A wonky front derailleur can ruin your race. Make sure yours doesn't stand in your way!

A wonky front derailleur can ruin your race. Make sure yours doesn’t stand in your way!

One of our readers asked, “What’s the best way to set up front dérailleur to get smooth responsive shifting? Any thoughts?”

Chris Mayhew, one of our favorite Mechanical Monday participants, had a few thoughts.

There are a few things to think about. It’s a matter of eliminating variables, really.

  1. Is your shifter in good shape? Been crashed on? How old is it? They wear out over time, although the front not nearly as quick as the rear.
  2. Cables and housing matter an awful lot. I’m a big fan of the SRAM sealed stuff. XTR cable kits are also really nice. Even if you have those, the cable won’t last forever, and the liner won’t stay clean. New cables and housing every year. Every year.
  3. Make sure your chain is not worn. They get laterally more flexible as they wear out and will resist moving from ring to ring as that happens.
  4. If you can get ramped and pinned rings, that helps at a lot. is the best place to look for non-standard (although very standard in cyclocross) chainrings.
  5. Make sure your limit screws are set up correctly. You want them pretty tight on both ends so you don’t throw the chain off the rings in either direction. While you’re down there, make sure the cage is the right height from the rings. Lower is better but spec is ~3-5mm from the chainring.
  6. Make sure your chain is as short as you can reasonably get it. You want access to all your gears (esp the big/big combo), otherwise the chain should be as short as possible. You want tension on the chain to keep it from bouncing off. Proper chain length is really critical in that regard.