Installation Guide for Shimano Front Derailleurs

Installation Guide for Shimano Front Derailleurs

Introduction

In 2016 Shimano released the new Dura-Ace R9100 mechanical groupset and one of the major innovations was a completely redesigned front derailleur. This new front derailleur features a new ‘toggle’ mechanism that is completely different to the ‘pivot’ design of previous models.

Over the past few years, Shimano has updated both Ultegra R8000 and Shimano 105 R7000 to feature the same modern front derailleur design. Shimano state the advantages of this derailleur to be;

  • Reduced shift effort at the lever.
  • More cable routing options (cable outer can now be terminated at the derailleur itself).
  • Integrated cable tension adjustment (to eliminate the need for an inline barrel adjuster).
  • Shorter minimum chainstay length of 410mm for disk brake equipped bikes (with 135mm OLD).
  • Precise and easy front derailleur setup.

Overview

Shimano’s new front derailleur design features a few variations to the installation procedure used for older versions of Shimano’s front derailleur. I have written this guide based on Shimano Official Dealer’s Manual and my own experience. The images in this article are of a Shimano 105 front derailleur, but the installation procedure is the same for all mechanical front derailleurs for the following Shimano group sets;

  • Shimano Dura-Ace – R9100 front derailleur (FD-R9100)
  • Shimano Ultegra – R8000 front derailleur (FD-R8000)
  • Shimano 105 – R7000 front derailleur (FD-R7000)

There are 2 mounting optons for the front derailleur; clamp mount or braze-on mount. The instructions in this guide are specific to the braze-on mounted front derailleur, but once the derailleur is fitted, the steps for derailleur alignment, cabling and adjustment processes are identical for both.

At this stage you will probably find yourself in one of 2 scenarios;

  1. The front derailleur is already installed but needs adjustment or;
  2. You want to install a front derailleur on a new bike.

Before deciding if this is a process you want to try, please note that this article is an overview of how I fitted my own front derailleur and should not be treated as professional advice. Please read my disclaimer at the end of this article. I also recommend reading through the whole article before commencing work.

Tools Required

The following tools are required to install the front derailleur.

  • 2mm Hexagon Wrench (Allen Key)
  • 4mm Hexagon Wrench (Allen Key)
  • 5mm Hexagon Wrench (Allen Key)
  • Cable cutters or pliers
  • Torque Wrench (with 4mm & 5mm Hexagon fittings).
    Highly recommended to avoid stripping the thread on the nut that secures the cable to the derailleur.

Adjusting a Shimano Front Derailleur

If your front derailleur needs adjustment, then at least one of these issues is likely the cause.

  • Incorrect cable tension
  • Incorrect adjustment of the High or Low Limit bolts
  • Incorrect positioning of the front derailleur with respect to;
    • Height above chain rings
    • Alignment angle in relation to the chain rings

At this stage it is important to mention that the cable tension adjustment and limit bolts work a little differently on this new derailleur when compared to older designs. If you are having problems adjusting your front derailleur, I recommend you go perform each of the installation steps in this article to ensure all aspects of the front derailleur are correctly configured.

Installing a Shimano Front Derailleur

Here are the steps for installing your front derailleur.

1. Reset the Front Derailleur Bolts

If you have a brand new front derailleur out of the box, then all the bolts should already be set correctly for a new installation. However, if you have a derailleur that is already installed on a bike or has been used previously, then disconnect the shift cable and reset all 4 bolts as recommended below.

Reset the Low Limit Bolt and the Frame Support Bolt
Unscrew (turn anticlockwise) the following 2 bolts so they are fully retracted. We don’t want these bolts affecting the initial set-up.

Shimano Front Derailleur Low & High Bolts
Shimano Front Derailleur Low & High Bolts
Shimano Front Derailleur Limit Screws
Close-up image of the Low & High Bolts
Shimano Front Derailleur Frame Support Bolt (Rear View)
Shimano Front Derailleur Frame Support Bolt (Rear View)
Shimano Front Derailleur Frame Support Bolt (Front View)
Shimano Front Derailleur Frame Support Bolt (Front View)

Reset the Cable Tension Bolt
Firstly remove the black plastic cover from the top of the derailleur by rotating it anti-clockwise and lifting it at the same time. It should easily come off. Put it aside for later, don’t lose it.

Unscrew the cable tension bolt (refer image 1) and push the black rotating tension lever back into the housing (refer image 2). If you are having trouble moving the black rotating tension arm back in, unscrew the cable tension bolt further. Note: Image 2 shows the black rotating tension lever fully recessed inside the housing. Once you have done this then continue.

