Whether you’ve been riding a single-gear bike like a beach cruiser or a “fixie;” or an e-bike with a throttle–or if you’ve never been super-confident about changing gears in the first place– let’s talk about how, why, and when to use gears!

What/Where are My Gears?

Just to be clear, the gears are operated with your right hand. This is exactly the same as on traditional bikes that aren’t fixies or beach cruisers. (The levels of e-assist are on the left handlebar.)

There are different systems for changing gears, but they all have the same effect: to translate your pedaling into forward momentum. The gears themselves are all in the vicinity of your rear wheel, which is the one that is moving you forward.

Why Gears, and What is the “Right Gear”?

Baseline: an optimal riding experience (on a geared bike) includes being in the right gear. But what do we mean by this? What is the “right” gear? Think about it this way. You create forward momentum by pushing the pedals. It makes for a more pleasant ride if you don’t have to strain when you push them. It also makes for a better ride if you aren’t spinning the pedals fast, without much result. The “right” gear is the one that allows you to push with a comfortable amount of resistance, with the result that you are going as fast as you want to go.

It can be helpful to think about pushing down on the pedals at a fairly consistent rate, rhythm, or “cadence.” (Some people even hum, or listen to music that has a beat that feels good to pedal along to!) If you keep your cadence, you are always pedaling at about the same rate: sometimes with more force, like if you are going uphill, and sometimes with less force. It makes you more effective, more efficient, and it just feels good.

Most of us, pedaling on relatively level surfaces, will be in the mid-range of your gears. If you have three gears (old-school!) you’ll mostly be in second gear. You will use third gear, your highest gear, in order to continue pedaling when you are going downhill a bit, and first gear to give you a bit more oomph when going uphill. The bikes that Propel sells have in the range of 9-14 gears, so you will spend most of your time in the 4-6 gear range, saving gears 1-3 for going up steep hills, and 7-9 for going down them.

Finally, is a “gear” different from a “speed”? You probably know of bikes that are described as twelve-speeds, fifteen-speeds, etc. Calling these “speeds” is not entirely accurate. (They’re gears and gear ratios). They help determine how fast you go, but the important word in that sentence is “you”. YOU are doing the work of pedaling the bike, so really, YOU determine your speed.

Why Gears Matter for Bosch System e-Bikes

More than just helping you be efficient and feel good–as if that wasn’t enough!—being in the “right” gear is actually important for the Bosch e-bike system to operate properly. A pedal-assist motor is designed to amplify the work you put in. The way the system knows how much work you are putting in is by using sensors to measure–what else?–your cadence and force!

If you’re wondering whether you can mess it up? The answer is not really–the engineering is pretty robust. But if we are talking about optimal experience, you will not have one if you are not using your gears well. If you are in too low of a gear, you will be pedaling fast without much force. The motor will get mixed messages from the sensors, and not give you any assistance. If you are in too high of a gear, you will be pedaling too slowly, with the same result.

If you are pedaling with a comfortable amount of resistance, you will be in the right range for the electric-assist to boost your efforts. It will subtly, smoothly make you feel as if you have super-pedalling-powers! Which, we think, is the point. Happy riding! And if you have any thoughts or questions, share them below.

*Some Bosch displays can show your cadence as a number: the number of rotations the pedals are making per minute. 55-65 RPM (rotations per minute) is a range that feels good to most people, and works well with the Bosch system!

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