Tech Tuesday - Troubleshooting Common Shifting Problems

Oct 31, 2023 at 10:01
by Pinkbike Originals  

Drivetrain's can be tricky. Here, Henry takes you through some easy ways to identify common problems.


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Member since Feb 15, 2012
1,077 articles

86 Comments
  • 112 1
 Just here to say you should check for an improperly spaced lower idler.
  • 45 2
 Impeccable.
  • 14 0
 I thought top comment would be picking up on that improperly placed apostrophe lol
  • 35 0
 Unless you have trued the wheel first then you should rotate the wheel as you rotate the DAG. Keep the DAG in the same spot on the rim. Otherwise you can end up 'straightening' a perfectly fine hanger to match an untrue wheel.
  • 38 1
 Protip: Align your hanger off the valve stem, that way it's always in the same place as you rotate the wheel.
  • 3 1
 @GTscoob: That is a truly brilliant tip. Gonna put that into action next time the DAG comes out.
  • 3 0
 Threaded rod and quick look from two angles for perpendicularity to wheel does the trick for me. Accurate enough.
  • 2 1
 @BarryWalstead: um,

well yeah
  • 1 3
 @GTscoob:
I align my hangers on the biggest cog of the cassette.
It only realy works on bigger casettes like 46t and higher.
  • 2 1
 @enduroelite: fair enough, it seems super obvious but I've been doing it on my bikes with fairly true wheels so I've been lazy. Gonna remember this for any OTHER bikes I wrench on.
  • 1 0
 @GTscoob: newer to bike maintenance, could you explain a little deeper what this means? Thanks!
  • 1 0
 @OneTrustMan: Whoa, what alignment tool are you using? Bike chain pitch is 1/2 inch, which means a sprocket with a 46 tooth circumference has a 23 inch circumference. Divide by pi and your hanger alignment tool is small enough to work on a rim with a 7.32 inch diameter (18.6 cm).
  • 8 0
 @Toryt7: When you check a hanger, you're validating that it is straight by checking at three different points (or four, if you want to) to verify that it's not bent inward/outward or twisted (the first two points are 180 degrees from each other, the last is 90 degrees [and then 180 degrees from that if you want to do a fourth measurement]). In a perfect world, your wheel is true and every one of the points on the wheel is the same.
That is not the case, so by measuring at the valve stem you're creating an easy-to-find landmark that removes any variation that you'd get by measuring on random points.
  • 1 0
 @nickfranko: awesome thank you!
  • 3 0
 @barp: the hanger isn't in the middle of the cassette so you're really doing unnecessary math. My gauge could measure a wheel that has a 2 inch radius if I wanted too. The issue is cassettes aren't flat and its easier to align perfectly if you are measuring far away. If you are measuring off the cassette you may as well just grab the derailleur and twist it by eye.
  • 2 0
 @BenLow2019 Came here to say this. Too many people don't know this.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: Okay, then... what tool are YOU using then? The Park DAG-3, for reference, is only good for down to a 16" wheel. And yeah, the hanger isn't in the center of the wheel--so you actually need to be able to measure a rim with LESS than 7.32 inch diameter (to use a 46t sprocket for reference, as in the initial example). The math remains necessary.
  • 1 0
 @barp: dag 2.2
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: Hmm, that one also only goes down to 16", according to Park. Although I don't see where that 8" radius limitation is--looks like you really can slide the feeler gauge all the way to the center, huh? I've used it before but never tried it with a tiny wheel.
  • 45 14
 Trouble shooting common shifting problems..... Get tough, go single speed, get laid... Problem solved...
  • 5 0
 Put a Rohloff hub on your singlespeed for lazy/tendinite days..
  • 15 3
 Pretty sure the downvotes are (mostly) women rolling their eyes.
  • 13 4
 @ripcraft: Men roll their eye's because they secretly want to be me... Women roll their eyes because they be jealous of my sexy AF SS legs and a ass that can crack a walnut... Seriously... Get a SS and you too will have the best damn bubble butt that jiggles like grandma's lime jello.... Hahahaha
  • 4 0
 haha touche
  • 10 0
 @OlSkoolJake: You want real manly legs? Get a fixed gear. No need to be all technologically-advanced with your ability to freewheel. Just keep pedaling. And learn the terror that is jumping and landing a fixie.
  • 3 3
 @ripcraft: I have a feeling that most of the down votes are guys that are over biked, that are incapable of climbing the slightest grade without the help of a 52t cog.
  • 2 1
 @nickfranko: I've spent mucho time in my life, experiencing the fixie terrors that you speak of... and I've throughly enjoyed every minute of it...
  • 4 4
 @matyk: are those the same guys who show up at the local blue square. On their $10,000+, 180/170, carbon enduro race rigs, and just peacock around? Yeah, I'm well acquainted with them dudes.... They aren't a fan of the SS, steel HT guy... who's got a better ass that their old lady.... hahaha
  • 6 1
