I bought a mountain bike for my daughter at a yard sale recently. It's not a high-end bike (a Huffy, but probably the walmart or academy sports variety), but it was very cheap (under $20) and effectively brand new... one of those "we bought her a bike but she never rode it and now it's too small for her" sort of things.

Anyway. The problem is, it's a 15-speed (3 in front, 5 in back) and the shifters are really strange, especially the right side. Its a simple thumb shifter with a single lever. The marks indicate 5 speeds but it's out of tune I think since it doesn't shift anywhere near where the marks are, and she has to sort of play with it to get it to shift. Basically push it up until it shifts, then dial it back down so the derailleur won't rub (that's actually more a problem on the front than the back, of course).

My question is, though - where can I get a 5-speed shifter? I haven't been able to find any other than some old ones on ebay. I have a hunch that the shifter is REALLY a 10-speed shifter with a sticker on it that says it's a 5-speed one. I'm not looking to spend a lot of money on this, it's not a good enough bike and since it's a 24" she'll outgrow it in a couple years, but since this is her first mountian bike, I don't want to turn her off of it because the shifter is squirrelly.


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    My guess is the rear shifter is a friction shifter -- basically, it continuously varies the cable tension to move the derailleur, in which case the behavior is relatively normal. For 5 speed, chances are all you're going to find at affordable are friction shifters. – Batman Sep 6 '15 at 15:41
  • hm. The shifter works, it's just - I think - hard for her to understand since the friction shifter requires some nuance and she's use to watching how mine works. I ride an old Trek 850 that I've had since the early 90s - I love it. It's a little beat up, but I've kept the equipment in good condition and other than replacing the front chainwheel a because of lost teeth, it's all original still. (continued) – Michael Sep 6 '15 at 16:01
  • The alivio rapidfire shifters are easy to understand, and I think maybe the friction shifters are confusing her. she's 10 after all. I might just help her along with it until she grows into a 26" and I'll feel ok with dropping money on a real bike for her. – Michael Sep 6 '15 at 16:01
  • For a 10 year old just learning, I'd probably just stick with some gear and forget about shifting. It's not like they're really going to be mountain biking on a Huffy. – Batman Sep 6 '15 at 16:03
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    There's no way it's a 10 speed shifter relabeled as a 5 speed. Instead, it's probably slightly out of tune. I doubt you need to buy a new one, just adjust what you have. Buying a new one will leave you needing to adjust it anyway. – John Zwinck Sep 9 '15 at 10:42

Five-speed shifter is accurate. After all, you have only five gears in back, and 3 in front, right? Online searches can find you new shifters, but you'll have to know more about them to buy the right ones than you do now.

But I think it most likely that your real problem is a lack of maintenance. This sounds like an older bike that has seen little use. Anything sitting in the garage for 2 years or more fits in this "older" category. Your cables and derailleurs need lube. I'm guessing they have not been cleaned and lubed - ever. And that the most likely reason for your issues is that the derailleurs are just plain sticking. If you don't have rust, a good cleaning and lubing may work wonders.

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    I spent some time messing with it and, yes, this bike had been sitting around and needed a good lube and cleaning. The cable needed some adjustment too, it was a bit too loose. Honestly, be biggest problem is that the bike is a Chinese-made Huffy. it's a mass-produced model, probably originally bought at Walmart or Academy Sports, so the workmanship isn't that great and it shows. This is from someone who's ridden the same Trek 850 for 25 years, lots of newer parts, but I absolutely love that bike... haha, it's easy to get spoiled by a good bike. This POS sort of took me by surprise! thx all! – Michael Nov 11 '15 at 15:54
  • Good! Glad to hear there has been progress. Cheap big-box bikes can have their own place - but you are right about the workmanship. When I was just out of high school I rode one to work. Got quite a few miles on it, then the seat stay broke away from the seat tube. My kid bro took it, welded it in shop class, and used it a few more years. It was heavy, and klutzy, but it worked. I won't say it was a fun bike - but it got me to work! If you have to get a new shifter, I have found old models online, but mostly not from the usual online sources. Could switch to a friction shifter. Good luck! – Corvus B Nov 12 '15 at 16:39

I found a 5 speed shifter on Amazon : 5 speed shifter.

Hope that helps.


Buy 6 or 7 speed shifter and use put it in friction (non-indexed) mode. Then adjust the derailleur limit screws to prevent shifting to the "missing" sprockets.

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    Sorry - five speed has a different cable pull, compared to 6/7/8 speeds. It may sit close-enough on some cogs, but not across the range. This would only work if it was a friction shifter. – Criggie Nov 10 '15 at 11:24
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    Acording to www.sheldonbrown.com/cribsheet-spacing.html 5 and 6 speed sprockets are the same, so I think shifters pull the same length of cable – PawelS Nov 11 '15 at 21:21

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