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How To Set Up & Index Road Bike Gears | Road Bike Maintenance

How To Set Up & Index Road Bike Gears | Road Bike Maintenance

– Skipping or badly performing gears are a terrible thing to have. The game of gear roulette
when you shift a lever and hoping the chain goes
onto the correct sprocket can be a frustrating thing. So let’s solve those gearing problems. (futuristic music) Now in the setup we’re looking at today, it’s operated by a Bowden cable. The cable starts in the shift lever and is held in place there
by a small barrel-shaped end that sits within a ratchet mechanism. It then finishes at the derailleur, where it’s clamped in place. So when you move a shift lever, the cable, which is connected to a ratchet system within the lever, it
allows the cable to travel a predetermined amount,
which then correspondingly moves the rear derailleur
the same distance as the gap between the
adjacent cassette sprockets. Firstly, let’s look at the limit screws, as these play a part
in the complete setup. They do the job of
controlling the lateral limit of the rear derailleur. The H screw is the adjustment
for the highest gearing of the cassette, so this sprocket here, and the L screw sets how
far the derailleur can move in this direction. Ideally, these screws want to be adjusted so the chain doesn’t go
further than the lowest or highest sprockets. A great way of checking your limit screws are set up correctly is
to unclamp the gear cable and whilst turning the
cranks with one hand, push the derailleur inwards
slowly with the other hand and check to make sure the derailleur can go into the lowest
sprocket but importantly, not overshoot that sprocket
and into the spokes, as that can be both
dangerous as well as costly. Having to replace both the rear derailleur as well as any spokes. If the derailleur has
difficulty going onto the lowest sprocket, then loosen the L screw slightly until the derailleur can go into it. You wanna have it so
the upper pulley wheel of the rear derailleur is
directly beneath the sprocket. And on the flip side, if you don’t touch the rear derailleur and
allow it to find its way into the highest gear,
have a look from behind and see where the upper pulley wheel is. Too far to the right
of the highest sprocket when you look at it from
behind, you’ll need to gently screw the H screw in to bring it back directly underneath the sprocket. And if the upper pulley
is too far to the left of the sprocket, then
slowly unscrew the H screw. It’s important here to
not tighten or untighten these screws too much, as they
don’t need massive amounts of adjustment to move the derailleur. Okay, now those limits are set. Gently pull on the gear cable
and ensure that your gear lever thinks that you
are in the highest gear. So click the lever all the way in. We’re now going to turn
the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur all the way in to the rear derailleur. Then undo it between 1 1/2 or two turns. Then, pull the cable through the clamp and make sure it has
some tension behind it, but not a crazy high
amount, also not too loose, and then tighten it in place. Give the pedals a spin. It should stay in the highest sprocket. If it’s moving onto an easier one, then undo the clamp and make
sure there is less tension on the cable. Happy? Okay, then let’s start
turning the pedals again, and at the same time, change
into a lower or easier gear, and you’ll notice that the derailleur is moving inwards slightly. If you’re really lucky,
then the gear has engaged. But that’s not actually
gonna be that likely. What you will need to do is
continue to turn the pedals, look at the gearing from behind, and check where the upper pulley is. If it’s not quite engaging
with the next sprocket, then turn the barrel adjuster outwards, therefore applying more
tension onto the cable until it does engage and go into place. And importantly, no rattly sounds. You want the chain to be perfectly central with the sprocket. If the chain was too far
to the inside of the bike, then you can gently
screw the barrel adjuster in a bit to reduce the tension,
meaning it will happily sit on that sprocket better. Right, now we should be all nice and quiet and no rattling. Then simply go through the gears and make sure they’re
working as they should, one click, one gear change. Now, there are, of course,
a couple of other things that can affect the gear indexing. So cleanliness. Make sure the cables are nice and clean. A big culprit here on many bikes is under the bottom
bracket, ’cause that can get absolutely caked in road debris. And also have a look
to make sure the cables are not kinked in any
way, as well as misrouted. This can create big problems. An out of line mech hanger,
that can be a real pain, as can a worn-out drive train. And finally, if all of
this isn’t solving it, think about changing your actual cables, because fresh inner and outer cables can make the world of difference. All right, I do hope
you’ve enjoyed these tips on how to index your gears
just that little bit better to give you perfect bike riding. Let me know, though, your
tips for indexing gears down there in the comments section, and also remember to like and
share this with your friends. Share it with someone whose
gears are always rattling and making an awful sound
on those group rides. Don’t forget, check out the GCN shop at And now, for another great video, how about clicking just down here?

42 comments on “How To Set Up & Index Road Bike Gears | Road Bike Maintenance

  1. Contraction-Expansion due to summer-winter temp changes can significantly affect gear indexing. Hopefully there is enough play left in the barrel adjuster to account for it.

  2. Not a problem my bike will ever have as its got an infinite speed hub, spheres not gears are the future.
    An enviolo hub and automatic shifting makes any derailleur setup seem like it shifts badly.

  3. Pointers I've learnt when starting out: 1. Leave the H & L limit screws alone once set.
    2. Make sure wheel is fully set in drops before starting.
    3. Inspect derailleur hanger allignment before attempting index.
    4. Slight tweaks of the barrell adjuster only
    5. Test ride the adjustment after taking off work stand.
    6. Don't attempt index at 1am resulting in stripping cable and taking it to a LBS with tail between legs 😂

  4. If your cables run under your bottom bracket shell, And you use "sports drinks", the spillage will run down and gum up the cable guide. clean it every few weeks. When you turn the barrel adjuster clockwise, you loosen the cable, moving the pully towards the harder gears.

