Gear Bikes: Pros and Cons
Gear Bikes: Pros and Cons
One of the most important decisions you have to make when choosing a bike is whether you want a single-speed or multi-gear bike. The best bike for your riding style depends on many factors, including the type of terrain you ride, distance and personal preference. To help you decide, this guide lists the pros and cons of geared bikes.
What is a gear bike?
Geared bikes have multiple gears or speeds. Shifting gears changes the gear ratio. A handlebar-mounted shifting mechanism allows you to easily shift gears while riding. The bike becomes easier to pedal when you downshift. When you upshift, the bike becomes harder to pedal.
There are two mechanisms for changing the gear ratio of a bicycle: derailleurs and internally geared hubs.
Bicycles with derailleurs have multiple rear gears and often multiple chainrings. A typical geared bike has 2 or 3 sprockets and 6-12 gears on the rear cassette or cassette. Each cassette and chainring has a different number of teeth. Shifting between sprockets with different numbers of teeth changes the gear ratio.
Both the rear gear and sprocket require separate shifting mechanisms. These are the derailleur and gear lever. Most geared bikes have front and rear derailleurs and shifters. A bike with only one chainring and multiple cassettes has only one rear derailleur and one shifter.
A handlebar-mounted shifter lets you change gears while riding. This is accomplished with a tension cable that runs from the shifter to the spring-loaded derailleur. You can upshift by manipulating the shift lever to increase the tension on the cable. This will pull the transmission to the next higher gear. You can lower the tension by manipulating the shifter. An internal spring pushes the derailleur to the next lower gear. Electronic shifters are also available. They serve the same purpose with electric motors, batteries and electronic buttons.
Shifting gears changes the number of teeth the chain runs. This changes how fast the rear wheel turns based on how fast you turn the crank. Gear ratios are calculated using the number of teeth on the sprocket and flywheel.
For example, if you are riding on a 48t chainring and 12t gearing, the gear ratio is 48/12, which is equivalent to 4. This means that for every crank rotation, the rear wheel rotates 4 times. This is an advanced gear. If you switch to a 40 ton sprocket and 20 ton gear, the gear ratio is 40/20, which is equivalent to 2. This means your rear wheel only turns 2 times for every crank rotation. This is a low grade.
Internal gear hubs use planetary gears mounted inside the rear hub to change gear ratios. There is only one sprocket and rear gear. These also use handlebar-mounted gear levers and cables to control shifting. Internal gear hubs have 2-14 gears. A hybrid system with internally-geared hubs and transmissions is also available.
Bicycle gear gives you a mechanical advantage. When you shift into a lower gear, less force is required for the pedal to turn. You can pedal faster, but the rear wheel spins slower. Low gears are great for climbing hills or riding upwind. When you shift into high gear, it takes more force to turn the crank. You pedal slower, but the rear wheel moves farther with each crank revolution. High gears are great for fast riding on flats and downhills. Mid-range gears are somewhere in between. These are best for cruising on flat surfaces.
Gear Bike Advantages
1. Geared bikes are more efficient
When riding a gear bike, you can always maintain your best rhythm. Riding at an optimal rhythm maximizes efficiency. You can ride farther while maintaining a high average speed without getting tired. For most riders, the optimal cadence will be around 60-90 rpm. For elite cyclists it will be 90-120 rpm.
You can keep your best rhythm by shifting gears. For example, your best cadence might be 80 rpm. Imagine you hit a hill and your cadence drops from 80 rpm to 60 rpm. With a geared bike, you can downshift into an easier gear that requires less force to turn the pedals. In this way, you can increase your pedaling speed to the optimum cadence of 80 rpm. The bike will slow down, but you will continue to pedal effectively.
When you start going downhill, your cadence may increase to 100 rpm. You can shift back to a harder gear to get back to the best cadence of 80 rpm. The bike will accelerate and you will continue to pedal efficiently.