Shimano Front Derailleur Cable Tension Bolt
IMAGE 1. Shimano Front Derailleur Cable Tension Bolt.
Shimano Front Derailleur Cable Tension Arm
IMAGE 2. Black Tension Arm recessed into housing.
This is the initial setting of NO Tension.

Reset the High Limit Bolt
Unscrew the High Limit bolt until you are able to lift the upper ‘toggle’ section of the derailleur away from the derailleur body (refer image 1). Now gradually tighten the High Limit bolt (turning it clockwise). The upper ‘toggle’ section will begin moving down. Once this upper ‘toggle’ section of the derailleur sits flat on the derailleur body (refer image 2), stop turning the High Limit bolt.

With this High Limit setting, the shift cable will have maximum pull force on the derailleur to shift the chain to the large chain ring. Fine tuning of the High Limit bolt happens later on in the installation.

Front derailleur high limit screw - wound out
IMAGE 1. Front derailleur High Limit bolt – wound out.
Upper section can be lifted up.
Front derailleur high limit screw - wound in
IMAGE 2. Front derailleur High Limit bolt – wound in.
Upper section no longer lifts up.

2. Fit Front Derailleur to the Bike

  • Unscrew the derailleur mounting bolt and washer, then fit the derailleur to the braze on mount on the frame. The curved washer and bolt are fitted to the right side of the frame braze mount as shown below.
  • Tighten the bolt just enough to secure the derailleur in position as we will be adjusting it again shortly.
  • Tighten the Low Limit bolt and the derailleur cage will begin to move out toward the large chain ring.
  • Keep tightening this bolt until the front outer plate of the derailleur cage is in line with the teeth of the large chain ring. You can use the flat side of a hex wrench to check the alignment as shown in the image below. By holding it against the teeth of the large chain ring, it should just touch the outside edge of the derailleur cage.
Align Derailleur with Teeth of the Large Chain Ring
Align Derailleur with Teeth of the Large Chain Ring

3. Adjust Front Derailleur Clearance Above Large Chain Ring

If your derailleur is brand new out of the box, it was probably supplied with a plastic sticker to help with the derailleur height adjustment. If your derailleur does not have this sticker, that’s OK, just continue with the steps.

Loosen the derailleur mounting bolt and slide the derailleur up or down until there is a 1 to 3mm gap between the teeth of the large chain ring and base of the OUTSIDE EDGE of the derailleur cage.

Note: The teeth on the large chain are not uniform in height, so perform a full rotation of the cranks to find the teeth that sit at the highest point. Now double-check there is still a 1 to 3 mm gap.

Front derailleur clearance to large chain ring
Front derailleur clearance to large chain ring

4. Align Front Derailleur with Large Chain Ring

Next we will set the angle of the front derailleur in relation to the large chain ring, but make sure when doing this adjustment, you don’t change the height adjustment we just setup in the previous step.

Front Derailleur Alignment to Chain Rings
Front Derailleur Alignment to Chain Rings

Shimano recommend you initially setup the derailleur with the rear end angled 0.5 mm to 1 mm inward from the large chain ring as pictured in the INITIAL ALIGNMENT shown above. If you are able to setup the derailleur like shown, it will be adjusted to the FINAL ALIGNMENT (parallel to chain rings) when we tighten the frame support bolt later on.

If you are unable to setup the recommended derailleur angle, then set the derailleur to the FINAL ALIGNMENT (parallel to chain rings) instead. Regardless of which option you choose, the end result will be the same – Front Derailleur is aligned PARALLEL to chain rings.

Once the derailleur is in correct position, Shimano recommend tightening the derailleur mounting bolt to a tension of 5 to 7 Nm.

5. Tighten Front Derailleur Support Bolt & Fit Frame Protection Plate

Setting the front derailleur frame support bolt is an important step that can be easily overlooked as the bolt is hidden away from view. Setting this bolt correctly improves shift performance as this bolt provides a secondary contact point to counter shifting forces.

Tighten Front Derailleur Frame Support Bolt

Carefully turn the support bolt (clockwise) until it is near – but NOT touching the frame. Note the location of where the bolt would contact the frame. Now we need to attach the frame protection plate to the frame.

Shimano provide 2 different frame plates, one a little more curved than the other. This metal plate is designed to protect your frame (and paint) from stresses exerted through the derailleur support bolt when shifting the front derailleur. Fit the plate that best suits the shape of your frame in the location your derailleur frame support bolt will make contact with the frame.

When fitting this plate, you may need to move the derailleur and repeat steps 3 & 4. However, you should only have to fit this plate once, so it’s worth taking your time and getting it in the exact right spot. If you ever change the size of your large chain ring, you may need to do these steps again.

Shimano front derailleur frame protection plates
Shimano front derailleur frame protection plates (underside shown) with a small adhesive
backing tape to stick to the frame prior to the derailleur support bolt pressing it into position.

