Shifting Gears


  1. Student is able to shift gears while on a flat course.
  2. Student is able to explain which circumstances call for a hard gear and which call for an easy gear.


This lesson teaches students how and when to use the range of gears available to cover varied terrain in an efficient way.

Students will practice shifting up while accelerating and shifting down while slowing down. If possible, students should practice shifting on a rideable hill.

Key vocabulary:

  • Cadence: how quickly the pedals are moving - too high of a cadence will lead to bouncing or spinning out, too low a cadence requires standing and "mashing" on the pedals.
  • Shifting: the process of changing the gears to suit the terrain.
  • Derailleur: the bicycle part that changes the gears on the rear wheel of the bicycle.

Tip: Use the supplied repair stand with the "drive side" of the bicycle facing students to show what the action of twisting the shifter does to the derailleur and gears.

Volunteer Connector

Ask students: would it be easier on our muscles to walk across the gym, or to do lunges all the way across the gym? Would it be faster to run across the gym or take tiny steps on their tiptoes?

Using a gear that is too hard or too easy for the situation can make cycling harder than it needs to be. Using the correct gear allows cyclists to ride farther and faster.

We need EASY gears for riding up steep hills or through thick grass and HARD gears so we don’t "spin out" when riding on flat or downhill terrain.


  1. Set up an oval course with no obstacles. If possible, this course would work well on grass.


  • Cones

Shifting Gears Drill


Being able to competently perform this skill and shifting at the same time is critical to being able to ride on roads.

  • Student begins drill in the easiest gear (#1 on the shifter indicator) in the Power Start position (on a level surface).
  • Have student ride the entire lap in the same gear, maintaining a smooth, predictable line around the course.
  • On the second lap, have the student shift to gear 4 and complete the oval again.
  • On the third lap, have the student shift to the hardest gear (gear 7 on the indicator of most Bike Club bikes) and complete the oval again.
  • Discuss how each lap felt: Were the pedals going too fast on lap 1? Was it hard to get going on lap 3?
  • Ride at least one lap starting in gear 1 and shifting to successively harder gears as the student accelerates.

Tip: Pedaling slightly softer while shifting will make gear changes less jarring and is easier on the bike.

Volunteer Connector Summary

Team Builder

  • Ask students what gear they would use to climb a steep hill.
  • Ask students what gear they would use on flat terrain riding with the group.