How to Fix Gears On a Mountain Bike – Adjust them in 5 Mins

Many times you may experience issues shifting gears on your mountain bike. It is a common problem that your mountain bike might not give back the transmission you want it to deliver. It occurs due to small issues here and there, which you can fix once you have diagnosed the problem. After diagnosis, you can easily solve the issue.

Remember that a small problem with your mountain bike can hinder the overall performance. Sometimes, it will take a lot of energy climbing uphill, which will drain you completely of your energy. If your bike isn’t performing as it should, there might be a problem with the whole gear system. There possibly can be trouble in the derailleurs, chain, cranks, and so on. This article provides an insight into some common issues in the gear system of your mountain bikes and how to fix them.

How to Fix Gears On a Mountain Bike

Coming to the actual point, you might have noticed that your mountain bike is acting weirdly and not delivering its actual performance. Know that there is something wrong with the chief part of the bike. That is, its gear system might need some inspection and tuning. The first thing you need to do is a thorough inspection and then fixation. Let us show you in detail how to fix gears on a mountain bike.

Step 1 (Inspection)

The first and foremost thing you need to do is have free access to the wheels. You can do that by taking the bike to the local workshop, where they can put the bike on a stand to raise it from the ground. If you are an expert in that field, you can do that yourself at home. Try turning the bike upside down by balancing it on the saddle and handlebars. Once you have done that, try paddling it in a reverse direction with your hands to check if there is any hindrance or not. After that, have a closer look at the chain and whole gear system.

Step 2 (Check The Derailleurs)

Derailleurs play a crucial role in keeping the performance of your mountain bike. Slight trouble in the derailleurs can make a huge difference in the overall performance of the bike. The main purpose of the derailleurs is to move the chain from one sprocket wheel to another as you shift the gear. This is the most important in a bike which plays a huge role in gear shifting.

Now to inspect and fix that, you need to do a thorough inspection to look for the problem. One of the derailleurs is attached to the cassette on the back wheel; the other is located near the pedals. The former one is bigger, and the latter is smaller in size. You might not notice, but sometimes dirt like mud, sticks and something like that get stuck in the derailleurs, hindering its performance. If that’s the issue, clean them with water and a clean cloth. Once you have cleaned it properly, you are good to go.

Step 3 (Test Each Gear And and Solve the Issue)

The next step is to investigate each gear to see if the problem lies there. It often happens that the bike cannot shift gear properly. Sometimes you have to shift the gear twice to change it once. Other times your mountain bike will have trouble shifting the gear due to many reasons. For instance, there can be chances of dirt stuck in the chain, or there can be chances of rusty chain. Also, sometimes, the bike’s chain is too tight or too loose, which causes troubles in shifting gears.

To inspect that, you need to put your bike upside down to rest it on the handlebars and seat. Now paddle the bike with hands in the reverse direction gently and start changing gears slowly. Go up and down with the gear one time to notice the clicks and gear changes. If there is an issue, you will notice the sites where the problem is arising. Note that this step is for the back derailleurs. Also, to prevent the chain from stretching while testing, make sure you have put the other derailleur in the middle gear.

Step 4 (Look Up For The Cable Adjusters)

Now coming to the cable adjusters, to solve problems in the cable adjusters, what you need to do is find the cable adjusters. Cable adjusters look like tiny nuts that surround the ends of the cable. These cables originate from handlebars that lead to the derailleurs, so you wouldn’t have difficulty finding them. Make adjustments in these cable adjusters for better performance. At this point, the actual work of problem-solving will happen.

Suppose you have trouble shifting the gear at one point; leave your mountain bike in that gear where the current issue exists. Since we are talking about mountain bikes, there are high chances of problems arising in low gears. You have to loosen the cable adjuster if you are facing issues in shifting the gear as you lower it. You need to keep turning the adjuster anticlockwise till the time the chain gets into its correct gear. Stop turning when the chain falls to the right place, and you are good to go.

If your bike finds it hard to up the gear, you need to repeat the same process, except you need to tighten the adjuster by turning it clockwise. There shouldn’t be any trouble going up gears since mountain bikes deal with low speeds. If there is, paddle slowly and look where the problem arises. Leave it in that gear and tighten up the adjuster to solve the problem.

Step 5 (Reinspection)

Once you have fixed all the issues, you need to paddle it again with your hands and see all over again if the issue persists. At this point, all the problems have pretty much been resolved. If you still think the derailleurs need more adjustments, you can tighten or loosen up the cable adjusters. After that, you should test the bike uphill to see the performance. By doing so, you will notice a huge change in the overall performance of your mountain bike. Also, the gear shifting will be smoother and precise.

Related MTB Guides: How to fix a loose crank on a MTB | How to rid a mountain bike


Can you fix gears on a mountain bike yourself?

Yes, you can fix the gears of your mountain bike yourself. If you already have some know-how about the bikes, then you can fix the gears at your home. Simply put the bike on the stand or turn it upside down. Paddle it slowly and diagnose the site of the problem. Correct the derailleurs by loosening or tightening the adjusters.

How to fix derailleurs on a mountain bike?

To fix derailleurs on a mountain bike, you need to clean them first, be it front or a rear derailleur. After that, you should paddle the bike slowly to check on which gear the problem is arising. If the issue is on the point when you are going up a gear, then you should tighten up the cable adjuster anticlockwise. On the other hand, if the problem arises when you are lowering the gear, the adjusters need to loosen accordingly.

How much does it cost to get the gears of your bike fixed?

Bikes do not need that much maintenance, and costs are low when you take them to your local workshop for maintenance. On average, a mountain bike would cost from 10 to 40 dollars depending upon the type of maintenance it requires.

Why do mountain bikes need regular checks?

Mountain bikes are meant for uphill riding, and they are more subjected to wear and tear than regular road bikes. The reason is that due to the ultra bumpy paths, there can be cases of loose nuts and bolts. Therefore, there are high chances of troubles arising in the gear system, so mountain bikes need regular workshop checks.

Final Note

Mountain bikes are subjected to wear and tear the most as they deal with bumpy paths, as the name suggests. It gets clunkier easily if not taken care of. At some point, you might notice that your bike isn’t shifting gears as it used to do when it was new. For that matter, you need to inspect your mountain bike thoroughly to diagnose the problem with the gear and solve it accordingly. You can troubleshoot and then find a solution at your home by simply following the steps mentioned above.

Photo of author
Sonia Seale loves to take her bike to the mountains near her place, the bike track has provided her the opportunity to go mountain biking since she was a child. That's where she developed a great deal of interest in cycling, no matter if it's electric or mountain bike, she's all over the place and loves to fix her own bikes along with exploring the new features coming along in the industry. That's why she's here, sharing her experience and learnings with you guys.