What Bike Gear to Use on Flat Road

By Rachel Lee
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You need to keep many numbers in mind while shifting gears and keeping track of the two derailleurs. On top of that, if the gear is too low, you may find yourself left behind. In contrast, a gear that is too high will cause difficulty turning the pedals fast.

So, what gear should you use on a flat road? Ideally, the Middle Gear is the right choice, especially if you are a beginner. However, the High Gear would be most suitable for veteran bikers who wish to ride fast.

There are a few other factors to consider as well. For instance, if the wind blows from behind you, you need to use the harder gear. Alternatively, you should choose the easier gear when the wind blows towards you. You also need to know when to shift.

The Use of Gears in a Cycle

Gears make an effective and essential tool in biking. They help you pedal better by controlling the cadence, meaning how fast you spin the pedals. Changing gears based on the terrain can make you ride more comfortably and efficiently.

When riding a bike without gear, you must exert maximum effort, especially when going uphill. With the right gear shift, you can make uphill or downhill riding easier and go faster with less effort.

Of course, for flat roads, the situation is a bit different. Gears can still make the ride smooth, especially if you have a long road ahead. However, you may not need to shift gears frequently on a flat road, and a single-gear bike will be sufficient.

How Many Gears Does a Bike Have?

There are no fixed rules to this, and different bikes can have a different number of gears. Now, most bikes usually come with 1, 3, 18, 21, 24, and 27 speeds.

Pro Tip: In the case of bikes, gears and speeds are the same. So, a 21-speed bike will have 21 gears.

Now, irrespective of the number of gears, bikes usually come with two sets of gears:

  • The front gears, also known as chainrings
  • The rear gears, known as sprockets or rear cogs

Pro Tip: A 27-speed bike will have three chainrings and nine rear cogs.

There is another special gear in some bikes, known as the hub gear. Of course, fixed-gear bikes come with only a single gear ratio. These do not have any derailleur or hub gearing. So, gear shifting is out of the question for single-speed bikes.


When you need to make heavy changes in your gears, you use the front gears or chainrings. You can control the front derailleur with the left shifter on your handlebar. Controlling the front derailleur with your left hand can make gearing a lot easier.

Now there are three types of chainring that you need to know about.

  • The Smallest Chainring: Useful when going uphill to reach the maximum speed
  • The Medium Chainring: Useful for regular cruising on the streets and other flat terrains
  • The Large Chainring: Useful when going at high speed, especially while riding downhill, but can also be used on flat roads.

Sprockets or Rear Cogs

Sprockets or rear cogs help pull a linked chain on your bike, helping it move. This helps in converting the feet movement of the rider into bike wheel rotations. Rear cogs are most helpful in making more subtle changes in the oration. You can control the derailleur to shift the chain up and down with the right shifter.

Pro Tip: Use the left shifter to control the front derailleur and the right shifter for the rear derailleur.

Hub Gears

Hub gears allow you to shift even while being stationary. They are different from the conventional derailleur system of your bike. The best part about hubs is that you don’t need to pedal for changing gears.

Now, gear shifting may seem unnecessary on flat terrain but think of the city’s stop-and-go traffic. Hub gears can indeed make the commute a lot easier for you.

How Do Bike Gears Work?

Gears are there not just to make going uphill easier but also to help you ride smoother and faster on flat, level grounds. Now bikes that come with a higher number of gears are considered to be high gears. Similarly, low-gear bikes have a low number of gears.

Except for fixed single-gear bikes, you can change the gear numbers with the help of shifters on the handlebars, as mentioned earlier. You can either downshift or upshift the gear system of your bike.

How to Choose the Right Gear Ratio

Changing the gear ratio can significantly impact the way you ride. You will have difficulty accelerating with a higher gear ratio, as it gives low cadence. However, it will be easier for you to maintain the high speed.

On the other hand, a smaller ratio helps you increase the rpm for the exact opposite effect. That means you can pedal more efficiently but have to spin more to maintain the balance.

How do you implement this concept for flat roads?

Ideally, you should choose a gear ratio of 2.6 to 3 for flat terrains. Now combine that with a cadence of 90 rpm, and you should be able to ride at around 18 miles per hour.

