Mountain Bike Gearing Guide – How to Adjust Gearing on Mountain Bike?

Bikers’ common issue is the bike chain’s problem falling off, difficulty in shifting gears and staying in a single gear. At this point, adjusting your bike chain comes in handy and is often a quick fix. Although, not everyone is aware of how these gears are adjusted because on the outside, changing these gears look like quite the task. However, it is easy to get the hang of, if you know the right techniques and practices.

Mountain bikes come with devices known as “Derailleurs,” which are used for shifting gears. They work by pushing or pulling the chain into different gears when you shift. In this article, we’ll discuss a few tips and tricks on how to effectively and easily change gears on your mountain bike.

Mountain Bike Gearing Guide

Tips to Change Gears On Mountain Bike

How to Use the Derailleurs?

We first start by placing the mountain bike upside down on its handlebars and placing it on a bike stand. In this position, the wheels need to be able to spin freely, and you should have a good view of the bike.

There are two Derailleurs in the mountain bike – the rear and front derailleur. One derailleur is usually found on the rear wheel and attached to the gears collection known as the cassette. The second derailleur is a smaller device that is attached to the pedals of the bike.

The rear derailleur being the bigger device is a little more complex. It consists of an arm that is pulled by a cable to chain the position of the chain. The front derailleur is attached directly onto the bike frame and is used to ensure or force the chain to remain at only one position at a time.

Diagnosing Shifting Problems

To diagnose any shifting problems, the Derailleurs are tested. You carry out a process during which you use the front derailleur to change gears and note how the rear derailleur shifts the chain into gears. If the chain slips off between gears or is stuck in position, these are the problem areas and need to be noted.

Barrel Adjusters

There are small nut and barrel type structures on your mountain bike that are located around the bike cables. Adjusting these structures can help you shift the bike cables, which further allows you to makeshift changes. They work by increasing the amount of distance that an inner cable has to travel. They are very handy devices, especially to dial in front shifting.

Problem Gear

Pedal the bike with one hand until you get to the problem gear – that is, the gear at which the chain falls off or gets stuck in position. Once you reach your problem gear, do not shift anymore, and make sure your bike remains in this position.

Tightening and Loosening Barrel Adjuster

On the mountain bikes, some gears are closer to the wheel and further away from the wheel and are called lower and upper gears, respectively.

If trouble during shifting occurs as you lower the gears, a solution can often loosen your barrel adjuster by turning it counter clockwise. Keep turning the adjuster until the gear falls back into position and shifts gear.

The adjusters need to be turned slowly and steadily. The barrel adjusters need to be turned towards the direction the chain needs to move; therefore, you need to turn or rotate them towards the bike. Make sure the adjusters are not turned too far, as that can cause it to detach from the derailleur.

If shifting the gears upward is the problem, then the barrel adjusters need to be tightened. The barrel adjusters need to be turned in the clockwise direction to tighten it. As you correct it, the chain should automatically switch to the correct gear. In the tightening case, you need to rotate away from the bike as we require the chain to move away from the bike.

Checking for Problems After

Following the barrel adjusters, you need to recheck if you are still encountering problems with the gear. You start again by shifting from the lower gears to the upper gears by pedaling and noticing any problems during the gear shift. Make sure the chain flows smoothly during each gear shift.

To finish off, upright your mountain bike and take it for a spin to make sure that it is working fine and according to your preference and comfort.

Fixing A Slipping Chain

For a slipping chain, first, switch to the lowest gear on the mountain bike. Following this, locate the bolt that is holding your cable in place. This is usually located at the end of the cable that runs from the Derailleurs to the handlebars. Once you locate the bolt, unscrew the cable-free.

The derailleur also has screws that hold it in a place known as “limit screws.” They are found on the front or rear Derailleurs and are located next to each other. The screw labeled “H” determines how high your chain will move, and the screw labeled “L” determines how low your chain will move.

If you are faced with the problem of your chain slipping off, tighten the derailleur screws. If it is falling off near the outer gears, the “H” screw needs to be tightened, and if it is falling off near the wheel, the “L” screw needs to be tightened.

If the chain is going too far, tighten the lower limit screw, and if it is not going far enough, the lower limit screw needs to be loosened. Following this, the derailleur needs to be adjusted such that the derailleur plates sit on either side of the chain.

Tighten or loosen the low limit screw so that the chain does not touch the derailleur plate. Shift back to the lowest gear, pull the cable taut with your hand, and screw it back in place underneath the bolt you have removed. This should fix your problem. Following this, recheck the shifting of your gears to make sure they are switching smoothly. In case of any changes to be made, use the Barrel adjusters.


Although it may seem like a daunting task that requires a lot of effort, once you get the hang of it, it comes easy to you. Knowing how to handle properly and shift your mountain bike gear will always help you out when you find yourself in a tough spot, so don’t hesitate to get down and dirty and learn about your bike!

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