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How & When To Replace Your Derailleur Jockey Wheels

How & When To Replace Your Derailleur Jockey Wheels

– Jockey wheels, or pulley
wheels, if you prefer, have a couple of very important jobs on your bicycle. First of
all, they help move the derailleur across the cassette, allowing you to choose your gear, as well as keeping the
chain nice and tensioned. Sadly, though, they do get worn out, because, they turn
literally 1000’s and 1000’s of times, and well,
where they’re positioned, they’re right in the way of any gunk which is flying up from
the road as you ride along. So, today, let’s look
at how to replace them and when to replace them.
(instrumental music) How do we know, then, when to replace those little jockey wheels? Well, firstly, have a look at the teeth. Now, if they’re worn away,
then yep, they certainly need replacing, as well as if they are sharp like shark’s teeth, because, that means that they’re
well on their way out, and the chain could risk
not engaging perfectly. Some jockey wheels,
they’re all Circum Fitted with sealed cartridge bearings, and whilst it can be temporarily revamped, in the long run, they are going to need replacing. So,
how are you gonna know, then, if those bearings
are on their way out, or in fact, already gone? Well, the easiest way, certainly, to remove the back wheel and then try and turn those wheels by hand. If you’re meeting a lot of resistance, personally, I’d go out and buy some new pulley wheels.
Some of the pulley wheels actually come with bushings,
instead of bearings, and they can be revamped,
for quite a long time, because you can pop them out and you can re grease them. But, today, let’s look at how we fit the new ones. So, what are we gonna
need for the job, then? Well, you’re gonna need
some new pulley wheels in there, and whilst
there are a huge variety out there, don’t go buying
the wrong ones. Why? Well, the chain needs to engage with them, and still pass through the cage of the rear derailleur. Now, this one, for instance, has 11 teeth on the actual pulley wheels, and if I try to fit 12 teeth, well it’s very unlikely that chain’s gonna work efficiently, if at all. So, don’t go
buying the wrong ones. That’s the first tip.
Second one, now, you can get different ones with
different bearings, for instance, and a sealed bearing is generally gonna spin a little bit smoother than that with a bushing. And you can even get ceramic bearings in there, too, and considering the number of times those pulleys
spin, maybe that’s an option for you, if you’re really looking to set a personal best.
Now, not all pulleys are the same, and in
fact, in most of them, they are even identifiable by the upper or lower or guide or tension or G or T and they are specific to each part of the rear derailleus, that’s important to remember, because, the
guide pulley sometimes has a small amount of lateral float in it, which takes up any differences in tolerances between your indexing and the actual rear cassette spacing, so it’s worth bearing that in mind and do not mix them
up. Now the easiest way of actually replacing the pulley wheels certainly has to be by
removing the rear wheel from the bike and changing
them individually, that way, you’re not gonna have all different bits and pieces laying all over the floor. So, I’m gonna start by removing the upper pulley, or the guide pulley, depending on what is on the side of your
pulley wheel, itself. So, you simply hold the cage
of the rear derailleur and then undo. In most cases, it’s a three millimeter sized alum key bolt. Remove that tiny little bolt, put it somewhere safe, don’t wanna lose that, and then simply remove that pulley wheel. So, before you go fitting your upper or guide pulley, make
sure you’re fitting it in the correct direction. In most cases, the writing will be facing outwards and some cases, even in the
little directional arrows, so pay attention to that, too, because, although it may look to be going in the wrong direction on first look, it’s actually not because of the way that the chain wraps around the pulley and then wraps around the cassette to go forward. Now, before you tighten up
those pulley wheel bolts, make sure that either
you’re using Threadlock if it’s recommended by the Manufacturer, or alternatively, a little dab of grease before torquing them up to the recommended
torque setting. Next up, it’s time to replace that tension pulley, so it’s exactly the same process of the guide pulley. So, you’re just going to want to remove that
three millimeter bolt and then keep it somewhere safe, again, and then drop that pulley out of the MEC cage. So, again, give inside that MEC Cage a good clean up, because it’s amazing how much dirt and grime does get in there. In my case, even a little bit of thread has got in there, somehow. Now, it’s just the case of refitting that tension wheel, so again, pay any attention to any writing on the side, which is
telling you the direction of travel which it should be going in, and then, just place it inside of the MEC Cage. And then,
with your little bolt, place it in, of course, again, sticking to any recommendations about using Threadlock or Sumblime and then torque it up. (Torque tightening) Now, it’s just the case of refitting your rear wheel. Now, if you find that, for some reason, that run-off chain is not how it should be, don’t worry, just simply remove the
offending pulley wheel and refit it with the
chain in the correct place and you’re good to go with those fast, smooth, jockey wheels that you deserve. Now, remember to like and share this video with your friends, give
it a big thumbs up, because now, you’re
gonna be having smoother riding, and also, better
gear changing, too. Remember, as well, to
check out the GCN Shop at where we have a whole
heap of different products for you to choose from,
including, get this, a new multi-tool, too! How cool is that? And, now, for two more great videos, this time, how to revitalize
your jockey wheels, click just down here, and for another great tech
video, click just down here.

