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How to Adjust Bike Gears

If you enjoy cycling, learning how to adjust bike gears can increase your level of enjoyment, save you some time, and save you some money.

Being able to make small adjustments to your bicycle is usually simple and rewarding. Adjusting bicycle gears by yourself will save you time and money: you will not have to haul your bicycle to the shop every time any little adjustment or tweak needs to be made. So read ahead and learn how to adjust bike gears and become a very savvy bicycle owner.

Adjusting the Front Derailleur

  1. Hang the bicycle so the pedals and wheels can freely rotate, or if you prefer, insert the bicycle into a repair stand.
  2. Locate the front derailleur. Derailleur gears are a variable-ratio transmission system commonly used on bicycles.

    A derailleur system consists of a chain and sprockets, as well as a mechanism that moves the chain from sprocket to sprocket. In the bicycle world, sprockets and gears are often used interchangeably and refer to the same mechanical part. To locate the front derailleur start with the left shift lever and follow the cable until it enters the mechanism near the front gears. This mechanism is the front derailleur.

  3. Locate the two small screws on top of the mechanism. These are the derailleur adjusting screws. One will have an “L” for low gear, and the other will have an “H” for high gear. If you are just learning how to adjust bike gears, and you’re feeling confused or overwhelmed up to this point, you may want to work with somebody who knows what they are doing for a time or two before venturing out on your own.
  4. Turn the pedals on the bicycle until the chain shifts into the small chain ring. If the chain isn’t moving properly, loosen the adjusting screw “L” until you reach your desired behavior. If the chain comes off, tighten the same screw.
  5. Once you have properly adjusted for the small chain ring, shift into the big chain ring. If the chain does not go into the big chain ring, loosen the screw marked “H.” If the chain goes too far, or if it comes off, tighten the “H” screw.
  6. When you properly know how to adjust bike gears, you will know that when you shift the rear derailleur, the chain should not rub the front derailleur when you’re in the big ring in front and the small cog in the back. It also shouldn’t rube when you’re in the small ring in the front and the big cog in the back.

Adjusting the Rear Derailleur

  1. To find the rear derailleur locate the right shift lever and follow the cable to the pulley mechanism near the rear gears.
  2. Tip: To adjust gears quickly and effectively, invest in a good tool set.

    How to Adjust Bike Gears

    A bike mechanic is only as good as the tools he carries.

    If you want to learn to make precise gear adjustments, check out our recommended bicycle repair tools. Gear adjustment will often require tools like hex wrenches and locking pliers, so purchase some that are sturdy and reliable.

  3. Locate the two screws marked "H" for high and "L" for low.
  4. Turn the pedals forward and shift into the smallest cog. If you are just learning how to adjust bike gears, you may need to know that a cog is the set of rear sprockets that attaches to the hub on the rear wheel of a bicycle and works with the rear derailleur to provide multiple gear choices to the rider. If the chain doesn't properly shift to the smallest cog, loosen the "H" screw. If it overshoots the smallest cog, tighten the screw.
  5. Shift into the largest rear cog. Once again, if it doesn't shift, loosen the "L" screw, and if it shifts too far, tighten the same screw.
  6. Make any necessary adjustments.

Last Word About How to Adjust Bike Gears

Don't be intimidated by adjusting your bicycle gears. With a little bit of practice, learning how to adjust your bike gears is easy to master and a great skill for a bicycle owner to learn.

Books About How to Adjust Bike Gears

More information about how to adjust bike gears and about bicycle maintenance can be found in several informative books. Take a look:

How to Adjust Bike Gears
How to Adjust Bike Gears
How to Adjust Bike Gears

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