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How To Adjust Your Front Derailleur

NOTE: This article only covers SRAM and Shimano 9- and 10-speed, and Campagnolo 10- and 11-speed mechanical drivetrains.If you need assistance installing a SRAM Yaw front derailleur, Shimano 11-speed front derailleur, or any electronic drivetrain, please contact our tech department for Spin Doctor support at 800-553-8324 or email at productsupport@performancebike.com.

 

Despite all the recent advancements in drivetrain technology over the past 20 years, there remains one component that continues to confound even the most competent of home bike mechanics: the front derailleur. While it may seem simpler than the complicated looking rear derailleur, looks can be deceiving. The rear derailleur is fairly straight forward, but setting up and adjusting a front derailleur tends to be more art than science.

Setting up and adjusting the front derailleur simply requires some patience and know-how. The first part you might have to develop yourself. The second part is where we come in.

 

 

TOOLS NEEDED:

 

INSTALLING YOUR MECHANICAL FRONT DERAILLEUR

  • MOUNT THE DERAILLEUR:  
    • If you have a band type front derailleur, install the band around the seat tube, but leave the bolt loose enough so that derailleur can be easily moved up or down.
    • If you have a braze-on front derailleur, bolt the derailleur on the braze-on, but do not tighten the bolt all the way—leave it loose enough to move up or down
    • Position the outside plate of the front derailleur cage so that it is parallel to the chainrings and so that it clears the teeth of the big ring by 1-2 mm.
    • Test the derailleur by pushing it outward, as though shifting to the big ring. If it clears the big ring with a few millimeters of space, then you’re close enough.
    • Once you have it in the correct position, tighten the fixing bolt to spec

 

  • ROUTE YOUR CABLE:
    • Depending on your cable routing (all road bikes, cyclocross bikes, and some mountain bikes will be bottom pull, some mountain bikes will be top pull), route the cable to the front derailleur cable clamp bolt.
    • Position the cable in the cable groove, but do not tighten the bolt.

 

  • ADJUST THE CABLE TENSION:
    • Depress the left shift lever to so it is in the little ring position
    • If you have a barrel adjuster, tighten it fully clockwise then back it out 2 full turns counterclockwise. (This will give you the ability to make fine adjustments to either tighten or loosen the cable if needed).
    • Next, using either a fourth hand tool or a pair of pliers, pull the cable until it is taut
    • The derailleur should be centered over the little chainring
    • Tighten the clamp bolt

 

  • TEST THE SHIFTING:
    • Press the left shift lever as if to shift into the big ring (CAMPAGNOLO & SHIMANO USERS: ensure the upshift lever has moved through all positions)
    • Watch the front derailleur to see if it moves into position over the big ring
    • If it does not, loosen the cable clamp bolt, manually push the derailleur into position, pull the cable tight, and then tighten the bolt back down. This is often more easily done using a fourth hand tool

 

  • LIMIT SCREWS:
    • To properly align the front derailleur and avoid dropping a chain, you must limit how much the derailleur is able to move.
    • Shift the derailleur into the big ring, and shift to the smallest cog in the cassette
    • Turn the low limit screw until there is roughly 1-2mm of space between the chain the inside of the derailleur cage.
    • Shift to the largest cog in the cassette, and check to see if the chain rubs against the front derailleur. If so, what to do depends on what type of drivetrain you have:
      • SRAM: On older SRAM 10-speed road drivetrains without the YAW front derailleur, some degree of rubbing when cross-chaining might be unavoidable.
      • SHIMANO: Shimano 9- and 10-speed STI levers have three click positions. If you find the chain to be rubbing, try depressing the downshift lever once. This should “trim” the front derailleur, by moving it into a position midway between the big and little rings, giving the chain more clearance.
      • CAMPAGNOLO: Campagnolo 10- and 11-speed ErgoPower levers have four click positions. If you find the chain to be rubbing, try depressing the thumb lever once. This should “trim” the front derailleur, by moving it into a position midway between the big and little rings, giving the chain more clearance.
    • Shift the chain onto the little chainring, and the largest cog (CAMPAGNOLO & SHIMANO USERS: ensure the upshift lever has moved through all positions)
    • Turn the high limit screw until there is roughly 1-2mm of space between the chain the inside of the derailleur cage
    • Shift to the smallest cog in the cassette, and check to see if the chain rubs against the front derailleur. If so, what to do depends on what type of drivetrain you have
      • SRAM: On older SRAM 10-speed road drivetrains without the YAW front derailleur, some degree of rubbing when cross chaining might be unavoidable.
      • SHIMANO: Shimano 9- and 10-speed STI levers have three click positions. If you find the chain to be rubbing, try depressing the upshift lever once. This should “trim” the front derailleur, by moving it into a position midway between the big and little rings, giving the chain more clearance.
      • CAMPAGNOLO: Campagnolo 10- and 11-speed ErgoPower levers have four click positions. If you find the chain to be rubbing, try depressing the upshift lever once. This should “trim” the front derailleur, by moving it into a position midway between the big and little rings, giving the chain more clearance.

 

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