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Derailleur Gears: A Practical Guide to Their Use and Operation: Road Bike Derailleur
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Gears. Amazing things. The combination of two different sized cogs and a chain lets you power down hills, cruise on the flat and climb up a gradient. What a great invention. Not that I'm knocking single speeds - which we all ride here in the workshop - but the multi-geared bicycle is a formidable invention.
Changing gears, though, is another matter. Most modern bikes are equipped with a derailleur gearing system - stay with me, we’ll get to the terminology - where the chain runs between many different cogs. These cogs are both turning between your feet and attached to the rear wheel, giving the rider a sometimes bewildering number of gears to choose between, the most common being 21, 24 or 27.
Trying to avoid a massively technical breakdown of the physics of how bicycle gearing works, this article focuses more on the practicalities of changing and operating gears.
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Riding a bike with gears can be quite a daunting experience. With practice and understanding, though, the relationship between you and your steed can become a truly satisfying experience. When you press that shifter/lever, twist your wrist or change gear with your newly invented, helmet mounted, laser guided unit, it really helps to have some understanding of what is actually happening back there.
If you would like it to be really easy, think about getting a bike with an internal rear hub. With these, the chain runs on just one cog and all the gear changing action takes place in the hub - very clever. Back in the day these generally had just three gears and were found mainly on traditional and ladies bikes. Today there are some excellent modern internal hubs with 7, 8 and even 14 gears. We regularly convert our customers’ bikes to use these.
If your chain moves between different cogs on the rear wheel, then you have a derailleur gear system. At least 95% of the bikes we see in the workshop are fitted with these. They are more complex to use than an internal hub, but have a lot of advantages.
Please note: Throughout this document it is assumed that your bike is in good working order and that your gear systems are correctly set-up and in tune.
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