Riding at an optimal rhythm keeps you at peak efficiency. You’ll use less energy because you’re not pedaling too fast or too slow, and you’re not pedaling too hard. Your heart rate will stay within a reasonable range. You won’t burn out. Cycling efficiently allows you to ride farther and maintain a higher average speed without getting tired.
2. Gear bikes are easier to climb
Most gear bikes have “granny gear.” This is an ultra-low gear designed to let you climb steep hills with ease. The granny gear is the smallest sprocket and largest rear gear. This gear has a much lower ratio than a single-speed bike.
When riding on granny gear, you can turn the casters quickly and easily and the bike will move at walking speed. It takes very little force to sell. This gear gives you a great mechanical advantage when climbing hills. As you approach a steep hill, you can drop into the lowest gear and continue to spin up. You will move slowly, but eventually you will reach the top of the mountain.
This feature makes gear bikes ideal for cycling in hilly areas. With a geared bike, you hardly ever need to get out of your car to go uphill. The ultra-low granny gear lets you climb the steepest grades without standing. The low gear also makes it easy to move again if you have to stop during a climb. Low gear is also important for cyclists and bike packers on bikes loaded with gear.
3. Riding a gear bike makes knees easier
As mentioned above, this isn’t really proven, but in some cases riding a gear bike can be more knee-prone than single-speed riding. The most common of these situations is going up a mountain.
With a geared bike, you can downshift to an easier gear on the climbs so you don’t have to pound on the hawker. This allows you to spin quickly with very little force. A quick peek with less force has less of an impact on the knee than a slow peek with force. This is so because you put less pressure on the weight-bearing surface of your knee. You use much less force in low gear. With a single-speed bike, you can’t change into an easier gear.
Another situation where riding a gear bike may be more prone to knees is from a stop. With a geared bike, you can downshift into a low gear, so you can start peddling with very little power. Kind of like you always start the car in 1st instead of 5th. It’s easier to start off in low gear. You don’t have to pound the hawker and cause stress. You can continue to upshift as the speed increases. Single speed bikes do not have this option. If you want to accelerate a single-speed bike quickly, you have to use a lot of force. This can lead to knee pain.
4. Geared bikes have a higher top speed
The highest gear ratios on geared bikes are much higher than on single-speed bikes. A higher gear ratio means that for every turn of the crank, the rear wheel makes more revolutions. For example, a geared bike might have a maximum gear ratio of 50/10. That means 50 teeth on the sprocket and 10 teeth on the rear gear. For each crank revolution, the rear wheel will make 5 revolutions (50/10=5). A single-speed bike might have a gear ratio of 44/16. This means that for every turn of the crank, the rear wheel will only turn 2.75 turns (44/16=2.75).
Higher gear ratios allow you to achieve a higher top speed on a geared bike. If you ride on the highest geared bike at max cadence and then on the single speed bike at max cadence, you will find that you can go faster on the geared bike. Your top speed depends on the gear ratio and your maximum cadence. Assuming your max cadence is the same, you will reach a faster top speed on a bike with a higher gearing.
Having a higher top speed allows you to cover more ground faster. This comes in handy when riding on flat surfaces and downhill. If you like to ride at high speed, you might prefer to ride a gear bike.
5. Geared bikes are more versatile
Modern geared bikes have up to 30 speeds (3×10 gears) with over 500% gear range. This gearing makes the bike more versatile. The best gear exists for every level and type of terrain you might encounter while riding.
This allows you to ride in a wider range of conditions with a geared bike. For example, you can ride steep hills, headwinds and long descents while pedaling at the best rhythm. With a single-speed bike, you may need to walk the bike uphill and slide down the hill. You can’t always sell.
The wide range of gears also allows you to use the geared bike for a variety of rides. For example, you can pack your bike in a suitcase or bike bag and travel or pack your bike. You can also take part in local races and take part in bike races.
6. Those with poor physical strength can ride a variable speed bike
The lower gearing allows those who are less fit to ride the bike. You never need to overwork yourself. even when climbing mountains. You can simply move down and rotate your legs quickly and easily. You hardly have to sweat.
