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How important is a front derailleur?

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How important is a front derailleur?

Old 09-30-13, 06:19 PM
  #1  
gatona
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How important is a front derailleur?

I'm considering buying a Raleigh summit moutain bike from a used owner. However, they have mentioned that the front derailleur doesn't work. I was wondering how important this is to the bike? I tried to look up but sites use too much lingo for me to understand.

I will use this bike to commute.

Thanks for your time and input.
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Old 09-30-13, 06:26 PM
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The ft der is only important if you want to shift the front with out reaching down with your fingers... Well, the ft der will also act as a bit of a chain guard. The modern rings have tooth shapes that enhance shifting. So any chain bounce while pedaling could cause unwanted shifting. But it also is a simple issue to replace the der, if that's what is actually the problem. Andy.
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Old 09-30-13, 06:41 PM
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It's real important if you want to use the smaller chain rings to get up a hill, or to fight a wind, and don't want to arrive at the job/school with chain grime all over your hands.

Of course, you could ride the route on your day off, see what gearing works best for the route, put the chain on that ring (I'm assuming that you have 3 chain rings if it's a mountain bike) and leave it there.

But---FDs are among the cheapest components on a bike to replace.
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Old 09-30-13, 06:48 PM
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Placing my bet on the cable.

FD is a simple replacement if needed. Cable's not bad either.

Last edited by stanman13; 09-30-13 at 07:04 PM.
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Old 09-30-13, 06:53 PM
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Find out what "doesn't work" means. There are a lot of possible symptoms and causes. And, yes, for most riding a working front derailleur is useful and often necessary.
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Old 09-30-13, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by stanman13 View Post
Placing my bet on the cable.
+1. Most likely the culprit. The seller may only know that the front derailer isn't shifting; probably the cable, could be the left shifter, or it may indeed be the front derailer. In any of those cases, it's no big deal.
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Old 09-30-13, 10:27 PM
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Thank you all so much for your time and responses! I will ask him about it further and contact repair shops for installing quotes!

You're all great people
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Old 10-01-13, 01:57 AM
  #8  
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I'm still surprised that I don't see more bikes that forgo the front der.. There's a good amount of SS/FG bikes, and plenty of bikes that use 2xY or 3xY, but I've seen just one for sale that is a 1x9 (excepting bikes with IGH) - the Trek 9th District - except for the SRAM XX1 group.

With all the drive to reduce weight and complexity, it seems to me that eliminating the front der. and just having a rear der. would have a good market without having to go all the way down to 1 speed. I mean, look at the XX1 cassette - the range is HUGE. 10-42, with 11 speeds. I have to think this would be plenty with a single chainring for a good amount of people - a good middle ground between 1 speeds and bikes with doubles, compacts, and triples.

If I were in the market for a new bike I would like the idea of building a 1x10. I wonder if anyone makes a left brake lever sans shifter that matches an existing brifter for the right side.

Last edited by kmcrawford111; 10-01-13 at 02:02 AM.
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Old 10-01-13, 02:20 AM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
The ft der is only important if you want to shift the front with out reaching down with your fingers...
you can also downshift with your foot. I was riding around Lake Ontario and managed to get from Rochester to Lewiston without ever shifting to my small chainring. As I got to the Niagara Escarpment I reailized that by FD wouldn't shift and if I stopped I'd have to push my ~100 pounds of gear up the escarpment so I carefully unclipped my right foot and gently nudged my chain onto the small chainring.
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Old 10-01-13, 07:09 AM
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Since a lot of bikes now have 9 or more "gears" on the RD, more than one speed on the cranks could be looked at as unnecessary. After all for 50 years plus bikes were just 10 speeds. I would think this especially true if you live where it is fairly flat. And look how popular fixties are now.
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Old 10-01-13, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
Since a lot of bikes now have 9 or more "gears" on the RD, more than one speed on the cranks could be looked at as unnecessary.
Yes, if you completely ignore the fact that while more cogs have been packed into the rear the low range has barely been expanded (except for a few special MTB cassettes). I use my front chainrings to give me a general speed range and then fine tune my cadence by shifting the rear. Having the ability to shift front and rear allows a wide speed range while maintaining reasonable jumps between shifts. Sure, you could mount a 42T ring and an 11-36 rear cassette and have a pretty decent gearing spread but I'd hate to ride anything of the sort on the road. So I use a 52/42/30 triple and a 12-27 cassette (more range, tighter spacing).
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Old 10-01-13, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by gatona View Post
I'm considering buying a Raleigh summit moutain bike from a used owner. However, they have mentioned that the front derailleur doesn't work. I was wondering how important this is to the bike? I tried to look up but sites use too much lingo for me to understand.

