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How to Fix Bike Gears that Won’t Shift? (Quick & Simple)

Written by Gary Johnson / Fact checked by Henry Speciale

how to fix bike gears that won't shift

Riding a bike is easy if you have perfectly smooth bike gear. You can quickly shift the gears depending on the terrain that you are passing on. All too often, spinning your pedals manically or seamlessly depends on how well-adjusted your gear wheels are.

Once you observe that you are having a hard time shifting gears and laboriously grinding your pedals on the road, you need to focus and give attention to your bike gear. You can improve your ride if you know how to adjust bike gears.

At the same time, it is equally important to understand how to fix bike gears so that they won”t shift. This includes identifying the problem in the gear, tweaking the cable adjusters accordingly, and taking your bike out for a test ride.

What Makes Bike Gears so Important

Bike gears are one of the greatest inventions in the cycling world. It allows riders to speed and level up their ride depending on the road they are taking. You can get up hills quickly and easily by shifting your gear. Bike gears give you a more pleasurable and enjoyable ride no matter the terrain.

Gears are a crucial component of your bike. It transfers the energy you put into the pedals as an output of your wheel. It also lessens your effort to pedal when you shift to the right gear. You have the option to change your gears based on the terrain and conditions of the road that you are on.

However, there are times your gear can malfunction, which leaves you with a stressful and back-breaking ride. Thus, it is necessary to check on your gears from time to time.

Why Won’t Bike Gears Shift


There are several reasons why your bike gear wheels won’t shift. It can be due to derailleur problems, cable issues, mis-adjustments, and malfunctioning chains. To understand these issues better, read through the following so you can fix gears mountain bike:

1. Derailleur problems

There are times that your bike derailleur is damaged, which prevents the bike gears from shifting. You should ensure that the derailleur is not bent or is in the wrong position. The bike derailleur should always be perpendicular to the rear wheel and cassette for better shifting.

2. Cable issues

Brake cables can also be the root cause of why your bike gear stopped shifting. Misadjusting the cable or misaligning it can cause your bike to slow down. It is crucial to check the position of your cable frequently.

You need to clean it regularly for optimum performance as well. If you have an old cable, and your gear won’t shift, you have to replace it. Some cables are worn out and too stretched, so they must be replaced.

3. Limit screw misadjustments

A limit screw can affect the performance of bike gears. If it is set too low, the chain will find a hard time reaching the lowest gear. Hence, you will have a “bike won’t shift to the lowest gear” problem. The limit screw can restrict the chain from doing its job right. On the other hand, if the limit screw is set too high, it will be loose and affect the smallest gear on the cassette.

4. Cable issues

Of course, bike cables can impact how your bike gear performs. It is vital to always check if your bike chain is clean. The rust and dirt that build-ups to the chain will cause it to malfunction. Degreasing and applying lube to it is equally significant.

To fix these issues, here is the step-by-step guide to resolve the issue of bike gears not shifting:

  • Position your bike on a bike stand
  • Identify the location of bike derailleurs
  • Diagnose shifting problem
  • Check the cable adjusters
  • Focus on the problem gear
  • Let the cable adjuster loose if the chain is not shifting down
  • Let the cable adjuster tight if the chain is not shifting up
  • Cycle through every gear wheel again
  • Practice riding your back

How to Fix Bike Gears That Won’t Shift Step by Step


Step 1. Position your bike on a bike stand

Getting the right angle when fixing your bike gear is incredibly important as well as spinning your wheels from time to time without moving the bike. You have to get a bike stand, place your bike on it correctly before doing all the leg work and adjusting bike gears.

Step 2. Identify the location of bike derailleurs

The next step is to locate your bike derailleurs accurately. Bike derailleurs are responsible for shifting the bike gear and keeping the bike chain in place. There are two derailleurs present on the bike: the rear derailleur and the front derailleur.

You have to identify them both and ensure that they are clean without any unnecessary components built up. Check whether there are leaves, mud, and stones in the derailleurs.

These particles can restrain your derailleurs from delivering their job. They can impede performance and slow down your bike. Clean both the derailleurs with a damp cloth and make sure that there are no unnecessary particles.

Step 3. Diagnose bike gear shifting problems

To determine the shifting problem, you have to test each gear. You can use your hand to move and pedal the bike. Start with the back derailleur and pedal test each gear slowly. In this way, you can determine whether your bike won’t shift to the highest gear front.

At this point, you will notice gears that are difficult to shift. It can be caused by the chain slipping off the gear wheel. To resolve this, move the gear wheel twice to put it in the proper position.

Then, you can work on the front derailleur and repeat the same process.

(Pro tip: While working on one derailleur, ensure that the other derailleur is in the middle gear. This way, your chain will not overstretch and endure any form of damage)

Step 4. Check the cable adjusters

Identify the cables that lead to the derailleurs and look for the adjusters. Adjusters appear like mini nuts or barrels around the cables. You can find two adjusters for every cable – for the derailleur end and handlebars. Fix the adjusters properly.

Step 5. Focus on the problem gear

By now, you have already identified the gear that is not working. Pay attention to the gear wheel by pedaling the bike with your hand. Shift your gear wheels up and see the real issue. It can be that the chain is not shifting or the gear is skipping. Keep your bike on that gear and move on to the next step.

Step 6. Let the cable adjuster loose if the chain is not shifting down

Rotate the cable adjuster anticlockwise if you observe that shifting is difficult while lowering the gear. It will loosen the cable adjuster. Do this gradually until you notice that the chain falls into the right gear wheel.

Step 7. Let the cable adjuster tight if the chain is not shifting up

If the shifting is hard when you level up the gear, keep the adjuster tight. To tighten the cable adjuster, turn it clockwise until you observe that the chain naturally switches to the right gear.

Step 8. Cycle through every gear again

Test check if the gears are shifting smoothly. Ensure that the derailleur shifts successfully in every turn of the gear wheel. Once you are satisfied with the result, you can remove the bike from the bike stand.

Step 9. Practice ride

To make sure that your bike gears are running well, you can do a practice ride. Take a short distance ride and cycle through the gears again. This time, you can check the shifting gear with your weight added to the bike.


Bike gears are crucial when you want to enjoy a hassle-free and smooth ride. It is equally important to understand how bike gears work, and how to fix them in case a problem arises.

Fixing bike gears that won’t shift will no longer be challenging now that you have read through these detailed steps provided for you. You just need to identify the problem in the gear, tweak the cable adjusters accordingly, and test out your bike once your grip shift gears won’t turn.

We hope that you find the steps easy to follow, so you can enjoy cycling even more.

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