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Gear selection - advice from British Cycling

Added 14 Jul 2014
Gear selection - advice from British Cycling

Knowing how to change gear effectively and maintain an efficient cadence, will bring tangible benefits to your cycling. Correct gear selection can really change your riding for the better. Good gear selection is important for a number of reasons, not only will it improve your average speed, it also helps reduce the likelihood of cycling injuries.

Riding in the correct gear will undoubtedly improve your overall cycling experience, keeping you on the bike for longer.

We want to enhance and support your riding as much as we can, and one of the ways we do this is by sharing our knowledge and insight into cycling not only as a sport but also as a rewarding and fun pastime. So whether you ride a Pinarello just like ‘Wiggo’, a three speed with a basket or anything in-between, then you are sure to find use for these top tips on gear selection.

What is cadence?
We refer to cadence frequently when we talk about gear selection, but what does it actually mean?

Cadence is defined in the dictionary as ‘The beat rate or measure of any rhythmic movement’, so music has a cadence which is its beat. In cycling the cadence is the rate at which you turn your pedals. No surprise then that in gyms and at spin classes they use music to get you to ride at a preferred cadence, primarily to get you sweating. Up tempo music will result in a high cadence.

If you select a specific gear on your bike then on a flat road and in calm conditions, it will be your cadence that determines your speed. Eighty revolutions per minute (rpm) will produce more speed than sixty revolutions per minute. By changing gear during a ride your aim is to maintain your cadence at the optimum rate which is between 80 and 100 rpm.

A couple of the key points to remember are:
• When changing gear you should momentarily ease the pressure on the pedals. This will help with the smooth movement of the chain. Too much pressure on the chain by standing on the pedals for example may result in the chain coming off, or in extreme circumstances, snapping.
• Before a hill the temptation is to automatically change into your lowest gear. Try not to change your gears too quickly or too much. By changing too early or too much you can lose that precious momentum which will carry you into the hill. Try to pick a gear that will allow a cadence of at least 80rpm throughout the time you are going uphill.

Read the full advice on gear selection on British Cycling's Insight Zone.

 Want more advice like this? The British Cycling Insight Zone is full of comprehensive cycling advice and know-how from British Cycling’s experts, to help you improve your riding. View the Insight Zone.
British Cycling members have full access to the Insight Zone - become a member today and enjoy:
• Up to £10m third party liability insurance  
Peace of mind insurance to keep you covered every time you ride your bike
• Free legal support and advice
Access to our expert team who can help you in the event of an incident
• Discounts on cycling gear
Enjoy discounts at Wiggle (at least 12% off) and Halfords (10% off)