Shimano XTR pedals in box

Working from home

I’m working from home today and taking advantage of the slow trickle of work e-mail to get some bike maintenance done. (It’s a beautiful day and I’d love to be out on the bike, but I’ve already had one phone call from the boss asking where I was … )

Work gloves and bicycle tools on a workbench
Still life with tools and gloves

The first order of business was sorting out the balky front shifter. On my commuting ride yesterday, the front derailleur got stuck on the smaller chainring and wouldn’t shift up to the larger one. This has happened before, and the problem has survived through a replacement of the shift lever, the derailleur and at least two cables. (I’ve even got another cable on order in case that turns out to be the problem.)

I started by peeling back the shifter hood to make sure the mushroom head at the end of the cable was thoroughly seated inside the shifter pulley. It’s difficult to see in the photo (and as I was staring at it in the sunlight on the workshop in the sky), but the cable end is right where it’s supposed to be.

Collage showing shifter on the handlebars and crankset / derailleur
Balky shifter

Next I made sure the derailleur was not sticking. I could move it easily by hand, and if I pulled the cable manually then I could shift the chainrings with no problem.

I took a break at that point and did some searching. My Googlefu failed me this time as I found a number of videos explaining how to solve the opposite problem to the one I had: when the shifter is stuck on the larger chainring. In that case it’s usually dirt and dried grease inside the shift lever, and the solution is to give it a thorough flushing out and lubrication.

Mystified, I returned to the balcony and loosened the shift lever from the handlebar and retightened it, then pulled the hood back into position. After making sure the hood was not interfering with the lever operation, I worked both levers a few times while pushing and pulling the cable manually. And I got it moving again. I ran through several dozen shifts from small chainring to large and back again, and everything was fine. Once it was all in working order, I spent another couple of minutes fine-tuning the adjustment of the front and rear derailleurs. While the bike is on the stand, at least, I’m satisfied.

You realize your travails do little to encourage others of us to take up your hobby …


Having replaced virtually every bit in the shifting mechanism, I’m left with a few possibilities:

  • There’s a problem with the cable housing (the one bit I haven’t replaced because it would involve rewraping the handlebars, and I want to avoid that for now) or the shift lever is binding against the cable housing.
  • There’s an issue with Shimano shift levers that I’m not seeing others reporting.
  • Kuroko is haunted, or hates my guts for some reason (or possibly just has a perverse sense of humor).
  • As always, there’s the possibility I just don’t know what I’m doing.

At any rate, I’m planning an undemanding ride at a relaxed pace tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes.

I haven’t bought any new toys in weeks

With the necessary maintenance out of the way, my final job today was to replace the pedals. The current pedals are working fine (although they’re scuffed from use), but they are designed to work with either cycling cleats or regular shoes. I never ride Kuroko wearing anything but my cleats — even just for the office commute — and sometimes when I’m starting off I get the wrong side of the pedal and it takes me a few tries to get properly clipped in.

Shimano pedal with cleat and non-cleat sides
To cleat or not to cleat

I saw these Shimano XTR pedals and they caught my eye: The same combination of cleat and platform that I’m used to, but with cleat mechanisms on both sides. As a bonus, they’re slightly lighter than the pedals I’m replacing.

Shimano XTR pedals in box
Shimano XTR pedals

It only took me a minute to remove the old pedals with my Park Tool pedal wrench and then clean up the crank.

Bicycle crankset without pedal
Naked crank

I wasn’t making any progress installing the new pedals with the wrench, and then I realized the nut is not attached to the spindle. I got out an 8mm hex wrench and that did the trick. I just have to remember now to take an 8mm wrench when I’m traveling and have removed Kuroko’s pedals for delivery (and probably bring the 6mm as well if I’m serving as mechanic for the group, as most pedals use the 6).

Shimano XTR pedal showing cleat mechanism on both sides
Both sides same

I’m looking forward to giving these a try tomorrow, and hoping I’ve heard the last of the derailleur issues.

Update: I am not alone!

Not long after posting this, the following video appeared on my YouTube home page (demonstrating that YouTube and Google are indeed linked):

If I have more trouble with the front shifter I may give this a try. (Or I may have a look at the parts indicated to see if they’ve bent.)

(And I’m not jealous that David L has superior Googlefu. At least not much … )

I’ve now had this problem with two series of Shimano 105 shifters, while the Halfakid and Tomo both use Shimano 105 and haven’t had any trouble. (To be fair, Tomo rarely uses the front shifter.) I don’t know if other Shimano series — Ultegra, GRX — have the same issue.

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2 responses to “Working from home”

  1. […] yesterday’s tune-up I was really hoping for a mechanical-free ride today. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, […]

  2. […] was just coasting the entire time, and he’s probably not exaggerating much. I had a return of the problem with the front shifter, but I was able to work around it each […]

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