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  1. #1
    Senior Member Paul J's Avatar
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    Front shifting question

    Our bike came built-up so I didn't speak into the components. It is set-up with 9 speed Ultegra Flight Deck shifters, Race Face 9 speed cranks with 54-44-32 chain rings, 9 speed chain and XT rear deraileur the front deraileur is an XTR M900. Now my problem is the front shifts from the middle to the small chain ring is very iffy. It won't shift if you are in the large cog but will on the second largest if you quit pedaling and shift then lightly pedal. I thought I might just need to adjust the set screw to move the swing in some but when I started to look at the front Deraileur it looks like it is an 8 speed. So thought I'd ask the question to see what the tandem mechanics here, any thought?
    1982 Merckx Campy Super Record, 1995 Merckx Campy Centaur 10, DiamondBack Axis TT, (set-up as city bike), Bushnell Tandem

  2. #2
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    I'm no mechanic (my bike polo team "back in the day" was called hammer mechanics, with cause), so I'm likely all wrong. However, is it possible that your chain is too short?

  3. #3
    Senior Member WNY tandem's Avatar
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    The set screws are actually stops to limit the travel of your derailleur, and will do nothing for your middle chainring. Your cable may have stretched and you should look into adjusting that.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Paul J's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WNY tandem View Post
    The set screws are actually stops to limit the travel of your derailleur, and will do nothing for your middle chainring. Your cable may have stretched and you should look into adjusting that.
    WNY tandem, thought that is tied to my question. The problem is shifting from thr middle ring down to small. It struggles to drop from the middle ring to the small with the best chance being when the rear cog is in the next to the largest rear cog. So that is making me wonder if it isn't sweeping enough in to move the chain. The shifting is fine in the work stand but struggles in the road. I'm not very well versed in newer technology, my knowledge sort of ended with friction shifting. :-)
    1982 Merckx Campy Super Record, 1995 Merckx Campy Centaur 10, DiamondBack Axis TT, (set-up as city bike), Bushnell Tandem

  5. #5
    Senior Member WNY tandem's Avatar
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    Sorry, I misss understood your question. Yes adjusting the lower limit screw should do the trick.

  6. #6
    Senior Member mkane77g's Avatar
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    It may make the move to the smallest if your in the middle of the cassette. Chain line will be in more of a straight line and derailleur side plate may push the chain down. Make your adjustment in small increments. Also check for alignment of der.

  7. #7
    Half Fast mwandaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkane77g View Post
    ...Make your adjustment in small increments....
    Yes, be careful or you'll end up with the dreaded chain drop.
    Not slow, not fast, but Half Fast!

  8. #8
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    A Chain Catcher is a good idea to prevent chain drop inside of the granny ring. If you have a round seat tube then I like the N-Gear Chain Stop.


  9. #9
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Limit screw is the first thing to look at. Next, allignment of the derailleur cage, then height of the derailleur above the cogs.

    It's also possible, the cable is too tight to allow the derailleur to go all the way down to the limit screw setting.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Paul J's Avatar
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    Thanks for the good insight. I had it back to Tandems East for a follow-up tune-up and Mel checked it over. He said to make sure I click it with a little bit of force which I've been doing but still it is a little stressful coming toward a hill not sure if it is going to click down before you need to start giving it some gas. I wasn't sure if maybe someone had this set-up and had some tricks they could share too. What impact does an 8 speed front derailleur have on a 9 speed system if any?

    Thanks
    Paul
    1982 Merckx Campy Super Record, 1995 Merckx Campy Centaur 10, DiamondBack Axis TT, (set-up as city bike), Bushnell Tandem

  11. #11
    Senior Member Paul J's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waynesulak View Post
    A Chain Catcher is a good idea to prevent chain drop inside of the granny ring. If you have a round seat tube then I like the N-Gear Chain Stop.

    We have this installed so feel good about that safety of dropping the chain.
    1982 Merckx Campy Super Record, 1995 Merckx Campy Centaur 10, DiamondBack Axis TT, (set-up as city bike), Bushnell Tandem

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul J View Post
    What impact does an 8 speed front derailleur have on a 9 speed system if any?
    An 8-speed cage is a little wider than a 9-speed cage to fit the wider 8-speed chain. We have an old Trek that came with 8-speed that I updated to 9-speed. I squeezed the cage a little in a couple of places to help it shift better. It shifts fine now, still with the original rings which are not pinned / ramped / gated, but I think new rings would be better -- the old rings don't have the short teeth that release the chain ("gated"), which is the issue on the middle-small shift. I remember fooling with it a while working on the middle-small shift, and I think it was a combination of squeezing the cage, lowering the derailer, careful alignment, and the n-gear jump stop that helped. I think I also swapped the 54 ring for an old 52 I had which allowed me to lower the derailer further. The Trek isn't our primary tandem, it carries a child stoker kit for riding with the kids, so I wasn't going to spend a pile of money on it if I didn't absolutely have to. In your case, I think this is your primary bike, so I'd think about new rings if yours aren't ramped / pinned / gated. I guess it goes without saying that you want a middle ring that's designed as a triple middle ring, since inner double rings aren't designed to shift to the small ring of a triple.

