1. How to Adjust Your Rear Derailleur

Applies to most 3-chainring derailleur systems. Adjust your Front Derailer

IMPORTANT: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.
How to Adjust Your Rear Derailleur
DVD Vol. 1 DVD Volume 1
This video is available on DVD

Adjusting your rear derailleur can be frustrating. I'm hoping that this tutorial will help you understand how each component of your derailleur works, and how to set up and adjust it properly. Once your derailleur is set up correctly, most future adjustments can be done by hand. Let's get started!

Required Tools

You'll need a rag, a phillips screwdriver, a 5mm allen wrench, and a light lubricant like Triflow or Phil Wood Tenacious oil.

Rear Derailleur Components

Rear Derailer

How They Work

Almost all modern derailleurs function the same basic way. They are designed to move (or derail) the chain from one sprocket to the next. The upper guide pulley (or jockey pulley) moves the chain in both directions. For instance, when you want to climb a hill, you shift down to a lower gear. This pulls the shift cable and forces the guide pulley to change to a bigger sprocket. When you want to go faster, you adjust the shifter to a higher gear. This releases shift cable tension and allows the derailleur springs to pull the guide pulley back down to a smaller gear. Each time you shift gears, the length of chain changes. The lower tension pulley is spring-loaded to take up this slack.

Limit Screws

There are 3 adjustment screws - the B-Screw (B-tension adjustment), the H-Screw (high gear limit stop) and the L-Screw (low gear limit stop). Adjustments on these screws should always be made in 1/4 turn increments.

B-Tension Adjustment

The B-Screw controls the derailleur body's angle in relation to the sprocket-set. Shift down to the largest sprocket and check the distance between the guide pulley and the large sprocket. If the guide pulley is rubbing on the sprocket, tighten the B-screw clockwise to increase tension and move the pulley away from the sprocket. If there is a large gap between the pulley and sprocket, loosen the B-screw until the pulley rubs the sprocket, and then tighten it until it just clears.

High Gear Limit Stop

The H-Limit screw high gear limit stop prevents the guide pulley from shifting any further past the highest gear and into the axle. In order to adjust it properly there must be no tension on the lower inner cable. If you feel tension, loosen the cable adjuster until there is none. Now check from behind how the chain is riding on the smallest sprocket. If it looks like it wants ride off into the axle, tighten the H-screw clockwise until it lines up. If it looks like it is rubbing on the next gear, loosen the screw until the chain is nicely centered on the sprocket. Now re-adjust the cable tension until the derailleur shifts smoothly down to the next gear.

Low Gear Limit Stop

The L-Limit screw prevents the guide pulley from shifting any further past the lowest gear and into the wheel spokes. Shift down to the lowest gear, step behind the bike, and check how the chain rides on the sprocket. If it looks like it wants to ride into the spokes, tighten the L-screw clockwise until it is centered on the sprocket. If it looks like it wants to shift down, loosen the screw until it lines up. As an extra precaution you can use your thumb to gently push the derailleur body and make sure the chain will not run into the spokes, as this could obviously have a nasty effect on both you and your bike.

Cable Adjustment

The cable tension adjuster defines how far up or down the derailleur moves. Step back so you can see the chain and sprocket alignment, and then through the gears in both directions, first shifting up two and down one, and then down two and up one. The chain should look centered on each sprocket. If it is rubbing on a larger gear it means there is too much tension on the cable. Loosen the tension by turning the adjuster clockwise. If it wants to jump down to a smaller gear it needs more tension. Increase the tension by turning the adjuster counter-clockwise.

You can also use sound to check the adjustment. There is always a base-level of noise that can be heard in every gear. This noise will increase in a slightly different way depending on which way the tension is out of adjustment. If there is too much tension you will hear a metallic rubbing sound, but if there is too little tension you will hear a clicking noise as the chain tries to jump to a smaller sprocket. There is usually a cable tension adjuster on your shift lever. With practice you will be able to make small cable tension adjustments while you are riding.


Now that the derailleur is adjusted, always apply a drop of lubrication to the derailleur's many moving parts. This will help prevent wear from dirt and rust, and it will keep your gears shifting smoothly. Wipe away any excess lube and take your bike for a test ride to make sure all the gears are working smoothly.

That concludes our tutorial on rear derailleur adjustments... have fun!


Related Links

Discuss this topic in the Derailleur Forums

10/20 Chain sticks when pack pedaling

I just finished a complete overhaul if the bike. Everything was cleaned, bearings washed and packed in fresh grease.

When I went to live the chain, I noticed that back pedalling causes the chain to stick:


Any ideas?...

08/19 When sitting and riding on mountain bike, front gears will not shift.

Hi, first post, very noobie to bike stuff sorry Smile
(Sorry, it's a little long, tried to keep it concise, sry).

Basically, when the bike is on a stand or even just picking the bike to rear tire is hovering, when pedaling and shifting through the front gears 1,2,3 it shits perfectly. Very smooth and fluid. However, when I'm riding the bike the bike gears will not shift at all!

