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I'll be in first gear on my front derailleur, and shift up to 2nd. Nothing will happen at all. Then I'll shift up to 3rd, and I'll finally switch into second. 3rd gear is inaccessible.

What could be the cause of this issue? Cable too slack? Limit screws in wrong positions? What should I adjust to try and fix this? I've been trying different things but I'm clueless here so I thought I'd ask for advice from people who actually know.

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    By "up" I assume you mean to a larger ring. This means your cable is too loose. There should be an adjustment barrel somewhere along the cable or at the shift lever. Unscrew the barrel about 1 full turn (this makes the cable tighter) and try everything again. If that doesn't do it, try an additional 1/2 turn at a time. (Note that there may be a "lock nut" on the adjuster that you will want to retighten after adjusting.) It's vaguely possible that your high limit screw is misadjusted as well, but not likely if the shifter used to work OK and no one mucked with the screws. – Daniel R Hicks Mar 5 '15 at 12:50
  • (It is normal for cables to "stretch" as they age, and this particular adjustment -- for both front and rear -- needs to be made after about 3 months, then every 6-12 months thereafter.) – Daniel R Hicks Mar 5 '15 at 12:51
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If it was me, I'd release the gear cable so there is no tension at all on the front mech.

Then move the gear lever / changer to the position the changer would be in if you weere in the 1st chainring.

Then make sure that the adjusting screws are set correctly, so that when you look at front mech from above, it is centred over the 1st, smallest chainring. You might need to tweak the screws to get it to line up properly. I can't remember which screw does what but trial and error will tell you.

Then I'd get some pliers and put lots of tension on the gear cable, and clamp it tight in the front mech.

Now you have a nice tight gear cable. Try again with changing and see if it works any better.

If it goes up to the 3d, biggest chainring, make sure you can't overshoot on the changer, you might need to adjust those screws again - but don't touch the one you used to set the position on the 1st, smallest chainring.

It can take a bit of testing, but usually this approach works for me.

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It sounds like an alignment issue, possibly with your limit screw for the lowest gear being "too low". Your best bet might be to follow a guide to realign the derailleur. Something like this

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It can also be that the cable is too tight. Or is can’t loosen up to the appropriate length because it is breaking up inside the tubes or the cable can’t move properly inside the tube. First just try to loosen a little if it doesn’t work take the cable completely off and check for loose strands. If those two don’t work then you try to see if it is misaligned and either bend the derailleur back to place or buy a new one. (Btw, I’m not native so my speech may sound a bit strange)

  • A shorter, tighter cable moves the front derailleur outwards to higher gears, it's likely that the cable is in fact too long or loose, not too tight. – Argenti Apparatus Oct 2 '17 at 21:34
  • Damn, I thougth he was talking about the back derrailer not the front, my bad. And here I though averyone was smoking something. Tnk you – OuNelson Mangela Oct 2 '17 at 23:31
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Probably all that is needed is a re-adjustment of the front derailleur cable. The cable is pulled by the shifter lever to swing it outwards to the bigger rings, so slightly too much cable between the shifter and derailleur prevents the cage from being swung out enough to get to the biggest ring.

There are many guides to derailleur adjustment out there. My favorite is available on the Park Tool Company YouTube channel (link below), but googling will yield several to choose from.

Basic procedure is:

To tighten the cable, find the front derailleur barrel adjuster, it will be at the shift lever if you have mountain bike shift levers or on the frame somewhere along the cable run if you have a road bike.

Unscrew the barrel to tighten the cable, you may have to go several turns to get the cable tight enough.

  1. Start with the shifter in the lowest gear / innermost position.
  2. If the cable is visibly loose, tighten until the slack is just taken out.
  3. Experiment with shifting and making 1/2 turn adjustments until you can reliably get onto all three front rings and shift back down as well.

If you run out of adjustment in the barrel adjuster you will have to re-clamp the cable on the derailleur.

  1. Shift to the lowest gear / innermost position.
  2. Undo the cable clamp on the derailleur until the cable can be pulled through (be careful to note how the cable runs through the clamped),
  3. Wind the barrel adjuster all the way in then back out a couple of turns
  4. Put some tension on the cable using some pliers (but don't crush it too much), and re-tighten the clamp.

While you have the cable un-clamped, you may choose to check the inner and outer limit screw settings. See a guide on derailleur adjustment for how to do that.

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