Your bike needs gears for getting up the hills. The main thing is to have some low climbing gears so you can spin your legs (‘high cadence’) and don’t have to grind away (‘low cadence’) or stand up in the saddle.
Spinning in a low gear with a high cadence uses your cardiovascular system, whereas grinding in a higher gear with a low cadence will quickly exhaust your leg muscles.
How do I know if my gears are low enough?
We’ll flip that question: are you standing up in the saddle while going up hills, even though you’re in your lowest (‘easiest’) gear?
If so: they probably aren’t low enough!
For a more technical answer, check out these resources:
- Gear Ratios: How to Select Touring Bike Gearing (CyclingAbout.com)
- Gear Ratios for Bikepacking & Ultra-Distance Cycling (RideFar.info)
As a rough guide…
If you have three chain rings (the rings near your pedals), then you’re almost certainly good to go (do the maths below if you want to be sure).
If you have two chain rings, then it’s time for some maths…
- Count the number of teeth on the smallest chain ring. Write the number down – hopefully it’s 34 or lower. The smaller the better.
- Now go to the back of the bike and count the number of teeth on the largest sprocket on your rear wheel. Write the number down – hopefully it’s at least 25. The bigger the better.
If you think your bike has inappropriate gears, you have three choices:
- Replace the cassette and/or chain rings on your bike
- Get a different bike
Option 1 is definitely the cheapest and not the most difficult thing to do yourself.
If you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re not prepared to get stuck into Youtube videos, then ask at your local bike shop and tell them you want a proper climbing gear.