I just finished some repairs on my bike, (Mongoose 26" 21 speed). I noticed that for some reason when I try to shift using the shifter, it won't shift to the lower gears. I can't get past seven. I tried adjusting the H and L screws but that didn't seem to work either. I turned it upside down and had my sister pedal it while I used my fingers to shift it to 5, then 4, then 3, then 2 and then 1. When I stopped, the gear stayed in place while my sister pedaled. So I shifted back up and then tried again using the shifter, but it was stuck again. Is there anything I can do myself that wont require spending money at a shop?

  • Please clarify - the right-hand shifter will only range from 1 to 7, so "can't get past 7" is confusing.
    – Criggie
    Nov 28 '18 at 5:52

You need to find out if the problem is with the shifter, cable or the derailleur

You have already ascertained that the derailleur it not jammed. Either, the cable is not pulling the derailleur or the shifter is not pulling the cable.

First, inspect the derailleur cable run from the shifter to the derailleur for any obvious problems such as the housing having come out of a stop, the cable having come loose from the derailleur, or the cable having snapped.

Bikes usually have a length of exposed cable on the top tube or downtube. Try pulling the cable away from the frame and see if it actuates the derailleur.

Undo the cable from the derailleur, hold with pliers and apply some tension, actuate the shifter, make sure the shifter is pulling and releasing the cable.

You should be able to figure out where the problem is. It's likely a simple problem with the cable which is relatively easy to fix. Replacing the cable and housing is inexpensive and not hard to do. If the shifter is broken you will likely need the assistance of a bike repair shop.

  • Thank you! Another note: When I was attempting to shift using the shifter, when I tried moving into lower gears, it got really stiff. And by stiff I mean REALLY stiff, nearly unmovable, and it would have taken someone way stronger than me to get it to click again. And even still there was no apparent movement from the rear derailleur. I will try the things you suggested and get back to you soon.
    – Sam Jabbar
    Nov 8 '18 at 4:09
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    @SamJabbar If the shifter will will not move, either it is jammed or the cable is hung up somewhere. Inspect the cable and make sure it is moving freely along the whole run. Shifters can get jammed by dirt, corrosion or even dried up grease. Nov 8 '18 at 5:28
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    @SamJabbar The shifter becoming that stiff is usually a sign of a partially broken cable: One (or two, or three) strand(s) of the cable broke somewhere along the way, invisibly within the housing. The constant back-and-forth movement of the cable then caused the ends of the broken strands to coil up into a knot, impeding the movement of the cable. With such a damage, it's usually still possible to move the cable for a bit, but once you move it further, it just locks up. If that is the case, you just need to replace the cable. Nov 8 '18 at 8:13
  • @SamJabbar if you end up replacing the cables, make sure the housing is wide enough for the cable to move. Make sure the cable doesn't have any bends Nov 26 '18 at 19:52

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