How to adjust the front derailleur on your bike? Step by Step

adjust the front derailleur on your bike

Riding a bike is a real pleasure and you will enjoy it much more if your gears work efficiently and quietly. Everyone knows that the front derailleur is used to move the chain from one gear to another. However, you might be unaware of the basics of adjusting your derailleur. So here are some simple tips to help you adjust your front derailleur in no time.

What is Front Derailleur?

Your front derailleur (FD) is the low speed mechanism that shifts your bike wheels from one gear to another. A typical rear derailleur has two chainrings, with an inner ring and a larger outer, but in contrast, a front derailleur only consists of one spacer for each chainring and can have zero-to-three sprockets as well.

Cables are often used to connect your derailleur to the rear wheel. This is known as a front/rear shift rod setup and it seems quite straightforward until you remember something even more simple: No two gears are linked by the same number of gears. In other words, if you have three chains on your 29er XC bike, then choosing one gear from these will not necessarily provide any mechanical advantage over another.

How to adjust your front derailleur

Ideally, you should position your bike in such a way that the rear wheel is in the air and you can propel it with the pedals at the same time that you operate the controls. It is not necessary to have a fully equipped bike workshop. Just use ingenuity. In this case, we used a car jack to keep the rear wheel in the air.

Tools needed

  • Philips screwdriver
  • Set of Allen or Spanish keys according to your bike
  • Settings
  • Limit screws
  • Whip tension
  • Limit screws

As with the rear derailleur, the front derailleur also has a pair of bolts that function as physical stops to regulate the mechanism’s operating range. They are usually marked with H (high) for the limit of the largest dish and L (Low) for the smallest. You may like to read: Best fat bikes under $500.

The position of the derailleur is controlled by the tension of the whip. Proper adjustment ensures proper dish selection.

Releasing front derailleur whip bicycle

  1. Release the whip – Using the controls, place the chain on the smallest chainring and the largest possible sprocket and proceed to release the whip from the mechanism.
  2. Tighten the L screw – Begin by tightening the L screw all the way. Then push the pedals and gradually unscrew (the L screw) until the chain is on the smallest chainring and it does not scrape with the cage.
  3. Hold the whip – After having adjusted the L limit, reposition the whip making sure that it is in the correct position, and be careful not to tighten it too much as you could damage it.
  4. Adjust screw H – Screw in limit H completely and with the controls, select the smallest sprocket to place the chain in the highest speed position.

Then manually pull the whip that controls the front derailleur in such a way that the mechanism moves towards the largest chainring. While pulling, push the pedals and unscrew the H stop, 1/2 turn at a time, until the chain jumps to the largest chainring. If the chain scrapes with the cage, make small adjustments of ¼ turn until it does not make noise.

  1. Extract the whip – With the controls, select the smallest chainring and a sprocket more or less from the center of your cassette.

In most cases, this mechanism has a tensioner to give fine adjustment to the tension. This can be found glued to the remote (as in this case) or the end of the liner. If this is your case, turn the tensioner clockwise to release the most amount of whip.

  1. Release the whip from the mechanism and pull to extract the greatest length.
  2. Put the chichote back on – Next, reattach the whip to the derailleur taking care to position it properly and without tightening it too much.
  3. Regulate the tension of the mechanism – Try to change to the next chainring (to the central one if you have 3 chainrings or to the largest, if you only have 2) by driving the wheel with the pedals and using the controls. If you notice that it is difficult to move to the next chainring, adjust the tensioner until it changes without difficulty.

In case your system is 3 chainrings try to change to the largest one and readjust the tensioner if necessary.

  1. Final test – Check that the entire system is working properly by changing both front and rear gears. If the system responds quickly and silently, it is already set.

Why is front derailleur adjustment so difficult?

Despite all the progress that has been made over the years, many of us still find front derailleur setting difficult. We ask ourselves if it is even possible to correctly set up our bikes and we suffer from numerous technical issues such as:

  • Damaged cable pivots or bushings;
  • Damaged rear suspension with the need for replacement parts (broken shock absorbers), errant frame shifter cables, etc.;
  • Chain damage due to incorrect alignment and incorrect length at the rear.
  • Chain lines can be seriously irregular; or, misaligned on one side but L-shaped when viewed from above (as in the diagram below).

This could result in a firmer nasty feel than anticipated by most riders – especially those with stiff frame designs like ’68-style steel frames – which usually develop larger gear ratios as you travel towards smaller chainrings up to 12-speed range.


Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a beginner, we’ve all had the experience of riding our bikes and having to adjust the front derailleur. The adjustment process is pretty simple and should take less than 10 minutes to complete. But it’s also a skill that can be learned only through practice, so why not start now? You’ll have to first decide which type of front derailleur you have: internal or external.

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