I recently had to replace the shifters on my bike. The replacement was easy enough, but now when I shift the derailleur either jumps too far or too short. I've tried using the adjustment screws on the derailleurs but I feel like I am doing something wrong. I think I'm just going to disconnect everything and I was looking for a guide to do this properly.

Also I don't have a rack to hang the bike while I work so I will be working on the bike upsidedown.

Edit: Yes I have the right shifters. They are the same exact model as the ones i replaced.

  • If you replaced the shift levers, are you sure you got the right ones? Different brands/styles have a different amount of cable movement from one gear to the next, and, with the wrong shifters, when you adjust to shift perfectly to sprocket 3 the adjustment will be off by the time you get to sprocket 5. (Also, you should improvise some sort of rack or hanger such as mikes suggested.) Nov 23, 2011 at 11:47
  • 1
    This question deserves a definitive answer, but there are quite a few attempts at that already on this site. You may want to read through a few: bicycles.stackexchange.com/search?q=adjust+rear+derailleur and post back what is most useful to you before this question gets closed as a duplicate, as can happen. Welcome to bikes.se b.t.w.... Nov 23, 2011 at 13:27

3 Answers 3


How to adjust a rear derailleur:

  1. with the cable disconnected, put the shift in the lowest gear. screw the barrel adjuster all the way in.
  2. the derailleur jockey wheel should be sitting parallel to the smallest cog. If not, adjust the limit screw appropriately.
  3. pull the cable "finger tight" under the bolt and tighten it fairly hard with the appropriate wrench.
  4. Shift all the way to the largest cog. Be careful with the last shift as it may push the chain into the spokes. Adjust the limit screw so that the largest cog is parallel with the jockey wheel.
  5. shift all the way down again.
  6. shift consecutively up through the gears; if you miss a shift, look at the jockey wheel. It will not be parallel with the appropriate gear, being too close to the frame. Unscrew the barrel adjuster until the jockey wheel is parallel again. Continue doing this until you've shifted all the way to the largest cog.
  7. Repeat step 6, but shifting down.
  • 1
    Basically right, but in step 6 "parallel" is not the right word. The jockey wheel should be "in line" with the cog. (The jockey wheel should always be parallel to all of the cogs.) Nov 25, 2011 at 23:19

Congratulations on starting to do your own repairs. The first step is realizing some thing is wrong (you seem to have got that one). Step two try to fix it. Step three learn why step two didn't work. I use the Parktool BigBlue Book as my guide. I bought mine at a local bookstore but it is available on their website for free.

As for not having a repair stand, I installed two large hooks about six feet apart in the ceiling of my storage area. A piece of rope, nylon luggage strap or cord loops over the nose of the seat and over the hook. A second piece is laced around the headset to the second hook. I can adjust the lengths to vary the height, shorter if I'm working on a brake caliper, longer if I'm working on a brake lever.

  • Good call on the parktool book. I'd edit your response to include a link to the online version.
    – joelmdev
    Nov 23, 2011 at 14:48
  • I like the improvised rack idea.
    – DJ.
    Nov 23, 2011 at 21:50

Along with the Park Tool book that mikes mentioned, Lennard Zinn has several books and DVDs that are available through his website. He's a trusted name in the industry and usually knows what he's talking about. If you need more immediate help I would take a look at both eHow (originally I was going to say ExpertVillage.com but eHow seems to have absorbed them) and YouTube. Both sites have good videos on all facets of bike maintenance. I like to harp about local bike shops, so here's my plug for yours - lots of shops will let you watch and tell you what they're doing while they work on your bike, especially this time of year when they're slow (approaching winter in the northern hemisphere). You can't ask a book or a video questions, so find a good mechanic at a good shop and ask them if you can watch while they do a tune up/derailleur adjust/brake adjust/ whatever. It's a little more on the rare side, but some shops even offer repair clinics. Just check around with the shops near you and see what you find.

  • I've used Lennard Zinn's books for years and years...you can't go wrong there. Park Tool is also excellent.
    – user313
    Nov 23, 2011 at 19:58

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