Once the frame protection plate is fitted and the derailleur is back in the correct position, screw the derailleur frame support bolt until it just makes contact with the frame protection plate, then follow one of these steps;

  • If your derailleur cage is already parallel to the chain rings, then only tighten the bolt to a point where it contacts the frame protection plate, but does NOT change the angle of the derailleur cage in relation to the chain rings.
  • If your derailleur cage is slightly angled inward from the chain rings, between 0.5 to 1 mm as recommended by Shimano, then tighten the support bolt until the derailleur cage moves parallel with the large chain ring.

6. Connect Shift Cable to Front Derailleur

One of the main advantages of this new front derailleur is that it does not require an inline barrel adjuster to adjust tension in the shift cable. Instead, cable tension can be adjusted using the tension bolt on the derailleur itself. Now we will attach the shift cable to the derailleur;

  • Press the INNER LEFT shift lever on your handle bar multiple times until it no longer clicks. This will ensure you have released all the cable from the shifter.
  • Feed the shift cable from the bottom bracket up through the cable stop fitting located on the back side of the derailleur.
  • Pass the cable under the silver washer and pull it out toward you.
  • Pull the cable tight to remove any slack.
  • Moderately tighten the cable clamp bolt so the cable will not pull free when testing the shifting in the next step. Use a torque wrench when tightening this bolt as it can be stripped if excessive tension is applied. Shimano specify a final torque setting of 6 to 7 Nm.
Fit Shift Cable to Shimano Front Derailleur
Fit Shift Cable to Shimano Front Derailleur.
Cable passes up through hole located at rear of the derailleur,
under the silver rotating washer and out toward you.

7. Front Derailleur Shift Positions

Before we adjust the shift cable tension, we need to mention the 4 shift positions of the front derailleur as illustrated in the following chart;

Shimano Front Derailleur Shift Positions
Shimano Left Shifter controls Front Derailleur – Shift Positions Chart

If you have a chain fitted to your bike, you will need to turn the cranks whilst shifting. Fit your bike into a workshop stand to make this process easier.

  • Pressing the left brake lever all the way to right moves the front derailleur to the HIGH position which is the most outward position of the derailleur in relation to the frame. This setting is for riding the large chain ring and small sprockets.
  • Pressing the small inner shift lever once, moves the front derailleur to the HIGH TRIM position which is a small inward movement toward the frame. This position is for riding the large chain ring and the large sprockets.
  • Pressing the small inner shift lever again results in a larger movement shifting the front derailleur to the LOW position and forces the chain to change to the small chain ring. This position is for riding the small chain chain ring and the small sprockets.
  • Pressing the small inner shift one last time, moves the front derailleur to the LOW TRIM position. Now the derailleur is closest to the frame. This position is for riding the small chain ring and the large sprockets.

Observation: On my bike, when shifting the front derailleur from LOW to LOW TRIM position, there is very little movement of the derailleur. I expect this may vary from bike to bike and may vary according to the derailleur location and the angle from which your shift cable exits the bottom bracket of your frame.

8. Adjust Cable Tension Setting

Now we need to set the correct tension of the shift cable. If your chain is fitted to the bike, turn the cranks when moving the left brake lever all the way to the right to move the derailleur to the HIGH position. At this early stage, the chain may not shift to the large chain ring. If the derailleur doesn’t move much, you will need to loosen the cable clamp bolt and pull the cable tighter (and repeat step 6). Once the slack has been eliminated and the derailleur is moving out further, we can fine tune the cable tension setting.

On previous designs of Shimano front derailleurs, there was no way to accurately judge the correct amount of cable tension. However, this new derailleur design features 2 markings that allow you to accurately set the cable tension and therefore eliminate the guess work. This is how we set the cable tension;

  • Move the left brake lever all the way to the right (turning the cranks if a chain is fitted). When the lever will travel no further, we are in the HIGH position.
  • IMPORTANT: Press the small inner shift lever once to move the derailleur down to the HIGH TRIM position.
  • Once in the HIGH TRIM position, we look at the 2 markings on the rear of the derailleur as pictured. We want both the lines to line up to form a straight line. To achieve this, turn the cable tension bolt as required. Turning the cable tension bolt clockwise will move the upper line anticlockwise and visa-versa.
Front derailleur high limit screw - wound out
Front derailleur – Cable tension line markings (upper & lower).
When they make a single straight line,
the cable tension is perfect.

Once the alignment is correct, use the shift levers to move the derailleur through a full range of movement a few times, then return to the HIGH TRIM position to check the alignment is still perfect. If not, make a small adjustment otherwise this step is complete.

