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I bought a cheapish bike (Nakamura) couple of years ago, and it generally serves me well. Main problem that I have is that shifting gears, especially front gears often gets out of tune. After only a couple of rides it stops being smooth, and than I soon start having real problems while trying to shift gears (e.g when I shift 1->2 it gets stuck on 1, then i push to 3, and back to 2 and then it clicks, or similar scenarios. At one point before tuning, just trying to switch to 1 meant automatic chain falling from cogs). I tried tuning it myself, and had it tuned at LBS, but results are the same.

Question is, I guess, what can I do about it? Should I buy new derailleur? Maybe cables are bad? Bike is 3x7 and all the new stuff is 3x(8, 9, 10) would buying 3x8 be a problem? What if I go nuts and spend money on entire new power-train (front/rear, cogs/dereilleurs) which would probably be only slightly less that I paid for entire bike? Would it make sense?

Also worth mentioning is that I don't ride a bike that much. In last couple of years, I've barely rode 1000km,and so far I haven't change any part on it, or done any maintenance aside from cleaning/lubing, and derailleur tuning.

  • Does it get out of tune a couple rides after the gear cables have been replaced? Cables stretch with use, so you need to use the barrel adjusters to bring it back into line. – Criggie Sep 24 '15 at 23:14
  • It would be helpful if you describe more clearly what it means to be "having real problems when trying to shift gears." For example, when you move the front shifter does the front derailer move with it? Does the cage stay put? Knowing more would help us think about the problem. – dlu Sep 25 '15 at 1:21
  • Do you have any money to upgrade parts or buy a new bike? – ebrohman Sep 25 '15 at 3:06
  • Also, a photo of the front derailleur area would be handy. Some cheaper bikes just will never shift very well, but there is also a bit of technique in getting smooth shifts and knowing which gears not to use. – Móż Sep 27 '15 at 4:06
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There could be a number of problems.

First, technique. This is all you, so it's cheap and fairly easy.

Derailleur gears don't work well when the chain is going from the inside at one end to the outside at the other, as below. In those gears if you shift the front derailleur you can easily drop the chain. Or if you're trying to shift into that gear it will be hard or impossible to shift. It also wears your chain out faster. Don't do that.

cross over gears (via Wickworks)

Second, Adjustment

Once you're using the gears properly it's usually possible to adjust even old, cheap parts to work tolerably. This may involve moving the derailleur on the seat tube as well as changing all the adjustment screws and possible straightening the rear derailleur hanger. Hopefully your LBS has done that.

Third, New Parts:

New gear cables and outers are only about $US10 in most places, so they're normally fitted if there's more work required than a quick adjustment. If that hasn't been done you should probably do it just on general principles. That way you can rule out bad cables as the problem. But if the LBS says the cables are ok they almost certainly are.

Other parts I would only replace if someone knowledgeable suggests it. With a cheap bike it doesn't take many part replacements before it's cheaper to buy a new bike, and with cheap bikes that's often a better solution. See "bicycle shaped object"

Summary

What I suggest is making sure you're shifting properly. If you make sure you're only using the matching 5 rear cogs for each chainring(*) and the problems persist I suggest visiting a different bike shop.

There's no great harm in trying to adjust things yourself as long as you're careful. You can easily adjust the rear derailleur so it will go into the spokes, for example, which is an expensive mistake to discover when you're riding the bike. Or turn the front derailleur far enough around the seat tube that the right crank will hit it. So test your adjustments inside while you're working on the bike.

If you get it all horribly mixed up and wheel it into a bike shop they can fix it up, and it won't be too much worse than if you hadn't done that (assuming you haven't broken anything).

(*) the largest 5 rear cogs for the small chainring, the middle 5 for the middle chainring and the smallest 5 cogs for the large chainring.

  • Thanks for the great answer. I was aware of the shifting technique, and I try pushing the pedals a bit softer while changing the gears. I'll try tweak it myself once again, and if that doesn't work, a different bike shop. What I'm most worried about is speed at which it gets out of tune once tuned. If that doesn't improve through any of the interventions, I guess I'll just end up bying a new bike... – Slartibartfast Sep 28 '15 at 14:02
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I'm sure you're a better judge of how effective your LBS employees are than people on an Internet forum, but in my experience it isn't uncommon to find some LBS employees are not very enthusiastic about working on bikes they view unfavorably for whatever reason: too old, too inexpensive, and so forth. Some think that working on an inexpensive bike is like polishing a turd, and I have run into more than a few who view it that way.

If the bicycle is similar to this one, I would encourage you to check out some YouTube videos regarding derailleur tuning:

Tuning a front derailleur
Tuning a rear derailleur

  • Thanks for the videos! I'll try it myself next time, to see if I get better result. I've tried two different shops, and fist one did feel a bit incompetent, but the second kind-a felt like he did a decent job, but after some riding (say 70-80km) it stopped being smooth again. I've noticed that one of the L-H screws (I forgot which one) is pretty loose already (it sticks out compared to the other one). This video gave me the idea to try to move entire derailleur first before tweaking the screws. – Slartibartfast Sep 28 '15 at 11:44

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