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How To Get Perfect Gear Shifting On Your Road Bike

How To Get Perfect Gear Shifting On Your Road Bike


– Poor shifting gears are very
likely to turn your bike ride into a miserable experience. Now, playing the game of
gear shifting roulette is not one that anybody out
there should have to undertake. Riding along, spinning your cranks, pressing your gear leaver, and hoping that the chain engages
into the correct sprocket. Frightening to say the least. Likewise, getting out
the saddle and praying and crossing your fingers that that chain doesn’t slip off of the sprocket. Sound familiar? Then listen on, because we’re
gonna solve that problem. Now, it’s not uncommon for
the need to have to un-gunk your leaver mechanism. But what is that exactly then? Well, you could either
do it using an air hose if you’ve got one. You are gonna need quite
a bit of pressure, though, probably about six to eight bars of air. Alternatively, you could use some WD40 or silicone lubricant, something like that to essentially blast it in
to actually where the cable is positioned. Now, you are going to have
to take care when doing this, so avoid getting it onto
your rims, the handlebar tape and the hoods. If you do, then make sure you clean it off as soon as possible, because otherwise you are gonna land yourself in a slippery situation. Now, by doing this, it’s not
gonna be a permanent solution if you’ve got badly shifting gears, which have been going on and
on and on for quite some time, that’s gonna require some new cables. Instead, though, this could well buy you a few more extra rides before
you have to re-cable the bike. Now, you want your outer
cables to be taking as direct route as possible
back to your derailleurs, avoiding any sharp curves or
bends, anything like that, that way reducing any
chance of added friction to the system. After all, that’s why
we’re here, isn’t it? To get smooth shifting gears. Added friction: that’s
not gonna be smooth. All is not clear though, or simple, especially in the case of a
bike like this, necessarily, because I borrowed this one from Oscar, over on GCN español, now he’s got internally routed cables, but how do we actually
get those gear shifts working perfectly? Well, for a start, if you
look at the outer cable, the rear one, it actually
goes around the left hand side of the head tube, and then
down into the down tube here as opposed to taking the most direct route because that, from my experience,
is not going to give you the best type of gear-shifting because, when you turn the bars, that
is under a lot of pressure. And, to be honest, it’s gonna
look quite unsightly, as well, because you are gonna have
to have quite a long cable. So, instead, it’s got a nice smooth curve before it enters the down tube. And the same can be said ith the front derailleur cable too. Now, if the bike does
have a continuous length of outer cable all the way
back to your rear derailleur, to be honest, you are laughing, because those systems
are almost fool proof and they give great shifting. However, in the case of this one here, we have a little bit of cable which comes out of the rear triangle before entering the rear derailleur. Now, there are different
ways that these cables do exit of get lodged into
a frame, for instance, the most common is certainly
underneath the chainstay, here, you wanna make sure
that it has a nice loop and that it goes into
that derailleur snugly. On the flip side, you
don’t wanna make sure it’s really short and really tight, that way you’re gonna get
really bad gear shifting. And if it’s really long
and really loose, well, the gear shifting isn’t
gonna be that precise and snappy feeling that we want to have. So we’ve touched on the
length of the cables, but what about, then,
the ends of the cables? Sounds a bit of a funny
thing to obsess over, but, well, that’s why
we’re on the tech channel, isn’t it? You want to make sure that
they are as flat as possible. How do you achieve that, then? So, give it a good chop
in one smooth movement, and then, either with a file or even a grinding wheel, you wanna make sure that
that is ultra, ultra flat. And depending on your cable type, too, you could flush out the inner
liner of your gear cable using WD40, silicone
lubricant, anything like that in very light-weight thin
oil, because it is gonna help the inner cable travel
a little bit easier. Alternatively, the best
thing to do, in my opinion, is actually get yourself some new cables. So, both inners and outers. The difference from old to
new is absolutely massive when you think about it. I’ve certainly noticed a difference and everybody else I’ve ridden
with notices the difference instantly between some