I will use this bike to commute.

Thanks for your time and input.
dont spend too much on that raleigh
regardless of the condition of the front derailleur

the summit was pretty close to the bottom of the raleigh lineup
one step up from some x mart bikes
but not a very big step
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Old 10-01-13, 07:56 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by stanman13 View Post
Placing my bet on the cable.
If it's not that, I'm tipping it's sticky pawls in a Shimano shifter.
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Old 10-01-13, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
dont spend too much on that raleigh
regardless of the condition of the front derailleur

the summit was pretty close to the bottom of the raleigh lineup
one step up from some x mart bikes
but not a very big step

i looked it up and actually found better versions of the summit
than i am used to

i suspect there is a uk version and a cdn version
the cdn version is a cheap steel wheeled behemoth
while the uk version looks decent
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Old 10-01-13, 09:58 AM
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My Kona Jake's last iteration was a 1 X 9, 42t front with 11 - 34 rear. I had a bash ring and a third eye chain keeper for the front, or the thing would drop the chain. I've used a derailleur several times for a chain keeper, not as clean looking, but as functional as anything.
I used it for commuting through three valleys, worked just fine for me. I just had a shimano 600 brake lever on the left instead of the brifter.
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Old 10-01-13, 10:23 AM
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My wife's Giant Via has an 8-cog "mega range" cassette and no FD. Simple drivetrain with nice snappy SRAM shifters and a chainguard. She really likes it and it's surprisingly zippy.

As someone who rode only a fixie for 2-3 years, I'll say that you definitely don't need more than 1 chainring if:

1. You choose the right size chainring.
2. You live in a non-mountainous area and/or aren't obese.
3. You're not trying to shave a minute here and there off your commute time.

With all that said - I think that a MTB of any description in any condition is not a good choice for a commuter.
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Old 10-01-13, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
If it's not that, I'm tipping it's sticky pawls in a Shimano shifter.
Me too. If that's the case well placed shot of WD40 might be all it takes to fix it.

You kind of want a semi-expendable bike for commuter use anyway. Non-functioning front derailleur = lower price. That sounds perfect to me.
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Old 10-01-13, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
As someone who rode only a fixie for 2-3 years, I'll say that...
...I'm even less qualified than usual to give gearing recommendations to others.



Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
With all that said - I think that a MTB of any description in any condition is not a good choice for a commuter.
For short distances, it'll suffice (I used one for many thousands of miles on a <14 mile round trip commute). For longer distances, I will always recommend a road/cyclocross bike (the latter of which I now use for my 30 mile round trip commute).
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Old 10-01-13, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
With all that said - I think that a MTB of any description in any condition is not a good choice for a commuter.
I disagree completely. The OP didn't state what year the Summit was, but some of the ones in the 1990s were steel, rigid fork MTBs that make great commuters. My wife has a 1990s Trek 820 set up as a commuter/cruiser and it serves her very well. My daughter rides a Giant Boulder of about the same vintage as her daily commuter and really likes it. She used it all through college and now rides it to work rain or shine. I have had a Trek 800 and a Giant Yukon (also 1990s) that I used as commuter/fitness bikes and even rode the Yukon on some C group rides and my first organized century. Sold both the 800 and the Yukon to college students for commuters. They are comfortable, tough, reliable and parts are cheap and readily available. Most have eyelets that accept racks and fenders. IMHO, rigid fork steel MTBs make excellent commuters and I've seen a fair number of them converted for touring as well.

