How to Properly Adjust the Front Derailleur on Your Bicycle




Hi everybody!

The purpose of these instructions is to help guide you through the process of properly adjusting the front derailleur on a bicycle. The process may vary slightly between different bike setups but you should still be able to use these instructions to get a good general idea of what to do.

These instructions will be very helpful to you if your bike is shifting poorly and you want to get it back into proper working order. You might be amazed at how well your bike shifts when you are done. You can also use these instructions if you are installing a new front derailleur and need guidance setting it up.

Some mechanical knowledge is helpful if you are doing this for the first time. But there is no better way to learn then digging in and trying for yourself! I used lots of pictures with callouts to complement the procedure to try and make the process as painless as possible.

The front derailleur simply shoves the chain from one front chainring to another. The cage on the derailleur is pulled outwards by the inner wire. A spring in the derailleur moves the cage inwards when the tension on the inner wire is relieved. A properly adjusted front derailleur will shift the chain between the front chain rings smoothly and without any binding. The cage should not rub on the chain when pedaling the bike.

Tools Required for the job (see second photo):

1. Hex Wrench (size may vary between derailleurs)
2. Screwdriver (usually #2 Phillips or straight blade)
3. Penny

Lets get started! Good luck and most importantly have fun!

*note: These instructions were adapted from Park Tool's Repair Help guide. The general process is very similar but I switched a few things up to try and make the process easier. I also added a lot of detailed pictures to help beginners through the process. A lot of people find Park Tool's instructions hard to follow at times.

Step 1: Front Derailleur Height

The first step in properly adjusting a front derailleur is to check the height. If the cage is too high above the chainring it is likely to shift poorly and if it is too low it is likely to bind on the chainring.

1. Shift the derailleur to the middle front chainring. This should place the outer cage plate of the front derailleur directly above the outer chainring.

2. The gap between the teeth on the outer front chainring and the lower edge of the outer cage plate should be about 1-2mm. A penny makes a great feeler gauge as it is about 1.5mm thick. The penny should just be able to fit in the gap. (see first photo)

3. To raise or lower the derailleur, first relieve the inner wire tension by shifting to the lowest chainring. Then loosen the derailleur clamp bolt and shift the derailleur either up or down and re-tighten the bolt. Shift back to the middle front chainring and check the cage height. (see second photo)

4. Repeat this process until the gap between the teeth on the outer chainring and the lower edge of the outer cage plate is about 1-2mm.

*note: Front derailleur clamps typically leave a mark on the frame, which is useful as a reference when changing the height.

Step 2: Front Derailleur Rotational Angle

The front derailleur cage should be approximately parallel to the chain. If the derailleur cage is rotated too far in either direction it may shift poorly.

1. Shift the chain to the outer rear sprocket and outer front chainring.

2. View the chain from directly above. The chain should be parallel to the outer derailleur cage plate. (see first photo)

3. If the derailleur needs to be rotated; shift down to the inner chainring to relieve tension on the inner wire.

4. Loosen the clamp bolt and rotate the derailleur to the correct position. Make sure not to change the height. Retighten clamp bolt. (see third photo)

5. Shift back to the outer chainring and observe the alignment. (see first photo)

6. Repeat the process until the derailleur cage plate is parallel to the chain

*note: Front derailleur clamps typically leave a mark on the frame, which is useful as a reference when changing the rotational angle.

Step 3: Front Derailleur Limit Screw Settings

The limit screws stop the inward or outward travel of the front derailleur. The limit screws should be marked “L” and “H”. The L-screw will stop the derailleur cage from moving past the inner chainring. The H-screw will stop the derailleur cage from moving past the outer chainring.

If the screws are not marked, you will have to test them to figure out which is which. Shift to the inner front chainring. Select one of the screws and turn it clockwise then counter-clockwise. If the derailleur moves then this is the “L” screw. If it does not; test the other screw. The screw that does not move the derailleur is the “H” screw. Make note of which is which.

Step 4: Front Derailleur €“ Adjusting L-screw

1. Shift chain to inner rear sprocket and inner front chainring. (see first and second photo)

2. Check inner wire tension, it should be loose. If the inner wire is taut then turn the barrel adjuster into the housing. If the inner wire is still taught then loosen the inner wire pinch bolt and relieve the tension. Retighten the pinch bolt. (see third and fourth photo)

3. Sight the gap between the inner cage plate and the chain. It should be about 1mm. (see fifth photo)

4. Pedal the bike slowly while sighting the gap. Set the clearance at the tightest point in chainring rotation. Set the clearance by adjusting the L-screw.

Step 5: Front Derailleur €“ Adjusting H-screw

1. Shift to the outer rear sprocket and outer front chainring. (see first and second photo)

2. Pull the inner wire with hand to insure the derailleur is resting against the H-screw. (see third photo)

3. Maintain pressure on the wire and inspect the gap between the chain and the outer cage plate. It should be about 1mm. (see third photo)

4. Pedal the bike slowly while sighting the gap. Set the clearance at the tightest point in chainring rotation. Set the clearance by adjusting the H-screw.

