How To Adjust Rear Derailleur on Your Mountain or Road Bike

How to adjust your derailleur

At a time when indexed shifting can cause shifting to be almost effortless, on an occurrence of problems, it can turn out to be annoying or dangerous. A chain that is sticky, grinding or jumping is a sign that time has come to have your rear derailleur inspected and adjusted. This is something that is best done after the chain is cleaned and lubricated.

The rear derailleur adjustment is all in all a process that is easy and step by step. But if you don’t know how to adjust rear derailleur on your mountain bike or road bike then read below to know all the information you’re looking for to get rear derailleur adjusted properly.

How To Adjust Rear Derailleur on Your Mountain or Road Bike

 Rear Derailleur Adjustment Tool 

  • Standard Screwdriver
  • A Bike Repair Stand

The function played by the rear derailleur is guiding the chain from one gear to another. The rear derailleur adjustment process depends on three things only:

1. Derailleur alignment

his is the relative alignment of the derailleur to the drive train and the frame. The rear should be hanging in a parallel position to the bike’s plane. You can be able to note this from behind the bicycle.

2. Cable tension

Barrel adjusters located on the shifters control this on mountain bikes, derailleur body on every bicycle, and in the event of road bikes at the attachments of the down tube cable.

3. Limit or stop screws

These screws found on the body of the derailleur restrict the extent of the derailleur’s swing to the inside (L) or the outside (H): both sides maintain the chain from shifting off the cassette. This is the point you are to use a screwdriver in adjustment.


Bicycle Maintenance: How To Adjust a Rear Derailleur

 Method #1: Adjust Rear Derailleur to Fixing Shifting Issues 

 1. Prop the bike to ensure you can spin the wheels during your working.

You are going to require one of either flipping over the bike such that it is at rest on the handlebars and seat or lifting the bike into a bike stand. To have the derailleur adjusted, you are going to need to pedal the bike as you work.

 2.  Shift the bike to the gear that is most high

This is gear sprocket is the smallest on the rear cassette. It is at a distance furthest away from the bicycle. The working of a derailleur is via a cable tension, and the gear that is highest is in actual sense the point having the lowest tension. This means the work done by the derailleur is least and as such, the adjustment is easiest.

  • As you pedal the bike, find the cable that leads to the rear derailleur and gently pulls on it. Note its shifting for you. All that is doing by a derailleur is an adjustment of this cable’s tension.

3. Find the barrel adjuster, then follow it through the bike looking for issues.

The barrel adjuster is the little cylinder that connects the cable to the derailleur. Follow the cable from the rear derailleur going straight to the handlebars. This cable’s tension is what results in shifting of gears. Ensure that it is not bent, and is sitting in its housing. Neither should it be caught in anything or loose. This is not an issue that is common, but we cannot rule out the possibility of it happening.

4. Attempt shifting through every gear in both directions taking no issues.

Continue pedaling the bike while at a time shifting gears. Take a note mentally of the times when the chain jumps a gear or requires to be twice clicked to skip a gear. Are there any problems as the bike goes up or down? Some grinding or noise maybe?

5. Come back to the highest gear and begin shifting till you come across a ‘problem area’ as before noted.

As you continue to pedal, have the barrel adjuster turned in the direction you want the cable to fall. The cable’s tension is changed by tightening of the barrel which consequently dictates which gear you are in.

6. In an anti-clockwise direction, rotate the barrel adjuster to help in a downward shifting of the chain towards the larger gears.

The cable is tightened by loosening of the barrel adjuster making pulling it up towards the larger gears easier. In case nothing happens on shifting down, have it left in the shifted gear and continue turning the pedals. In anti-clockwise direction, turn the barrel till the chain jumps up and shifts on its own.

7. In a clockwise direction, rotate the barrel adjuster to assist in shifting the chain up, towards the smaller.

If a challenge is postured in moving your chain away from the bike, you can have the barrel tightened. If it is not going to shift on clicking it, continue pedaling and rotate the barrel. The effect of this is tension reduction on the derailleur making it possible for the chain to smoothly fall to the smaller gears. Continue turning bit by bit to a point where the chain shifts on its own, same as the gear you were trying to shift.

  • Loosening of the barrel is also helpful in case the chain is skipping two gears at a time as it heads to the larger gears.

8. Check every gear through slow up and shifting down.

Upon the adjustment of one gear to smoothly shift, the remaining part of the derailleur often falls into the right place. Check each of the gears to make sure you are adjusted then continue. In the event there are still issues;

  • Turn the barrel 2 to 3 turns to the right side to loosed it fully, then start again. In the event the cable was extremely tense on you getting started, it might be requiring readjustment from scratch.
  • Check for gears that are bent or derailleur arms. If this does not prove effective, there is a likelihood of a greater issue with your bike.

9. Lubricate the points of pivot and screws using bike grease for further issues prevention.

Have the chain in a lubricated state with some chain lube to make sure the stiff chain links do not affect shifting. And also to ensure the drive train is going to last for a long duration of time.

 Method #2: Adjust Rear Derailleur to Fixing slipping Chains Issues 

  1. Adjust the limit screws only in the event the chain is popping out on one side or another of the derailleur.
  2. Turn the ‘H’ limit screw (high limit screw) clockwise to avoid having the chain move very far to the right, from the bike.
  3. Turn the ‘L’ limit screw (low limit screw) clockwise to avoid the movement of the chain very far away on the left.
  4. Shift to low and high gears, confirming visually the being in a line of the derailleur with the gears’ center.
  5. Test the two screws and look to see the time at which there is a movement of the derailleur if the L and H are not marked anymore.


  • The adjustment process of the front derailleur is very similar.
  • The rear derailleur adjustment process should be made gradually.


  • Failure of performing the adjustment of the rear derailleur properly can result in the chain slipping off, damaging the frame and can also send the derailleur to the rear wheel.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question: What if without the engagement of the wheel the cog is spinning?
Answer: In the event where the cog is spinning, the most likely situation is that the chain has itself gone out of line. Have the chain guided back onto the gear then hand-pedal it gently forward until you hear it click in.

Question: How can a grip shifter be adjusted on my bike?
Answer: In general, shifters do not require service. What they may require is lubrication once after some time.

If you went through the instruction step by step then you should know how to adjust rear derailleur easily. As rear derailleur adjustment is almost same process to front derailleur adjustment so you will not find any difficulty to do that too. Happy Pedaling!

ReferenceDiamondBack,  LTP SPORTS

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