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Bike Gearing: precision mechanics
From the first velocipedes invented in 1818 to the mountain bike, the history of cycling is one of constant technical improvement. One of the essential components of a bike is its gearing. Your bike will always have one of four gearing systems: single speed, fixed gears, hub gears and derailleur gears.
A single speed bike is equipped with a single gear ratio: one chainring at the front and a smaller sprocket at the rear. Single speeds have a drivetrain with a freewheel mechanism. This means that the wheel can rotate without the pedals needing to and you’re able to back pedal.
- No gears or shifting means an uncomplicated, fuss-free ride
- The absence of gears and brakes makes for a far lighter bike
- Easy to maintain and clean
- Uphills and downhills can be a bit of a pain without extra gears
A fixed-gear bike is a type of single speed bicycle, but one that has a drivetrain with no freewheel mechanism. This means that the bike pedals must continue to rotate whenever the bike is moving – even if you stop pedalling.
- As with the single speed, no gears etc mean a simple, unfussy ride and a far lighter bike
- Constant rotation of the pedals offers a unique ride feel and thrill
- Stylish looks
- Less user-friendly. They are harder to corner, ascend and descend
- No handbrakes, so you may choose to have some installed
Internal hub gears work on the principle of planetary gearing and are mounted on the rear wheel hub. The classic gear hub offers three speeds and five speeds, however there are modern gear hubs available today that offer many more speeds than that.
- Long life and requires little maintenance
- Usually uncomplicated operation
- It’s also possible to shift gears when the bike is stationary
- Protected from the elements
- Possibly perceived limited sporting flair
- Harder to maintain if you need to
The majority of bicycles are equipped with a derailleur gear transmission system which is made up of the following: a front derailleur, rear derailleur, crankset, pedals, shifters, brakes, rear cassette and chain.
- Spare parts are usually available quickly
- More sporty flair than a hub gear system
- Comparatively low weight
- Ascent and descents are much easier with a range of gears at your disposal
- High maintenance and high cleaning effort required
- Chain protection is often not possible