I am trying to get an old mountain bike working.

I have read and watched numerous videos on the front derailleur but have yet to find anyone having this same issues except for someone who had something caught in the bike chain.

When I shift the chain will move to the middle chain ring but when I release the shift lever the derailleur moves back to the smallest chain ring. I can move the derailleur by hand and it will lift the chain all the way to the biggest chain ring but again as soon as I let go of the derailleur it moves back to the smallest chain ring again.

So the best I can tell is the spring brings the derailleur back in towards the bike and the cable pulls the derailleur out away from the bike. I am curious what is suppose to hold the derailleur out away from the bike once you shift?

Is the derailleur broken or is this just a tuning issue?

I am new to bike maintenance so hopefully I have worded everything correctly and you can understand what I am asking.

Update 7/23/2016 Model Info Left Shift Lever Thanks for all of the input. The issue does appear to be in the shift lever, I believe mine are called index shifters. The info stamped on the shift/brake levers say Shimano ST-MO50L Japan 22.2 I unhooked the derailleur cable and removed the shift lever from the bike and was able to spray WD40 into the shifter and get it clicking again. I would like to remove the cover from the shifter to give it a better cleaning but it is not clear how to do this. i have searched for diagrams/instructions on line but have not come up with anything.

Update 7/25/2015

Found the below diagram on line:

Shift lever Diagram

Uh Oh, guess I am not suppose to take the cover off of the shift lever. I already took the screw out but have put it back and still seems to be working.

  • 1
    See [this link](www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/front-derailleur-adjustment) to adjust the derailleur. Cable tension is what keeps the FD in the appropriate ring.
    – Batman
    Jul 12, 2016 at 23:42
  • 5
    Sounds more like a broken lever, since that's what is supposed to hold the cable tight and keep the derailleur away from the smallest chainring. A picture of the lever might save some back-and-forth, but is it a thumbshifter or a push-button style shifter? Thumbshifters often have a "how much friction" knob on top that you can tighten to solve this, push-push ones fail in more complex ways (but can sometimes be fixed)
    – Móż
    Jul 13, 2016 at 0:06
  • 1
    @Batman Left out the http://
    – andy256
    Jul 13, 2016 at 1:15
  • 1
    Not uncommon - look around your shifter lever for a tension screw, try tightening it a bit. The lever should be relatively firm to move if its a friction shifter. If its indexed, that is it has a click buttons for up and down, then is a bit more serious. Since the derailer moves, its fine. This is a control problem.
    – Criggie
    Jul 13, 2016 at 2:00
  • It really sounds like part of your problem is simply that the cable has stretched and needs adjusting. Hard to tell if the shifter is also defective. Jul 24, 2016 at 3:34

2 Answers 2


If this is an older bike with a standard friction shifter, you need to adjust the friction.

enter image description here

On the shaft where the lever pivots is an adjustment knob of some sort. Simply tighten that knob until the lever is "stiff" operating but can still be moved with reasonable ease.

If, on the other hand, you have an indexed shifter then the procedure to correct this problem depends on the specific type you have (and how repairable that particular type is). A picture of your shifter would be most helpful if it is not the standard friction style.


The lever itself holds the cable (and the derailleur) on high gear. That's mean your lever fails. If it a standard friction lever, you can adjust it's tightness by the screw on it. If it doesn't help, the lever should be replaced.

  • 1
    Replacement may not be needed. If an indexed shifter, a common problem is the inside grease hardens, stopping the ratchets moving. A soak in WD40/engine cleaner etc followed by a good clean out and fresh aerosol grease often helps
    – mattnz
    Jul 13, 2016 at 1:31

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