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I need to adjust the derailleur on my bike, I don't have a bike stand. I have three options for pedaling while adjusting the the derailleur.

  1. Turn the bike upside down, balancing on the handlebars and seat.

  2. Tip it up on the kick stand

  3. Lay it completely on its side (if no kickstand)

Upside down is easiest, but it seems like that might not be the best choice. Is it ok to adjust the derailleur when the bike is upside down? Is one method clearly better then the others?

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Turning it upside down seems to make the most sense, assuming it can be easily balanced. Derailleurs work by spring and cable tension, not gravity, so there should be no problem with working on it with the bike upside down. The only issue you're likely to have is reaching the shifters (assuming they're bar-mounted). Also, if your bike has disc brakes, you should check out this post about potential risks of inverting the hydraulics.

I pretty routinely will invert my bike when working on it, as I also don't have a workstand, and it's never caused problems before.

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    At least put some old rags under the saddle and the handlebars where they touch the ground. It avoids nasty scratches. That's why this options is quite often frowned upon by cyclists. Alternatively instead of using a stand there may a possibility to hang it from a pipe or the low branch of a tree by a strap under the nose of the saddle, although you'd need to secure it in some way. – Carel Aug 23 '18 at 18:45
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    Also, for some bikes, when the handlebars are pressed against the ground with the bike upside-down, the cables for the brakes and/or the shifters may be deformed from their normal position (depends on how they're routed). This can cause a difference in performance of the brakes or shifting vs. what happens when the bike is right-side-up. Care should be taken such that this does not happen, as it can result in the adjustments being incorrect. – Makyen Aug 23 '18 at 20:25
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It's not ideal -- gravity on the chain slightly affects tension and the way the chain "wraps" the cogs. You probably can get a good rough adjustment but not "fine tuning".

An alternative is to use a rope or some such to hang the bike from overhead rafters (if in a garage or unfinished basement).

It used to be that you could get a sort of very simple "bipod" service stand that sat under the bottom bracket and held the rear wheel elevated, but likely these no longer work with many "modern" frame designs, and I can't find the via Google.

Folding bike service stands are available for $30-$80, however (though you need to pick a style that will work with your frame).

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Fourth option: keep the bike upright and lift the rear wheel when you need to spin the pedals. There is no need to keep the wheels off the ground while adjusting the derailleur. Adjusting the cable tension at center of the cassette and limit screws at both ends should be all that is needed, and that can be done by visually aligning the derailleur pulleys and cassette cogs.

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    Could also have someone else lift it at moments while you work – Swifty Aug 23 '18 at 21:25

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