How to Shift Gears on a Road Bike More Efficiently

In case you just got your first road bike, or you’re looking to improve your shifting – you’re most likely wondering how to shift gears on a road bike.

You have nothing to worry about. Shifting gears on a road bike isn’t anything like shifting gears on a manual car.

However, there are some rules and techniques which will improve your ride, make shifting smoother, and even prevent wear of a couple of components.

Whether you’re a beginner or advanced rider – this post is ideal for you to either learn something useful or remind yourself a lection.

How Do You Shift Gears on a Road Bike?

No matter what road bike you own, the shifting will almost always be the same. Left for front and right for the back.

Shifter Types

Shifter types

This means, if you use a mechanical shifter, you will shift the front derailleur with left and rear derailleur with the right shifter.

In case you know brands, you’ll know by now that there are 3 main brands/manufacturers for road bikes:

  • Shimano Total Integration (STI)
  • SRAM Double Tap
  • Campagnolo Ergopower

However, most modern road bikes often come with electric shifters which are still produced by the main three manufacturers listed above. But that’s something we’ll save for another post.

Depending on the type of a shifter your road bike has, you will be shifting by either pressing the paddle behind the brake or by pushing the button for downshifts and using the paddle for upshifts.

Pedal While Shifting

Pedal while shifting

When you plan to shift a gear, you should keep pedaling throughout the shift. However, this doesn’t mean you can change gears while applying pressure to the pedals.

Instead, you should ease off the pedals but just keep rotating them without putting any additional pressure. This will ensure a smooth shift.

If you don’t pedal while shifting, you will soon notice that nothing happens until you start pedaling again. This might lead to a stuck chain between the gears- which is something you don’t want to experience.

Anticipate the Shift

Even though this might sound weird, you should anticipate the shift – just like you do when you’re driving your car (if you drive a car with manual transmission).

Instead of shifting a gear when you’ve already hit a steep hill, anticipate your shift and be prepared for the hill. You don’t have to shift too early, but make sure you know exactly when to shift so you don’t hit the hill with a bottom gear.

It’s always easier maintaining the cadence and power which also lets you ease through the road.

How Do You Shift Down on a Road Bike?

Down shifting on a road bike

Most riders are confused by downshifting on a road bike, but there is absolutely no reason to be confused.

We think that most riders overthink downshifting and that’s where complication starts.

Shifting down on a road bike happens the same way shifting up happens.

When shifting down, you should anticipate the shift, make sure you keep pedaling but you aren’t putting stress or pressure on the pedals – and make the shift by either pressing the lever or button (depending on your shifter type).

But what’s the biggest difference is the ability to skip gears. Just like in a car with a manual transmission – when you are shifting up, you have to shift to every and each gear. However, when you’re shifting down, you can skip a gear and directly shift into a gear you require.

The very similar thing happens with the bike shifter as well. When you’re shifting down, you have to hit every gear. However, when you’re shifting up – you can quickly shift by holding the shifter and skipping the gears.

Some advanced shifters will allow you to double press the shifter which is ideal when you’re rushing down a hill and you require the last gear in your cadence.

Do You Shift Gears While Pedaling?

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s important to shift while pedaling – and if you try shifting without pedaling, nothing will happen until you pedal again.

However, you have to find a fine line between putting pressure on pedals and not pedaling at all. But believe us, that’s not hard to do even if you’re getting on a road bike for the first time ever.

But why is it important that you don’t put pressure on pedals, you might wonder?

The reason is simple. You can even give it a try one time to see how the shifting changes. It puts pressure on the cog which doesn’t ensure a smooth shift. If you do this often, you could wear out your chain, cassette and cog a lot easier.

This will only result in often replacement of the components, which is an additional expense you can easily avoid.

Cross Chaining – Something You Shouldn’t Do

Cross chain shifting

Cross chaining is getting to the angle of extremes where one gear is forcing chain stay in a cross between another gear.

If you have a look at the image below, you will understand exactly what cross chain is.

This can wear your chain out by prolonging its length so you will have to replace it sooner than if you were paying attention to cross chaining.

But other than a chain, cross chaining can do serious damage to your drivetrain. Newer groupsets are made to cope well with cross chain and prevent any drivetrain damage, but you still should never do it.


Because the chosen gears when you’re in a cross chaining aren’t efficient. Any gears from such position will lose you power and speed and in most cases a combination of both.


If you’ve read this article until the end, by now, you should know how to shift gears on a road bike. But you should also know that shifting gears on a road bike isn’t complicated and it’s fairly simple in practice.

Give yourself time to learn the shifter type, or even try out a couple of different shifters (if you have the chance) – as this will help you learn what’s out there and how smooth shifting is.

What’s your favorite shifter type? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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