How To: Check Your Gears

Squeaking, Clicking, Rattling. No-one likes gears that don’t work.

Whether you’ve been riding your bike regularly, or just getting your steed out of the shed for a summer of adventures, a quick check of your gears can help diagnose any problems so you can either fix & adjust them yourself or book in for a bike service, for complete peace of mind.

Watch our lead mechanic, Charlotte take you through a quick, easy how-to:

To limit the amount of variables, start with your rear gears; Using one hand to lightly pedal the bike, shift through 1 gear per click, starting with every gear on the back derailleur. Go up every gear once and down every gear once. Note places where the gears have trouble shifting, where the chain slips off the gear, or where you need to shift twice to make the bike shift. Say it doesn’t shift up properly, go back over and see if you can replicate the issue.

Also listening out for noises, an all-too familiar clicking sound, is a good indication the cable tension isn't quite right. The cable tension controls where the gears sit. If the tension is too little, the chain is going to want to come down, and that’s what created that constant ticking sound.

Moving onto your front gears; again just using one hand to lightly pedal the bike, shift through 1 gear per click. Going up and down your front gears. An important consideration is to check the front at both ends of the rear gears, as it alters the angle of the chain, it can mean the shifting at the front is also affected - a common issue we see is at the extremes of the rear gears, rubbing on the front derailleur.

While you’re giving your bike the check-over, a good idea is to check the condition of your cables, such as fraying. Your cables consist of two parts; the inner steel cable that does the shifting, and an outer that protects it and allows the inner to negotiate tight bends in your frames geometry. If you’ve been riding in the rain, this is an especially important step, as steel + water = rust.

It’s not always visible as it can often build up at the ends of the outer cables - so without taking your bike apart, a good way to check this on externally cabled bikes is to shift all the way up to the biggest sprocket at the back, then without turning the pedals, shift down all the way to release any tension, giving the cable a gentle wiggle, you should see some of the excess cable and can check for signs of rust & wear. For bikes with internal cable, we’re afraid there’s no quick hacks here, and the only way to check is to take your cables apart, in which case it’s a good opportunity to replace with some fresh, new cables anyhow.

Then finally, take a short practice ride to spot any other problems. All our workshops do this on every service as sometimes the bike will behave differently under your weight. In a parking lot or driveway, ride the bike around and cycle through any gears. Note any problems and adjust your cables accordingly.

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