How To Adjust Bike Gears?

Adjusting bike gears

Bikes are made of many different components. These parts must work in harmony if you want to have an enjoyable riding experience. However, sometimes those components stop working the way they should. Bike gears are one of many small problems that can come up, so you should probably know how to adjust bike gears. Otherwise they can make you work a lot harder for less enjoyment and can bring problems for the bike, especially when you are trying to shift speeds.

In today’s guide, we’ll take a look at the reasons for adjusting your bike gears, from shifting problems to even falling chains. We’ll also share with you a step-by-step guide on how to change your front and rear bike gears.


Why Would You Want To Adjust Bike Gears?

There are many reasons you’d want to adjust your bike gears, but the main reason is that an adjusted bike will ride smoothly.

Without correctly adjusting your bike, you’ll have a hard time riding, shifting speeds, turning, and you can even have problems with your chain.

Adjusting Your Gears For a Smoother Ride

The main reason why you’d want to adjust your bike’s gears is to make your bike go smoother over the terrain you are on. Bikes that allow a shift of gear come with different speeds and levels you can choose from depending on your riding surface.

For example, imagine you usually use your bike to commute. That involves going over asphalt and pavement, and your bike works perfectly for it.

However, when you try to ride over different terrains, you notice that your bike doesn’t go as smoothly as when you ride in the city.

Your bike doesn’t ride as smoothly because the gear is not adjusted for going over a dirt track or a rocky surface.

The same can happen in the opposite situation when you have your bike adjusted for off-road riding and try to ride on smoother terrain. You’ll notice the difference right away, and it can lead to a challenging ride.

Adjusting Your Gear To Avoid Problems With The Chain

Chain Off

You may want to consider adjusting your bike gears to avoid any issues with the chain.

When the gears are not correctly adjusted, you’ll notice that riding gets more challenging. Sometimes, your bike is not responding to your pedaling. All of these problems are related to the chain and the gears.

When the chain is giving you problems, it is time to check your gears. Bike gears shift between the different speeds and levels, and when they are not working correctly, that transition can lead to problems in the chain.

It can even cause the chain to fall completely off the bicycle.

To keep your gear adjusted and your chain in place, you need to pay attention to the chainrings and how smoothly your bike works. If you notice a difference from how your bike used to work, then adjusting the chainrings can resolve the problem.

A Step-by-Step Guide To Adjusting Bike Gears

Bikes might seem like complicated mechanisms, but getting your gears back on track is not that challenging.

There are two sides of the bike you will have to pay attention to: the front gear and the rear gear. Each one requires a different adjustment technique, and each one is as important as the other.

To begin with, what you need to do is place your bike upside down. We do this so that we can have easier access to the front and back gears. Ensure that you place the bike securely on a steady surface before starting to work on adjusting the gears.

Front Gear

Shimano Front Gear

Here’s what you have to do to adjust your front gear:

Put the Gear Lever Into the Right Position

The first thing you need to do is to put the gear lever into the lowest gear. If your bike comes with a cable adjuster on the gear lever, use the proper tools to tighten it almost to its fullest.

Once that’s done, undo the bolt that secures the cable to the operating lever. With the screw undone, you’ll be able to remove the cable.

Check the Front Derailleur

The front derailleur must be parallel to the chainring. If that’s not happening, adjust the derailleur. If the chainring and derailleur are not adjusted, proceed to loosen the fixing clamp to realign the derailleur.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll notice a gap of around 2mm between the largest chain wheel and the outer plate.

Adjust the Inner Adjusting Screw

Now, it is time to adjust the inner adjusting screw. We do this so that the chain can sit on the smallest chainring in the cassette.

Pull the Front Derailleur

With the chain on the smallest chainring, proceed to pull the front derailleur in with one hand. Use the other hand to pedal the bike, making the chain go onto the biggest chainring.

You can achieve this by screwing and unscrewing the adjustment screw for as long as it is necessary.

Return the Derailleur

For this step, all you need to do is allow the derailleur to go back to its original position over the smallest chainring. Once that’s done, refit the adjusting cable and tighten the bolt.

Test the Front Derailleur

You need to hold the bike off the ground and put the chain back on the biggest chainring. Once that’s been done, test the derailleur’s maneuverability by moving the chain from chainring to chainring.

If the chain falls off during this test, proceed to adjust the inner derailleur adjusting screw.

With this step fulfilled, place the gear lever to “low” and the chain onto the smallest chainring. Then, loosen the cable security bolt slack up the cable.

Place the Chain Onto the Smallest Cog

Once the chain is on the smallest cog of the cassette, begin testing the three-ring crankset. Do it as much as necessary to figure out any possible bend.  If the chain falls, all you need to do is repeat the process of the previous step.

However, when the chain falls from the chainring, adjust the outer screw instead of the inner one.

Check the Derailleur

If you notice that the derailleur is moving slowly from chainring to chainring, unscrew the cable adjuster placed on the gear lever.

Do not unscrew it entirely, just enough to notice an improvement in the chain’s movement speed when it shifts from gear to gear.

Ensure the chain is going smoothly on both sides, from the biggest to the smallest chainring and vice versa. Once this is done, you’ll be able to test-ride your bike.

Rear Gear

Rear Gear

Here’s what you need to do to adjust your rear gear:

Adjusting the Gear Lever

The first thing you must do is place the gear lever into the top gear. Now, use the pedals and turn them. Once that’s done, allow the chain to go onto the smallest chainring cassette.

If you can see a cable adjuster on the lever, screw it clockwise till it is almost all the way in.

Cable-Securing Bolt

Now that you are working on the derailleur, what you must do is undo the cable-securing bolt. Then, proceed to remove the cable altogether.

Push the Rear Derailleur Inwards

Use one hand to push the rear derailleur towards the wheel, and with the other hand, push the pedals. Remember that if the derailleur’s “adjustment screw” is tightened, the chain will go no further than the largest cog.

However, if it goes further than that, turn the adjusting screw and repeat the previous step.

If it still does not adjust on the biggest cog, try unscrewing the adjusting screw and repeat the process.

Push the Rear Derailleur Outwards

With the previous step fulfilled, and only if you are happy with the results, proceed to allow the derailleur’s spring to push outwards onto the smallest cog in the rear.

Remember that if the chain comes off during this step, unscrew the adjusting screw and try again.

Refit the Gear

Once you’ve finished with the previous steps, you can check if the derailleur travels smoothly between the biggest and lowest cogs.

Suppose you can tell that the derailleur has no problems shifting from one end of the cassette to the other. In that case, you can refit the gear cable and screw the security bolt back to its position.

Go Through All the Gears

Now, use the gear lever to go through each of the gears more than once. If the derailleur moves slowly from the biggest gear to the smallest one, try tightening the cable adjuster you can find in the derailleur’s body.

On the other hand, if the slow speed is noticeable from the smallest to the biggest gear, tighten the cable adjuster.

Tip: Once everything has been done, tighten all the bolts and take your bike for a test ride. Try not to force your bike before you do a test run because you could miss things in your gear adjustment.


Conclusion About Adjusting Gears

Adjusting your bike gears is an essential part of maintaining your bicycle.

If you don’t do it correctly, you’ll notice it when you are riding, and it can even lead to problems with your chain. To prevent any accidents, adjust your bike gears when you ride on different terrains.

Overall, remember that front and rear gears work differently, and therefore, you need to adjust them in different ways. Adjust both sides before riding your bike again, and make sure the chain can shift without interruptions while you ride.


Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic

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