slick shifting new cables. You are gonna want to check out, too, your cassette and chains, make sure they are in a good condition to give you that good gear shifting. So if you’ve got yourself chain checker, make sure you use it, just
to make sure that chain is still A-OK, and then give the
chainset a turn backwards and make sure there’s no stiff links running over the cassette. If there are, try and
isolate that stiff link and then simply flex the chain backwards and forwards between your hands. Normally, that’s enough to loosen it up. Then, the cassette, well, we want to look
and make sure those teeth are still nice and good. So, what does that mean? It’s quite hard to actually
give a definite answer on this, because every cassette is different. It’s very likely that you’re gonna have at least one or two teeth per sprocket that have a slightly
different shape from the rest. Don’t worry about that,
that’s absolutely fine. What you are looking for,
though, is if all the teeth are looking like a shark’s teeth. So, really sharp angles. If they’re like that,
it’s time to replace it, and likely your chain too. Your derailleur hanger. An area which most of
us just forget about, to be perfectly honest, but, in the case of this
one, it’s a replaceable one. So you’ve got two little bolts there. You wanna make sure they’re
done up nice and snug. Now it is a really, really
low torque setting, normally, probably around about two Newton meters, so you don’t wanna go
crazy, because those bolts are quite small and the heads on them are really fragile too, quite often. Just bare in mind, as
well, your rear derailleur, you’ve got the cage here, you wanna make sure that is not really super
sloppy or out of shape from years of abuse. If it is, well, the best thing to do there is actually buy a new rear derailleur. There is always gonna be
a little bit of movement because, obviously, we
have got a pivot point here where the cage is mounted. What about your jockey wheels then? Well, they need to be in a
really good state of repair because they do serve a
couple of different functions. They guide the chain as
well as tension the chain, and those two things are very important for your gear changing properties. So, if you stand behind
the bike and you look, that upper jockey wheel should be in line with the sprocket it’s directly beneath. If it’s a little bit to the right, then simply give the H screw
a quarter of a turn, perhaps. Do it in really, really small movements so you can move that in a little bit towards the left hand side
of the sprocket, if you like. And the same logic applies
for the lowest sprocket. So, when I say “lowest”,
I mean the easiest gear for you to be riding along it. Now, probably, the
easiest way of doing this, particularly if you’ve got
yourself a manual group set, so a non electronic one,
is to simply pedal around with your cranks and then move
the derailleur body across by hand so it goes into that sprocket. Now, if it goes any
further, stop immediately because you are gonna
need to adjust the L screw on your rear derailleur. So that’s the limit screw. And what does that do? Well, that touches up against the body of the rear derailleur, and in turn, it makes sure that it
can’t go any further. Again, these adjustments are pretty fine, so normally it’s only a quarter
or half a turn at a time that you’ll ever be doing, and
you can actually visually see exactly what that screw is doing against parts of the derailleur. So it does give you a better
understanding, really, of how it actually works at the same time. What about the front derailleur, then? Well, you need to make sure, first of all, that it’s been set up
to the correct height. So, you can see here, it’s
about one to two millimeters gap in between these teeth
and that front derailleur. That’s gonna give you
really, really good shifting. Then, the actual setup of it. Now, my preferred method is put the chain in the easiest gear, hear at the rear, and then on the small chain ring, and then, I want to just
play around with the screws. What you want to happen is
that the inner most part of this front derailleur
plate is about one, possibly two millimeters at the most away from the inside of the chain. So it’s not rubbing,
but it’s not a big gap. Now, the same methodology can be applied for the big chain ring, too. So, put it in the big chain ring, and then a little teenie weenie little
sprocket here at the rear. And then that H screw, you
can simply adjust like so. And as you can see, that
moved the derailleur from side to side. So, again, you wanna have,
between the outside here of the chain and the inside
of that front derailleur cage, about a millimeter gap, so that when you are in this gear ratio and you find yourself really
laying down the Watts, that any flex is not going
to be causing a rubbing sound against the front derailleur. There’s another screw
we’ve not touched on: the B tension screw. So, what does it do? What is it doing? It can actually adjust the distance between your upper pulley
