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Derailleur Adjustment Tips to Stop Shifting Issues

Experiencing issues shifting when hitting the road to log some miles on your bike? You most likely need to make some adjustments to your derailleur. Shifting problems are a common occurrence for cyclists and triathletes. So we’re going to give you some expert tips to fix your shifting problems yourself. Get ready to expand your bike mechanic skills and learn these quick, easy steps to adjust your derailleur and put a stop to your shifting issues! Take it a step further to expand your mechanic skills and start by understanding the basics of brakes issues and learn how to change a flat tire on the fly.

What’s a Derailleur?

A derailleur is the device on your bike that changes gears by moving the chain from one sprocket to another. There are several different styles and sizes when it comes to derailleurs. But when it comes to fixing shifting issues, the steps you should follow are often the same.

Derailleur Basics for Shifting Issues

Derailleur mechanics provide a simple way for you to dial in shifting in the middle of a ride. Although it’s easiest to make and check adjustments when the bicycle is supported in a repair stand, you can adjust your derailleur without any tools at all.

If you suspect your derailleur may be damaged or bent, unfortunately, you won’t be able to fix this one yourself. You’ll need to take your bike to your favorite local bike shop to have a mechanic help you out. These tips are for derailleurs that just need slight adjustments such as difficulty shifting, eliminate rub, and unwanted noise while riding. 

Identify the Problem

To adjust the derailleur, look at the point where the cable enters the rear derailleur. Here you’ll see a round, knob-like piece; that’s the cable adjustment barrel. This is used to tune the derailleur adjustment.

Standing behind the bike, turn the cable adjustment barrel either counterclockwise or clockwise in half-turn increments until the shifting hesitation is cured. The direction in which you turn your derailleur depends on what type of hesitation you’re experiencing.Derailleur breakdown

 

The most common problem is slow-shifting into easier gears (toward the spokes) are due to the stretching of the cable. But, it’s also possible that you’re experiencing difficulty with shifting into a higher gear, which means the cog isn’t allowing the chain to shift outward smoothly to the next gear.

So, which way do you turn it? Determine this to continue to your next steps to adjust your derailleur.

  • Experiencing slow shifting – turn the barrel adjuster counter-clockwise toward the spokes. This will tighten the space between the cogs or shifting increments.
  • Difficulty shifting into a higher gear – turn the barrel adjuster clockwise, away from the spokes to loosen the space between the cogs to allow for easier shifting.

Time to Adjust Your Derailleur

Commit this to memory to help you remember which way to turn the barrel adjuster the next time you experience shifting issues.

  • If the derailleur is hesitating when shifting toward the spokes (the more common problem), turn the barrel toward the spokes (counter-clockwise).
  • If it hesitates to shift away from the spokes, turn the adjuster away (clockwise) from the spokes.
  • Turn it only a half turn, shift multiple times to check the adjustment, and repeat as needed to eliminate all hesitation.

Pro tip: Be aware that there is a range of acceptable adjustments, so there may be more than one barrel adjuster position that results in good shifting performance.

No More Shifting Issues!

Now you have the right tips to adjust your derailleur back into place for a smooth ride with easy, noise-free shifting. Which is especially important if you’re getting out for a hilly bike ride! If you were experiencing trouble with your shifting, remember these tips to adjust your derailleur before your next ride. If you have a friend who is constantly dealing with shifting problems, help them out, and share this with them! Now you have a mechanic you trust and know will keep you in good hands, your own!

Get in the habit of completing this bike safety check

Failure to safety-check or maintain your bike can lead to accidents. Be it via a run in against road barriers due to something breaking (which at least would protect anyone on the other side) or otherwise, having an accident is bad. Especially if it is not only involving you as the cyclist but other road users too such as drivers, and may even result in one or both of you having to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer like those at Noll Law Firm Office – Springfield IL, or elsewhere. Easily avoid some of these pitfalls with a simple bike safety check. Here are some refreshers on what to check and how often you should check your bike to ensure it’s safe for the road. Implement these safety checks before your next Rookie Triathlon training ride.

Things to check before every ride

  1. Tire pressure and road debris – keep pressure right at or near 5 to 10 lbs. below the recommended pressure. This will help prevent flats and by default extend the lifetime of your rim. Check for small thorns, staples, cuts, bald spots, or other problems with the outside of the tire.
  2. Bolts on the bike – make sure that the bolts on the stem, saddle, and seat post are nice and snug. Some bolts have a recommended torque due to the differences in the strength of the materials being used. If so, make sure bolts are tightened correctly. Most, if not all, bike stores carry torque wrenches.
  3. Tighten skewers – make sure both the front and rear skewers of the wheel are properly tightened and facing in the proper direction “back or up.”

Things to check every month

  1. Crank bolts – make sure that each crank bolt is nice and snug. These may work themselves out over time. An impact to the side of the bike is a common culprit to a loose crank.
  2. Headset – make sure that the headset is snug. A loose headset will lead to speed wobbles or a squirrelly bike.
  3. Trueness of wheels – make sure that your wheels are passing evenly through your brake calipers and frame. An untrue wheel could lead to broken spokes or uneven wear on your tires. If your tire is no longer true, follow this advice to true your wheel at home.
  4. General shifting of the bike – make sure that your chain is not dumping to the inside or out on the front set of rings. Make sure the rear derailleur is moving smoothly across your cassette and not rubbing on your rear wheel or frame. If this is occurring chances are your rear derailleur hanger has been slightly bent.
  5. Pedals – make sure both pedals are nice and snug. Remember the left pedal is reverse threaded. Pro tip: read our blog for a deeper dive into removing or replacing pedals.

Things to check every 2 to 3 months

  1. Inspection for cracks – clean the frame off with a damp rag or wash your bike. Inspect the entire frame, fork, seat post, and wheels for cracks, delaminating, or loosening of welds. If you find that any of these areas have been compromised in any way, “Do Not Ride The Bike.” Take it to your LBS “local bike shop” for inspection or have James Balentine with City Limit Cycles come to you. One more ride is not worth serious injury.

Note: Riders that race bikes, travel with their bikes, or know that they are tough on their equipment should run through this checklist before every ride.