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How to Adjust Shimano Rear Derailleur: A Step-by-Step Guide


Are you experiencing issues with your bike’s shifting performance? One common culprit could be a misaligned Shimano rear derailleur. The rear derailleur plays a crucial role in ensuring smooth and accurate gear changes, so it’s important to keep it properly adjusted. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of adjusting your Shimano rear derailleur like a pro. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a beginner, this step-by-step guide will help you optimize your bike’s shifting performance.

Components of a Shimano Rear Derailleur
Components of a Shimano Rear Derailleur

Understanding the Shimano Rear Derailleur

Before we dive into the adjustment process, let’s take a moment to understand the Shimano rear derailleur and its components. The rear derailleur is responsible for moving the chain across the cassette, allowing you to shift gears smoothly. Shimano offers various models of rear derailleurs, each with its own unique features and specifications. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific derailleur you have on your bike to ensure accurate adjustments.

Identifying common issues with a misaligned derailleur is the first step towards resolving them. Some signs of misalignment include difficulty shifting into specific gears, chain skipping, or excessive noise during gear changes. By understanding the purpose and function of the rear derailleur, you’ll be better equipped to tackle any adjustment challenges that may arise.

Adjusting a Shimano Rear Derailleur: Step-by-Step
Adjusting a Shimano Rear Derailleur: Step-by-Step

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Adjust Shimano Rear Derailleur

Now that we have a basic understanding of the Shimano rear derailleur, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of adjusting it. Follow these simple instructions, and you’ll have your derailleur fine-tuned in no time:

1. Prepare the necessary tools

Before you start adjusting your derailleur, gather the necessary tools. You’ll need a 5mm Allen key or a screwdriver (depending on your derailleur model), a cable cutter, and a clean rag to wipe away any dirt or debris.

2. Assess the derailleur’s alignment

Begin by visually inspecting the alignment of your derailleur. Ensure that it is parallel to the cassette and the jockey wheels are in line with the gears. If you notice any misalignment, gently straighten it using your hands. Be cautious not to force it into position as this may cause damage.

3. Adjust the high and low limit screws

The high and low limit screws control the movement range of your derailleur. Start by shifting to the smallest chainring and the smallest rear cog. Locate the high limit screw, usually labeled “H,” and use the Allen key or screwdriver to make minor adjustments. The goal is to position the jockey wheel directly under the smallest cog.

Repeat the process for the low limit screw, which controls the movement to the largest chainring and the largest rear cog. Shift to the largest gears, locate the low limit screw (often labeled “L”), and adjust it until the jockey wheel aligns with the largest cog.

4. Fine-tune the cable tension

Next, we’ll fine-tune the cable tension to ensure precise shifting. Shift to the smallest chainring and the largest rear cog. Loosen the cable anchor bolt on the derailleur using your Allen key or screwdriver. With the cable loose, manually move the derailleur towards the smallest cog. Then, tighten the cable anchor bolt.

Shift through the gears to check if the shifting is smooth. If you encounter any issues, use the barrel adjuster (located where the cable enters the derailleur) to make minor tension adjustments. Turn it clockwise to increase tension and counterclockwise to decrease tension. Repeat this process until the shifting is crisp and accurate.

5. Check the shifting performance after adjustments

With the adjustments made, it’s time to test your bike’s shifting performance. Take a short ride and shift through all the gears, ensuring smooth transitions between each. Pay attention to any signs of chain skipping or sluggish shifting. If you notice any issues, revisit the previous steps and make further adjustments as necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I adjust the derailleur without any prior experience?

Absolutely! While adjusting a Shimano rear derailleur may seem daunting at first, this step-by-step guide breaks down the process into simple, manageable steps. Take your time, follow the instructions carefully, and don’t hesitate to seek assistance if needed. With a little practice, you’ll be able to confidently adjust your derailleur without any prior experience.

How often should I adjust my Shimano rear derailleur?

Regular maintenance is key to optimal performance. It’s recommended to check and adjust your Shimano rear derailleur every few months or whenever you notice any issues with shifting. By staying proactive and addressing misalignments early on, you can prevent more severe problems from arising and prolong the lifespan of your components.

What should I do if my derailleur is not shifting smoothly?

If you’re experiencing persistent issues with shifting, even after following the adjustment steps, it may be a sign of a larger problem. In such cases, it’s best to consult a professional bike mechanic who can diagnose and resolve the issue. They have the expertise and specialized tools to tackle complex derailleur problems effectively.


A well-adjusted Shimano rear derailleur is essential for smooth and precise gear changes during your rides. By following this step-by-step guide, you can confidently adjust your derailleur and optimize your bike’s shifting performance. Remember to regularly check and fine-tune your derailleur to ensure it’s in top condition. With practice, you’ll become more proficient in derailleur adjustments, empowering you to handle any issues that may arise. So, grab your tools, get your hands dirty, and enjoy a smoother and more enjoyable cycling experience!

Check out our how-to section for more informative articles on bike maintenance and repairs.


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