All the shifting was working smoothly until my bike fell off to the ground (edit1: to my right side hitting the right side of the bike) with me couple days back. Now after about a week when I took my bike for a ride I found that the rear shifter doesn't work as intended.

The problem is when I push the lever (rear) to shift to a smaller gear (larger cog), the lever doesn't come back to the neutral position, thus I have to manually pull it back to the neutral position. When I push the lever, it sort of gets stuck there. So when I want to shift to higher gears I have to push the lever then take it back and then push it again and so on and so forth. Shifting to higher gears works perfectly and generally there's no problem with indexing or any other tunning thing, only thing is the lever getting stuck. Can't be a problem with cable either.

Front shifting working as usual. Today I opened the case just to see if I can find the reason for the issue by visual inspection but I can't identify anything to fix (have attached a pic after removing the rear shifter case).

Any help towards fixing this is highly appreciated!

bike: specialized sirrus, gears: shimano alivio 8 speed

EDIT2: some other pics of the rear derailler (just for you to see if it's bent or not)

EDIT3 (closure): First I tried losing the cable tension to see if the lever is still stiff and it was. Which made it clear that the problem is with the shifter and not with the cable. And then I removed the back cover of the shifter and voila! it started working. But it gets stuck when I fully screw the nut in with the back cover. So I just screw it in to the extent that the lever is working and left it there. enter image description here enter image description here

  • So, what parts of the bike struck the ground when you crashed? Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:31
  • I fell to my right side which means the right shifter/derailleur. (edited and added this info)
    – samsamara
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:34
  • The first suspect is always the cable. Make sure the housing didn't get kinked in the fall. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:36
  • i have inspected housing/cable for any defects but didn't see any. btw is the cable responsible for putting the lever in the neutral position. I doubt this as once you push to lever to shift into a larger cog, cable tightens and can't pull the lever back to the normal position..? I am wondering if the shifter got damaged during the crash
    – samsamara
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:50
  • 1
    it's fixed now. see my edit/ans. thanks!
    – samsamara
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 0:19

3 Answers 3


This is not easy to solve without actually having the bike to play with. It's also something I'd do fairly quickly so I'm trying to give a detailed explanation of something I've learned to do from experience rather than written instructions. I've built my own bikes, worked for a year as a mechanic, and ridden rather a lot on a variety of different bikes. I'm also regularly wrong and still learning. So...

Modern derailleur systems have a lot of things that have to be adjusted fairly accurately for them to work properly. Unfortunately some of the tests that a mechanic will do are destructive, in that they will usually cut the gear cable and replace it. Generally speaking for anything more complex than tweaking the barrel adjuster they will replace the cable and outer, because those are often the problem and they're cheap. In other words, paying $5 or $10 for a new cable+outer will often save $20 or more of mechanics time.

The other thing is that a cheap shifter like yours is only about $20 to replace, so often a shop will just put a new one on and not bother trying to fix it.

Leave the cover off the shifter (as it is in the photo), everything should still work. If you lost that cover in the crash, buy a new shifter (or replace the cover if you can somehow find a matching one). The missing cover isn't a problem in a nice clean shed, but on the road the shifter will fill up with water and muck and stop working fairly soon.

Any of these steps might fix the problem, but in order this is what I'd do:

  1. Look inside the shifter, jiggle the bike, trying to see whether there are any loose parts in the shifter (or random debris). Note that it's full of sticky grease so anything loose will likely be stuck in place by the grease.

  2. Try to work out what everything does, and whether anything is out of place.

  3. If you find something, try to work out whether it broke off the shifter (and if so, whether it's important), or whether it's from the outside. Then remove it.

  4. inspect the cable and outer between the shifter and rear derailleur. If there are kinks or damage that will probably be the problem, and it's the thing to fix first.

  5. Next, get slack gear cable next to the shifter. Often there will be open sections of cable and you can pop a section of outer off the bike to get this. The attachment to the frame looks like this, although they're usually welded on rather than riveted:
    enter image description here

  6. Now you can pull the cable to make sure it slides freely in each section of outer. If it doesn't , replace it. What you're looking for here is not "maybe a little extra friction" but "hard or impossible to move by hand".

