I’m an avid mountain biker, I race often and with rigid competition. So why would I not know how to work on a bike?
Like many middle class children I’ve been sheltered, and protected, and helped continuously throughout my childhood. But this weekend, I didn’t have my dad to help me and I really, really wanted to put a new Shimano XT/SLX 11 speed drivetrain on my bike. So I set the bike on the stand, racked my brain to remember how my dad would do it and set to work.
I knew how to replace a tire and take a cassette off so I started there. I removed my old mavic rear tire, then I took my old cassette off; not an issue. I took care to clean the free hub and grease it. Then I put the new cassette on, it seemed a little tough to slide on and when I began to torque it down it spun out instead of tightening, for some reason. I thought nothing of it and moved on.
I put a Maxxis High Roller tire on my back wheel and filled it with Stans No Tubes, no problem. Then I addressed the issue of the trigger-shifter and rear derailleur. For some reason I decided it would be best to start with removing the shifter, so I slid my grip and brakes off of the handlebar and continued to loosen the shifter cable all the way and removed the shifter. After an eternity of twisting that stupid little knob. Then I went about removing the rear derailleur, I took it off and then realized I forgot something, the chain. No problem because it had a master link, I squeezed that with the special plyers and voila, no chain to hold the derailleur on. At this point I’d pretty much reached the end of my previous knowledge; I was in uncharted waters so I did what any self-respecting millennial would do: I watched a YouTube video.
Turns out all YouTube videos on Shimano parts are made by old Russian guys or people with other various thick accents. So all I learned was that I took the wrong bolt off for the rear derailleur, after quickly fixing that I put the new shifter on and the new rear derailleur both XT 1×11. The. I put a new chain on only to realize it was about one link too small. No matter, I took a link from my old chain off and put it on my new chain. However, in the process, I broke the chain break. Man that sucks.
Fortunately we had another one and I continued on. Finally I had to run the shifter cable from the shifter to the derailleur. The cable came pre-installed to the shifter so that was good but when I ran it through the ferrule (which I already had on my bike from the past shifter cable) I couldn’t keep the ferrule connected to the shifter (through the barrel adjuster). So I did another thing common to millennials: I left it alone and hoped it would fix itself. Which somehow worked for me, after shifting through the gears on the first go around it didn’t come out after that. But I had a new problem, my shifting sounded terrible. After messing around with it for a bit I realized an old issue had come back to haunt me, I’d put the last gear on my cassette on diagonally so the it didn’t thread right and also rubbed against my bikes rear triangle. I quickly took it off fearing I’d ruined the cassette, fortunately it was ok and I corrected the issue and put it back on the bike. Now it didn’t shift right but at least I could turn the pedals.
So as I began to mess with the the a and b screws on the derailleur I noticed patterns, one screw kept the derailleur from going past the highest gear, one kept it from going past the lowest gear and one brought it forward and backwards horizontally to the bike.
However I couldn’t figure them out so I made up my own way, I shifted into the highest gear, took the derailleur and manually manipulated it to allign with that gear, then I tightened the derailleur cable so it stayed there and all of a sudden it shifted perfectly. I ran through the gears in disbelief and lubed the chain so it stopped rattling.
I realized that I actually could do most things I set my mind to and I am not as helpless as I thought. I was victorious; time to tackle the other areas of my life that need a little TLC, maybe I’ll just wing it.