How Do You Shift When Mountain Biking?

Mountain biking is a thrilling and exhilarating sport, but it is also a skill that needs to be developed. One of the most important skills to master while mountain biking is shifting. Shifting gears appropriately allows you to optimize your speed and power output, and it can also help you navigate technical terrain.

Here’s how to shift when mountain biking.

The Basics Of Shifting

Before learning how to shift when mountain biking, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the components involved in shifting. Most mountain bikes have two shifters: one on the left side that controls the front derailleur, and one on the right side that controls the rear derailleur. The front derailleur moves the chain between different chainrings (the large sprockets on your crankset), while the rear derailleur moves the chain between different cogs (the smaller sprockets on your cassette).

When To Shift

Knowing when to shift is just as important as knowing how to shift. Generally speaking, you want to shift up when going uphill or accelerating and shift down when going downhill or decelerating. You should also pay attention to your cadence—if you’re spinning too fast (above 90rpm), then it’s time to shift up; if you’re spinning too slow (below 60rpm), then it’s time to shift down.

Shifting Technique

Now that you know when to shift, let’s talk about technique. When shifting up, use a light and quick motion with your shifter; this will help prevent damage to your drivetrain. When shifting down, use a slightly heavier motion with your shifter; this will help ensure that your chain doesn’t drop off of the big ring or small cog.


Shifting correctly when mountain biking can make all the difference between an enjoyable ride and a challenging one. Pay attention to cadence, use light and quick motions for shifts up and heavier motions for shifts down, and know when it’s appropriate to shift so you can make the most of every ride!

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Samantha Mckinney