This makes gear bikes a great choice for those who are older, out of shape, recovering from injury or illness, overweight or simply lack the stamina or strength to ride a single speed. As your fitness improves, you can start to use harder gears and ride faster and with more power.
7. Sprockets and rear gears last longer
When riding a geared bike, you don’t need to change the chainrings and rear gear as often. The reason is that the wear of these components is distributed among the multiple gears. You might have 3 instead of always riding on one sprocket. Instead of always riding on one rear gear, you have 8-12.
Gear Bike Disadvantages
1. Geared bikes need more maintenance
Geared bikes have more components to maintain. There are many more moving parts. For example, there are derailleurs, gear levers, and gear lever cables. There are also multiple sprockets and rear gears.
In order for your shifting bike to shift smoothly, you must adjust the derailleur on a regular basis. If you don’t, your bike will start bumpy and shift poorly. Some of the issues you might encounter include skipping gears, ghost shifting, gear grinding, and trouble shifting into specific gears. These are all signs that you need to maintain your drivetrain.
How often you must maintain your drivetrain depends on many factors, including the number of rides you ride and the conditions you are riding. Typically, you have to tune your derailleur about once a year. Over time, the derailleur cable can stretch and make your derailleur unadjustable. You may need to replace the shifter cable every 1-5 years.
Geared bikes tend to wear out the chain faster. The reason is that the chain runs at an angle when you ride in very low and very high gears. When your chain runs at an angle, the chain plates rub against the teeth of the gears. This will cause some extra wear on the chain. On a geared bike, you may need to replace the chain 500-1000 miles earlier than on a single-speed bike. This only applies to bikes with derailleurs. The chain runs straight on a bike with hub gears.
Cleaning and lubricating a geared bike also takes more time because there are more places where dirt can build up. For example, you must clean all gears and sprockets. You must also clean the derailleur and gear lever. If your bike has an internally geared hub, you must change the oil every 5000 kilometers or so.
2. Gear bikes are heavier
Because they have more parts, geared bikes are heavier than single-speed bikes. The derailleur, shifter, cables and housing, as well as the extra sprocket and rear cog all add some weight. These parts don’t exist on single-speed bikes.
On average, a geared bike is about 1-1.5 kg (2.2-3.3 lbs) heavier than a geared bike. The exact weight difference depends on the mass of the components. The rear derailleur weighs approximately 225 grams. Additional sprockets can weigh 100-200 grams. The front derailleur weighs about 100 grams. The gear lever may weigh 400 grams.
When comparing high-end bikes, the weight difference will be smaller because the high-end components are lighter. A high-end geared road bike weighs about 8kg or about 18lbs. A similar high-end single speed might only weigh 7kg or 15.5lbs.
Of course, the drivetrain isn’t the only part of the bike that determines weight. If weight is important to you, you also need to consider the weight of the frame, wheels and other components. Geared bikes can be lighter than single speed. For example, a high-end geared bike with a carbon fiber frame may be lighter than a steel single-speed bike. Carbon frame, much lighter than steel. Wheels also have a big impact on the weight of the bike.
3. Gear bikes cost more
Geared bikes require additional components such as derailleurs and shifters. These precision-manufactured drivetrain components are some of the most expensive parts in a bike. Also, geared bikes have extra sprockets and gears. The extra parts add to the cost of the bike. For this reason, geared bikes cost more than single-speed bikes.
The cost difference between a geared bike and a single-speed bike depends on the quality of the bike. On the low end, a geared bike might be only $150 more than a single speed. Low-end kits are pretty cheap. At the high end, a geared bike can cost $1500 more than a geared bike. High-end kits are very expensive. Especially the electronics kit.
When comparing geared and single-speed bikes at the same price, you may find that the geared bike will come with a lower-end frame and wheelset. This is necessary to offset the extra cost of group sets.
