Maintaining Your Gears
Once you have the right gears, you'll want to maintain them. Part of the beauty of bicycles is that they are astoundingly easy to keep humming along; some lube, a pump and a few hex wrenches are enough to prevent and solve most problems. The main thing you'll want to do is lubricate the chain around once a month, or immediately after riding in the rain. To lubricate the chain, insert a drop of lube in between each linkage in the chain, and then wipe off any excess lubricant when you are done. Aside from that, you'll want to make sure that your brakes aren't rubbing the rims, and that the derailleurs are properly aligned (shifting should be smooth, fairly quiet, and there shouldn't be any clicking or skipping once the shift is complete). If your bike isn't shifting properly, the best thing to do is to take it to the bike shop for a simple, inexpensive adjustment; often times, the cables sag and need to be tightened, or the derailleurs themselves need to be adjusted. The home mechanic can easily make most of these repairs; have a cycling friend help you, or take an introductory class on bike repair (REI, for instance, offers them).