wheel and the lowest sprocket, here, on the cassette. So, whilst it’s in this gear, you want there to be a gap, in most cases, on most derailleurs, between
about 5 and 6 millimeters. You could just simply put
an Allen key in there, for instance, a five or
six millimeter Allen key in between the gap to
make sure that you have the correct distance. (soft electronic music) What about the cable tension, then? Because that is a vital
piece of this puzzle that we’re trying to put back together. The easiest thing to do is to put the bike into the smallest
sprocket here at the rear, so the 11 tooth, and then undo the cable plant and simply wind in that
bar-adjuster all the way and then wind it out one complete turn before reattaching your cable with a good amount of tension behind it, not too much, though. You want to make sure it’s nice and snug, but not crazy tight, and then re-tighten it. Then, you’re going to want
to start peddling the bike and change gear, and you want that chain to move onto the next sprocket. Because after all, we’ve made
the action at the gear lever, and nothing’s happening at the rear neck. What’s all that about? Well, you want to slowly
unwind that barrel adjuster so the chain does its
job of moving across. So it is very small adjustments, so just do it quarter of
a turn, eighth of a turn, something small enough
like that so that it moves. And keep adjusting it until it’s silent. So you are likely to have
a little bit of rattle from time to time, as the
chain is just touching on a sprocket either side. If you’ve gone too far one side, then simply wind that
barrel adjuster back inwards to release the tension slightly. And then, just play around
with the gears to make sure one click at the leaver equals
one movement at the rear. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why did I unwind that
barrel adjuster at the start before we set the cable tension? For a very good reason. Perhaps you’ve pulled through that cable and clamped it back up too tight, so you’ve moved your gear leaver, and the chain has gone too
far across on the cassette. Luckily, you can actually
reduce that tension with that barrel adjuster, now. So, essentially, it’s
saving you the hassle of undoing and re-clamping that cable time and time again. What about the front
derailleur cable tension, then? Well, just like the rear derailleur, it does need to have a
bit of tension in it, and, if anything, a little bit more because the front gear
lever does tend to require just a little bit more force to move gears because, after all, it’s a
pretty solid spring in there to move it over. So don’t go yanking it really crazy but do certainly hold it nice and firm before tightening down that clamp bolt. Now, interestingly, not all
front derailleurs out there have a cable tension adjust
system like this one. This one has a little screw
that can allow you to have just to micro-adjust on that
cable to help with indexing of a front derailleur. If you haven’t got one
of those, don’t panic. What I would suggest
doing is adding an in-line cable tension adjuster onto your front derailleur outer cable so you can simply take up or remove any of those fine cable adjustments. Our last little bit here, if your gears have suddenly
stopped working correctly or are really out of alignment, it could well be that your
rear derailleur hanger has taken a bash, so maybe someone has
haphazardly wield into your bike somewhere awkwardly, or maybe
it’s fallen over in the wind. Either way, if you’ve got one of these, you know exactly what it is, derailleur hanger alignment gage. Now, this screws in the
place of the rear derailleur, and, in turn, you can actually measure quite how in line and how straight it is. Now, not everyone out there
has one of these, I know, so pop along to your local
shop and they will be able to check that out for you. And a last little tip, I can’t
help but give you guys tips, is if your cables are visible here, underneath the bottom bracket,
get yourself some spray and just spray them there,
clean out any dirt and mud and all sorts of rubbish
that does accumulate there, because that can really
affect the gear shifting. Now, I hope that after all of this, you’ve got silky smooth
snappy perfect gears that we all absolutely love and desire. If not, then let me know your tips for getting those perfect gear changes down there in the comments section below. And as ever, give this video a thumbs up. You know it makes sense. Don’t forget to click on
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put up a great new video. Also, remember to check out the GCN shop at shop.globalcyclingnetwork.com, we have heaps and heaps of products to spend your pocket money on. And now, for another great video, how about clicking just down here?

