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How To Replace Gear Shifters on Bike

Team AckoDec 21, 2023

Bike shifters, also known as gear levers, are like the gear control panel for your bicycle. They help you change gears to make your ride easier or more challenging. These handy levers are usually found on the handlebars, with the right handling the rear gears and the left managing the front gears.

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While shifters are built to withstand the test of time, like any other bike component, they may eventually need a little care and maintenance– or a complete replacement. But fear not. With our step-by-step guide, you'll swap out your bike gear shifter like a pro in no time. 



What Are Gear Shifters?

Gear shifters on a bike are control devices that allow you to adjust the resistance and speed at which you pedal. They are typically located on the handlebars or the bike frame, within easy reach of your hands. When you operate these shifters, they move the chain to different gears on the front and rear cogs, altering the bike's mechanical advantage.

Using a bike gear shifter, you can make your pedalling easier or more complex, depending on your riding conditions. Switching to a lower gear makes pedalling easier, which helps climb steep hills or accelerate from a standstill. Conversely, shifting to a higher gear makes pedalling harder but allows you to travel faster on flat terrain or downhill.

When Is the Right Time to Shift Gears on Your Bicycle?

Bicycle gears aren't just there for show – they have a purpose. They let you ride faster and conquer hills with less effort. Plus, they help you maintain a comfortable pedalling pace.

Here's a simple rule of thumb, your ideal pedalling speed known as 'cadence,' should be around 70 to 100 pedal crank revolutions per minute. However, keep in mind that this varies from one rider to another. When you're faced with an uphill climb or an incline, switch to an easier gear. Opt for a more complex gear on flat terrain or when pedalling with little resistance.

You should look at the road ahead and predict when to adjust your gears. For instance, if you see a hill coming up, shift into an easier gear before climbing. It will make ascending a breeze. Likewise, downshift to an easier gear if you know you're about to stop at a traffic light. When the light turns green, getting back into motion will be much smoother.

As you become more comfortable with your bike's gears, don't hesitate to experiment with different gear combinations to find what suits your riding style best. Some bicycles display your current gear on the handlebars, while others require a glance at the front chainring or cassette. Eventually, you'll develop a feel for when it's time to shift gears and do it almost instinctively, without needing to check.

How to Replace Gear Shifters?

Replacing a bike gear shifter is a task that may seem daunting but is well within reach if you have the right tools and a systematic approach. It's important to note that there are various types of shifters, but the basic principles for replacing them remain consistent.

Step 1: Removing the Old Grip 

  • You'll need to remove the handlebar grip on the side where the shifter will be replaced to get started. Use a flat screwdriver and some WD-40 or a similar lubricant to assist in this step. 

  • Insert the screwdriver into the grip and gently pull it away from the handlebar. Spray a small amount of lubricant inside the grip along the screwdriver, then twist the grip back and forth as you pull it out.

Step 2: Loosening and Removing the Shifter 

  • Begin by shifting your bike's chain onto the smallest gear to minimise tension on the shifter cable. Unbolt the cable from the derailleur using the appropriate-sized Allen wrench.

  • Depending on your shifter type, you may need to unscrew a small housing on the shifter's body or adjust the shifter levers to access the other end of the cable inside the shifter.

  • Once you've located the cable end inside the shifter, push it back through its body until you can grasp it. Carefully remove the entire cable from the bike. Using the Allen wrench, unbolt the shifter from the handlebar.

Note: If your bike has separate brake levers and shifters, you should remove the brake lever to access and remove the shifter.

Step 3: Installing the New Shifter Assembly Now

  • Slide the new shifter onto the handlebar and tighten it using the appropriate bolt. Pass the fresh shifter cable through the shifter and guide it out via the barrel adjuster. Be cautious not to catch and fray the cable. Feed it into the cable housings towards the derailleur without causing damage.

  • Route the cable into the derailleur's clamp, ensure it's snug, and then secure it by tightening the bolt with an Allen wrench. 

  • Reattach the crimp on the cable's end and apply a small amount of bicycle lubricant where the cable enters the housings to facilitate smoother shifting. Try shifting through all gears; no further adjustment is required if it operates smoothly. 

  • However, in most cases, you'll need to fine-tune the cable tension for proper shifting. Instead of repeatedly unbolting the cable at the derailleur, you can adjust the cable's tightness by turning the small barrel adjuster where the cable exits the shifter. Twist it a quarter turn at a time until the gears shift smoothly.

Step 4: Reinstalling the Grips and Final Adjustments 

  • If you removed the brake levers, you should reinstall them. To put the grips back on, spray hairspray on the handlebars and inside the grips to ease their installation. 

  • Once the hairspray dries, it should secure the grips firmly to the handlebar. Remember that using a new cable is only sometimes necessary, but you may find the old cable too frayed to reuse.

To Wrap It Up

Gear shifters or levers are essential control panels for your bike's gears. They enable you to tailor your ride to be more accessible or more challenging. Located on your handlebars, the right shifter manages your rear gears, while the left handles the front gears. Although built to last, these components may eventually require care or replacement. The blog explains a step-by-step guide to replacing gear shifters like a pro in no time!

Always remember that proper care extends to your ride and safety. Just as you wouldn't overlook Acko bike insurance, which can be crucial in protecting your investment. Acko bike insurance offers comprehensive coverage, competitive premiums, and a hassle-free digital experience, making it the ideal choice for riders. Visit ACKO for more information. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the frequently asked questions on How To Replace Gear Shifters on Bike


Can I replace my gear shifters?

Yes, you can replace your gear shifters if worn or not working correctly.

Do bike gear shifters get worn out?

Yes, bike gear shifters can wear out over time due to use and exposure to the elements.

How do I take off a gear shifter from a road bike?

To remove a gear shifter from a road bike, release the handlebar grip and then the shifter using the proper tools.

How can I switch the gear shift handle on my bike?

To change the gear shift handle on your bike, you'll need to remove the old one and install the new handle using essential tools.

What's the typical lifespan of bike gears?

Bike gears can last several years with proper care and maintenance, but their lifespan may vary depending on usage and conditions.

Is it acceptable to shift gears on a motorcycle without using the clutch?

Yes, changing gears on a motorcycle without the clutch is possible, but it requires a skilful technique called "clutchless shifting." This shifting should be done carefully to avoid damaging the transmission.


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