  5. Hi Jon, thanks for your tech knowledge, but can you please do this again and do the recording live, i.e. do the indexing yourself while explaining.
    In that way everything will be completely integrated. AND do not forget to wear the capron!

  6. Once I get things set up, I usually give the peddles a spin backwards to make sure the chain doesn't fall out of gear, especially for the large sprocket without cross chaining. Worst experience is trying to get started up hill and having the chain fall off when you back pedal before getting going.

  7. I have an issue where the gears are an fine and quiet except the 2nd and 3rd smallest. They keep slipping, but I cannot tell which direction.

    Gears are fine, not damaged. Cleaned and lubed. Bike is 15 months old.

    Any ideas?

  8. You forgot to mention Jon that check that the derailer hanger is not bent as that will have an effect on the quality of the shifting of the gears.

  9. The best way to know whether or not your gears need indexing is to subscribe to GCN and GCN Tech. They release an instructional video on how to index your gears at about the same interval as gears need adjusting.

  10. Ive maxed out my barrel adjuster, my front derailleur limit screws and ive also tapped the levers twice to get my fd to move out but it still rubs with the big ring when i go sprint. anyone have this problem? what were your fixes?

  11. Caution: When pushing the rear derailleur cage inward by hand, be careful not to push too hard or you may bend the hanger. A misaligned hanger can ruin your indexing. The derailleur hanger on carbon bikes is usually softer (more malleable) than metal-frame bikes and can be easily bent by pushing the cage with excess exuberance. 😉

  12. #askgcntech Hi GCN. I am planning to convert an MTB to a CX hybrid on a budget, can I convert a 3x front mech and chainrings to a 2x by just simply removing the granny ring and using a 2x shifter, or is there any other adjustments I am supposed to do?

  13. To get the cable tension close when I first tighten on the cable, I set the shifter in the second smallest cog and then line up the derailleur to that gear with my hand and tighten on the bolt. Then its just a few turns of the barrel adjuster to make it perfect

  14. Hi GCN, great video as always! How about one about routing cables through integrated handlebar? This has been a nightmare to me!

  15. Hi Jon. Loving the show yet again! I am looking at getting a 11-34 cassette for the weekends (putting on some spare wheels) and leaving the current 11-28 cassette on for commuting (current wheels). Will I need to index the gears each time I change wheels? Running a compact 50-34 chainset (Tiagra groupset, I have checked and they are compatible but may need a new chain?) Thanks in advance Matt.

  16. Another thing you can do to correctly index your gears is… When installing a 10x groupset, do not accidentally re-install the old 8x chain, as it will work fine on all but the bottom 2 or 3 gears, and will take you 2 days to figure it out….

  17. Great video, thank you. I seem to have issues with the B screw on my rear derailleur. It's fully in, yet the top jockey wheel rubs on the large cassette sprocket in very bottom gear. Can you get longer B screws, or is there anything else I can adjust/change? (Shimano Sora rear mech)

  18. #askgcntech – can you do a comparison of the chainring based power meters and explain how you replace the chainring on each one. I'm thinking of upgrading from powertap p1s to c1, but not sure what the pros/cons are compared to other brands. thanks

  19. So I have a 135 x 10 formula rear hub. It came stock on the bike along with an 8 speed cassette and I want to upgrade to a 11 speed cassette. Is it possible to mount an 11 speed to the hub?

  20. Another thing, make sure your Rear Mech Jockey Wheels have limited play in them, the top one is designed with a bit of play (1mm) but the bottom tension one is not, Just replaced mine and it has Transformed the Gear Changing.

  21. I've found the best way to index my gears is to take it to my LBS who will give it a service etc. For a very good price. I'm to obsessive to do it myself I'd just keep tinkering because it would never be good enough!

  22. Please review “5 hacks for perfect shifting” that Si did. Much better explanation of what to do step by step. Do the work real time. 👍

  23. Does the B screw adjust the shifting at all, or just the pulley wheel location? I'm trying to get the last bit of perfection out of my shifting, I added a MTB derailleur to my Sora St3500 2×9 setup. (Bike packing is fun.)

  24. Thanks for another informative video! Some critique: the camera angle when you show the H and L screws should ideally be aligned parallel with the cassette and derailleur. That gives a better view of the derailleur moving as the screws are turned.

  25. Dont forget your B-tension screw if you cant your gear shifts working after you've put a smaller range cassette on (and new inner and outer cables) like me this weekend!
    Changed to smaller cassette and put new gear cables on, checked H+L screws without gear cable, pre stretched the cables, attached gear cable and fiddled around with cable tension. Couldnt make the downshifts go smoothly, upshifts were fine.
    Put a new derailler hanger on, still rubbish downshifts.
    Was about to throw with everything including including the tools and my precious bike or even go to the bike shop (wich is allways closed when I dont have to work and wich means I lose my bike for at least 3 days and charge just allways to much), focussed on my breathing like a true Yogi, just out of curiousity started winding the out to increase the tension and bring the derrailer closer to the casette and it worked.
    So happy now!
    Let this be a lesson for you all, pitty it isn't mentioned in this video (its the combination of smaller range cassette and b-screw thats what has to be mentioned)

  26. #askgcntech I have an issue with shifting on my front ring. While on a bike stand it shifts perfectly each and every time from the small ring to the big ring. But, while I'm actually pedaling on the road, it will take 10-15 attempts of my going back and forth before I can get it shift from the small to big ring. I took it to a bike mechanic in the past and since it worked perfectly on a stand, the mechanic said there was nothing wrong. What can I fix this? Is it just my pedaling technique that is causing issues?

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