Your PERFECT BIKE Starts Here

E-Bikes & Bikes Customised to You

Take Upto 30% Off All Bikes For a Limited Time

Complete Your Bike, Shop Matching Accessories Here

Take Your Rides to the Next Level. Download Our App Here

Gears & Shifting 101: 3 Speed vs. 7 Speed Bikes

Gearing systems play a crucial role in the performance and versatility of bicycles, allowing riders to navigate diverse terrains with ease. When it comes to choosing the right bike, the number of speeds becomes a pivotal factor. Understanding the differences between these two configurations will empower cyclists to make informed decisions based on their riding preferences, terrain, and overall biking goals.

Talking about bike speeds, new riders and experienced cyclists alike often seek to understand the options available to them. They want to find the ideal bicycle that suits their specific riding conditions and goals, recognizing the importance of having the right number of gears for optimal performance.

New riders and cyclists who have been riding for a while often have questions regarding the different bike speeds. They’re looking for the perfect bicycle for their riding conditions and goals, and they realize that having the correct bike with the right amount of gears is essential.

New riders may wonder about the various types of bike speeds, such as single-speed, multi-speed, and gear ratios. They might inquire about the advantages and disadvantages of each option, as well as how different speeds can impact their cycling experience.

Experienced cyclists may be interested in exploring advanced gear systems, such as electronic shifting and internal gear hubs, to enhance their riding capabilities and overall efficiency. They may also have questions about gear maintenance, gear shifting techniques, and how to choose the most suitable gear for different terrains and riding scenarios.

Ultimately, both new riders and seasoned cyclists seek comprehensive information to help them make informed decisions when selecting a bicycle with the optimal speed options for their individual needs.

An Overview of Bike Gears and Shifting

Before diving into the specificities of 3 speed and 7 speed bikes, let's establish a foundational understanding of how bike gears and shifting work.

The Basics of Bike Gears:

Bicycles utilize a combination of chainrings at the front and a cassette or freewheel at the rear to create different gear ratios.

The gear ratio determines how much distance the bike travels with each revolution of the pedals.

Lower gears make it easier to pedal and are ideal for climbing hills, while higher gears offer more speed on flat terrain. There are also internal gear systems that can be either three speed or seven speed. With these type of gear systems the chain doesn't move to change the gears it all happens inside the rear hub.

Shifting Mechanisms:

Bikes employ different mechanisms for shifting gears, including derailleur systems and internal hub gears.

Derailleur systems use a movable chain guide to shift the chain between various front chainrings and rear cassette cogs.

Internal hub gears, on the other hand, are enclosed within the rear hub, providing a cleaner look and reduced maintenance.

Comparing 3-Speed and 7-Speed Bikes: The Essentials

So, let’s talk about gears and shifting, and in particular the main differences between a 3-speed and 7-speed bike. A discussion about 3-speed vs. 7 speed needs to include pros and cons for both bikes, which ultimately hold as much weight as the rider puts on them.

What is a 3-speed Bike?

Let’s begin with the pros of 3-speed bikes. These bicycles have all of the gears and shifting mechanisms tucked neatly away, giving the cycle a clean and minimalist look. 3-speed bikes are known for their simplicity and ease of use. With three gears, riders can easily shift between low, medium, and high gears. They’re also easy to maintain, as dirt, road tar and other gunk doesn’t get into the gears and wear them down prematurely. The internal hub gear system in 3-speed bikes is enclosed, reducing exposure to external elements and minimizing maintenance requirements. Ideal for urban commuting, 3-speed bikes offer ample versatility for city riding, especially in areas with moderate inclines.

Many riders are surprised to know that 3-speed bikes don’t have a chain that moves and don’t require a derailleur, which means that you can mount a chain guard with full coverage to your bike, keeping your drive train sealed from any elements that would destroy it. Plus, without a drive train exposed, your legs and pants stay cleaner.

In general, an internal hub like the 3-speed bike leads to less money coming out of your pocket for repairs caused by poor road conditions. Your drive train lasts longer and your hub has a less likely chance of being bumped out of alignment should your bicycle tip over. A 3-speed bike is easy to use and reliable. It lets you shift from a complete stop and you don’t have to worry about sloppy adjustments from gear to gear.

The cons? Your initial purchase of a 3-speed bike may be more, just because internal gearing systems are more complicated and more expensive. These highly engineered designs come with many small parts, which means standard repairs may set you back more than you’d pay with a 7-speed bike. It takes more time and expertise to work on a 3-speed bike, so riders should plan for a bit longer servicing time on one of these models. Thankfully, though, 3-speed bikes don’t normally need many repairs.

When is a 3-Speed Right for You?

So, let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you know if a 3-speed is just your speed? Choosing a 3-speed bike is probably the right choice if:

You’re using your bike on a hilly commute in the city. Taking your chariot to work in San Francisco every morning? This type of bike will handle great on the pavement.

Low-maintenance is high on your priority list. Maybe you love the experience of riding but you’re not much of a gearhead. Does the thought of tinkering with your bike on the weekends sound like a drag? A 3-speed with an internal hub is a good option.

You don’t consider yourself a pro. Because a 3-speed can shift even at a stop, and the shifting requires less cable pull, the cables will not only last longer but are less likely to give you trouble when shifting. For newbies just moving up from a 1-speed, the 3-speed is a good stepping stone.

