The gear systems on bikes vary widely, but the most popular are derailleur gears you see on most modern adult bikes. The ‘gear system can be all the parts from your pedals and cassette to your shifters; however, these are generally considered separate and almost always replaced in smaller sections.
The cassette is the piece with the actual ‘gears’ on it. What is the best bicycle gear system?
The best bicycle gear system is the Shimano Ultegra R8000 Cassette because it has been extensively tested in real-world conditions and reviewed by riders worldwide. This exceptional cassette offers plenty of sprockets that shift smoothly from one gear to the next. If you want high-quality, durable, and reliable performance from your cassette, you should go with Shimano’s Ultegra.
To see all of my up-to-date recommendations for bikes and cycling gear, check out this resource that I made for you!
Table of Contents
Bike Gear System
A bicycle gear system is an umbrella term that can mean two very different things. The whole incorporated system could be called a drive train.
This system starts with your shifters on the handlebars and has all the parts like the cables, the derailleur(s), crank, pedals, chain, cassette, and more.
You can break it down to include the bearings if you like, but that is needlessly complicated.
The part of this system that is a physical system of gears is the cassette.
As Wiggle explains, “A bicycle cassette is the cluster of sprockets located on the rear hub of your bike, slotting onto a freehub body and held firmly in place with a threaded cassette lockring.”
Often the individual sprockets are replaceable, but not always.
Types Of Bike Gears
There are five types of bicycle gears. Each style has its advantages.
For example, fixed and single-speed gear systems are great for beginners who are learning and don’t need to complicate their learning by adding a bunch of shifting.
Below I’ve given a brief overview of the available types of bike gears.
- Derailleur Gears – These are the most common style that you will see on most bikes. This style has one or two derailleurs (front and/or rear) which alter the placement of your chain by moving it up and down sprockets to change the size of the sprocket your chain is rotating. The name derailleur refers to the way it derails the chain.
- Hub Gears – A hub gear system is enclosed rather than out in the open.
- CVT Hub Gears – CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission is incredibly rare, with just one company making this style. The CVT means there is no distinct fixed ratio and the gear ratio varies between the lowest and highest ratio. Most cyclists will not encounter this system.
- Fixed Gears – Fixed gears mean you only have one gear. Unlike other gear systems, this style forces the pedals into motion as long as the wheel turns.
- Single Speed – Like the fixed gear system, you only have a single speed or sprocket on this style, but it has a ‘freewheel.’ That means the pedals don’t have to be in motion as the wheel turns, and you can pedal backward.
Bicycle Gear System Price
Bicycle gear systems are made up of many individual parts, which you can often replace without replacing the whole system.
The average price to replace a piece for a bicycle gear system is $10 to $50. On high-end bicycles and better individual sprockets, this cost goes up exponentially.
Most people refer to the cassette when they want to know how much a ‘gear system’ costs because that is literally the set of gears on the bike.
The cost for a cassette is anywhere from $20 to well over $400. The trusted Shimano cassettes range in price from around $25 to over $100 depending on the model, materials, and number of sprockets.
The price difference depends on how many speeds you need, the overall quality of the parts, and the type of bike gears.
The high-end electric gear systems shifters tend to run $100-$300.
What Is The Best Gear Set For A Road Bike
There are numerous options for your gear set on a road bike, and they depend on the style of riding you plan to do.
The best gearing for a road bike is a 21-speed cassette, regardless of where you ride. However, another vital variable that is part of the gear set is the chainset.
Below I’ve listed the most common or best chainsets for different styles of road bikes.
Beginners Chainsets: 50/34
Time Trial Chainset: 53/39
Racing Chainset: 52/36
If you want to learn more about how the whole system works together, I recommend this excellent video from Cycling Weekly.
The video goes over everything from the shifters to the cassette and how it all relates to your ride.
Are Shimano Gears The Best
Shimano gears are among the best in the world. This well-known and trusted brand developed its reputation by designing and manufacturing a considerable line of bike parts, including but not limited to many different high-quality gears.
You will find Shimano gears on everything from children’s bicycles to some pro-cycles you see in the Tour De France.
Top 3 Best Bicycle Gear Systems
Finding the right bicycle gear system will make our ride easier and your shifting smoother.
Remember that a ‘gear system’ is a misnomer that refers to any part of a bike’s drivetrain, but these aren’t sold together like a single unit except on finished bicycles. Below I discuss the best cassettes for bikes.
These top 3 best bicycle gear systems are all from Shimano and are known for being the best quality and most used.
