Adjusting Brakes And Gears On Your Mountain Bike

How to correctly adjust your brake and gear cables to enable you to enjoy your mountain biking experience more!

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If you want to get around safely on your mountain bike, you will obviously need to rely on your brakes and be able to change gears when necessary. 

Adjusting the brake cable tension

A barrel adjuster is located on each brake cable, adjacent to each brake lever. To lengthen the cable casing, and thereby increase the tension on the brake cable, simply unscrew the barrel adjuster. This will move the brake pads closer to the rim of the wheel.  

Adjusting the gear cables

Most modern mountain bikes have gear cable barrel adjusters located at both ends of the gear cable, i.e. next to the gear shift lever and next to the rear derailleur. Follow these tips to correctly adjust the gear cables:

  • Leave the front barrel adjuster set at three complete turns unscrewed and make all adjustments using the rear adjuster.
  • Increasing the tension in the gear cable will move the derailleur up, thereby moving the chain onto the next biggest sprocket. Conversely, decreasing the gear cable tension will move the derailleur down, which will move the chain onto a smaller sprocket.

To correctly set the gear tension cable:

  1. Downshift your gears in order to place the chain on the smallest rear sprocket.
  2. Ensure the chain is located on the middle of the front chain rings.
  3. Now shift the right-hand gear shifter one ‘click’.
  4. If the chain is not carried to the next biggest rear chain sprocket, then increase the cable tension by undoing the barrel adjuster.
  5. If the chain shifts too far and jumps a sprocket, then decrease the cable tension by tightening the barrel adjuster.
  6. Repeat this process until the chain is able to shift gears easily.