  7. The shifter. Look for obvious damage. Hopefully you did that already :) Specifically, if the release lever that's not returning is bent it might rub on the body of the shifter. Even plastic levers do this.

  8. If there's abrasion on the plastic at the join between lever and body that can also produce this effect, and carefully trimming away the damaged plastic along the join can sometimes fix it.

  9. Click through gears. Without the derailleur pulling on the cable it will only shift into the lowest gear, but it should do that easily.

  10. Pull gently on the cable as it leaves the shifter. You're just reproducing the pull from the derailleur spring, not ripping the shifter off the handlebars. Now click the other lever on that shifter to change back up through the gears.

It sounds as though the last step is likely to fail. If so all you can do is poke around in the shifter more aggressively, trying to dislodge anything loose, maybe put a bit more oil in there to looses the grease and see if that helps.

I'm sorry this is so non-specific, but in my experience the "generally poke it and lube it" approach works about half the time, and the rest of the time the problem is a damaged part that can't be replaced because no-one sells parts for cheap shifters. In the shop I worked at we had a box of old shifters for times like this and if the customer couldn't afford a new one we'd try to find a second hand one. But that saves $10 on a bill that's already got over $50 in labour costs on it.


thanks all for your answers but I'll just write it what I did for fixing it (actually nothing! :)):

First I tried losing the cable tension to see if the lever is still stiff and it was. Which made it clear that the problem is with the shifter and not with the cable. And then I removed the back cover of the shifter and voila! it started working. But it gets stuck when I fully screw the nut in with the back cover. Possibly when I fully screw the nut in, cover is rubbing the lever or something which hinders the lever functionality. So I just screw it in to the extent that the lever is working and just left it there.

  • 1
    thanks for reporting back to tell us that you solved the problem. And also what a simple fix it was. That will hopefully encourage other people to have a play when they have similar issues.
    – Móż
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 4:15
  • Until now I can't understand what do you call a shifter and what a lever... I think it will be good for later people reading your question to edit it with proper terms: "derailleur" placed near the wheel, moving the chain. "shifter" the handle you pushing / pulling to switch gears. "lever" is a brake handle.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 10:15
  • 1
    @Alexander I would say the (shifter) lever is part of a shifter (mechanism) which has a back cover.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 13:34
  • With the cover only screwed loosely on you may find it suddenly falls off. A couple of things you could try to prevent this: putting a spacer under the cover; putting a locknut or antishake washer on the bolt. You may of course be lucky, or it may be obvious with it in your hand that it's not an issue.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 13:36
  • Applying a little removable-type thread lock fluid to the bolt threads might help to keep it at the "not quite tight" position. Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 22:19

It's likely the cable and not the shifter.

I have Shimano Rapidfire shifters, and I've dropped my commuter bike a few times--both with and without me. More than once I thought I had a shifter problem, but when the LBS looked at it the problem was the cable. Cables take a real beating with an index shifter as opposed to a friction shifter. Being a year round commuter, I have my shifter cables replaced every two years.

It is sometimes said that if you talk to three different bike mechanics about anything that you are likely to get at least four answers. However, in talking with mechanics, I've found they tend to bet on the cable as the problem.

  • In what way are indexed shifters harder on cables than friction shifters? Just curious... Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:48
  • The movement from an index shifter is banging the cable one mm (or thereabouts) at a time with every shift. It's a short, sudden movement that puts a whole lot more stress and wear on the cables.
    – Kennah
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:58
  • I think it's more that indexed shifters are more sensitive to changes in the cable length, so you notice it more. It would be interesting to build a test rig to find out, but I'm not sure the information would be particularly useful. And as for talking to mechanics, you're better off giving them the bike.
    – Móż
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:24
  • @Mσᶎ, using my anecdotal experience, which is certainly a small dataset, I find that index shifters to be much harder on cables. Cyclist/mechanics I know with decades of experience riding friction shifter bikes say they rarely have to replace shifter cables. It's certainly not that they never replace shifter cables, but I know folks who ride more in a month than I ride in a year--not that I'm in the running for the Fred Birchmore Award.
    – Kennah
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:46
  • @Mσᶎ, I don't believe I rejected your statement that indexed shifters are more sensitive to changes in cable length. They are. Going very meta, friction shifters are all but immune to cable stretch, except in the extreme.
    – Kennah
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 22:25

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