63 comments on “How & When To Replace Your Derailleur Jockey Wheels

  1. That's a good and simple way of changing jockey wheels. Never thought of this method. When I changed mine, I took the chain out, then the rear derailleur before I changed it. Tedious and time consuming I must say but I did manage to clean the derailleur and cage really well

  2. If I've learned anything thus far I know I can spray it with coca-cola and pressure wash it and they'll be good as new

  3. I have a DA7900 rear derailleur. I cannot get the Allen head bolts to loosen. All the wrenches I have got rounded off trying, and won't break it loose. I have tried spraying the backside where the threads are with penetrating oil. Nothing has helped. Any ideas?

  4. The back plate of Campagnolo rear deraileurs is made of very soft metal (something close to cheese). So you have to be VERY careful when doing up the screw that forms the axle. If you strip the thread (I have), then you have to replace the entire cage.

  5. Great video, I've changed my pulleys once. I inspect them every time I clean my bike. Any chance on a maintenance video on SADDLES. I have a just worn down a saddle which I think has either a leather or somekind of leather like mesh. Feels like it worn down quickly since I started using my bike on a trainer and sweating like a pig. Have been on Selle San Marcos site but no info on care for my high tech racing aspide saddle.

  6. 150 big ones + for ceramicspeed CHRIST = just get on alixpress order a job lot of cheapo jobs as they're pretty much all the same – if youre reading this and youre american dont buy from china – its getting expensive for you #trump

  7. If only replacing the jockey wheels on my vintage SunTour derailleur was as easy as loosening a couple allen bolts ! Sigh.

  8. Jon, a naked bolt will generate less clamping force than one covered with a foreign material (grease, oil, thread lock). Is this accounted for by the manufacturer? Should I be worried about yielding a bolt when using grease and thread locker?

  9. Nice upgrade! It looks like you replaced factory jockey wheels with after-market low-friction ones with ceramic bearings.

    Some considerations when upgrading to low-friction jockey wheels…
    1 – Expect your drivetrain to be a little noisier. Why? Because factory jockey wheels usually have non-metal teeth which are fairly quiet. Low-friction jockey wheels often have metal teeth (aluminium or titanium) that are noisier as they engage the chain.
    2 – Expect more frequent maintenance. Why? Because the bearings cannot be sealed as well (weatherproof seals add friction). For example, some manufacturers recommend that you clean and regrease the jockey wheels after every ride through rain.
    3 – Expect a shorter lifespan compared to factory jockey wheels. Why? Because low-friction bearings often combine ceramic balls with metal races. The metal is softer than ceramic and, if any dirt gets into them, the harder ceramic balls can score the metal races. However, the lifespan can be extended simply by keeping the bearings clean and freshly greased.
    4 – For best friction reduction, expect to upgrade the cage, too. Why? Because the best low-friction jockey wheels are much larger (more teeth) in order to smooth the path of the chain. This also reduces friction. These larger low-friction jockey wheels will not fit your factory cage.

    Lastly, some high-end rear derailleurs include ceramic bearings in the jockey wheels from the factory. SRAM Red (both mechanical and eTap) are one example. Cyclists who don't know this may be unaware that their jockey wheels require more frequent service in order to keep the friction low.

  10. Hi John
    I’m looking to change my old aluminium road bike into a gravel bike. Could you tell me is it possible to put a 11-34 to my sora 9 speed cassette without changing rear derailleur.
    Thank you
    Lee from South Wales

  11. #TORQUEBACK – Hi Jon, I wanted to upgrade the Tiagra groupset of my old 2006 Specialized Allez to Shimano Ultegra R8000 or to a Shimano105. Currently, my bike is only having a BB-7420. Will the upgrade work? Need better suggestions. Budget is limited but I hope you can help. Thanks, Jon.