A Quick Summary of Shifting

Upshifting means going to a higher gear, and going to a lower gear is called downshifting or shifting down. It means that you will use a large or smaller ring, depending on your choice.

For instance, you can downshift using the left shifter and use the smallest ring that is 1. Usually, bikes have rings 1, 2, and 3 on the left side, with 3 being the biggest ring.

On the opposite, the right shifter allows you to change the rings from 1 through 6, with 1 being the largest and 6 being the smallest. Keeping these in mind, you can easily shift gear numbers.

Pro Tip: Changing gears with the left-hand shifter makes bigger changes than the right-hand shifter.

That is also why you should change gears slowly, so your chains do not drop. Ideally, you should change one gear at a time, whether clicking up or down. Also, make sure to pedal softly when gear shifting.

Different Types of Gears for Different Terrains

Once you become adept at using the right combination of gears, you can have no trouble at all riding on any terrain. But for the uninitiated, knowing about the different gears can be helpful.

Not all gears are suitable for all types of terrain. Therefore, you need to understand the different types to choose the best one for your ride. This has a significant impact on the way you ride as well. For instance, you need to select a lighter gear if the pedal stroke is slow to minimize effort.

Low Gear

Low gear is when you combine the small chainring with the larger rear cogs. This is perfect for riding uphill or towards the wind. This way, the gear will keep your bike pedals spinning even when the road is pointing up. As a result, you can have a steady climb without putting in too much effort.

Middle Gear

When riding through the countryside, or any field, you should shift to the middle gear. You do this by combining the middle chainring on triple rear cogs. This is also useful for beginners. Always remember to keep a relaxed mind and figure out which gear works best.

High Gear

This is important when you want to ride faster. High gear is also great for climbing down. You can achieve a high gear by combining the smallest sprockets with the big front gear. This way, you can cover longer distances with each pedal spin.

So, to sum it up:

  • Low gear: Small chainring + largest sprockets (e.g., 1-3)
  • Middle or Normal gear: Small chainring on double/ middle chainring on triple+ middle sprockets (e.g., 3-6)
  • High gear: Big chainring + smallest sprockets (e.g., 4-7)

The Final Verdict on Choosing the Right Gear for Flat Roads

The middle gear is optimal for flat roads, for sure. Since it keeps the bike steady, you can use the middle gear for regular flat terrains.

However, shifting to high gear would be the right choice if you want to go faster and have a long road ahead.

So, you have to make the call, depending on your expertise and experience of riding a bike. In the end, you alone can make the right decision. So, it is recommended that you try your hands at different gears for some time before making the decision.

Of course, this is given that you have multiple gears on your bike. Usually, single-gear bikes are suitable for flat roads too. It takes a lot more effort to ride these than geared ones, though, primarily through rough surfaces.

The only positive side is that these bikes are a lot lighter than their geared counterparts. So, you can maneuver them with less effort.

Related Questions

1.    What is the easiest gear on a bike?

The most accessible gear on your bike would be the lower or smaller gear. This is a combination of a smaller chainring at the front with the big rear cog. Since it is easy to pedal on a smaller chainring, this gear is the most suitable for beginners. Also, you will have less trouble riding a long way.

2.    How to know which gear to use on your bike?

If you want to ride faster for a short distance, you should use the higher gears. On the other hand, if you have a long day of commuting, then it is better to use lower gears. Try to avoid chain crossing since the large chainring causes the most resistance.

Also, for going uphill or downhill, use lower and higher gears and middle gear for flat roads.

3.    Should you change gears while pedaling?

Yes, pedaling while changing gear is the best practice. It won’t work if you try to shift the gears while standing still. You should maintain this when shifting gears from lower to higher or medium.

4.    What do you do if you drop your chain?

Slowly pull over and get off your bike gently. Then push the rear derailleur toward the front wheel. After that, you will have to put the chain back into the chainring manually. Now lift your rear wheel off the ground and kick to spin the pedals a few times. This is to make sure that the chainring will run smoothly.

See Also:
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