Six simple steps to indexing gears on a road bike

How to maintain smooth gear shifting

Freddy Vangoidsenhoven, team mechanic with the An-Post Chain Reaction UCI Pro Continental team, has some quick tips on how to index the gears on a road bike and maintain smooth shifting.

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1. Tightly wound

1. Tightly wound
Check the barrel adjuster screw
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

Before you start, make sure that the barrel adjuster screw on the rear derailleur is wound all the way in (turn it clockwise as you look down on it) with no tension on the cable.

2. On the limit

2. On the limit
Adjust the two limit screws
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

Next, make sure the two limit screws are adjusted correctly. These prevent the chain from dropping off the cassette. Check that the lower limit screw is adjusted so the chain turns nicely in the smallest sprocket.

3. Gentle push

3. Gentle push
Move the derailleur to the largest sprocket
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

Check the upper limit by pushing the derailleur towards the largest sprocket, making sure it doesn’t hit the spokes. Be careful as you could damage your bike and your fingers if you overdo it.

4. Clean cables

4. Clean cables
Adjust the cable for clean shifting
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

Once you know these screws are adjusted, start adjusting the cable for clean shifting. This time make sure that the adjuster on the derailleur is not completely in, and that the shifter is on the smallest sprocket.

5. Click it

5. Click it
Check the chain jumps
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

Click up once with the shifter and see if the chain goes to the next gear. If it doesn’t happen, use the adjuster to jump to the next gear by unwinding (anti-clockwise) until the chain jumps to the next sprocket.

6. Hang in there

6. Hang in there
Check that the rear hanger isn’t bent
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

If there is a problem in the middle of the block, check that the rear hanger isn’t bent. If the gears don’t go down fast enough, check the cable. It could be that the cable is frayed or there is dirt in the housing.

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For a more detailed look on how to adjust the gears on your bike check out our workshop guide and videos.