How To Change Gears On a Road Bike

Changing gears on a road bike is different from a mountain or hybrid bike but simple when you know how, so today we’re going to look at how to change gears on a road bike. 

Bikes with drop bars provide more hand positions than bikes with flat bars which is sometimes seen as an advantage on longer rides. Modern drop bar levers incorporate braking and gear shifting controls in the same lever so that shifting and braking can be performed in the different hand positions.

How to Change Gears On a Road Bike- Different Levers

Shimano Dual Control 

Shimano dual control levers have one long blade integrated with the brake lever (red) and a second smaller one or a button on the inner side of the lever (green).  Let’s take a look at how to change gears on a road bike with Shimano dual control. 

Firstly, push the blades towards the inside of the bars.

Pulling the brake lever blade towards the handlebars will apply the brake.

Push on the main blade to shift in one direction. The right hand lever will shift the rear derailleur from higher to lower gear. Each click moves the derailleur one cog.

The left hand lever will shift the front derailleur from a lower to a higher gear. 

Push on the smaller blade or the button to shift in the other direction. The right shifter will shift the rear derailleur from a lower to a higher gear

and the left lever will shift the front derailleur from a higher to a lower gear. 


The left hand lever will sometimes have more “clicks” than the number of cogs at the front. This is a trim function and means that the derailleur can be moved a small amount to stop it rubbing against the chain. In this section we explore how to change gears on a road bike using the trim function to achieve a smooth transition with no rubbing

 Starting with the derailleur on the smallest cog and the lever in the lowest gear, move through the rear gears. When the rear gear is on the two smallest cogs, the chain may rub on the derailleur.

Now move your left hand lever one click. This should shift the derailleur far enough to stop the rubbing but not far enough to change gear.

By pushing the right hand lever again, the chain should now move to the next cog.

Now move the right hand lever to move the rear derailleur down the gears.  

If the chain starts rubbing on the inside of the front derailleur, then click once with the small lever and the derailleur should shift enough to stop rubbing.  

One more click on that lever should move the derailleur to the smaller cog.

Sram Double Tap

Sram integrated brake and shift levers employ one small lever (red) behind the main brake lever blade and this moves the derailleurs in both directions. 

To control the rear derailleur the right hand gear lever is pushed inwards. A small movement of one click moves the derailleur to a higher gear.

To change to a lower gear, move the lever past one index point to the next click.

By keeping on pushing the lever it is possible to move one to three lower cogs in one action.

For the front derailleur the lever moves in the same way with a push and release to move to a lower gear and a longer push to go to a higher gear. 

Hopefully you now know how to change gears on a road bike. To learn more about indexing gears, check out our blog post.

Why do you need to change gears on a road bike?

Gears convert the effort you put in at the pedals to a certain output at your wheel. There’s only so much force your muscles can produce and usually an optimum cadence (how fast you spin your pedals) at which you’ll be most efficient. So, if riding up a hill, downshift your gears so your legs make more revolutions than the rear wheel, resulting in lower speed but higher torque.

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