Just moments before our legions of loyal fans stop visiting our very boring, rarely updated blog entirely, I thought I would attempt a revival by dispensing bits of home-spun wisdom and dangerous advice in a couple of how-to columns. Think of it as a graduate course in adventure, fitness, gear, sex, sports and anything else you wish you were good at. It’s a big scary world - and you need to be prepared.
(1) Tune your derailleur
It looks hairy: springs, cables, chains, gears, grease – who wants to mess with that? But your friendly guide has brought along the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, and the majority of your shifting issues (clacking, rough shifts, jumping chains) can be fixed fast, even by a theology major.
Step 1: You first need to determine if you need to tighten or loosen the cable. Shift up until your chain is on the smallest cog in the rear. Now downshift one gear. If the chain doesn’t climb right up onto the next gear, you need to increase tension. If it overshifts, you need to reduce it.*
Step 2: Find the barrel adjuster. This is where the cable enters the derailleur (most) or possibly on the handle bars.
Step 3: To increase tension, turn the barrel adjuster counterclockwise. To reduce tension, do the opposite. The adjuster will click, turn it one or two clicks an recheck the shifting.
*This is true for most derailleurs. Some, known as “low normal” work in the opposite direction, but the principle is the same. If cable tension pulls the chain away from the wheel, you have a low normal. If you have a LN, start on the largest cog and reverse the process.