  12. Coincidentally, i just ordered a new set of jockey wheels, not because mine need replacing, but, because i want the bearing covers to be colour coded with my rear hub 😀 (also, the new ones have ceramic bearings, not that it matters :D)

  13. How 'spinny' should the jockey wheels be when you spin them in free space? Mine spin 'smoothly', but they just stop right away, they really won't spin at all. They're from some 10+ year old ~$800 bike, Shimano SRAM. Replacement time? How expensive should you go for the replacements?

  14. Oh boy I remember the one time I took off both pulleys at once and took me awhile to figure out how to put them back in right 😱🤷🏼‍♂️😂

  15. I replace to Ceramic Speed on my TT bike and I got faster. Probably because I also got lighter. Probably because there was less $$ in my wallet. In all seriousness I am still glad I swapped – helps intimidate my competition lol

  16. Can I use the big jockey wheels on a ultegra medium cage rd and a 32 or larger sprocket? I’m thinking there may not be enough room for the larger wheels.

  17. Bought a new pair of pulley wheels. They are the same, no difference or any arrows for direction. Have I missed something or is there a correct way to mount them?

  18. #tourqeback Hi! How do you keep your chain clean? When I have cleaned my chain and put lube on it, it straight away gets black and sticky, and then I see all these people riding with a beautiful clean metal looking chain, what am I doing wrong?!

  19. hmmmm so all 11 teeth jockeys are the same? why are some deemed to be compatible and others not compatible with 11 speed. No one has been able to clarify.

  20. I got some after market jockey wheels and not sure if they are the correct ones? The ones I got have 10 teeth but my factory have more is this a problem?

  21. Shimano recommends torquing the bolts to 20 inch pounds. Reference at:

  22. upgrading my dura ace several years ago I noticed the lateral play in the guide pulley when I removed it. my "upgrade" pulley didn't have the lateral movement, but I put it on anyway. it was noisy from the start. to my eye the alignment was correct . it got worse, I contacted the company owner who told me my dura ace was worn out it shouldn't have any play. hmmmm! it was a brand new 7900 that was replacing my 7800. thank you for confirming the lateral play.

  23. I'm considering changing my jockey wheels but not for the reasons mentioned. I've replaced my rear cassette and chain. This worked fine at first. But now the bike is making a whining sound when pedaling. Listening to the components it's coming from the rear derailleur where the chain is sliding against the side of the derailleur bracket. Is this something new jockey wheels can fix?

  24. Then what should I considerate when purchasing new jockey wheels, just the number of theeth, the size of them…?

  25. Hello, just a quick question? I've fitted a new set of pulley wheels tacx (10 tooth) appropriate for my cassette make (shimano claris 8 speed). Now the pulleys that have come off are 11 tooth shimano. I seem to have noises coming from the rear cassette on gears 14 – 16, would removing a chain link remedy this as the chain runs smooth in all other gears? Or buy the 11 tooth tacx version for speeds 9 upwards? Some advise would be much appreciate, many thanks Phil

  26. You do not need to remove the back wheel, just have the bike on a back wheel stand. Set the bike to the inner chain ring and manually move the chain off to the inside. This now allows full access to the jockey wheels. The upper guide jockey bolt is accessed through the back wheel spokes ( left side). The lower tension jockey wheel bolt faces you on the right side. You also can do this without derailment of the chain but you will have to be careful fighting the RD tension.

  27. Just keeping jockey pulleys clean, dry, and lubed to spin as designed, should last for like tens of thousands of miles. There is very little tension on them, only that from the cage spring that tensions the extra chain slack. They are largely along for the ride, except the in and out locating of the chain during shifting. Many old style wheels had barely half-depth teeth when new, yet they worked fine. If shifting becomes a problem, or if the bearing or bushing doesn't regain a smooth spin after servicing, then get new, OEM ones and ride. Ignore the posers who think a ceramic pulley will turn them into a Tony Martin. This is just pandering to marketing hype, and beneath GCN.
    Note that Shimano designed in some side to side play on the upper wheel to self-center after each shift, and even the priciest aftermarket units haven't addressed this as well as Shimano's own, clean, simple ceramic bushing that just needs a drop of solvent-free, non-chain lube oil to stay happy. Those other lubes dry out, binding the bushing.

  28. Thanks Jon! That genuinely made my night. Thanks! It taught me simple techniques that I should already know. Trying to be a better mechanic.

  29. I didn't know you had to change them. I've never changed mine. I'm not a racer just go fast sometimes. Mostly touring, sometimes fast and far.
    Bikes: Litespeed Ultimate, Titus Modena, and beater Raleigh Technium MTB.

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