When dérailleurs became popular on bikes for the average everyday writer it was automatically assumed that war was better. The fact that your old five-speed bike could be replaced by a 10 seemed like a no-brainer. Of course more speeds would be better. Then came shifting.
The fact is that being able to manage those gears was not necessarily a simple thing. Shifting on the fly could have problems of its own either leaving you in between gears or in the wrong gear altogether. Imagine you are working your way up a hill and when you go to drop down into first you end up in the highest gear possible. Not long after that you would find yourself walking up a hill.
And that might be the best of all opportunities. The fact is that while you were messing with those gears you were paying attention to the road, and that is a bad situation indeed when you are the smallest thing around.
So how many years do you actually need? That’s pretty much up to you, how you ride, how you shift, how picky you are, and how much hassle you are willing to trade for being in exactly the right gear at all times.
Many people are actually opting for single speed bicycles. They do have their advantages, especially when traveling on relatively level terrain or for relatively short distances like traveling around town. They are less complicated, less likely to break, and lightweight. To mention nothing of being simple to operate.
For many people having a lot of gears on their bike is a bit of a status thing. The fact is that the average rider is likely to only use about three separate gears, or perhaps five. Most riding will be done with a middle gear or two, with occasional use of a very low gear for hills and a very high gear for flats when they’re in the mood or for going downhill.
There are bikes available on the market with up to 30 gears but for anybody but a professional or a really high-level weekend racer these bikes are overkill. There is no way that an average rider can make effective use of or even really understand the minute differences between that many gears. If you have a rear derailer with 10 different gears and a front trailer with three managing all of them seems like a very big headache that you just don’t need on your way to work or the grocery store.
So be sensible and pick the bike that has the least amount to gears that you need. You’ll be thankful when the shifting is easy, and when the bike doesn’t break down or throw a chain anytime things get tough. Plus, you’re likely to save a few bucks.