How to Adjust a Bicycle Rear Derailer

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Fine-tune your bicycle performance. Learn how to adjust the rear derailer on a bike with expert tips on bicycle repair in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Basic Bicycle Repairs
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Video Transcript

Hello, this is Russ with the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective. Online at Also here on behalf of Expert Village. Today I'm going to show you how to adjust the rear derailleur, which plagues many people. Its relatively easy to setup, but there's a little bit of skill involved and you want to make sure you have everything in the right place. So, first thing you want to do is locate what your problem might be. It could be one of several things. Could be that your rear derailleur hanger back here is no longer in-line with your cassette, if that part is swung in, it can create a situation where it wants to be in a different gear. Also, you can see that the cable at this point is pretty loose. If the cable doesn't have enough tension on it, as you click the first gear, it won't push the derailleur far enough to be able to get any action out of it. So the first thing that you want to do is take most of that tension out of that brake cable. You can do that by two locations normally, one is on the back of the derailleur here, you can go ahead and thread that out which will create a little bit more tension on the cable. There is also often and adjustment on the top of the shifter up here. So you can use one of those two locations whichever one you feel better about. After you have that located in the position that you want, you want to go ahead and give it one click and see if it goes up and in this situation, we kind of hit it right on the money to start one click equals one gear, so that's good. The next thing you want to do is you want to go all the way up to the top of that gear and make sure that it's not possible to push that derailleur too far into the spokes. This is often what happens to a lot of people. There are two adjustments here at these set screws in the back One is an H and one is an L. H is for high, L is for low. The way I always remember it, is high is hard, so the high gear is the hard gear, which is down here, so L is the low gear, so what I want to do is actually I want to roll this screw in or out a little bit to control where that derailleur is going to stop. So you'll see if I roll this screw out a little bit too much, I'll actually give myself the capability to push that chain over the top and it will end up in the spokes, which might be situation that you have at the moment. If I had that situation where it wants to go over the top right there, that's where I'm going to want to roll that set screw back in and create a situation where the derailleur wants to stop in the appropriate position. So I'm going to go ahead and roll that back down so I don't ruin my back wheel. This is normally just a number 2 Philips screwdriver. Looks like a number 1, but its not. Go ahead and thread that guy all the way, make sure that that one stops in the appropriate position. Then go all the way back down to the low gear here and the low gear, what you want is if you were to remove your chain, the situation that you'd want is actually this top cog and the cog right here actually would be like this if you're to look down on top of them. So you don't want a situation where they line up directly, you want a situation where they're offset a little bit. Look from the back of the bike; make sure that you have that situation lined up exactly where you want it. If its not quite right, go ahead and roll that set screw either in or not a little bit, that'll control where that derailleur stops in the back. Go through all of your gears; make sure that one click equals one gear. In the event that you've done all of these things and you still have a situation where your derailleur is not shifting properly, its entirely possible that your derailleur hanger is bent or damaged and it needs to be probably adjusted by a bike shop at this point. There's a special tool for it and you're going to want to take it there and have them adjust it.


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