How to Change Shifters on Road Bikes

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Most road bikes today have multiple speeds, and for a good reason. Shifting gears allows you to traverse different terrain and inclines with greater ease. You know how helpful this feature can be if you’ve mastered the art of shifting to the right speed at the right moment.

However, all the gears in the world won’t help if your shifter breaks. Sadly, every shifter will wear out in time, so changing it will be necessary at some point.

The good news is that it’s possible to replace the shifter yourself. All you’ll need are some essential tools, some mechanical know-how, and the instructions from this article. Read on to find out how to change shifters on road bikes.

How to Change Shifters on Road Bikes

In essence, replacing a shifter won’t be much different on a road bike compared to any other type of bicycle. Here’s the complete list of tools you’ll need for the job:

  • Butter knife or similar tool
  • Set of hex keys
  • Bicycle lubricant
  • Can of hairspray

Before you start, ensure that you have hex keys of the appropriate size for every bolt on the shifter. This includes both the old and the new component.

1. Removing the Handlebar Grip

Slide the butter knife between the grip and the bar on the side where the shifter is located. Then, with small, gentle moves, start prying until you notice some space between the grip and the bar. As soon as the grip becomes somewhat detached, pour water into the opening.

Twisting the grip, start to pull it outwards. If needed, use the butter knife to pry it further away. Note that you shouldn’t use too much force, or the grip might become damaged and tear. Be patient and take it as slow as it needs to go. After a while, the grip should come off.

2. Removing the Old Shifter

Now that you’ve removed the grip, it would be best to shift speeds so that the chain rests on the smallest gears, both in the front and the rear. This will minimize the shifter cable tension, making the process much easier.

Use the appropriate hex key to unbolt the shifter cable. At this point, you may have to remove a wire crimp if it exists on your shifter. Also, your particular shifter might feature housing, which you’ll need to unscrew. In addition, it may be necessary to position the shifter levers correctly to gain access to the cable.

When you reveal the end of the shifter cable, simply slide it through the body. You’ll only need to push the cable far enough to be able to grab it on the other end. Now, you can remove the cable.

Locate the bolt on the shifter and choose the right hex key size to unscrew it. Once you’ve done that, the shifter should be ready for removal. However, if your brake levers are attached separately, you’ll need to remove them before taking the shifter off.

3. Installing the New Shifter

Carefully slide the new shifter onto the handlebar. If you’ve chosen the correct shifter type, it should go on the bar without issues. Once in place, secure the shifter by tightening the hex bolt.

If your old shifter cable has become too worn out and you want to install a new one, now will be the time to do so.

Slide the cable through the body until it appears from the barrel adjuster on the other end. Then, insert the cable into its housing, routing it to the derailleur clamp. Ensure the shifter cable is tightened enough and bolt it onto the clamp with a hex key. If your cable had a crimp, you’d need to replace it now.

Apply the bicycle lubricant to the cable at the housing. Make sure not to go overboard with the lubricant. Use only a small amount. Then, you can check if the system operates properly through the entire gear cycle. Every gear shift should be smooth, but it most likely won’t be right after installation.

If the system gets stuck or doesn’t respond correctly, the cable will need some adjustment. In particular, you’ll need to loosen or tighten it.

Adjusting the cable won’t require you to detach and reattach it to the derailleur. Instead, you can use the barrel adjuster to make minor modifications to the cable. The adjuster is located on the shifter cable, right where it exits the shifter body. Twist the adjuster slightly, checking how the gears shift every time. It shouldn’t take long before you find the sweet spot and gear shifting becomes smooth.

4. Reinstalling the Grip

Before you put the grip back in place, you might need to reinstall the brake levers if they’re separate from the shifter.

With everything ready, take the hairspray and apply it inside the grip and on your handlebar. The hairspray should allow the grip to slide onto the bar with ease. Make sure to put the grip in place right after spraying it and the handlebar. Allowing the hairspray to dry might make the process difficult or your grip loose.

Once the grip is in place, allow plenty of time for the hairspray to dry. You can occasionally check to see if the grip will move when pulled outwards. However, don’t pull too hard or, even worse, take the grip off the bar.

After the hairspray has dried, the process will be complete. Finally, your new shifter will be in place, and the bike will be ready.

Getting the New Shifter in Place

Installing a new gear shifter will improve your bike’s performance. And if you’ve replaced the cable during the process, the gear system should operate as new.

Now that you’ve learned how to change shifters on road bikes, you should have no issues doing this DIY replacement whenever you need it.