Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

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NuncFluens
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:25 am
Location: Bavaria, Germany

Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by NuncFluens »

As some of you might have read in my journal, I managed to get my shifting levers stuck, which leaves me with the 2nd hardest gear. It's a Shimano GRX 1x11 on my CX bike.

How did that come about? I rode to work and tried to fit my rear wheel into the bike stand there, but the chain pulley was in the way. So I shifted up into the hardest gear to move the pulley away (without pedalling). When I came back after work, I shifted down to my previous gear, thinking everything would align, lifted the bike and gave the pedals a spin. And that's when my shifting lever stopped working.

I have since fumbled around a little bit and found the following: The rear derailleur can move about freely if I pull on the shifting cable, so it seems the cable is caught in the shifting lever itself. I can move what this document calls "lever B" and it clicks, but doesn't do anything. "Lever A" can be moved a bit, but it doesn't click. If I pull lever B first and then pull lever A, the latter can be made to click, but again, no change in the shifting cable's tension. The customary WD40 shower didn't help either.

So, on the off chance that someone should know what to do, please tell.
I also tried to get into the lever itself, but am currently missing the appropriate tools. Anyway, it looks scary complicated. Is it even sensible to try and fix it myself?

Alphaville
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by Alphaville »

Oh, it’s a lever shifter? I’m not familiar with those, and being an empirical learner, am probably unable to help, but I can try to brainstorm.

My experience with a thumb click shifter (not sure if it translates) it’s that it’s a couple of metal discs that slide against each other to do the shifting. Piece of garbage tin disks that bend easily if you ask me. Like made from a coffee can lid.

In the case of my old shifter, the mechanic found a used replacement different from the original part which couldn’t be repaired. So it was a cheap(ish) fix that lasts till today, many years after.

So it sounds to me like your jam is inside the lever, and you’d need to take the lever apart and fix, and if it can’t be fixed then you’ll have to replace the part.

I’d open it up and try to fix it and learn something. But I hate this type of complicated thing.

I prefer the old school friction shifters where all was exposed and a monkey can fix it. Maybe you could downgrade, if your frame and/or bars permit? Gearheads might laugh at your retro functions, but those shifters last forever. Some look really nice on the Nitto Albatross bar, like this:

Image.
(mod gods please forgive pictures)

Or... wait, I’m not getting the picture of your bicycle problems too clearly here.

Looks like the cassette is stuck, but how many chainrings do you have? One? Two? Three? Not both derailleurs are stuck are they? Sounds like just one but please confirm.

I was going to say you could move the gears manually and then fix them in place with limit screws but I’m not getting the full picture of your bicycle... could you describe more?

eta, 1: https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-he ... s-shifters

eta, 2: https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-he ... leshooting

eta, 3: start here? https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UkZxPIZ1ngY

eta, 4: https://www.cyclingabout.com/use-barend ... e-touring/ (not sure if this system would fit your bicycle but worth looking into for the future)

***ETA 5: I JUST READ YOUR JOURNAL. IT SAYS “BRAND NEW BIKE”. SHOULD BE UNDER WARRANTY.***

Sorry for the allcaps, just making sure you read that before you touch anything and void the warranty. Just take it to the place where you bought it from! :)

NuncFluens
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:25 am
Location: Bavaria, Germany

Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by NuncFluens »

Yeah... I honestly thought I'd adjust a screw or two and it's done. The warranty thoughts only came back when the WD40 didn't work either. But now all the factory-installed gunk is cleaned out, so they'd definitely notice that I put WD40 in there. I'll consult the warranty information tomorrow if I can find it online (I'm not at home right now).

For completeness' sake though: The bike has one chain ring, so no front derailleur. The rear derailleur works fine if I pull the cable with my fingers. It's just that the shifting lever won't move the cables. Somehow they got stuck up there in the lever or something.
And all this after I explicitly avoided moving parts (front derailleur, second shifting lever) to keep it nice and simple. Grrrr...

(Edit: Thank you very much for the answer, by the way. I didn't go through all the links at length yet, but I'll finish them tomorrow, before deciding whether I want to go the repair path.)

Alphaville
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by Alphaville »

yes, the shifter in the lever is stuck or broken, that’s all.

my suggestion for the warranty would be to just go and say “this stopped working” and say no more. let them do the inspection,

you’re probably making too much out of shifting gears without pedaling and locking the wheel etc. that’s not an unusual thing to do. especially rear derailleur.

so that shouldn’t be an issue, and don’t talk yourself out of receiving warranty service. the burden is on them to fix it, not on you to prove you deserve service.

