Gears and chain drive have made cycling easier, and more fun. The two literally channel the energy that makes the bicycle move forwards. However, this was not always so. In the first bicycles the pedals were attached to the wheels, and cycling was not easy. It was only when the chain drive was developed that the bicycle got its modern look.
The cyclist could move the rear wheel forward by putting pressure on the pedals that were attached to the chain drive. The greater the pressure, the greater was the pull on the rear wheel. The chain drive also made it possible for the rider to sit between the two wheels and pedal comfortably. It also improved the balance of the cyclists.
The chain drive bicycles were effective on flat surfaces and for downhill riding. They made it possible for the cyclists to ride fast without falling down. However, there was always the danger of the trousers getting stuck in the chain, and cyclists used tie strings to stop their trousers from flapping in the wind.
Another common problem was grease that was applied on the chain drive to reduce the friction between the teeth and the cogs. The grease used to rub off on the trousers worn by men or skirts worn by women. To avoid this from happening, metal covers were installed on top of the chain drive. These covers prevented the dresses from coming into contact with grease.
Also, when it came to riding against strong winds or steep inclines the cyclists had to strain themselves. Often, they had to stand on the pedals to push the bicycle forward. It was to overcome this problem that gears were developed. The gears made riding much easier in difficult conditions; they also gave greater control to the cyclist.
The cyclists could change gears as per the topography of the land. If they were riding uphill then they could select the gear that allowed the pedals to be turned more smoothly for each single turn of the wheel. On the other hand, when riding on flat surfaces the gears ensured that the wheel turned several times with each turn of the pedal.
The bikes used by professional riders have very high quality gears. This allows them to pedal at rates that vary from 75 to 120 RPM. However, in mountain biking, especially when the cyclist is going uphill, the rate of pedaling comes down to 50 RPM. This is because of greater effort required to turn the wheel.