(Quick necessary back story). Original issue was that the chain was rubbi... Read more >>

08/09 Shifting Problem

My front derailleur is a "Falcon" ---never heard of them! My problem is that I can shift to my large chainring or sprocket but as soon as I let go of the shift lever the derailleur pops the chain right back onto the small ring. W Thanks for your assistance.hen I move the shift lever it "clicks" several times---could there be some type of ratchet that is broken?... Read more >>

08/01 Front derailleur won't shift into third (largest) gear

I have recently been trying to teach myself more about bike maintenance by doing the work myself (I know horrible idea Smile ).  Recently I noticed that my chain was rubbing on my front derailleur so I went and altered the high/low screws on the derailleur.  Initially it wasn't moving when I was fiddling with the screws, and in an instructional video they suggested loosening the nut(bolt?) that holds down the shifting cable to allow the derailleur to reset to it's natural positio... Read more >>

07/17 Front derailleur can't shift from inner chainring to outer...sometimes

So I'm having a very strange problem. I have an old 10 speed Chimo with friction shifters on the stem. A few months back I noticed that when I downshift to the inner chainring, my front derailleur can't shift it back up to the outer chainring. I put it off and only used 5 gears till I tried to fix it today. I flipped the bike upside down and played around with it and it shifted perfectly back and forth. I then righted the bike and had someone hold up the back tire. It also shifted just fine. But when I rode it, once again it refused to shift back up to the outer chainring. Any ideas what this... Read more >>

06/09 Front derailleur drags on middle chainring?

Hi guys -- I'm new to the forum. Thanks for reading.

I'm fixing up a bike I've had for ~15 years that, sadly, I wasn't able to maintain. The bike is an 18-speed Royce Union mountain bike. Aside from new tubes/tires and a new chain, everything else is original (thumb shifters, both derailleurs are Shimano).

The original chain was just too rusted, so I replaced it, and it runs nicely now. Almost. It's fine on the granny chainring, and it's fine on the big ring, but when it's on the middle ring (the one that I tend to use the most), the chain drags across the inside... Read more >>

06/05 Rear derailleur rolling chain off

Hello I recently got my hands on a 99 trek 6000 and I have been working on it in my free time. When I try to ride it the back chain keeps going down in the gears until it pops off the gear on my wheel help!!... Read more >>

05/28 Rear Derailleurs


My rear derailleur is horizontal to the bike frame as opposed to vertical.

I can see no obvious reason for this and am unsure of how to fix it.

The bike was shifting just fine until I literally put it down, picked it back up and went to take off and the rear derailleur had the before mentioned issue.

Any help would be much appreciated....

05/22 7 speed bike / 5 speed shifter handle

So I picked up a newer Schwinn Jaguar off of craigslist for my son.

This is the first bike I've had around in probably 30 years.

The guy I bought it from pointed out that he had replaced the broken stock 7-speed shifter handle with a 5-speed shifter handle. It rides fine and everything else seems to work. The kid wanted it so we brought it home.

I notice that first gear on the shifter is on the third largest sprocket.

Effectively the bike is set up for gears 3-7 at the moment. If I wanted to gear it down is there a way to set it to go from 2-... Read more >>

05/14 Derailleur Spring - how to put it back on?

Hi everyone,

I am very new to bicycle mechanics, trying to get an old mountain bike running better. As I was scrubbing off years of gunk from the chain and derailleur, a piece popped off. I have included pics.



05/05 Remove chain from front derailleur

I got a Shimano tourney front derailleur on my bike. Need to replace it. How to get the chain out?. I hope, I do not have to break a link on the chain. I see a rivet in one end of the metal. I do not see screw or  bolt tightening the two ends.... Read more >>

04/30 Need to press twice to get to lower clog

I followed the instructions in this video
but I still have the same problem on a Shimano Sora race bike.

With the front derailleur, when I want to switch down from a larger clog to a smaller one, I always have to press the shifter twice: the first time moves the derailleur just a little bit and the second time does the job.

Any hint?...

04/09 Change levers to thumb shifters

I have an old 1984 Miyata Model 100
and I plan on replacing the drop handlebar with straight bar.

I'd also like to replace the old lever shifters with thumb shifters on the handlebar. I'm sure this has been done a thousand times but I couldn't find any instructions in this forum.

Any help is appreciated.


[Image: nzri9x.jpg]...

02/29 STI shifter problem

I have one of these old STI shifters from the early 90's


I can shift between the center and small chainwheels, but not from the center up to the big one.
The button goes all the way without resistance.

Any way to fix this or is is screwed for good?

Thanks in advance!...

01/16 Single-speed to 8x geared conversion shifter problem

Hi all
new to the site; I'm sure this is something that has come up before, but I'm currently trying to do a single-speed to 8x geared conversion, with a downtube shifter.
I've got the dropdown hanger for the rear derailleur bolted into the drop-out (after reading advice from this site...thanks!), and the rear derailleur mounted.

The chain runs through the derailleur and smallest gear (and the front cassette) fine, and I've attached the cable into the derailleur OK. The derailleur adjusts position when I use the shifter, but the chain doesn't move with it. I can manual... Read more >>

New Thread
How to Adjust Your Rear Derailleur
Repair Guide / Help Forums

Free Email Updates: