How to Tell How Many Speeds A Bike Has?

By : Mr Mamil
Updated :

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 because cyclists (and even bike manufacturers) use the word Speeds and Gears interchangeably.

Let’s clear this confusion.

  • Speeds refer to the number of cogs on the rear cassette.
  • Gears refer to the number of gearing combinations available.

Today, the latest top-of-the-line road bikes come with 12-speeds. The latest Shimano Dura Ace/Ultegra Di2, SRAM Red/Force/Rival AXS, and Campagnolo Super Record groupsets are all 12-speeds.

The number of Gears is calculated by multiplying the number of front chainring (usually 2, sometimes 1) with the number of cogs on the rear cassette.

Gears = Number of front chainrings x Number of rear cogs

The table below shows the common gears and speeds 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

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) with the assumption that they have two front chainrings. This would mean that 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 drivetrain gearing set up

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

BrandRangeModelSpeedsGears
ShimanoDura Ace, UltegraR9200, R81001224
SRAMRed, Force, RivaleTap AXS1224
SRAMForceeTap AXS 1X1212
CampagnoloSuperRecord, RecordEPS1224
ShimanoDura Ace, UltegraR9000, R9100, R80001122
SRAMRedeTap1122