The front shifter is a Shimano integrated brake-and-shift assembly. The front derailleur "groupo" is Shimano SIS. I can pull the cable to make the derailleur shift into third but the shifter doesn't have "enough throw" to do it via the shifter.

Pulled the cover off and threw some lube in it and it appeared to look just fine, but didn't take the closest of looks before having to shutter the shop.

First and second work just fine. Shifts up, shifts down.

Any ideas?

Thanks in advance.

  • 6
    It sounds like your cable is too loose... if you pull the cable (if accessible between cable housing sections) does it throw onto the large chainring? If so you likely need to tension the cable. If it doesnt the limit screws may need adjusting.
    – dafew
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 19:57
  • Did you try tightening the barrel adjuster? Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 11:55
  • Screwed it all the way in and re-tensioned the cable. I wonder if cable routing is an issue too? There is a cable guide attached to the BB and it looks... weird. It's oriented to face the chain stay and looks like a metal pulley (not plastic and on the underside of the BB). But that's not what's strange. The cable makes an "X" routing around the cable guide. I'd have thought it'd just make a "U" around the guide then attach to the derailleur...
    – mcwagner
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 16:01
  • 1
    Cables slowly stretch over time. And as a cable approaches end of life it begins to stretch more rapidly. Commented May 13, 2017 at 11:18

8 Answers 8


Getting into 3rd or not can be extremely sensitive on a too high cable tension

Others mentioned cable tension, and you'd think that is obvious, but I just wanted to highlight that quite small changes in cable tension can make a huge difference.

For example, here's a picture of my Shimano ST-EF65 opened up:

enter image description here

By pushing the thumb lever, I could make the chain go into 3rd. But I could not for the life in me get it to click into 3rd inside the shifter and stay there, and so the shifter would fall back to 2nd.

It had always been a bit hard, but something happened and it became impossible! Here's me trying to do it with my entire hand instead of just the thumb as you would in riding position:

After trying a bunch of things, including spraying WD-40 into the shifter to try and remove old lubricant as suggested in many videos, I finally played with the tension a bit further, and only then got it to work.

Once I was in a working state, I noticed that simply turning the barrel adjuster 5 quarter turns already made the difference between being able to shift or not!

The lesson is: the mechanical strengths and precisions of a cable can be really surprising. You'd think that your thumb is really strong and would be able to overcome them with the brute strength of or hands, but that may not be true.

Lube the front derailleur

Soon after getting it to work silky smooth as mentioned previously, and including cable changes, I went for a 4 hour ride on wet conditions, and I could clearly notice how progressively the 3rd was again getting harder and harder to get into, until it got impossible again.

Since the cable tension had been unchanged during the ride, I concluded that the main factor now was actually the front derailleur, which is close to the bottom bracket, and so that is the most likely part where water would have gotten into, as opposed to the shifter.

What must have happened is that the WD-40 I had previously put on just washed off during the wet ride, as it is not a proper lube, mostly a water displacer.

So what I did was:

  • put WD-40 again on the hinges. I then managed once again to go into 3rd.
  • let it dry off overnight
  • put on some actual spray lube, "WD-40 Bike, All Conditions Lube Bicycle Lubricant, 250ml"

After doing this, it has been holding for several weeks, including after a few wet rides, so after all, that seemed to be the key issue.

Part of the difficulty of this diagnosis is that the WD-40 doesn't take effect immediately it seems, you have to move the hinges around several times to let it penetrate and remove what as creating the friction.

Related question: Very stiff front derailleur

These are the three hinges I focused on lubing on both sides:

enter image description here


Cable tension

Limit Screws

Derailleur position/angle

These are the only things that actually affect your shifting mechanically. If those are all proper, something is broken/misaligned/shredded.

  • Positioning might make sense. I'll make sure it's aligned correctly when I get it into the stand next. I re-tensioned the cable and set the limit screws.
    – mcwagner
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 16:05
  • @mcwagner Did it work? Commented May 12, 2017 at 20:36

the grease inside of the shifter has gone bad. It goes all sticky instead of slidey and the clicker gets stuck. De grease and re grease the shifter.

  • Isn’t this one of the very few places where grease is bad? Use very light lube or maybe even WD-40.
    – Michael
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:18
  • The metal parts inside the shifters come already greased When they are new. I don't know what grease they use but it gets sticky over time. What I do know is that many types of grease degrade plastics. I use boeshield T9, not exactly a grease, it forms a waxy coating that lubricates and protects from corrosion and won't harm plastic. I wouldn't use wd 40 because it's a penetrating and displacing agent not a lubricant. Use it to loosen up and clear out the old sticky grease but use another product to lubricate.
    – Mr Ed
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 3:58

Having had exactly the same problem I tracked it down to the shifter, and as a previous contributor stated it is the manufacturer’s grease that gets sticky and stops smooth operation. There is a ratchet mechanism in place with a small metal pawl which has a weak spring. The sticky grease stops the pawl (little metal square which engages notches or steps in the main part when the shift leaver is pushed across) from engaging the third notch, it almost drops in but not quite. Fully degreasing the innards of the shifter and then spraying with T85 got ing working smoothly.

  • Welcome to the site! Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 9:53
  • In this case, pulling the visible inner cable by hand would have shown the derailleur to work normally, isolating your problem to the shifter.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 18:19

Cable tension screw at the paddle shifter was the cause of my problem. A second-hand bike. Someone had unwound the cable tension screw at the cable exit of the paddle shifter to it's maximum tension so I couldn't get it into third. I didn't have enough movement. I wound it all the way back in, re-tensioned the cable at the FD and then re-adjusted the cable tension at the paddle shifter. Bingo.


But you did not mention, how this happened? Is this a new bike, or did you change the cable? Did this shifter work fine in the past?

I think there is some problem with the basic cable tension, if it is not set up properly then the 3rd gear could be a problem. Try to find a youtube video, where they explain how to set it up properly, it's not that hard, just need some practice/patience.

  • Old bike. Existing cable. It's a friend's bike who they've gotten second-hand. As far as I know this was baseline from initial build from Wal-Mart (or whomever initially sold the bike).
    – mcwagner
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 16:04

The shifter has two size cogs in the centre. The first activates 1st and 2nd. To activate the third gear, a spring pulls the lever bar towards the centre (smaller cog). The spring isn't very strong and will stick, not pulling it in and therefore not catching the cog. Clean the area of the spring. I just use oil.

It is the same mechanism with more cogs, for the other shifter for the gears on the wheel.

  • Welcome to the site! Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 10:58

From what it looks like, it can be the derailleur angle affecting the shifting to the third chainring or, it can be that your derailleur cage has suffered damage and is out of shape or shaved. You can rule out the limit screws if the shifter is getting to the third index, as you've said it is. The cable tension is another possibility but since the other two shifts are good, it's unlikely that's the issue. I recommend you get the bike to your LBS to get it sorted out if you have troubles diagnosing the problem. Just appraise your derailleur cage and it's angle wrt to the chainrings before that, it's likely you get to the root once you do that. And yeah, the cage should be approximately parallel to the chainrings, you know what's wrong if it's not. I hope this helps. :)

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