OP, as long as the price is good and there are no other major problems with the bike, a front shifting problem is not a deal breaker. For commuting where there aren't major hills, you can adjust the front derailleur (FD) to keep the chain on the middle ring and ride it using just the rear cassette (gears). As others have said, check the condition of the shifter and cable, and the derailleur adjustment before replacing anything. Many shifting problems require nothing more than cleaning, lubrication and adjustment to fix. If the problem is the FD, an entry level one costs about $15 and a new cable about $3-$5. It makes sense to change cables when you change derailleurs unless your existing cable is in pristine condition. Your LBS can replace the FD for about $15 labor or it isn't difficult to do yourself with just a set of metric allen (hex) wrenches and a flat and phillips screwdriver. Some derailleurs will also require a small metric wrench to remove the old one and install the new one. Park Tools has an excellent site that will explain step-by-step how to replace and adjust the derailleur http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help. A friend with some experience in bicycle maintenance/mechanics or a local bike co-op would be good resources your first time adjusting a derailleur, but many people have been able to do it with just online references or one of the good bike maintenance books.
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Old 10-01-13, 07:33 PM
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The front derailleur is only important if you plan on taking the bike off road, or have to climb steep roads. However give the derailleur a good spraying of WD40 or something similar as another has said and see if it will free up. Keep in mind a Shimano Deore front derailleur is only $25 to $45 so you can easily get another without much expense. This is a mid level derailleur you can get a lower level one for less.

I agree with another poster, a mtb works fine for a commuter
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Old 10-02-13, 07:36 AM
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Let me restate:

1. You don't need a lot of gears for commuting if they add up to enough range for the terrain you're going to ride AND you aren't concerned about top speed when bombing down hills. A MTB cassette usually has quite a bit of range as they usually have a big granny gear cog.

2. A purpose-built commuter, or a hybrid with nice skinny tires, or a road bike with straight bars or risers is going to be more fun to ride around town than most mountain bikes. By the time you've put slicks, fenders, and a rack or basket on a MTB, and sorted out stuff like this front derailleur, you'll have spent almost half the price of something like a Bobbin Birdie, Giant Via, or something from Linus. All 3 have a variety of drivetrain options.

Of course a classic MTB can be made into a good commuter, but given the question that was asked, I am under the impression that the OP might be better off just buying a bike that's made for commuting instead of buying an older MTB and trying to make it into a commuter.
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Old 10-02-13, 07:53 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Syscrush View Post
...A purpose-built commuter, or a hybrid with nice skinny tires, or a road bike with straight bars or risers is going to be more fun to ride around town than most mountain bikes...
Subjective, but ok if you insist.
..By the time you've put slicks, fenders, and a rack or basket on a MTB, and sorted out stuff like this front derailleur, you'll have spent almost half the price of something like a Bobbin Birdie, Giant Via, or something from Linus. All 3 have a variety of drivetrain options...
In other words, you could have it for less than half the price. An important consideration for someone on a budget.
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Old 10-02-13, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by stanman13 View Post
In other words, you could have it for less than half the price. An important consideration for someone on a budget.
I agree.

If someone doesn't have the money, then they don't have it - and even with the money, not everybody is comfortable shelling out $350+ for a commuter.

The first commuter I used was an old MTB that still had knobbies on it and I always enjoyed riding it, but I realized that cycling was more fun when I moved to the first commuter I bought - which was an old roadie with flat bars. I was really uptight about spending more than $200, and I was able to score that bike for $200. And it was a $200 chunk of crap - kept popping spokes and blowing tires, and the derailleurs never worked quite right. The frame was probably pretty decent, but it's been so long since I got rid of it that I really didn't know enough about bikes to be able to tell at the time.

I didn't end up saving anything vs. just shelling out $350 for a Giant Cypress R, which I eventually did. Every time I've cheaped out and bought a bicycle, motorcycle, or car with known issues I've ended up throwing good money after bad, and this is why I suggest that the OP consider options other than the one immediately in front of him/her right now if that's possible.
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Old 10-02-13, 08:50 AM
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FD not important for your purposes.
Like others said
1)it probably isn't broken-cable or maybe shifter
2) You can just by hand shift it -and by using the screws that set its limits- so just put it in the middle ring or big ring -forget about it especially if you are in a flat area
Just use it as a bargaining point- if the bike is good otherwise-buy it
come here-post pictures-and someone will walk you thru fixing it
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Old 10-02-13, 10:08 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by gatona View Post
However, they have mentioned that the front derailleur doesn't work. I was wondering how important this is to the bike?
Thanks for your time and input.
tl;dr Keep in mind that when one thing "doesn't work," that often implies other things also don't or are at least nearing the point of "not working." So, be sure to check thru the bike pretty comprehensively before buying.
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