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If we're talking about push bikes, human-powered bicycles here, there's a lot more to it than the number of gears.

What the gears on a bicycle do - which is the same as they do everywhere else - is to let you trade power for speed, or the other way around. This lets the rider push the pedals at a pace and effort that matches his/hers strength and stamina regardless if the ride is flat, uphill, or downhill.

There are two things to consider with gears, range and ratio.

Range is the overall difference from lowest gear to highest gear, ratio is the step, or the difference from one gear to the next.

If you try to cover a too wide range with only a few ratios - like in a 3-speed bicycle - the result is that it's hard to find that sweet spot where you can ride at any speed at a comfortable effort and pace.

If you try to have nice and tight ratios OTOH, then you might need a decent number of gears to get a useful overall range from the bike.

Basically, the wider the speed range you expect to be riding in, the more of an advantage it is to have more gears.

Now, if you ride somewhere mostly flat, then you'll do most of your riding in a fairly narrow speed range, and you won't need many gears to always have one available that'll work well for your fitness level.

5 and 6-speed bicycles can easily be built to have the same overall range, which would make them equally fast - if the ratios agree with the rider.

But there will be a slight advantage to the 6-speed bike on longer rides, as that bike offers one more chance to hit that sweet spot of effort and pedalling pace.

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Q: What is faster a 5 speed or 6 speed?
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