How Many Gears can a Mountain Bike Have?

There are quite a few elements to consider when deciding what kind of mountain bike to get. You have to think about how knobbly you want the tires, how high you need the handlebars, and how large the wheels need to be for your stature.

But what about the gears? What do they do? And how many do you need to have a good mountain bike experience?

Let’s break down everything you need to know about mountain bike gears and how many gears will be enough for you.

What Do Bike Gears Do? 

bike gears help you pedal easily throughout your entire journey
To put it simply, bike gears help you pedal easily throughout your entire journey, whether you’re going uphill, downhill, or riding on a completely flat road. Mountain bikes, in particular, tend to have many gears.

They are equipped with several low gears to help the rider climb the steep inclines found on biking trails and hilly areas. The more gears you have, the more options to put your bike in the exact gear for specific terrain.

To find out how many gears a mountain bike has, you divide the number of front chainrings by the rear cassette cogs.

The lower the gear, the easier it is to pedal. Therefore, you would want to go down to the lowest gear when going uphill and switch to a higher gear for your descent.

How Many Gears Do You Need on a Mountain Bike?

the amount of gears on a mountain bike ranges drastically
The amount of gears on a mountain bike ranges drastically. A mountain bike can have up to 40 gears or be a single-gear bike. It all depends on how complex your riding is going to be and how much control you want over your pedaling experience.

Keep in mind that more gears are a little more complicated to ride. This is why children’s bikes have fewer gears than adult bikes. Learning how to shift bike gears correctly will also determine how your riding experience is. It’s not worth having 40 gears if you can’t change them seamlessly.

Most mountain bikes have anywhere from 7 to 28 gears. Having more gears on the front chainring will make riding more complicated, but it will give you more options.

It’s easier to have only one gear for the front chainring so that the gears only change the back cassette. That way, you don’t have to worry about adjusting the front and back gears simultaneously.

Are 7 Gears Enough on a Mountain Bike?

Honestly, even one gear is technically enough for a mountain bike. It depends on what your definition of ‘enough’ is. Seven gears will get you through your journey but it may not always give you the precision you want while going over hilly terrains.

Part of the joy of mountain biking is pushing over challenging hills and crevices. That doesn’t mean it’s okay if your bike makes it harder for you.

Bikes with seven gears don’t do as well going downhill or traveling on flat surfaces. Because there aren’t many gears, they have to prioritize helping the rider work uphill since that’s arguably more difficult than getting back down.

The spacing on a seven-gear bike will be wider, so switching gears will feel much more extreme on your pedaling than riding on a 28 gear bike would.

However, you can most certainly bike with a seven-gear bike, but we recommend opting for more gears if you want to take long, bumpy mountain bike adventures.

What is the Highest Gear on a Mountain Bike?

the highest gear on a bike
The highest gear on a bike will depend on how many gears you have. The higher the gear, the ‘harder’ it will be to pedal.

This is helpful for going downhill when you want a lot of control. If pedaling were too easy, you wouldn’t be able to get any traction with your pedals and your bike would coast down the decline. As fun as that sounds, it may not always be the experience you’re looking for.

It’s important to note that just because you have the gears, doesn’t mean you have to use them. Sometimes it’s good for your bike to be fitted with higher gears just in case you come across a steep hill that you won’t be able to ride down without the right gears.

Why Do Some Mountain Bikes Only Have 11 Gears Now?

People have found that 11 gears give riders enough range while keeping the bike light, quiet, and simple. They make maintenance and service easier since there’s only one chainring to worry about.

When there’s more than one chainring, there will be a gear system on each handlebar. This can be a little confusing to maneuver and takes up valuable handlebar space.

Many riders are looking for enough gears without constantly fine-tuning their gear systems to work well together. Eleven gear bikes solve this problem.

One rider argues that riding an eleven gear bike isn’t that different from riding a bike with two or three chainrings. You’re able to pedal throughout the duration of the journey.

One thing to note is that, like seven gear bikes, eleven gear bikes may not go downhill as smoothly as you might like. This is just the nature of lower-gear bikes. If you do a lot of steep declines on your trails, you might want to opt for a higher-gear bike.

To Wrap Things Up

Gears on mountain bikes are incredibly important–arguably far more important than they are on a road bike! You should consider the kind of biking you like to do when picking out a bike. Generally, eleven gears should be enough. You can get away with seven, but the riding experience may not be as controlled.

If you decide to go for a bike with more gears, be prepared to spend some time learning how to work them properly. Controlling the gears on the front and back of the back can be a little overwhelming at first–but we’re sure you’ll get the hang of it!

How many gears does your mountain bike have? Do you think it’s enough? Let us know in the comments below!

Good luck!

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