How to Adjust Bike Gear Shifter in 5 Quick Steps

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Anybody who owns a bike has at one time in their life had issues switching gears. In fact, it’s for this very reason why we decided to write this how to adjust bike gear shifter guide because we know a lot of people deal with this issue every day.

The sad part is that, even as people deal with gear issues, they are often too afraid to fix them because they might make the issue worse. It’s not necessary to visit a bike store to get your gears shifting accordingly.

With simple DIY tips, you can do the adjustment once and for all.

What You Will Learn Here

So, all standard and road bikes have gears, right? These gears are controlled using small leavers that can be accessed through the handlebar.

Leavers are used by the biker to shift gears as they see fit. The leavers are referred to as “shifters”, and they will control the front and rear gear mechanisms. When the gear is shifted, it usually makes a clicking sound. A shift in gear is signified by this click.

The ultimate goal of the gar system is to control the tension on the chain. Chain tension has a significant effect on cycling resistance. When the tension is higher, it feels harder to pedal the bike but on the plus side, you’ll move faster with every pedal. Low tension, on the other hand, feels easier to pedal but the bike moves slower.

The low gear, which induces the lowest amount of tension on the cable, is ideal for climbing and riding on difficult terrain. The higher gear, on the other hand, will help you reach fast speeds and it’s ideal for cruising in clear and flat surfaces.

Literally all the modern bikes in the market have this simple gear mechanism. We say “simple” because that’s exactly how it’s meant to be. But we all know that sometimes shifting gears is easier said than done. In this how to adjust bike gear shifter guide, we are going to help you out.

What You Should Know About Shifting Gears

bicycle mechanic

When your bike arrives for the first time, chances are all gears will work well. They will shift easily and you can enjoy every ride. But as the bike accumulates its fair share of wear and tear, the gear shifting mechanism will start to malfunction.

At first, it will feel harder to shift from one gear level to the next. If the issue isn’t addressed, the entire shifting process will become impossible in the long run. The most important thing though is to troubleshoot the problem as early as possible.

The first thing would be to inspect all the bits and make sure they are fully functional. The shifters also need to have the right amount of clicks, suited for the cassette installed on your bike. For example, if you have a 10-speed gear cassette, you can’t use a 9-speed shifter to hit the tenth cassette. It’s literally impossible.

The gear hanger also needs to be straight for it to work appropriately. The hanger is that small metal tab found hanging from the right-hand rear corner of the bike frame. The hanger is probably the single most important component of your gear. If it’s even slightly bent, you’re going to have a lot of trouble shifting the gears as required.

The good news is that straightening the hanger is easy and you don’t need to go to a bike shop to do it. However, this should be a regular maintenance process. Don’t wait until the shifters have failed completely to inspect the hanger. The inspection should be done regularly just to be sure the hanger isn’t bending in any way.

In some cases, the hanger may be too damaged to be straightened. If you realize that you’re not able to straighten up the hanger despite all your efforts, consider getting a new one. The hangers are easily replaceable and can be bought at any bike store in your local area or online.

Finally, check to see if the front gear cage is in line with the chainring. As a rule of thumb, it’s important to make sure that the lower edge of the cage doesn’t foul the tops of your chainring teeth. The chainring teeth and the cage need to be at least 1-3 mm apart for optimal gear shifting.

Tips on How to Adjust Bike Gear Shifter

So, let’s now get to the very purpose of this post. Shifting gears is easy and we will divide this section into two.

In the first section, we will focus on how to shift the rear gear and in the second section will be focusing on shifting the front gears.

How to Adjust the Rear Bike Gear

bike gears mechanism

To easily adjust the rear gears on your bike, follow these steps:

1. Adjust the Limit Screws

Before doing anything, make sure the gear cable is disconnected. Once you’re sure about that, gently pedal the bike forward until the chain drops directly over the smallest sprocket. As soon as this is done, locate the cross head screw. It’s usually located at the back of the gear and marked with H.

Adjust the screw as you see fit. When you adjust it clockwise the jockey wheel moves closer to the spokes. If you adjust it counter-clockwise, the jockey wheel moves closer to the frame.

The ultimate goal as you adjust the screw is to make sure the uppermost jockey wheel is sitting directly below the smallest sprockets of your bike.

2. Tighten Up the Cable

Locate the barrel adjuster on your gear system and turn it clockwise. Keep turning it until it’s fully dialed in. After that, choose the highest gear. This is usually the smallest sprocket on the shifter.

After that, pull the cable as tight as you can towards the gear and attach it to the body using a strong cable anchor. After this is done, move back to the shifter and select the third gear. Gently pedal forward. The jockey wheel should directly fall beneath the third sprocket.

3. Adjust the Tension on the Cable

You can adjust the tension on the cable using the barrel adjuster. When the adjuster is turned anticlockwise, it increases cable tension.

This will then bring the gear closer to the wheel. Conversely, if the barrel adjuster is turned clockwise the tension on the cable is reduced, which will, in turn, move the gear towards the frame. Increased tension on the cable helps if the chain feels harder to shift up.

Additionally, if the chain keeps skipping a gear, reduce the tension on the cable. It should work fine after that.

4. Shift the Gear Up

Start by shifting into the largest sprocket on your gear. Locate the crosshead screw marked L after that.

Push the gear as close as you can to the wheel. Once it’s in this position, turn the L screw clockwise until the gear stays fixed in that position.

5. Use the B-Tension Screw

The B tension screw should be adjusted when the chain is still on the largest sprocket. The screw is located at the utmost part of the gear.

When you turn it clockwise, it will move the jockey wheel away from the cassette. Keep moving it until the distance between the cassette and the jockey wheel is about 3 mm.

How to Adjust the Front Bike Gear

bicycle gear shifter

Our guide on how to adjust bike gear shifter also looks at shifting the front gears. Ultimately, you want to make sure the front gear’s outer cage plate is perfectly in line with the outer chainring.

To adjust the cable tension, loosen the cable anchor pinch bolt until the tension is perfectly suited for you. As you shift the front gear, it’s advisable to keep trying it out just to be sure you’re doing it right.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to note that, while there are many things that may affect how your gear system works, most of the time, lack of proper maintenance causes the biggest harm.

Your gear needs to be cleaned and lubricated regularly to avoid issues in the future. Use hot water and some detergent to clean the gears. This will help break down the dirt and the oil which may affect the operation of the entire system.

Don’t use excess lube. It will just collect dirt and become a problem. A good rule would be to wipe off the excess lube before riding away.

David Miller

My name is David and I have been an outdoor guy for as long as I can remember. I have a strong passion for the great outdoors in general and specifically camping. I am the kind of person who spends more time outdoors than indoors. I am a staunch believer in the fact that outdoor life should be well lived because it's in the natural, serene, and untamed wild that we find out who we truly are. Let’s take the journey together.

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