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Home » Bike Quiz » Bike Quiz:  You just got a new cassette and chain put in your bike.  While out on your first ride…

Bike Quiz:  You just got a new cassette and chain put in your bike.  While out on your first ride…


March 2015

This is the first post in a new series I’ll be running on Fit Recovery called Bike Quiz.  I hope you either A), enjoy the post B) get a good laugh or C) learn something from one of my oft-made mistakes and get a laugh from my self-deprecating style of looking at life and, um, cycling.  That said, here’s the scenario:

You just had a new cassette and chain put on your bike.  The first time you take the bike out you notice a faint (minor) clicking when you pedal in the three smaller cogs on the cassette, but only when you pedal.  What do you do?

A)  Get off the bike mid-ride, slam it to the ground and walk home or call your significant other for a lift.

B) Sue the bike shop (or yourself, obviously, if you put the cassette and chain on) for poor workmanship, take to tweeter and the social media discouraging everyone on the interwebz from frequenting the establishment.

C) Take the 1m:24s required to index and dial in the rear derailleur after your ride (or during if you’re on a long one).

The answer is C of course.

First, try to pay attention to which way is slower shifting, either up (right to left) or down (left to right) the cassette*.  That’ll make this process easier later.  Shift all the way to the smallest cog in the back (the hard gear).  Now, if the chain was slow shifting up the cassette, simply turn the barrel adjuster that way or to the left (counterclockwise or anti-clockwise for my brothers and sisters in chain rings across the pond)…  If it was slow going down the cassette, you simply turn it to the right (clockwise).  Do this until the clicking diminishes and then gets loud again – you want to be right in the middle and usually about 1/2 turn on the barrel adjuster separates the clicking.  Once you’re in the quiet zone, still in the smallest cog (this is important, I didn’t choose that gear because it’s the cool one), try shifting up the cassette and then back down.  Is it shifting slow either way?  Fine tune with 1/8th turns until you shift quickly and crisply up and down the cassette.  You’re done.

Total elapsed time (including putting the bike on a stand or flipping upside down if you don’t have a stand):  1 minute, 24 seconds.  Give or take a few seconds.  Having to index a derailleur after a new cassette is quite common and almost a given.  The mechanic who worked on my bike did run through the gears but didn’t catch that there was a problem…  Nor did I for the first ten miles of my first ride after the work was done.  I heard that little clicking all the way home though.  It’s important to note here that the noise was barely audible if there was no wind.  If I was into the wind or had a cross-breeze, there was no way  could hear anything – it was a minor noise in other words.  Had it been something major I’d have fixed it on the side of the road.

*UPDATE:  MJ, in the comment section, correctly pointed out that my instructions on figuring out which way the chain moves can be a little confusing if you view this in a certain way – and he has a very good point.  If you were a little caught up by the wording after the asterisk, I’ll really mess you up.  When I wrote “up or down the cassette”, I was not referring to the gear because doing so can be utterly confusing for noobs.  If you look at the cassette as a “hill”, Up the cassette is downshifting to a larger gear – right to left.  You’re shifting up the cassette but down in gears – and this is where that whole thing gets messy.  For the purpose of this post, assume you’re on the bike and you’re shifting is slow…  It’s slower going up the cassette “hill” into an easier gear.  The chain is traveling right to left slowly.  If you’re going down the cassette “hill”, you’re going left to right into a harder gear.  Hopefully this should clarify everything for the purists who will rightly point out that up is down and down is up.  And now you know why I worded it the way I did – and why MJ caught it.  Chuckle.

UPDATE:  Apologies for the use of the word “in” in lieu of “on” in the title.  I want to change it, I do, but it’s been linked to enough that if I change it, all of those other links die a gruesome, horrific death…  Stinkin’ Auto-Correct got me.


  1. Wow! You’re the next best thing to Sheldon Brown!

  2. Surely the correct answer is:

    D) Pull over and wave the bike above your head, waiting for the team car to promptly deliver you a fresh one!

  3. fastk9dad says:

    D) None of the above. You changed the cassette and chain yourself and checked indexing before heading out on your ride.

