How to Install a Rear Derailleur Cable

Written by matthew ferguson
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How to Install a Rear Derailleur Cable
A single cable routes to the rear derailleur (a downhill mountainbike gear wheel and gearshift mechanism image by Stephen Gibson from

Without it’s cable, a rear derailleur would be all but useless. This cable connects the derailleur to the rear gear shifter at the front of the bicycle. During shifting, change in cable tension causes the derailleur to pivot. The pivoting derailleur transfers the chain to a smaller or larger sprocket, creating a new gear ratio. Adjustment of cable tension follows cable installation.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 5mm Allen key
  • Cable cutters
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Derailleur cable end-crimp

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  1. 1

    Rotate the rear shifter dial or lever into its largest gear. Look for the cable hole inside the body of the shifter. The hole is only fully accessible when the shifter is in its largest gear.

  2. 2

    Pass the rear derailleur cable through the hole in the body of the shifter. Grab the other end, and pull, seating the cable head inside the shifter.

  3. 3

    Route the cable to the rear derailleur, passing the cable beneath the bicycle and through the cable housing at the back of the rear derailleur.

  4. 4

    Locate the derailleur adjusting barrel, where the cable enters the derailleur. Turn this barrel all the way into the body of the derailleur. Then, turn it twice in the opposite direction.

  5. 5

    Locate the cable pinch bolt beneath the derailleur. While pulling the end of the cable tight to remove slack, use a 5mm Allen key to tighten the pinch bolt onto the cable.

  6. 6

    Use cable cutters to cut the end of the cable. Cut the cable so that the end extends as far as the end of the derailleur.

  7. 7

    Press a cable end-crimp onto the tip of the cable. Squeeze the crimp in place, using needle-nose pliers. The crimp prevents the cable end from fraying.

  1. 1

    Use the rear gear shifter to shift the derailleur beneath the second--to largest rear sprocket. Lift the rear wheel and rotate the pedals forward to cause the chain to shift as well.

  2. 2

    Turn the derailleur adjusting barrel counterclockwise if the chain refuses to shift or shifts sluggishly. When turning the adjusting barrel rotate the pedals forward to complete the adjustment. Continue the adjustment until the chain can shift onto the cog without stalling.

  3. 3

    Shift the derailleur and chain to the centre rear sprocket, using both the gear shifter and pedals to move the derailleur and chain into position.

  4. 4

    Stand behind the derailleur. Observe the alignment between the derailleur upper pulley and the sprocket above. The two should be in line.

  5. 5

    Turn the derailleur adjusting barrel to align the two as needed. Turning the adjusting barrel counterclockwise causes the derailleur pulley to move in toward the bike. After each turn of the adjusting barrel, rotate the pedals forward to complete the adjustment.

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