 @OlSkoolJake: Yeah... they're the ones peacocking..
  • 29 0
 Take off SX and NX
  • 24 0
 Do ya like DAGs?
  • 10 0
 I like caravans more.
  • 7 0
 @FaahkEet: Periwinkle blue?
  • 1 0
 Easily one of Brad Pitt's best performances.
  • 11 0
 7 comments in and no one has said anything about gearboxes yet. I'm very disappointed in you, PB comment section.
  • 12 0
 The real shortcut is to ditch the 12s.
  • 9 0
 Also on Shimano, you tighten the clutch too much it will make the shifting horrible.
  • 5 0
 Also worth noting, a quarter turn on the clutch is a HUGE move
  • 6 0
 I've been a dedicated user of Shimano drivetrains for a long time, but my recent switch to a SRAM wireless system has left me feeling like I'm living in a fanatical cycling utopia. Remarkably, I haven't encountered any issues or had to make any derailleur adjustments.
  • 5 0
 Didn't see this mentioned, so I'll drop this tip in here from my time as a shop mechanic... On modern wide range cassettes, proper chain length is absolutely crucial. A link too long or too short from the ideal, manufacturer-defined length, will cause nagging shifting issues that almost feel like a misaligned hanger. This is due to the cam-style action of the upper pulley not keeping consistent B-gap across the range of the cassette. Unless you're sure that your chain is definitely properly sized, look up the manufacturer's procedure for sizing and check it!
  • 3 0
 Yep, I've fixed many a poorly shifting bike by correcting the chain length (usually by removing an inch or two).
  • 2 0
 Ive also found sometimes even with having the manufaturers recomendation just adding or losing a link or two as trial and error can make things better or worse. for example on my DH bike to avoid cracking B-tension plates I run two links shorter and to eliminate noise on my enduro bike I run one link shorter. it is pure madness how much noticicable difference it makes to shifting performance and noise from the bikes. This took several years of trail and error and contact with sram regarding chain lengths.
  • 8 4
 I only recently converted to 12 speed. For me, a properly adjusted SRAM 12 speed lasts for 2 rides or a half day in the bikepark. A small slip out crash, or debris contact results in a slight bend that throws my adjustment off and combined with the play in every bushing that NX derailleur has, I'm not really sure you can call that stuff appropriate for mountain bikes.
  • 7 0
 I’ve had issues with both shimano and sram (high and low end) 12speed. Same thing, one day in the park or so and it’s cooked. Going back to 11 on the next bike as I cannot stomach transmission prices.
  • 5 1
 @dirtyburger: I don’t really struggle with my Shimano 12 speed, but I am certainly going to 11 speed LinkGlyde when it comes time to replace. I won’t miss the extra cog, and I will love the reduction in fiddling with 12 speeds.
  • 3 0
 @dirtyburger: The latest isn't always the greatest.
  • 6 2
 @dirtyburger @SickEdit Shouldn't you consider stop crashing?
  • 5 0
 I've only heard horrible things about NX and SX. Ive had good luck with GX Eagle (after upgrading the mounting bolt to X01/XX1) and very good experience with X01 Eagle. That's riding bike park, enduro, very techy trails, day long epics, etc on 170mm and 160mm bikes. Just maintain them adjust them properly when new.
  • 8 1
 12 speeds are finicky, thats not just sram, its shimano too.
  • 2 0
 @RonSauce: On my trail bike I've been fighting with my 12sp XT. Ended up swapping my hardtail back to 10sp and have been super happy with it!
  • 2 0
 You picked the 2nd shittiest 12 speed, right before SX. Of course it blows. I'm sorry you had to learn the hard way.
Gx and up/ shimano is much better
  • 1 0
 You can make a massive improvement to the NX derailleur (and the GX as well) by using an X01 or XX1 mounting bolt. mtbengineer.blogspot.com/2019/11/improving-sram-gx-derailleur-with-parts.html

You will be shocked how much play is removed, especially if you've been using it for awhile.
  • 11 4
 *laughs in single speed
  • 7 1
 *laughs in prehistoric 10- and 11-speed working flawlessly with a single cable tension adjustment in over a year, while still being able to reach high speeds and climb steep hills.
  • 16 1
 *laughs at people who are proud of being unable to adjust a derailleur
  • 2 0
 @Mac1987: I have had nothing but flawless and smooth operating drivetrains... and 12 speed drivetrains.

Setting up single speed is just as hard as a
9 speed.
  • 2 0
 I have trp brakes and was using the matchmaker. Had 6 months of shifting issues going through different matchmakers, derailleurs, and shifters until I realized the matchmaker couldn't hold the shifter in place well enough. Probably spent $400+ trying to sort it out and all I needed was a $15 clamp. Aren't bikes fun?
  • 4 0
 i can't reckon how the shifter pod being loosely affixed to the handlebar could interfere with your shift indexing (which relies on the shift cable housing being properly seated in the shifter)--unless your housing was too short so it was pulling away from the shifter as the shifter moved?
  • 7 0
 9 speed ain't dead.
  • 2 0
 A nice overview.