    • bgddyjim says:

      LOL! Why do that when the shop charges you less for changing the cassette and chain than you would pay for both on the interwebz… And without having to send the cassette back because you accidentally clicked on “ten sp.” instead of “9 sp.” yet still tried to blame the mixup on the website.

  4. whiskeyj says:

    I think A is my most likely option, but instead of slamming it to the ground, I would probably shout and swear at the bike

  5. Eric Kelsey says:

    Jim I really enjoy reading you’re blog, I learned a lot. I got into cycling last year (Used Trek Cobia Mountain bike) and found you’re site by searching for difference in times for Mountain bike vs. Road bike. I just bought my first road bike today Specialized Roubaix SL4 disc. Looking a pics of you’re Venge got me hooked on buying a Specialized. You really inspired me to get out and ride.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Awesome Eric, that Roubaix disc is a pretty spiffy bike! I bought an Alias for my wife this last Christmas so we could be a Specialized couple – the thing is awesome.

      That post was one of my favorites as far as testing and measuring the differences. I’m glad you liked it. As for the inspiration, thank you, I’m glad I could help, but really I just gave a couple of wings to what was already in you. Ride the wheels off of that Cobia and the Roubaix.

      Now, what part of Michigan do you live in? Southeast, southwest, north?

      • Eric Kelsey says:

        South of Detroit in Trenton. I ride with the Downriver Cycling Club, we have a century ride coming up in May. The Metro parks make for nice rides down here they are all connected.

      • bgddyjim says:

        I’m up by Flint, I’ll see if I can’t work that one in… Maybe we can do that one together.

  6. Eric Kelsey says:

    Sweet you can look it up on the website Really would look forward to meeting you after reading so much about you. I’m also a recovering alcoholic and addict. I don’t feel guilty about being addicted to cycling.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Sweet. Hey, I’m also doing the Dawn Farm Ride for Recovery in Ypsi, April 26th, with my wife. Check that one out too. Great cause, good time and it’s my alma mater.

  7. Eric Kelsey says:

    Cool Ypsi is actually pretty close to me I should be able to do for sure. Will double check work Schedule and will sign up tomorrow. Sounds like a great ride. I’ll keep in touch.

    -have a nice evening Jim

  8. There was a time that I would have done A, if I had done the work myself. The more I tinker on a bike the more relaxed I feel.

  9. Sue Slaght says:

    I’m afraid I may be pulling out my cell phone. 🙂 I know, not very hard core. 🙂

  10. MJ Ray says:

    “up (right to left)” – isn’t the highest gear on the right, or do you have your cassettes on the other way round to us Europeans?

    One of my bikes can’t keep its indexing setting (design flaw IMO) and it’s only a 6-speed so my solution was to switch to friction shifting 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      Assuming standing at the back of the bike looking down at the cassette. The drivetrain will be on your right. I realize this is a little tricky because technically you always go from the front of the bike so it’ll be the other way… However, when we work on the back of the bike, we stand at the back of the bike. I described it both ways to hopefully avoid confusion (up and down, left to right etc.). Our bikes are set up just like yours. Drivetrain on the right side of the bike (if you’re sitting in the saddle).

      • MJ Ray says:

        Yebbut if you’re shifting up (=to a higher gear) then the chain is moving left to right, isn’t it? You described it both ways, but they seem to contradict each other, which causes confusion 😦

      • bgddyjim says:

        Yup. I see how I could have confused you.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Yup. I see how I could have confused you. I wasn’t talking about higher or lower gear, I was talking about the path of the chain… If you’re on the bike, “shifting up the cassette” is technically downshifting. You’re shifting uphill. If you’re shifting down the cassette, you’re technically upshifting. Think of the cassette as a hill. Up the hill, down the hill. Downshift up the hill, upshift down the hill. Get it? I realize you may see it normal, that down the cassette is right to left and up the hill, but most noobs won’t see it that way.

  11. bonnev659 says:

    i had to redo that the other day.. i switch from a 11-26 to 11-28 (getting ready for hills) and the shop I use to get it from didn’t have any 11-26 in stock… it pays off

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