Basic Bike Maintenance

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On the right you can see the barrel adjusters for the shifters (top) and the brake lever (bottom)

There are two ways to remedy that: for small adjustments, there are two little barrel adjusters on the brake levers. If you loosen those, you’ll tighten up the cable slightly and restore a bit of braking power. I’ve never noticed those before – now I see them on every bike I look at. Those are good for smaller adjustments, but as you can imagine you only have so much thread on the barrels.

Loosen the screw on the right, squeeze the brake together then pick up some cable slack.

The other way is to tighten the cable at the brake. Again that’s not as big a deal as it was 25 years ago when I had my last go at bike maintenance. Before you make any adjustments here, make sure you tighten the barrel adjusters (thereby loosening the cable as much as possible so that you have the most amount of adjustability later on).

Now comes the tricky part:

Push your brake together with one hand and loosen the cable with the other. You can squeeze the pads almost completely onto the rim, and when the cable is loose let go ever so slightly. Quickly tighten the cable and give your wheel a spin. If your brake pads are too close to the rim, just loosen the cable slightly with the barrel adjuster.

Adjusting you Gears

To adjust the rear derailleur, the screw with the cable sticking out is the one to loosen. Don't twiddle with any of the other screws!

The same principle applies as with the brakes: your cable stretches over time. Again you’ll find barrel adjusters either at the shifters on the handle bars, or you’ll find them further back at the gears. Use those for small adjustments and the cable tightening technique if you need to tighten the cable even more.

To see how much slack your cables have, you need to put the front derailleur into lowest gear (i.e. onto the smallest sprocket). That way the cable is most relaxed. The rear derailleur needs to be on the highest gear (i.e. also on the smallest sprocket) for the cable to be relaxed.

Again tighten your barrel adjusters as much as possible (thereby tightening the cable) and see if you need to pick up any slack. Test shift the gears (easy on a maintenance stand) and see if they go in with no hassle. If they slip, keep tweaking.


Well worth the effort. We’ve also covered how to fix a flat tyre (not covered here) and I was under the impression that any question would have been answered (including how to bleed disc brakes and other difficult subjects).

I reccommend attending one of those workshops yourself. You’ll get a lot out of this, and knowing these simple prodecures will keep your bike running much better and you don’t have to shill out on mechanics charges if you do this yourself.

Thanks Evans 😉

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