An inline barrel adjuster should not be required to fine tune cable tension. Try to use the cable tension bolt only. If the bolt is not able to adjust tension adequately, then the shift cable is either too loose or too tight. Loosen the cable clamp bolt and adjust the cable in or out (as per step 6) to fix the problem. Attempt this step again.

9. Adjust Front Derailleur High Limit Bolt

We adjust the High Limit bolt to stop the chain rubbing the front inside face of the derailleur cage (closest to the frame). This setting is done with the chain on the large chain ring and largest sprocket. This gear combination may seem a bit counter-intuitive as it is not recommended practice to ride with a crossed chain, however, you MUST change to this gear combination before adjusting the High Limit bolt. Also, the chain must be fitted at this stage of the installation.

  • Move the left brake lever all the way to the right whilst turning the cranks. When the lever will travel no further, we are in the HIGH position. The chain should be on the large chain ring.
  • Shift the chain is on the largest sprocket at the rear.
  • The chain is now on the large chain ring and largest sprocket.
  • Important: Press the small inner shift lever once to move the derailleur to the HIGH TRIM position.
  • Now slowly turn the cranks and adjust the High Limit bolt until there is a 0 to 0.5mm gap between the inside front face of the derailleur cage and the chain. We want to achieve the smallest possible gap between this surface and the chain. If you create too much gap here, you could experience rubbing in other gear combinations, so start with a very conservative gap. It can be readjusted at any time by repeating this step.

10. Adjust Front Derailleur Low Limit Bolt

The final adjustment is the Low Limit bolt.

  • Important: Press the small inner shift lever whilst rotating the cranks. When the shift lever no longer clicks, we are now in the LOW TRIM position.
  • The chain should now be on the SMALL chain ring.
  • Shift the chain to the LARGEST sprocket at the rear.
  • The chain is now on the small chain ring and largest sprocket.
  • Slowly turn the cranks and adjust the Low Limit bolt until there is a 0 to 0.5mm gap between the inside face of the derailleur cage and the chain. We want to achieve the smallest possible gap between this surface and the chain. Again, start with a very conservative gap. It can be readjusted at any time by repeating this step.

11. Test All Gear Combinations

Now all the hard work has been done and you are familiar with how to set these adjustment bolts, we need to do a final test shifting through all possible gear combinations. Don’t forget to move the front derailleur to the trim positions when testing if you hear the chain rubbing on the front derailleur. At this stage, you can fine tune the HIGH and LOW limit bolts further if there is still some chain rub. I also recommend doing a test ride on a quiet road to double check the setup under load.

The good news is that once the derailleur height, angle and limit bolt settings are correct, you shouldn’t need to touch them again for a long time (unless you need to change the derailleur or your largest chain ring). Cable replacement should be a breeze with the built-in tension alignment feature of this front derailleur.

12. Fit Front Derailleur Top Cap

Once you are happy with the installation;

  • Wrap the cable under and around the top section of the derailleur. You will need to use the shift lever to move the derailleur and get clearance to do this.
  • Pass the cable through the larger hole of the plastic top cap.
  • Fit the top cap to the derailleur.
  • Cut any excess cable and crimp a ferrule onto the end.
Shimano Front derailleur cable travels under upper toggle
Shift cable loops under front top section.
Shimano Front derailleur plastic cover (front & rear)

Shimano derailleur top plastic cover.
Left image: Cable entry hole (larger).
Right image: Cable exit hole (Smaller).

Shimano Front derailleur cable exit point
Shimano Front derailleur with top cover fitted to cable.
Shimano Front derailleur cable side exit point
Shimano Front derailleur with top cap installed.

Hopefully you now have a perfectly tuned front derailleur setup. Enjoy the ride.

References

I hope you found this article interesting. I have listed the following website pages as general references.

Shimano Dealer’s Manual for Front Derailleur Installation

Disclaimer!

Please remember that this information is only to be used as a guide.
I consider myself an enthusiast, not an expert. The information I have presented in this article is only a guide.

Whilst I enjoy working on my own bikes, I am not a qualified bicycle mechanic. The content of this article is purely illustrative and does not constitute professional advice. For your own safety, any type of work should only be undertaken by a qualified bicycle mechanic. Incorrect assembly of parts could result in equipment damage, personal injury or death.

About Me.

I have been riding and working on my own bikes for many years now. I wanted to share my experiences, knowledge and research with others. My aim is to inspire people to get involved in all aspects of this amazing sport. Cheers.

Comments.

I welcome reader feedback in the comments section. Should you wish to suggest an amendment, please include a note advising the source of your information so that myself and other readers can ascertain the accuracy of your information. Note: Trolling or argumentative comments will be removed as they are counter-productive.

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