69 comments on “How To Get Perfect Gear Shifting On Your Road Bike

  1. If you have under bottom bracket cables and drink "bug juice" on your rides, your front and rear derailleur cables will get mucked up…..PS. What's the pink stuff on the chain??

  2. Thanks! Please just one question. If the FD Cage adjustment can't be silenced on one or the other side, do I need more cable tension or less, to get more throw?

  3. I wonder why Trek decided to have a different rear brake housing cable routing through the top tube between the Emonda SL (right side entry) and the Emonda SLR (left side entry). By the looks of it, it seems the SLR routing rear brake is better than the SL. Any comments?

  4. Sorry, i dont get it. 10:36 if my shifter is in first gear, why i need to wind it until its in the second gear. that means to me iam losing one gear.

  5. Hi GCN! I have perfect shifting going up the cassette (I.e easier gears) however when going down the cassette (I.e harder gears) the shifts are really hesitant, any ideas how to resolve?? Thanks M

  6. @7:25 yes you should stop immediatly and check the hanger if its straight!! I know its tips for home mechanics but its a really important step! You dont build a house on a un-even ground.. get your facts straight and try again! I have seen wheels and frames smashed to bits by bend hangers. Gears not right, you start at the hanger and make your way forward!

  7. Does Shimano PTFE lube (chain lube) suit for lubricating shimano brifters? May it destroy plastic/rubber parts? Last winter. I could not shift to big chain ring on cold weather. The lever just went freely to emptiness with no resistance. I figured, that the grease inside has got thick. I poured some of Shimano ptfe lube inside. I had also silicone oil, but I thought that maybe there's something similar, like with hydraulic brakes. That shimano is into mineral oils while sram's into silicone oil and.. So I used shimano oil that it would be at least same brand. But it did not help to fix it. Decided to dismantle it a bit.. To get it properly cleaned/fixed re lubricated, I removed the rubber covers of hoods to get good access, to discover and remove the cover under side of shifter body.(Shimano 105 5800 shifters). I stretched the rubbers and pulled them off over hoods and levers.. while shifters still on bike and all cables intact. When I put them back afterward, they were loose fitted.. Did I stretch them out so much, or did the oil made them to swollen/grow in size? Or both? And now the shifting problem is back, even though it's not that cold. The lever is not always catching to mechanismus, not letting me to switch to big ring. So it seems I have to do it again! It suck, because it's so much work.. I would need to remove handlebar tape.. disconnect all cables, since I want to replace also rubber covers and I guess they are to come off to that direction.. Who on earth designed such things!

  8. Good video, I thought you would never mention how the derailleur hanger can bend out of alignment but you snuck it in the at the end. The shifting problems I had recently were down to a bent hanger. It was skipping sprockets, failing to shift, shifting under load. Even if the H and L screws are adjusted properly the chain will still drop off the highest or lowest sprocket because the hanger will have moved the derailleur closer to or further from the frame.

  9. Ultegra R8000 is a pain to index gears with. Over designed and not user friendly, especially the RD barrel adjuster. Also the cable housing for the FD is a faff on.

  10. What happens if you don’t charge your di2 shifter ? are you just stuck on the gear? Horrible if you were descending and now have to climb a super steep hill.

  11. If you just buy high quality cables, you will have crisp shifting for a very long time! I use jagwire cables and I love the shifting of my mechanical group with jagwire cables even more than my electronic shifting! I will always buy a mechanical groupset again and just use jagwire cables! Except on the tt-bike I will choose for electronic shifting.

  12. Properly cleaned, and lubricated chain helps. as well as properly aligning the front derailleur with the outer chainring.

  13. Hi Jon, my gears have problems on the second gear where it makes clicking noises. But the problems do not occur on any other gears. What is causing the problem? #Torqueback

  14. Replace those terrible coated shimano cables, and use the optislick instead…… Or maybe recommend your viewers take it to their local shop……….hmmmmmmm???????

  15. What's the best way to configure two different wheels? I have a rear wheel for my trainer and the gears are not shifting smoothy. My main wheel is perfect.

