Ever since I got my bike (Surly Long Haul Trucker), it has been prone to shifting on its own. This is almost guaranteed to happen when I stand up on the pedals, and happens regularly when sitting as well. I have the feeling that this is a dangerous condition.

It seems from reading about the problem that it is due to the cable catching somewhere and creating a clutch effect. (read about it here) There does not seem to be a way to adjust the friction of the shift lever. I've tried:

  • greasing the cable guide under the bottom bracket (no effect)
  • backing off the tension of the cable with the tension knob on the cable casing (no effect)

Can anyone relate how they overcame this? My next step is to further loosen the cable by adjusting the connection to the derailleur?

  • There are bikes that have automatic transmissions, so I've changed the title and first sentence. Please feel free to roll back the edit if I've changed the meaning. Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 16:31
  • I have a bike with an automatic transmission, that's also how I read it first. It's not fun when you don't actually want it to change gears just then. Commented May 1, 2011 at 21:05
  • The first step is to lube your cables, working some Tri-Flow into the cable housings. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 22:06

6 Answers 6


Neil is right, most all "auto shifting" or "ghost shifting" is the result of cable-tension problems. If the cable is a bit loose, the derailleur will try to shift "up" to a smaller cog. If too tight, it will try to catch the next larger cog. Cables stretch, especially after a short period where the new cables stretch to the point they're stable. after that, they should be good for a long time. Try this.
Shift to the highest (smallest) cog and try to pull the derailleur cable away from the frame. If there's a lot of slack, it's too loose. If it feels very tight.... With either condition, make sure the shifter is in the highest position, and loosen the cable at the derailleur and then pull it snug. Re-tighten the securing bolt and run it through the gears; it should be very close. Ideally, the chain should jump smartly to each cog both up and down, and seat solidly on the cog. If it's just a bit off, you can play with the barrel adjuster either at the shifter or at the derailleur. Another cause of such problems is a bent rear derailleur "hanger", the part that the derailleur attaches to. Some of these are very soft aluminum and can be easily bent.
Make sure the derailleur cage is exactly parallel to the cogs and the hanger is not visibly bent.

  • 2
    If you can't find anything else, try crossing the gear cables under your down tube. That way the slight frame bending as you pedal is somewhat neutralised. The best way to do this is swapping the cables at the top of the downtube, but that may be new cables and outers if you don't have enough spare cable.
    – Мסž
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 22:19
  • In this specific case, given that it's a Long Haul Trucker I'd doubt that frame flex is the issue. Those things are ridiculously overbuilt.
    – lantius
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 23:58
  • After shifting to the highest cog and adjusting the cable tension, I haven't had an auto-shift in 3 days! Thanks
    – mcgyver5
    Commented Apr 25, 2011 at 16:27
  • What's a "DR cable" and where is it going to be on a bike? I have the same problem. Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 8:09
  • 1
    DR is being used as an odd abbreviation for Derailleur. In this case the Rear Derailleur.
    – gps
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 22:34

I've heard this referred to as ghost shifting, and a proper setup on your drivetrain will almost always make it go away. Someone else may be able to speak to the exact circumstances that cause this, but adjusting cable tension (see M. Werner's answer about this) and front and rear derailers, along with keeping your drivetrain clean and properly lubed, will go a long way towards eliminating this problem.

(While this has worked well on my full-sized touring bike, I have another bike where I've been unable to completely eliminate ghost shifting.)


Check your frame for hairline cracks. One of my bikes did shift to a larger sprocket when going uphill and back down immediately after the incline. The situation actually lasted for an astoundingly long time, several Mm. I only found out after the right hand chain stay finally gave way completely. Apart from that particular bike, I never experienced ghost shifting.

  • 1
    This is definitely worth checking for. Unfortunately you will need two people - a rider to sit on the bike and provide force to open up the cracks, and a second person to find them.
    – Мסž
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 22:17

So this is an old thread. I wanted to post what was happening to me... I have two sets of Sunraace SLM10 friction shifters. I was also experiencing ghost shifting. I did have a fair amount of play when in the lowest gear ratio. I tightened it, all to no avail. So I took my friction shifters apart, and realized that there is a spring with a plastic tab on it. The way these are designed, the screw that goes into the post also puts pressure on these springs. I tightened them to their Max and have experienced no more ghost shifting. If you are having this problem and the set has a screw in the post, you may want to tighten it.

  • Thanks Mat. I've since replaced both front and back gear sets but never examined the shifter itself.
    – mcgyver5
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 15:32

Cable tension is the greatest factor. Always get the derailleur hanger/plate tested It is quite surprising how often this is not perpendicular or true. Drag within the cable will affect modern 10 through to 12 speed systems, and that is why the outer cable ie the quality thereof plays an important role. Hardly ever are worn rivets on the parallelogram body a significant factor. the derailleur roller cage must be straight but will display a slight angle ( the upper jockey roller will 'lead' going upwards to the larger cog). Shimano actually says this is preferable. Often it is better to shift the derailleur onto the small cog on Cassette, to wind the Barrel-adjust all the way in, loosen off the clamp pull the cable finger tight, and then use the barrel adjust after one shift-click to get the chain onto the next cog.


Grab hold of the derailleur and try and wobble it. If there is any play it will move to towards the wheel under pressure, the chain will try and stay straight and will try to jump up to the next largest cog or slip between cogs. Hopefully it’s just loose and can be tightened with a hex key, else the housing is worn and its time for a new one.

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