Noticing when your bike’s gears need to be adjusted is pretty straightforward. There are a variety of signs that something is not quite right with your gears and that they need your attention. Adjusting bike gears will help maintain your bike’s condition and ensure you can keep riding whenever you please.

When you are peddling your bike, you may notice that there’s a clicking or grinding sound. You may realize that your gears are not shifting consistently, or the chain is not shifting into some of the cogs on the cassette. These are all signs that you need to adjust your bike gears.

If you do not take enough time to adjust your bike’s gears or do it incorrectly, you may damage the bike’s components. This can put you in danger and is an actual safety hazard. Taking the time to maintain and adjust your bike gears will give you a safe and enjoyable ride.

How to Adjust Bike Gears

Adjusting bike gears

Before you adjust your bicycle gears, you’re going to need to gather a few tools. There is not a lot involved in the process, but having the correct tools ensures the job is completed successfully with minimal frustration. You will need to gather an open-ended wrench, a screwdriver, and a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Steps for adjusting gears:

  • Set Your Bike: To set your bike, you will need to put it in a raised position or flip it over and work on it upside down. You will need to be able to spin the wheels to see how the shifting system is working without the bicycle moving. Most people prefer to do this with the bike upside down, so the handlebars rest on the ground.
  • Find the Derailleur: A derailleur is a component on your bike that makes shifting gears and keeping the bike chain in the correct position possible. You will find one of the derailleurs near the pedals, and the other will be near the rear cassette.
  • Test the Gears: Using your hand, lightly turn the pedals of your bike. While doing this, engage the different gears. You will be able to spot the problem as you cycle through the gears. You should look where the chain slips out of the derailleur. It’s recommended that you check your gears from front to back.
  • Shift into the Problematic Gear: This will provide you with the diagnoses of the problem gear. Before you start trying to fix the problem, you will need to loosen the cable adjuster. When you need to make adjustments, you don’t want the cable adjuster to move to the lower gears.

Rear Derailleur Adjustments

Rear deraileur adjustment

You can experience a more pleasant ride when you make adjustments to the rear derailleur on your bicycle. While there are several steps to completing this task, it’s straightforward. People of all skill levels will be able to handle it.

Step 1: Use your shifter to move the chain to the smallest cog. Make this change by turning the pedals. If you can’t get it to go to the smallest cog, that’s okay – simply move it to the smallest cog it will reach.

Step 2: While not all bikes have them, if yours does, you will need to turn the cable adjuster in a counterclockwise direction. This will put the gear level on top and release pressure from the bolt that secures the cable.

Step 3: Move the derailleur so that it’s closer to the spokes. When the derailleur screw is appropriately adjusted, the chain will fit the largest cog automatically. If it falls short, you will need to fine-tune the screw clockwise so that it will overlap. Stay focused on the alignment.

Step 4: Look and make sure that the cable is tight under the retaining bot. This ensures the cable will be properly supported. Additionally, it helps to remove slack in the cable. Some people prefer to cycle through the gears before they move the cable to the largest cog.

Step 5: Shift through all of the gears one at a time. The process and flow should be smooth. If you find that shifting to the largest cog is not quick enough, you need to loosen the barrel adjuster. When shifting to smaller cogs, you may notice that it takes too long. You can correct this by turning the barrel adjuster half of a turn.

Front Derailleur Adjustments

Adjusting front derailleur

The process of adjusting the front derailleur on your bike is not difficult. It’s a bit different than adjusting the back derailleur. With a bit of patience and practice, you will be able to handle it quickly and efficiently.

Step 1: While using your shifter, turn your pedals so that the chain is in the smallest chainring and the biggest cog. Once it’s positioned with the biggest cog, release the bolt that retains the cable behind the barrel adjuster.

Step 2: Look at the derailleur and make sure the plates are pushing the chain equally into the chainring. If you find they are not parallel, you will need to unbind the clamp that supports the derailleur. This will allow you to align it into a parallel position.

Step 3: Now you will calibrate the curb screw. This ensures the chain is located between the derailleur pates. You will twist the derailleur while pushing the chain into the largest chainring. The chain will rotate into the smallest chainring when you release the derailleur.

Step 4: Now, please make sure the cable is secure under the holding bolt and fasten it. Doing this will remove any slack that may be on the cable.

Step 5: Lastly, you will want to fine-tune the gears. You need to shift to the largest chainring. If the process is slow, you should loosen the adjuster about halfway. If you notice that shifting into smaller gears is slow, you will need to tighten the adjuster by at least a half of a turn.


Proper maintenance of your bicycle will ensure you can ride it comfortably and safely whenever you want. Adjusting bike gears is straightforward and not nearly as difficult as most people imagine. Following the proper guidelines will lead you to a well-maintained bike and a lack of frustration while working through maintenance.