How To Adjust Rear Derailleur: A Beginner's Guide

Learning how to adjust rear derailleur is an essential skill for any cyclist. The rear derailleur is responsible for shifting the chain to different gears on the rear cassette, which enables you to find the right gear for the terrain and your riding style. A poorly adjusted rear derailleur can cause your chain to slip, jump, or make strange noises, making your ride uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.

What You Will Need

Before we dive into the adjusting process, let’s make sure you have everything you need. You will need:

  • A bike stand or a way to keep your bike upright and stable
  • A clean rag
  • A screwdriver (usually a Phillips head)
  • A set of Allen keys or wrenches
  • A rear derailleur adjustment tool (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you have all the necessary tools, let’s get started on adjusting your rear derailleur.

Step 1: Position Your Bike

Using a bike stand or some other method, position your bike so that the rear wheel is off the ground and you can pedal freely. This will make it easier to adjust your rear derailleur.

Step 2: Shift to the Smallest Gear

Shift your bike to the smallest gear on the rear cassette. This is usually the gear closest to the spokes. This will make it easier to adjust the rear derailleur.

Step 3: Check the Limit Screws

Locate the two limit screws on your rear derailleur. These screws control the range of motion of your derailleur. Use your screwdriver to adjust them if necessary. If your chain is slipping off the smallest gear, adjust the L screw. If your chain is slipping off the largest gear, adjust the H screw.

Step 4: Shift to the Largest Gear

Shift your bike to the largest gear on the rear cassette. This is usually the gear furthest from the spokes.

Step 5: Adjust the Cable Tension

Now that your limit screws are adjusted, it’s time to adjust the cable tension. Use your Allen keys or wrenches to loosen the cable bolt on your rear derailleur. Pull the cable tight and re-tighten the bolt. This will ensure proper cable tension.

Step 6: Fine-Tune Your Shifting

Shift through your gears to ensure that your shifting is smooth and accurate. If you notice any issues, use your rear derailleur adjustment tool (or your Allen keys or wrenches) to make small adjustments to the cable tension until your shifting is perfect.


What if my chain skips or jumps?

If your chain skips or jumps, it’s likely that your rear derailleur is not properly adjusted. Follow the steps above to adjust your derailleur and ensure proper cable tension.

What if I can’t shift into certain gears?

If you can’t shift into certain gears, it’s likely that your derailleur limit screws need adjusting. Check your L and H screws and adjust them as necessary.

Do I need a rear derailleur adjustment tool?

No, a rear derailleur adjustment tool is not necessary, but it can make the process easier and more precise.


Adjusting your rear derailleur may seem intimidating at first, but it’s a skill that every cyclist should learn. By following these simple steps and using the right tools, you can ensure that your shifting is smooth and accurate, making your ride more comfortable and enjoyable.