While suitable for flat and moderately hilly terrain, 3-speed bikes may lack the gear range needed for more challenging landscapes. Riders seeking a broader range of gear options for varied terrains might find 3-speed bikes limiting. But if you want simplicity and something that is very easy to shift and doesn't have a lot of chords a three speed is a great option. Most times a three speed has a twist shifter that your turn with your wrist to shift. If you are looking to ride casually around your neighborhood and feel that just a few gears will help you achieve your rides then a three speed is a great option. It will give you the gears needed to help with small hills and also allow you to accelerate your speed some throughout your ride. Don't choose a three speed if you will riding a lot of hills, it's best to have additional gears if you plan to tackle a lot of hills on your rides.

What is a 7-speed Bike?

It’s probably obvious that the primary difference between 3 speed and 7 speed bikes is the number of gears. But, their designs are dissimilar as well. Our 7-speed bikes use what many riders would refer to as a standard gearing mechanism for a bike, which includes different-sized cogs placed externally and shifted by moving the chain via a derailleur.

With seven gears, these bikes offer a more extensive range of options, making them suitable for various terrains, including both flat and hilly surfaces.

A 7-speed bike is a great bike for a person who rides on tricky terrain. Its main purpose is to let the bike adapt to rough conditions and accommodate inclines, bumps and other difficulties. On a 7-speed bike, the lower gears make it easier to pedal and the higher gears allow for better movement going downhill. 7-speed bikes are versatile enough to handle urban commuting, recreational rides, and longer distances with varied elevations. The additional gears in a 7-speed bike provide better options for climbing steep hills with less effort. Compared to a 3-speed bike, a 7-speed is preferable for a rider who travels on varying terrain.

Professional cyclists ride 7-speed bikes because they can adjust the cycle’s gears according to personal preference. A 7-speed bike takes a bit more effort to operate, but it’s pretty simple to get the hang of it when you know about, and embrace, the learning curve.

Like a 3-speed bike, a 7-speed comes with a few cons, which include a greater need for mechanical repairs if the bike is typically taken out on rough terrain. The structural complexity of these bikes mean that if one cog breaks, the entire bike would likely need to be brought in to get work done.

The shifting on a 7 speed bike may or may not be the same as on a three speed bike. A seven speed bike could have either a twist shifter or a trigger shift. A trigger shift is when you push the gear shift button with your thumb and the gear changes. A twist shift is you twist your wrist and the gear changes.

When is a 7-Speed Bike the Right Choice?

The derailleur system on 7-speed bikes adds an extra level of complexity, and riders may need to familiarize themselves with gear shifting techniques. Derailleur systems require more maintenance compared to internal hub gears, and adjustments might be needed to ensure smooth shifting.

When you’re weighing a 3-speed vs. 7-speed bike, how do you know if you’re ready for more complex gear shifting? Here are some scenarios where a 7-speed could make sense:

You plan on doing a lot of mountain biking. Shifting while in motion on a downhill run keeps you safe and allows you to gain some steam. If you know you’re going beyond paved terrain, get more gears.

You’re very price conscious. 7-speed bikes are often a bit more affordable at the start, and repairs can cost less as well.

You like to be in control. 7-speed models give you more ways to adjust the gears while you’re riding. For quick transitions on any terrain, you may feel like you’re more in control on a 7-speed – even if you’re on the pavement in the city.

Seven speed bikes may require more maintenance than a 3 speed bike. Because the chain moves from one derailleur to another it's important to ensure the chain is properly lubricated. Also, cleaning the chain and derailleur ever few months is a good idea to ensure the shifting will work properly. If you really don't like the idea of doing much maintenance on your bike, then opt for a three speed.

Choosing Between 3-Speed and 7-Speed Bikes: Key Factors to Consider

The decision between a 3-speed and a 7-speed bike ultimately depends on individual preferences, riding habits, and the intended use of the bicycle. Here are key factors to consider:


  • 3-Speed Bikes: Ideal for flat to moderately hilly terrain, such as city commuting.
  • 7-Speed Bikes: Suited for riders encountering a mix of flat and hilly landscapes, offering better adaptability for diverse terrains.

Simplicity vs. Versatility:

  • 3-Speed Bikes: If simplicity and low maintenance are priorities, a 3-speed bike may be the preferred choice.
  • 7-Speed Bikes: Riders seeking more versatility and a broader range of gearing options for different riding scenarios might lean towards a 7-speed bike.


  • 3-Speed Bikes: Great for casual riders, short commutes, and those who prioritize straightforward operation.
  • 7-Speed Bikes: Suitable for riders with varied biking interests, including longer recreational rides, commuting through diverse terrains, and tackling hills.

Maintenance Preferences:

  • 3-Speed Bikes: Internal hub gears require less maintenance and are more protected from external elements.
  • 7-Speed Bikes: Derailleur systems offer a wider gear range but may need more frequent adjustments and maintenance.

Choosing Between Gendered Road Bikes

Getting answers to questions like “how does a 3-speed bike work?” and “how does a 7-speed bike work?” is just the first step to choosing your road bike. With so few unisex bikes on the market, an education in men’s vs. women’s bikes is also necessary. If you’re overwhelmed, keep these rules of thumb in mind as you choose a 3- or 7-speed road bike:

  • Taller riders tend to be more comfortable on men’s bikes, regardless of gender.
  • All short riders may prefer a women’s road bike for easier mounting and a shorter frame.
  • Your personal comfort is more important than the gender label on the bike, so buy what fits your body best!

Ready to get riding? Join our Journey Club to uncover new and exciting ride locations around the globe!

gears and shifting for 3 speed and 7 speed bikes


BikesElectric BikesAccessoriesGift Cards


Bike AdviceGet FittedJourney ClubOur StoryRider StylesAffialiate ProgramBecome a Brand Ambassador

© 2024 sixthreezero

Designed in Los Angeles, California