However, you mention cable tension in your intro, but don't actually cover it as a topic. You cover excess *friction* in the cable, but not the more common problem of needing to dial in a bit of extra cable tension (due to cable stretch/housing compression) using the barrel adjuster.
  • 1 0
 Henry, I run SRAM 11 speeds on my bikes and have one that shifts perfectly but often (2-4x per ride) when I come out of 1st gear my upper jockey wheel is not properly aligned with the chain any longer. Meaning the narrow wide is not meshing correctly with the chain. I've tried 2 different chain lengths (honestly either could work) and played with the B-tension in both directions, yet the problem still occurs.

Any suggestions on which direction I should be going? thx.
  • 3 0
 Check your b-gap. We had a customer's bike at my old shop that kept doing this. We ended up having to go out of spec on the b-gap to make it shift well and stay on the jockey wheel. Maybe even replace or grease the jockey wheel first if you're not willing to try an out-of-the-box setup.
  • 5 0
 B-gap at sag?
  • 2 1
 Henry notes the binding/reduced spring tension to drop down the cassette. This has been a prevalent issue for me with Shimano 12spd mechs (SLX and XT) and is most apparent when the clutch is engaged. The result is that my shimano 12pd mechs have a significantly shorter lifespan than my eagle mechs.

Rebuilding the clutch and cleaning and greasing the entire mech helps a bit but when the chain has trouble dropping from the 51t cog the derailleur is likely on its last leg. Replacing cable, housing, chain, hanger, etc wont have much of an impact here.
  • 2 1
 I notice this occurs over time if I use degreaser on or around the derailleur. Lubing up the parallelogram will help with this.
  • 5 2
 Most common shifting problem is Sram 12s chain sitting on top of the cassette teeth...
  • 8 1
 set your b-tension and indexing properly
  • 4 2
 @minimusprime: Even set up perfectly Eagle will ride up on the Narrow-wide teeth on the SRAM cassettes from time to time.

Your advice is on par with the people who just tell people with Shimano wandering bite point to bleed their brakes.
  • 1 1
 I have seen the exact same thing on Sunrace and Shimano cassettes a lot. ( Worked at a bike shop )
So it's not just a Narrow wide teeth thing
  • 6 6
 No problems on my rohloff hardtail, or my Pinion full suspension..
Maintenance : oïl change every 5000kms, one Chain a year, cassette every 2 years, and that's all
No 12 speed skinny chain bullshit...
I can understand Sram/Shimano and bikeshops wont like it, less money on their pockets...
  • 2 0
 This video could have been an hour long. This doesn't even come close to all of the ways that an RD can be out of spec. and all the things that can be done to fix it.
  • 3 0
 It's like Tolstoy wrote about families: ""Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"
  • 1 0
 Quick Tip: It's getting cold out and your cable may have shrunk, tightening it in the housing. If your shifts aren't as crisp try giving your barrel adjuster at the shifter a turn in (clockwise, righty tighty to slacken it).
  • 2 0
 What's the coefficient of thermal expansion for a steel shift cable? And for the steel wires that provide structure to a cable housing? Asking for a friend.
  • 4 0
 @barp: I think you might be right and I might be full of it. This has happened to me a few times but I'm not sure what causes the bike to shift differently in the cold, maybe it's just a coincidence. Maybe it's more about the friction changing with lubricants / housings than it is about the cable vs housing length changing.
  • 2 0
 @blueninja: I've had my shifting go bad due to ice forming on the cables, and the cold will also make the lubricants more viscous for sure.

Though in fairness, if your frame is not the same material as your cables (steel), and your cable housing is not full-length, then differential thermal expansion could make a difference to your cable length (for the spans of cable that are free-floating between cable stops).
  • 1 0
 @blueninja: it's exactly with the lube on the pivots and cable thickening up. Housings don't meaningfully shrink or expand with temps and cables don't stretch at all.

"Cable stretch" is just what you call it when a housing compresses over time and you have to tighten the cable to adjust for the slightly shorter housing length.
  • 3 0
 Check your cable outer isn't shredded at the shifter end before changing everything else.
*punches self in face repeatedly*
  • 1 1
 solved my shifting problems by going single speed. My legs are stronger, I have an excuse to push up, and it makes me look way sicker than I really am
  • 1 0
 Yer hanger's twisted and you cable's too bendy, pal.
  • 4 2
 Gear Box
  • 1 0
 Henry, you are nailing this! thank you
  • 2 0
 Yeah I like dogs
  • 1 0
 New cable housing solves a LOT of issues in my experience.
  • 1 0
 Perfect timing on this!
  • 1 0
 Do you like dags?







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