How to Tell How Many Speeds A Bike Has?

Written by : Mr Mamil
Last updated :

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One of the common questions beginner cyclists ask is, how many speeds is my bike?

This simple question can sometimes be confusing. The main reason for this confusion is that cyclists (and even bike manufacturers) use Speeds and Gears interchangeably.

Let’s clear up this confusion.

  • Speeds refer to the number of cogs on the rear cassette. Depending on the model, it can be anywhere from 7 to 13 today.
  • Gears refer to the number of gearing combinations available. The number of Gears is calculated by multiplying the number of front chainrings (1, 2, or 3) by the number of cogs on the rear cassette.

The table below shows the common gear and speed configurations on bicycles.

Type of bikeFront chainringsRear cogsGears
Road (12-speed)21224
Road (11-speed)21122
Road (10-speed)21020
Road, Gravel (1X)11111
Commuter3824
Kids177
Single speed111
Gearing combinations for various types of bikes

10, 11 and 12-speeds explained

Most road cyclists will often refer to their bikes’ drivetrain as 10, 11, or 12-speeds (10s, 11s, or 12s), assuming there are two front chainrings. This would mean they have either 20, 22, or 24 available gear combinations.

Sometimes, you’ll also hear cyclists referring to their bikes as 1X or 1-by, which means there’s only a single front chainring. Combined with a 10, 11, or 12-speed rear cassette, they’ll have 10, 11, or 12 available gear combinations. 1X is common for gravel bikes.

The triple chainring is rare for mid to top-of-the-line road bikes and is found in 7, 8, or 9-speed drivetrains, giving the cyclist 21, 24, or 27 available gear combinations.

Common bicycle gearing setup

The table below shows some common drivetrain configurations in road bikes today.

BrandRangeModelSpeedsGears
ShimanoDura-Ace
Ultegra
105
R9200
R8100
R7100
1224
SRAMRed
Force
Rival
eTap AXS1224
SRAMRed
Force
Rival
eTap AXS 1X1212
CampagnoloSuperRecord
Record
EPS1224
ShimanoDura-Ace
Ultegra
105
R9000, R9100
R8000
R7000
1122
SRAMRedeTap1122
Common drivetrain gearing setup on road bikes

To wrap up, remember that the term speeds in cycling context refers to the number of cogs on your bike’s rear cassette, whereas gears represent the number of possible combinations between your bike’s front chainrings and rear cogs.

The next time you hear a fellow cyclist asking, What speed is my bike? you’ll be better equipped to explain to them the differences.

FAQ

The number of gears a bike has does not necessarily indicate its performance level.

What’s more crucial is the range of gears or the difference between the lowest and highest gear. This range determines the bike’s versatility in handling various terrains. A bike with a wider gear range can handle steep climbs and fast descents.

Not necessarily.

The speed of a bike is not solely determined by the number of gears. Instead, it’s a combination of the rider’s physical condition, the bike’s weight, aerodynamics, and tire resistance among other factors.

However, having more gears can provide a wider range of options for optimal cadence, which can indirectly affect the speed and efficiency of your ride.

The transition from a 10-speed bike to a 12-speed bike isn’t very difficult as the fundamental principles of shifting remain the same.

However, you might notice smoother shifting and smaller jumps between gears on a 12-speed bike due to the additional cogs. It’s also worth noting that you’ll likely need to adjust your derailleur settings and potentially your chain length when switching between different speed setups.

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