    Also, a brand new 9-speed 105 triple FD will set you back $25-$30 on ebay, and those derailers are designed for a 10-tooth difference between the middle and outer rings, which is what you have. With a new FD you'd have the correct cage width, maybe tighter action (less flex in the bearings) if your old FD is worn at all.

    Just another thought -- clean and lubed helps. If there's grit slowing up the action as it moves, that's not helping the FD shift in the smaller direction where you're relying on the spring pressure to move it.

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited by WheelsNT; 07-23-13 at 12:48 PM.

  13. #13
    Hook 'Em Horns
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul J View Post
    Thanks for the good insight. I had it back to Tandems East for a follow-up tune-up and Mel checked it over. He said to make sure I click it with a little bit of force which I've been doing but still it is a little stressful coming toward a hill not sure if it is going to click down before you need to start giving it some gas.
    You also need to shift to the granny while your cadence is still high, if you're planning on using it. The more you are grinding it out and the less cadence you have, the less likely that it will work smoothly, or work at all.


    I know, anticipating the shifts doesn't really work on unfamiliar hills

  14. #14
    Senior Member Paul J's Avatar
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    This is actually all new equipment. The Bushnell steel replaced the Cannondale I had been trying to get to fit all last season. We bought this bike new at the expo in March, it is an unusual size large with head tube extension for me and small for stoker so Mel had probably had it a while but it is like custom made for us! The build is well thought out with nice parts selection as I mentioned above, Ultegra 9 Speed Brifters, XT Rear, Race Face 9 Speed tandem crankset and then the XTR front Dr. I was pleased to see an XTR front as I thought it would be a little beefier then 105 or Ultegra which is a plus for a tandem from my perspective, but if it is 8 Speed with 9 Speed rings... that was where my mind started to get me in a little trouble wondering if that might be a factor. I'm assuming the Race Face chain rings are designed to work with the Shimano derailleurs?

    We were a little slow getting on the road this year due to illness but have 600 miles on the bike as of this past weekend. It has been temperamental since the beginning so that was why I was asking. For the minimal cost of a front derailleur I was thinking I'd be glad to do that to improve things.

    Because of the Iffy-ness on the shifts we are dropping it down way into the small chain ring long before the climbs to make sure we are in. To keep momentum I'm then taking it into the less then desirable gear combinations (small ring using the smaller cogs) to keep some speed going into the hill. We are pretty good at lightening up as we shift so I think is it set-up vs finesse.

    I am really appreciating your input.
    1982 Merckx Campy Super Record, 1995 Merckx Campy Centaur 10, DiamondBack Axis TT, (set-up as city bike), Bushnell Tandem

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    I'm with Brons2 on this one, and I would ask, do you have the same problem with the tandem on a stand, or even when the pilot is alone on the bike (ie no stoker)? If it shifts cleanly in these circumstances, with less force on the drivetrain, then it may be a technique issue. I find it hard to get down into the granny ring at a low cadence as my stoker is a pedal masher!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul J View Post
    Our bike came built-up so I didn't speak into the components. It is set-up with 9 speed Ultegra Flight Deck shifters, Race Face 9 speed cranks with 54-44-32 chain rings, 9 speed chain and XT rear deraileur the front deraileur is an XTR M900. Now my problem is the front shifts from the middle to the small chain ring is very iffy. It won't shift if you are in the large cog but will on the second largest if you quit pedaling and shift then lightly pedal. I thought I might just need to adjust the set screw to move the swing in some but when I started to look at the front Deraileur it looks like it is an 8 speed. So thought I'd ask the question to see what the tandem mechanics here, any thought?
    The later posts have been homing in on a technique issue and I am inclined to agree. There are instances of stuff working on the workstand but not on the road, but in general if you can get it to work correctly on your workstand it should work on the road. I shift my trigger shifters much the way you say works for yours. At the instant of the shift the pedals are stationary or barely spinning then power is brought on and the chain immediately jumps to the new chainring. I do not wait until we are in the big cog to drop the front! That is way too abrupt a change in gear inches even if it works mechanically IMO. I would be dropping to the granny ring up front as early as the middle of the cluster so that further changes can be made in the smaller increments allowed by the 9sp rear cluster. I second (third?) the N-Gear jump stop. One of the best small purchases ever made for our tandem. It seems to really be bugging you that you have an 8-sp FD. I would take that up with the seller of the bike. I did some Googling on your behalf and it would appear that that model of FD appears on 8speed drivetrains but someone thought it could work on your bike. Mostly it appears to. I wouldn't second guess it myself but if you are bothered you should get answers.

    H

  17. #17
    Senior Member Paul J's Avatar
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    jacdaw and Leisesturm, Thanks for your comments. I didn't mean to sound like I was upset with the seller on our bike at all and it might very well be us not finessing the shift enough, were are heading out for a ride shortly and I'll see how things go. On the 8 speed derailleur question, I was wondering if it was playing any part in the equation or not and if it might be I'm totally good with making a change. If it was just something as simple as going from ok shifting to spot-on for a few bucks I'm good spending the dollars for a different FD.