1 – Shimano Ultegra R8000 Cassette
- System: 11 speed
- Gradation: 12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-25 teeth
- Brand: Shimano
- Colour: grey
The Shimano Ultegra R8000 Cassette from Amazon is my top recommendation for the best gear system.
This high-quality and well-tested collection of sprockets comes in 6 sizes to fit most bicycles.
The nickel-plated steel is incredibly durable and doesn’t wear down as quickly as cheaper sprockets, even when you go for frequent, long rides.
The Shimano Dura-Ace inspires this cassette. You’ll appreciate the high value and smooth shifting on this model.
You can pick up a Shimano Ultegra R8000 Cassette by clicking right here.
2 – SHIMANO CS-6700 Ultegra Bicycle Cassette
Next, I suggest the SHIMANO CS-6700 Ultegra Bicycle Cassette.
This superb 10-speed bike cassette comes in five sizes and is known for its improved chain control. You’ll appreciate the precise shifts between gears.
A reliable steel alloy offers excellent durability. Though these were first produced in 2015, the CS-6700 remains incredibly popular and beloved for a good reason.
To learn more about this superb cassette, click here.
3 – Altus Shimano Cassette Sprocket CS-HG31
- Precise and consistent HyperGlide shifting performance
- Zinc phosphate black finish
Last on my top three list is the Altus Shimano Cassette Sprocket CS-HG31 from Amazon.
This cassette is easy to install, with just three sizes to choose from. Moreover, the Altus offers you consistent HyperGlide shifting performance.
One of the nicest things about the Altus Shimano CS-HG31 is the sleek black zinc phosphate finish. You’ll appreciate the optimized safety and outstanding performance of this cassette.
To have an Altus shipped to your door fast, click here.
Best Bicycle Gear System Buyers Guide
Buying a great, high-quality gear system means considering things other than how many sprockets you want on your cassette.
Smart, savvy cyclists look at a bike from a more holistic perspective, keeping in mind the terrain, their personal riding style, and how the cassette will work with other bicycle parts.
The buyer’s guide below should help you determine what cassette you need.
1 – About Your Gears
Finding the correct number of gears in a cassette often depends on how you intend to ride.
If you live in a flat area and ride a cruiser, then as few as one is fine, but having at least three to seven is better if you tackle small hills.
Meanwhile, a road bike for variable terrain endurance racing needs 21-speeds or more.
My Bike Shop says, “The rule of thumb for choosing the right bike cassette is that the closer the number of “teeth” from the largest and the smallest cogs, the smaller the variation between gears, which ensures a smooth gear change. But this comes at the cost of fewer teeth on the largest sprocket and can cost you in terms of extra effort required when riding uphill or on a tough terrain.”
2 – Crankset Combination
To get the best performance out of your cassette, it would be best to consider your crankset.
For more compact cranksets, you need higher gearing to tackle terrain like hills. Likewise, for standard or larger cranksets, you can ride well with lower gearing.
3 – How You Ride
Cyclists with more experience and muscle may not need as many gears. Because a very fit cyclist has plenty of leg power, they can often downgrade to a smaller cassette gear system.
Instead of opting for a more uncomplicated ride, adding some challenge is smarter than carrying more weight for long-distance rides.
Helpful Tips To Know About The Best Bicycle Gear System
The best bicycle gear systems vary by bicycle, terrain, and rider, but they always help you tackle your ride at a steady cadence.
A high-quality gear system will last for 2000 miles or more before you need to replace sprockets and chains.
Here are a few more helpful tips to know about the best bicycle gear system.
- The point of gears is to keep your pedal speed or cadence the same regardless of the terrain. A standard cadence is 80 to 90 revolutions per minute (rpm).
- When most people think of a gear, they are actually picturing the metal wheel with the spiky bits on the outside edges that hold the chain and rotate the wheel which are also called sprockets. However, in bicycling, ‘gears’ refers to not only these individual parts (sprockets), but it is also the term used to explain how many different sprockets you have to use for shifting your bike. A single-speed has one sprocket while a 21-speed has 21 of them in a cassette.
- If the gears weren’t complicated enough, the whole drivetrain or gear system is also sometimes called a groupset.
- High gears are smaller sprockets, and you use them for going uphill, while low gears with larger sprockets are for moving downhill, and the gears in the middle work well across flat terrain.
Finding the best bicycle gear system can be confusing because this umbrella term refers to a whole collection of parts, from shifters to derailleurs and sprockets.
Typically people who say ‘gear system’ are thinking about the cassette, which is the part that holds the collection of gears or sprockets.
A sound cassette will last over two thousand miles even if you ride hard, and it’s worth hunting for the best so you can enjoy smooth, safe shifting wherever you go.