How to Set Up Bike Gears

How to Set Up Bike Gears
Having your bike gears properly set up, or tuned, is essential for optimum performance. Properly set up bike gears will allow you to shift gears more quickly. Your bike will run quieter and will require measurably less effort to propel. Setting up your bike gears correctly from the beginning will save work down the road, as gears properly tuned from the start require fewer adjustments later on.


Difficulty: Moderate

Rear gears

Things You’ll Need:
  • Screwdriver
  • Hex keys
  • Needle-nose pliers
Step 1
Stand behind the bike and the look at the rear derailleur. Are the pulleys in line with smallest cog on the cassette? If not, adjust the high-range setting on your derailleur. This will be a small screw labeled with an "H." Turn the screw until the pulleys are aligned with the smallest cog. Turning the screw clockwise will move the pulleys to the left, and vice versa.
Step 2
Thread the rear shifter cable through the anchor bolt on your bike's rear derailleur. Ensure that the cable has full slack, by shifting into the smallest rear cog. Secure the cable in place, pulling it taut with your pliers and tightening the bolt with a hex wrench.
Step 3
Try shifting into the next-largest cog. Does the chain move over to the cog? If not, twist the barrel adjuster on the back of the derailleur a fraction counterclockwise. Continue to twist the barrel adjuster until your bike's chain sits cleanly on the next cog.
Step 4
Shift the chain all the way to your bike's largest rear cog. If the chain overshoots the cog, adjust the low-range setting. The screw will be marked with an "L" and will be located beside or above the high-range screw. Turn the screw clockwise to move the pulleys to the right.

Front gears

Step 1
Shift to the smallest front chainring, ensuring that there is maximum slack in the front shifter cable.
Step 2
Adjust the low-range setting for the front derailleur. Is there no more than 2 mm between the inner derailleur plate and the chain? To lessen the gap, turn the low-range screw clockwise.
Step 3
Attach the shifter cable to the anchor bolt above your bike's front derailleur, pulling it taut, and tighten the bolt. Try shifting now to the large chainring. If the chain does not carry over, turn the barrel adjuster on the front shifter cable clockwise, until the chain moves with relative ease to the large chainring.
Step 4
Check the gap between the outer derailleur plate and the chain. Again, there should be no more than 2 mm between the two. To reduce the gap, turn the high-range screw to the right.

Tips & Warnings

Work over a towel or newspaper. Bits of grease and even small parts can become dislodged when working on your bike gears.

Article Written By Matthew Ferguson

Matthew Ferguson is a writer living in Savannah, Ga. He has been writing for over 10 years and his work has appeared on various online publications. A collection of his short stories was published in spring 2010. He is a graduate of Appalachian State University.

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