It’s also important to remember that when you ride a gear bike, you’re also spending more money on maintenance and repairs. If you can’t maintain the bike yourself, you’ll have to take it to a bike shop and pay for a derailleur adjustment. If your transmission is damaged in an accident, you may need to purchase a replacement transmission or derailleur. You must also replace the chainrings and cassettes regularly. These extra costs can add up over the life of the bike. Especially if you have to hire someone to perform maintenance for you. If you can do it yourself, the difference in maintenance costs will be much smaller.
4. Damage to geared bikes is more common
The two most commonly damaged parts of a bike are the rear derailleur and the derailleur hanger. These parts are easily damaged due to their location. The derailleur hangs precariously on the side of the bike close to the ground. When riding or transporting a bike, the derailleur can easily bump into things. This may cause damage.
You can also bend the derailleur hanger when you strike the derailleur. On some bikes, the derailleur is attached directly to the frame. Hitting the derailleur against something will bend the frame.
5. The mechanics of geared bikes are more complex
Geared bikes have more moving parts than single-speed bikes. Both derailleurs and shifters contain complex, precision-manufactured mechanical components. Electronic shifting systems are more complex. They contain wiring, batteries and complex electronic components.
Because geared bikes have more complex moving parts, there are more parts that can break, wear out, or get stuck with dust and debris. Ultimately, these parts require thorough cleaning, maintenance or replacement.
You also need some mechanical knowledge if you want to maintain a gear bike yourself. You need to learn at least how to tune the derailleur and change the shift cable. You don’t want to take your bike to the bike shop for every little problem. These skills take some time and effort to learn.
If you understand basic bike maintenance, the complexity of the components doesn’t matter. Quality derailleurs and shifters will last for decades. For example, I still ride an 80s Schwinn High Sierra, which has original drivetrain components.
6. Gear bikes are harder to ride
In order to ride a geared bike quickly and efficiently, you must know how to choose the right gear for your riding conditions. You also have to change gears regularly. This requires some thought.
For example, you have to remember which sprocket and cassette you are using. This is important to avoid cross-linking. You have to remember which shift button to press to shift in the direction you want. You also have to remember which shifter controls the front derailleur and which controls the rear derailleur. When you’re a beginner, it’s easy to change the wrong derailleur or upshift when you’re about to downshift. You must press the shift lever with the proper amount of force to avoid over-shifting, worn gears, or missed shifts. All of this requires some thought. You need to pay more attention to what you are doing.
At the same time, you have to pedal and drive the bike. Shifting makes riding a geared bike more complicated than riding a single speed. Especially suitable for beginners and children.
7. Gear bikes can be noisy
If you don’t maintain your geared bike properly, the drivetrain can get noisy. The chain makes a grinding noise when riding in certain gears. This is caused by the friction of the chain plates on the gear teeth. Shifting from one gear to the next also causes a loud thump.
These problems can be solved by properly tuning the transmission and regularly cleaning and lubricating the drivetrain. A properly maintained geared bike can run almost as quietly as a single speed. There is still a little noise when shifting gears.
If you want to ride a quiet bike, consider opting for a bike with internally geared hubs and a belt drive. These systems operate almost silently.
8. Reduced physical activity while riding a gear bike.
You don’t burn as many calories per hour when riding a gear bike. The reason is that bikes with gears are less effortless to ride due to the mechanical advantages provided by the gears. The exercise intensity is low. You can expend less energy when pedaling fast without using too much force to turn the pedals. This is especially true when climbing hills and riding against wind. You don’t ride as hard and your heart rate will stay low.
You can ride a geared bike longer than a single speed without getting tired. This allows you to do longer, lower-intensity workouts. Low-intensity aerobic exercise is great for building aerobic capacity. You’ll burn fat and improve muscle health.
Geared bikes look more complicated and messy than single-speed bikes. There are derailleurs attached to the frame and a handlebar-mounted shifter. The shifter cable runs along the frame. There are also multiple sprockets and cogs.
One feature that improves the look of a geared bike is internal cable routing. This is when the shifter and brake cables pass through the inside of the frame as they run from the handlebar to the derailleur. This feature is common on high-end geared bikes. Today, most electronic drivetrains are wireless. These also clean up the look of the bike.
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