gears are those components that make biking a lot easier for us. Whether you want to change your riding speed or take your bike up a hill, you will need to shift your bike’s gears.
Your bike’s drivetrain helps you control these gears, helps you go faster or slower, higher or lower.
Front gears on a bike are called chainrings or cranksets. There are different chainrings in a crankset which are identified by their positions- middle, outer and inner. These help change the speed of your bike. As the chain is moved away from the centre frame of the bike, pedalling gets harder but you go faster.
The rear gears on your bike are cassette or freewheel and derailleurs.
A collection of cogs on the rear wheel is called cassette. The set of cogs is arranged in an ascending manner following their sizes. The largest cog is closest to the wheel of the bike and the lowest gear. Lower gears will make pedalling easier but you will go slower.
Derailleurs help to move a cog to the other or a chainring to the other . There are front derailleurs and rear derailleurs. The front derailleur pushes the chain off of one chainring and then the chain is shifted to another chain.
The rear derailleur performs two functions: it moves the chain from cog to cog, but it also maintains chain tension when we switch from big gears to small ones.
Why Do We Use Gears?
Aside from just changing speeds and letting you bike smoothly, there are other reasons we need gears:
To avoid cross-chaining: Cross-chaining puts your drivetrain under pressure and causes damage to the bike components.
To anticipate your shifts: Gears help you control how much energy you’re spending. This allows you to change gears when there’s not too much pressure on the drivetrain. When your bike is at a stop sign, you can downshift the gears to keep biking smoothly.
To keep pedalling without too much effort: While riding you need to keep a steady cadence instead of random bursts of speeds. Gears help you with this constant shifting which avoids too much stress placed on your cardio-vascular system.
Now that we’ve learned more on gears, you’re probably thinking they’re pretty cool and want to play around with those on your bike. Maybe you checked out your bike and found that it is actually a single speed bike- it doesn’t have gears that you can shift. In this case, you might be wondering if you could add gears to your bike.
The answer is yes, you can!
Let’s talk about upgrading single-speed bikes first. Before anything, you’ll need to check if your bike is compatible with adding gears or not.
How to Check if Your Bike is Compatible with More Gears
If your bike’s frame is designed to fit a wheel hub with multiple speeds, then gears can be added to it.
In single-speed bikes with narrow frames can only support one gear. To convert it to multiple gears, the cost would be too high if you don’t already have the required parts. While selecting the gears you need to make sure the size of the cog matches the rear wheel of your bike. You’ll need to change the chain as well to accommodate the new gears.
How to Add Gears to a Single Speed Bike?
Your single speed bike will work quite well for general plain lands or slightly higher terrains. But if you choose to go mountain biking, you’ll need to expend so much energy just to climb up. The easiest way to reduce your efforts would be to upgrade your gear. The existing cassette or freewheel of your bike needs to be replaced with a 7 speed freewheel or 9 speed speed cassette. Keep the ratio of teeth on the cogs in mind when selecting the new freewheel or cassette.
Tools you’ll need to install gears
i) Gear kit
iii) Bike chain
iv) 15 mm wrench
vii) Shifter pod
viii) Shift cable
ix) A bike stand (optional)
x) A rag
N.B: The bike chain, derailleur, freewheel and shifter are usually included in the gear kit.
Follow these steps to convert single-speed bike to geared:
Step-1: Position your bike
Flip your bike upside down so that the saddle is facing the ground. You can secure the bike in position using a bike stand.
Step-2: Remove the rear wheel
Use the wrench to unscrew the bolts connecting the rear wheel to the bike frame. Remove the rear wheel from the bike frame.
Step-3: Remove the freewheel/cassette
There are two ways to remove the freewheel in a bike.
Removing freewheel using freewheel remover tool: Use a freewheel remover tool to unscrew the freewheel from the rear wheel. Gently move the tool until the freewheel comes off.
Removing freewheel without remover tool: If you don’t have a remover tool at hand, you can use a hammer and a screwdriver to remove the freewheel. Carefully jam the screwdriver head in the gap between the freewheel and the bike wheel. Use the hammer to hit the screwdriver lightly, detaching the freewheel from the bike.
Step-4: Attach the new freewheel
Place the new freewheel on the rear wheel and screw it on top of it. Use a freewheel tool to move the freewheel on the wheel. If you don’t have a freewheel tool you can just tighten the freewheel while biking. It will tighten by itself when the wheel turns.
Step-5: Attach the derailleur
Attach the derailleur onto the bike frame and use a wrench to tighten it. The derailleur is to connect your freewheel to the gear shifter and help your bike’s wheel move.
Step-6: Reattach the wheel
Reposition your rear wheel within the bike frame and reattach the nuts with a wrench to secure it. Make sure that the wheel is centered and doesn’t touch the bike frame. If you don’t ensure the correct position of the wheel while reattaching it, you won’t be able to ride your bike properly.
Step-7: Replace the chain
Your old chain is too short to incorporate both the derailleur and new freewheel so it’ll need to be changed. Break any of the links on the chain using a chain remover tool and remove it from the bike’s body. Take your new chain and attach it under the freewheel, insert it through the derailleur jockey wheels successively and lastly pull it back through the drivetrain. Your chain remover tool can also be used to reconnect the chain links.
Step-8: Installing the shifter
Lastly, you’ll have to install a shifter which will help you shift gears. First, flip your bike the right side up. Your bike’s grip should be connected to its handlebars. Attach the shifter pod to the handlebars and secure it into place by reattaching the grip. Shift the adjuster barrel so it moves all the way back and put the shift cable inside.
Push the shift cable through the shifter pod till it comes out from the other side near the rear axle. Lastly connect the cable to the cable slot of the derailleur.
And you’re done! Take your bike for a spin and see if this made your riding easier.
How will you pick the right gear for your bicycle?
Picking the right gear is important to make sure you can put your purchase to use for a long time.
Keep These Things in Mind When Selecting New Gear
Uphill riders usually prefer easier gears whereas people who ride downhill go with harder gears. If you’re unsure of the kind of track you’ll be riding, pick the middle range gears.
Larger cogs make pedalling easier but they are difficult to speed up when the bike starts moving. For this reason, the chain has to travel further for the crank arm to turn once.
Smaller cogs are harder to pedal but they are easy to speed up when the bike starts to move. This means the chain has to travel less distance for the crank arm to turn.
People usually choose a range of gears which allows them to shift between pedalling easily and power over hills or barriers as they ride their bike. If you’re in doubt, pick the middle range gears. They work for easy pedalling on plain ground and also have enough power over barriers.
Internal gearing allows you to shift from gear to gear without detaching your bike’s wheel. It’s handy if you want to shift gears easily or your derailleur breaks.
If you think your bike doesn’t need gears, try replacing your rear wheel with a single-speed one instead.
How Much Does it Cost to Put Gears on a Bike?
Depending on the type of gear system you’ll be using, your cost will vary. Generally, electronic gears might cost around $180-$200. They are a bit expensive but they last for many years. They are highly recommended for beginners so you can try those out.
If you’re planning to ride your bicycle in heavy terrain like mountains or hills etc. you can go with crank drive units. They last a lot longer than derailleur gears. These cost around $230-$250.
It is needed to exercise caution when riding your bike up hilly roads or packed roads. Taking care of your gears so they perform optimally is also important. Make sure to clean your gears regularly and check if any of your bike components need replacement. Happy biking!