    Where we live in Pennsylvania we have tons of hills in sequence where you are powering down the one side and into the next hill where you can use the middle ring for the lower portion before need to drop into the small ring and that is the part we we are lightening up pressure for the downshift and it doesn't go so I'm pulling it back into the middle and gutting it up with my sweet stoker giving me "words of encouragement" all the way up. :-) I have it working in the stand very well and we will see if the two of us chuckle-heads can make it work tonight! This is a little humiliating to this lifetime cyclist who cut his teeth on down-tube campy friction shifters. But maybe this old dog can master a new trick. To be continued.
    1982 Merckx Campy Super Record, 1995 Merckx Campy Centaur 10, DiamondBack Axis TT, (set-up as city bike), Bushnell Tandem

  18. #18
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    All of us with country roads that have a steep pitch as you reach the top understand your pain. We were once where you are and got very skilled at calling the shift then a pause in the power just long enough to get in the little ring and not loss all our momentum. Really takes good team work but it can be done. Basically 6603 Ultegra worked pretty well for us but we could not shift to the granny under any kind of load.

    Since you mention being a long term cyclist that learned on down tube shifters I will mention what rescued us from havng to pause power output just when you reach that 8%+ grade. Campy 10 speed Chorus or Record shifters. Paired with a Shimano FD we shift under full seated power up or down to the next ring, including the granny. We are a high cadence team so we are shifting at 85-90 cadence which helps but I rarely call out front shifts anymore and never call out rear shifts unless we are standing.

    Campy shifters, Shimano 105 triple 5603 or Ultegra 6603 FD, SRAM 10 speed RD and Shimano Cassette. We can now shift front rings easily up or down and no adjustment worries.

    Now this is not for everyone. You have to be comfortable with mixing brands, buying used parts, and rebuilding Campy shifters but it works great and there are others on this board that use the same.

    Final thoughts which may not be practical for you:

    - Standing that last bit of the hill gives natural butt breaks on the steep pitch of every hill. Lots of fun when you are really dancing on the pedals with your sweetie!

    - Words of encouragement from the stoker are nice but when I am in the red zone, I would rather that oxygen go into the pedals.
    Last edited by waynesulak; 07-24-13 at 04:08 PM.

  19. #19
    Hook 'Em Horns
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    Maybe I was too quick to judgment in my previous post. I got to thinking about this earlier. My Rivendell has always been either been reluctant to shift into the granny gear or over shifted the chain off. If I adjust the derailleur so it goes in easy, then it starts throwing the chain off the bottom if I'm not extremely careful. So what I do is leave it to where it's hard to get it in the granny, and then when it's time to do so I just unclip but leave my foot on top of the pedal and give the chain some heel, that does it perfect. I don't have this problem on any of my other bikes so I don't think it's operator error.

    This problem has persisted through 3 cranksets, 4 front derailleurs and about 10 different chains, not to mention self adjustment as well as adjustment by 3 or 4 different shops. When I had a double on the Riv when I first got it, it used to throw the chain both off the top and off the bottom rings. I don't know why this bike does this but I imagine it's due to the slightly funky geometry for fitting a 6'7" person in a fairly relaxed position (69STx62TT). It was made custom for a different tall guy and I bought it used. So who knows. It's an awesome ride so I just deal with it.

    I hope your issue is more easily addressable.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Paul J's Avatar
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    Well I loosened the front cable a smig before this evenings ride and it did shift a little better. We will see how it goes over the next couple of rides. We will continue to work for style points on our shift.

    waynesulak, words of "encouragement" was tongue in check along with something about the stoker is always right. :-)

    .
    1982 Merckx Campy Super Record, 1995 Merckx Campy Centaur 10, DiamondBack Axis TT, (set-up as city bike), Bushnell Tandem

  21. #21
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul J View Post
    Well I loosened the front cable a smig before this evenings ride and it did shift a little better. We will see how it goes over the next couple of rides. We will continue to work for style points on our shift.

    waynesulak, words of "encouragement" was tongue in check along with something about the stoker is always right. :-)

    .

    Oh. I did not get it. Like Lilly Tomlin used say "never mind".

  22. #22
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Hmmm. AFAIK MTB FDs need a different cable pull than that provided by a road brifter. Maybe yours is different . . . The curvature of your FD outer plate may not match the curvature of your big ring. My experience is mostly with Ultegra and Dura Ace 9 and 10 speed matched equipment, though my XTR RD works fine with my brifter. I always have a little slack in my FD cable when in the granny ring. That ensures that the FD is all the way down against the stop. I've never had a problem getting the granny ring with my equipment. Since you can get the middle ring easily from the granny, your middle ring is likely for a triple.

    Anyway, I'd replace the FD.
    Last edited by Carbonfiberboy; 07-24-13 at 09:59 PM.

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