  16. Still can’t figure out why I keep watching these videos when I have a great bike mechanic who I always end up using to fix things!

  17. 2:09 at this point, i usually dont recommend routing the case like this
    or you make sure line up cable well and put liner/slick tube/ telfon tube inside the frame
    other wise, they are crossed , milling , scratching each other insde

  18. My extra tip for the front derailleur cable tensioning is to wedge it open a little with a 6mm Allen Key. That way once you've clamped the cable, you can remove the Allen Key and anything slack that you've not been able to remove by had will be removed by the front derailleur itself as it moved back to its natural resting position.

  19. I'm not on twitter or facebook but would like to ask a question on rim's I have a new set of deep section rims which are clincher and tubeless compatible. I currently run 23mm clinchers as 25mm tyres rub on my frame (Size M Canyon Aero road) If I put 25mm tubeless tyres on, would the overall circumference of the wheel and tyre be smaller than with the Clincher set up?Are some rim's slightly larger than others?25mm W 50mm deep.Many thanks Paul

  20. Don't you mean the word "housing" at 3:46: I always thought the wire that runs inside the liner or housing is called the "cable", but I'm not a native speaker and "housings" are cables in a sense as well. Otherwise top notch video. I had completely forgotten about trying the first tip you give here on my rather poorly shifting bike. Will definitely try this.

  21. I'm a committed tubeless roadie and MTB cyclist. Every so often I add more sealant through the valves. On my road bike I haven't had a flat in a few years but have added sealant a few times so that it doesn't dry out. Is there a point at which I should pull the tire out and scrub out or try to remove sealant? I'm sure it's adding weight and drying out on the inside of the tires over time Recommendations for long term tubless users? #Torqueback

  22. Hi Jon – thanks for all your videos! I have a question about my front derailleur. I recently replaced my front chainring to a 105-5800 50/34 from an FSA Gossamer 50/34. I had to do some adjusting to make sure there was no rub, etc. But now when I try to shift into the big ring it requires a significant amount of pressure to make it happen. Downshifting works fine. What is going on?

  23. One other thing happened to me that could be added: I had problems changing from the 3rd to the 4th sprocket when shifting to easier gears. 4th to 3rd was OK. And all other gear changes worked just fine. I couldn't figure out what was wrong, until I took a closer look at the cassette and noticed that the forth cog was a bit misalligned and seemed just a bit more rotated to the front compared to the others. When I removed the cassette from the freehub body it turned out that the freehub body was damaged by the cassette (steel biting into aluminum). However the forth cog caused a much deeper indentation than the others, hence the cog was misaligned in relation to the rest and the chain was not able to climb properly from the 3rd to the 4th sprocket. I need to by a new freehub body to solve the shifting problem. Since then it was working again. Any hints how to avoid this kind of damage to the freehub body?

  24. Great advice thanks 😊 I would like to add a problem I encountered on a bike I built for this summer 😎 my gear changing was terrible 🤔 I did everything I could adjustment wise 😱 eventually I stumbled across the problem, I had fitted the wrong size spacer behind the cassette hence the sprockets on the cassette were not locked into place 😵 once the correct spacer was fitted perfect gear changes ☺️😇😃

  25. I really like working on the new Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra derailleurs. Great that they have an adjustment on the front for cable tension and that they have gone to Allen heads to do this !
    Keep up the videos Jon, love them, and pick my bike for the bike vault 😉

  26. i wouldn't dare to touch or adjust the tension of my gears….i trust the local shop. I have a brand new cervelo and he too sometimes makes soft "toc" when changing gears. I notice the shimano 105 has a very sensitive mecanism. If you press too hard it changes two gears…Next Week my bike is going to the end of season treatment to get that all fixed !

  27. What advice do you have for lining up the front derailleur when mounting to a braze on- and how does the sram “yaw” impact setup?

  28. I am a simple man I see gear shifting I click it lol. That seat at 1:55 is not UCI approved angle and wonder who rides like that extreme angle.

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