Step 6: Front Derailleur €“ Adjusting Indexing

1. Shift the chain to the inner rear sprocket and middle front chainring.

2. The gap between the inner cage plate and the chain should be as small as possible without rubbing. Pedal the bike to make sure it does not rub at any point in the chainring rotation. (see first photo)

3. To reduce the gap, increase the inner wire tension by rotating the barrel adjuster out of the housing. (see second photo)

4. If chain is rubbing on the inner cage plate, decrease the inner wire tension by rotating the barrel adjuster into the housing. (see second photo)

5. If the barrel adjuster is all the way out or in with no adjustment available then reset the inner wire tension. Turn the barrel adjuster all the way in. Shift to the inner front chainring. Loosen the inner wire pinch bolt and pull the wire gently, retighten the pinch bolt. Begin adjusting the inner wire tension as shown above. (see second and third photo)

Step 7: Congratulations!

Congratulations! You are now finished properly adjusting the front derailleur on your bicycle!

Your bike should now shift quickly and smoothly between the front chainrings.

I hope you found my instructions useful. If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them to the best of my abilities.

Have fun on your test ride!



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    17 Discussions

    Tatang S M

    3 years ago

    Well done. It's really helpful. Thanks.


    3 years ago

    Read it again Aeshir, he only has you adjust the line when there is no tension (when the front gearing is set to the inner most gear). All other adjustments, such as the H/L adjustments are stops and have nothing to do with the tension of the cable.


    4 years ago

    This is completely correct as a derailleur install/cable set up. Although I would tension the cable from the small chain ring then see how adjustments are set 1st. After all why go through the whole process if it's not necessary. Hi low screws can be adjusted afterwards. Just remember 3-5mm off the chain ring, but its a simple guide to follow and negative comments are pointless.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    this guide gets the first step completely wrong. you always do anything that requires cable tension DEAD LAST because it changes as you tune everything else. how am i supposed to get the derailer height right when i'm gonna be adjusting everything else that affects the cable tension first. this is unusable for me.


    5 years ago

    gud one. its gonna save some bugs.


    5 years ago on Step 7

    Nice instruction and VERY helpful for those of us who want to do this, but really had no clue how to get it right! Loved the penny idea, makes me want to keep a few of my Canadian ones..we are not minting them anymore:( Oh well.
    Thanks, and keep showing how to do mechanics the right way:)


    This was really well done. I was having problems with my front derailleur and could not get it adjusted. Read your instructions and set it with no problems. Thanks!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    hi there,
    i also recently changed a new dérailleur, and i started by adjusting my climbing crank ring, and on freewheel part, i shifted to 34T my largest climbing rear ring. and i adjusted my L screw on front dérailleur, and just made a few mm away from seat tube. then i tighten my front shift wire by holding wire end tighten with another hand's fingering touch. i think this is easier for me to start first step of FD adjustment. and yes, shift to middle ring and adjust height, only i'd have to release the wire and back to my step one if fitted into wrong height. and my newly changed crankset was from 48T to 44T now, so i'd later on adjusted my H screw prevent chain to fall out.
    your bike looked classical :)

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yep! There are few different ways to do this, this is just the way that works best for me. It's a bit harder when you install a new derailleur as well, you don't really have anything to go off of so to speak.

    Thanks for the compliment on the bike!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    true, a new FD is really tricky esp. those cage inner design. however, i got the previous shimano FD-TZ31 48T in my touring design bike. this FD is relatively new generation dérailleur, and seemed only suitably for larger crankset above 48T. made more tricky is while i adjusting, seemed this factory issued FD designed half gear shifting. i tried bending FD-TZ31's cage to make it working with smaller crankset rings. i later on got a gift from my local bicycle parts supplier, the gift FD performed a lot better on smaller crankset rings (it is 42/34/24T, sorry i previously post as 44T, wrong memory). the gift FD works great, and it was not in current market, designed pretty "old fashioned", i could see H, L screw adjusting by under metal piece, as it was easy to tell how derailleur works. and i usually change the L screw while i pushing the dérailleur outward, prevent the L screw suffer too much pressure, causing two sides of screw to bend and + hole to go out shape. most of all, i like the old fashion type of wire fixing bolt, it was designed a bit like old fashion C brake securing wiring holes.
    finally, your explanation is a lot of more clearer on step by step and particularly on wiring fixing part. i skipped on this step, but i could see adjusting wire tension also affect a lot on how FD works. FD adjustment task is easy to see, but hard to make it really work well by its own particular dérailleur, crankset, wiring combination.
    cheers, hope you'll have more time on posting more :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool they gifted you a derailleur! I'm glad it's working well for you.

    You are very correct in that making a derailleur work well with everything can be difficult. Different setups require some tweaking for the best results. Things like height and rotational angle are pretty straightforward however wire tension affects FD adjustment a lot!

    The part about indexing (wire tension) is more of a starting point then anything. Sometimes it takes a bit of messing around to get the FD to shift between chainrings quickly and smoothly.

    I think it's important to point out your sources for this. The Park Tool guide for this ( has clearly been used as a basis. Credit to you for make what is quite a dry article a bit more easygoing, and for adding some very clear original photos. I'm not trying to call you out here, it's just that without quoting your source, it looks a bit like you're trying to pass it off as your own, which doesn't do you any favours.

    1 reply

    Yes, you are correct. Thank you for reminding me!

    I put a note at the bottom of the intro giving credit to Park Tool.

    I purposely didn't even look at their's when writing this but since that guide is what I used to learn this process a few months ago it's not surprising they came out very similar!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    excellent tutorial. i don't know much about fixing my bike, but this was super. You should definitely do more!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much! If I have some extra time I will try and do other tutorials on general bike maintenance.