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How Do The Gears On A Mountain Bike Work?

As a mountain biker it’s useful to learn how mountain bike gears actually work.

Today’s mountain bikes offer their riders more control than ever. Part of the reason is that they feature such intricate gears, which allow riders to pedal at a consistent pace no matter the condition of their track or the slop of whatever hill they are tackling. It’s quite fascinating to learn how mountain bike gears work.

How Do The Gears On A Mountain Bike Work? | Mountain Bikes Lab

Modern mountain bikes can boast as many as 27 different gear ratios. To get these gear ratios, modern mountain bikes rely on a combination of three sprockets of different sizes in their fronts and nine in their backs.

This may seem like overkill, but there’s a good reason for all these gears: They allow riders to pump the pedals on their mountain bikes at a steady, consistent pace. Thanks to all these gears, this can happen even on steep slopes or deep drops.

Think of how different riding a mountain bike would be if these bikes only came with a single gear. In a setup like this, each time a rider rotates the bike’s pedals one turn, the mountain bike’s rear wheel would also rotate one turn.

That’s known as a 1-to-1 gear ratio.

If a rider is pedaling a mountain bike with a rear wheel that is 26 inches in diameter, with a 1-to-1 gear ratio, that rider would cover just 81.6 inches of ground with one full pump of the pedals. For riders pedaling at a speed of 50 RPM, a mountain bike would cover just over 340 feet of road or ground every minute.

That may seem fast, but it’s actually not. That only comes out to 3.8 MPH. That’s roughly the equivalent of walking speed.

Different ratios, though, give mountain bike riders faster speeds. For instance, for a mountain biker to ride downhill at a speed of 25 MPH with a 50-RPM cadence on the pedals, that rider would need a gear ratio of 5.6-to-1.

Mountain bike that features many gears will always provide riders with a large number of increments that fall between a 1-to-1 gear ratio and a 6.5-to-1 ratio. That means that riders can always pedal their mountain bikes at 50 RPM no matter how fast they are actually moving.

What does this mean for actual mountain biking?

For one thing, riders who are trying to pedal themselves up a steep hill should choose the smallest sprocket on their mountain bike’s front chain rings.

They should then shift through the nine gears that are available on the mountain bike’s rear.

Riders with a mountain bike that boasts a greater number of speeds on the back sprocket will have an advantage for getting up steep hills easier and therefore quicker.

Using you gears sensibly will mean you will enjoy your ride that much more and you will not get as tired as you might have done.

This means you will be able to ride further and more often, so enjoy learning how your mountain bike gears work.

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