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I need to replace my rear derailleur. I've been looking at a few ones on eBay, however, my issue is that the seller does not know the size of the "cage". Specifically, I have a Shimano Tiagra RD-4400 that I would like to replace. On the actual derailleur it does not explicitly state the size. I can do the math with my 12-25t cassette and 30-52t 3 ring chains to know that what I currently have is a GS. But the sellers of a few of the RD-4400s I've seen on eBay don't know the cage length. Since they aren't connected to a bike, I can't estimate it based on the gears.

Is there a way to figure it out by just looking at the derailleur? Again, I don't see it explicitly stamped on my on RD-4400 so I assume it won't be stamped on the eBay ones... Thanks!

  • I'd probably just avoid the faff and drop in a new Sora (or any 7 to 9 speed Shimano) derailleur with appropriate sprocket size and capacity ratings. But you need someone to measure the cage length of a RD-4400 GS and SS and compare them. – Batman Aug 15 '15 at 22:47
  • The derailers should be speced with their "tooth capacity", and you can measure the required tooth capacity on your bike with your current gear set. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 16 '15 at 1:44
  • With the indicated cassette and chainrings you'll need a medium cage derailleur. The required derailleur should be able to 'digest' (52-30)+(25-12)=35 teeth. – Carel Aug 17 '15 at 7:10
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If you have a reasonably clear photo from the seller you can measure directly. This only works because there are known-size elements in the same plane as the cage that you want to measure.

What I would do is measure the derailleur you have, and count the teeth on the idler gear you'll be using as a reference just to make sure they're the same on both your one and the on you're considering.

This is a random image I chose because it has the cage flat to the plane of the picture so it's easy to discuss. If you can get the seller to take a similar photo it'll make your life easier (eg by pressing the cage flat on a table, then taking a photo looking straight down at it).

rear derailleur with measurement hints

The red lines show the size of the idler. Measure in pixels if you have an image program that shows you the length of the line you're drawing in pixels, or use a ruler on your screen if that's all you have. The yellow line is one possible option for measuring the cage length, but it's not ideal because it's going from the back side of the cage to the front, so if there's any tilt to the cage your measurement will be off. Or you could measure from the text on the cage to the edge of the bolt. But for best accuracy make the line as long as possible - measuring the text size is likely to give a huge uncertainty because there are so few pixels available (read up on quantisation noise in wikipedia or this introduction if you're interested). So I'd try to use the green line instead.

You need to get four measurements.

  1. size of the idler you have (in millimetres or units of your choice)
  2. size of the idler you might buy (in pixels)
  3. length of the cage of your derailleur (millimetres or whatever)
  4. length of the cage of the one you might buy (in pixels)

From that you can calculate the pixels per millimetre of the idler gears, then divide by the pixel length of the cage in the picture to get the millimetre length of the pictured derailleur. Compare that to the one you have and decide if it's the right size.

If you are really concerned you could do this for the reference pictures on the Shimano website to get an idea of the lengths that are available. That way you can guess which actual derailleur is for sale, rather than possibly rounding incorrectly (eg if you calculate 100mm from the picture and the actual options are 95mm, 102mm and 115mm you can either guess it's the 102mm one or compare the pcitures more closely to get a feel for the correct choice. Without the reference pictures you're left with "my one is 103mm, the seller pictures gives 100mm... that's close enough)

This all substitutes effort on your part for effort from the seller, but it also means you know more about how accurate the measurement is. I find it's often easier to measure the picture than the derailleur - note that the green line crosses through the pivot in a way that a tape measure can't do. To fake that lay the tape or ruler parallel to what you want to measure and as close to it as possible while keeping it in the same plane, then take the photo. (it's probably easier to buy a cheap vernier caliper and learn how to use it)

  • Exactly! 3,2,1... – andy256 Aug 17 '15 at 4:23
  • On reflection it seems like a lot of explanation for a simple thing I do fairly often, but I think it's also fairly complete. – Móż Aug 17 '15 at 4:28
  • Yes, I thought of writing similarly, but what you've written is more complete (as usual). – andy256 Aug 17 '15 at 5:29

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