Quick Fix: Gear Tuning Part 1

Adjusting your gears isn’t as tricky as you might think. Sure, there’s some technical terminology, but bear with us… it will make sense.


Chainring: These are the front gears, that are connected to the crank
Cassette: The cassette is the block of gears at the back, attached to the rear wheel
Chain: Duh
Derailleur: These are the mechanisms that move the chain on the cassette or chainrings
Shifters: The controls that you select gears with
Low gear: “Easier”
High gear: “Harder”

The most common cause of gears failing to shift smoothly is cable tension. When the gear cable stretches the tension on the cable is reduced. This is common on new bikes after the first few rides. Derailleurs are spring loaded. When you’re shifting gears you’re simply increasing or releasing the tension on the gear cable.

If the gears won’t shift in to a lower gear on the cassette, or a higher gear on the chainrings, then the first action should be adding some tension. Do this as follows:

1. Locate the barrel adjuster. This will be on either: the rear derailleur, the shifter or somewhere along the length of the cable.

2. Note the starting position. This is important. If you make things worse, you want to be able to revert.

3.Turn the barrel adjuster out/anti-clockwise by half a turn. This adds tension.

4. Test the gears.

5. Follow steps 4-5 until gears shift correctly. Make sure you note how many half-turns!

6. Ensure gears still shift in to higher gear smoothly. If not, wind in the barrel adjuster half a turn until you find the right balance between shifting up and down.


If the gears won’t shift in to a higher gear on the cassette, or a lower gear on the chain ring, follow the steps above, just turn the barrel adjuster in/clockwise.

Different problem? Part 2 coming soon.