IF they ask you about wd40 just say “sure, it was stuck, what was i supposed to do.” if there was grease, they can regrease.

do NOT take it apart though because then... it’s all on you.

anyway enjoy the videos/articles. park tools has the best bike repair videos.



eta: that the shifter would malfunction so soon is bad news in my opinion. i’ll make a note to never buy this :lol:

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

I think pursuing the warranty is the right track. If that doesn't pan out, another step would be to disconnect the cable from the derailleur then pull the cable out of all of the housing but leave it in the shifter. Then click the shifter to see if it will pull the cable. That rules out a housing or routing problem. If nothing there then pull the cable out of the shifter and click the shifter to see if the shifter parts move properly with the cable out.

Not a trained bike mechanic but some experience.

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C40
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by C40 »

I don't know how much the designs have changed over time, but at least 10 years ago, disassembling and repairing those shifters was quite complex and time consuming. There are a lot of small gears and springs in there, and they all have to be right for it to work. I asked a mechanic to work on a failed shifter (the most high-end/expensive level of shifter), and he said it would probably be cheaper to buy a new one.


Try this:
Pull back the rubber hood material up near the top of the "hood" (the highest point of the hand rests). On some designs, you'll be able to see the, uhh, anchor of the cable (it's like a little blob/ball of metal, about 3/16" diameter). See if you can pull that out some, through the shift mechanism. Maybe pull it out a few times, just like an inch. When you release it, it should be pulled back into place. There is some chance that this will fix your problem. (Edit, I think what I'm saying is similar to or the same as Gilberto's second suggestion.)

If not, I think the warranty route is good. What you did is normal (though maybe problematic) so like others said it might be better not to say much.

I can't understand for sure what you're saying you did that may have caused the problem... but just in case you (or others here) don't already know this, here's how to remove and install a wheel:
(this whole process, especially the method of shifting the bike while not riding might be easiest learned by watching a video on youtube)
1 - shift down to the smallest cog. You should do this moving one cog at a time while turning the wheel. Meaning you shift once, the chain moves down, then you shift again, and so on. It can be a little odd to do and is perhaps the easiest if you have clip-in pedals or some kind of cages, then you can stand over the bike with your right hand on the shifter, and your left hand lifting the rear of the bike by holding the top tube near where it meats the seat tube. And pedal with one foot while your other foot is on the ground. Or, shift while riding.
2 - Remove the wheel just by pulling it straight out.

To reinstall is the reverse. The derailer should already be all the way "down/out" (in the extreme position of least cable tension, which is in position for the smallest cog. While the wheel is not in you can shift the derailer really quickly. Make sure the derailer/chain and the cog line up ok while pressing the wheel in. Then follow a similar shifting procedure as above to shift to the largest cog.

When the wheel is in and you are not pedaling, it is important not to force the shifter, as that will cause extra forces in the shifter and derailer. If you forced it hard and tell the shop, they might say it's your fault and won't warranty it.

NuncFluens
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Location: Bavaria, Germany

Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by NuncFluens »

Alphaville wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 4:32 pm
eta: that the shifter would malfunction so soon is bad news in my opinion. i’ll make a note to never buy this :lol:
Yeah, as far as I can see the Shimano GRX was a new development for 2019. I was surprised how well it worked when it worked, but apparently it's not quite there yet in terms of robustness. And that on a Gravel bike!
C40 wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 2:30 am
Try this:
Pull back the rubber hood material up near the top of the "hood" (the highest point of the hand rests). On some designs, you'll be able to see the, uhh, anchor of the cable (...)
That would have worked on my old Shimano STIs, but with the GRX it's all internal and it looks like some aerospace-grade technology. No way am I going to get to the cable anchors :(

Anyway, I just tried to open a warranty case with the online-reseller but they need the serial number of the frame, which I don't have near me right now. So this might drag on for a bit longer...

Alphaville
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by Alphaville »

NuncFluens wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 4:20 am
[...]No way am I going to get to the cable anchors :(

Anyway, I just tried to open a warranty case with the online-reseller but they need the serial number of the frame, which I don't have near me right now. So this might drag on for a bit longer...
from what i’ve seen the part sells as a lever set with a cable coming out of it. that’s kinda horrible in my book: anything happens to the $5 cable, you must fork out for the whole pricey chunk again.

now i’m pondering my next bicycle build, and it looks like due to knee and back issues a fixie is out of the question.

so it must have gears, and now i’m debating friction shifters vs internal gear hub.

it’s for a city bicycle with light offroad capabilities (dirt trails, etc.) a “gravel” bike, but following the rivendell paradigm of what they call a “country bike.”

e.g., see the cheviot frame: https://www.rivbike.com/collections/fra ... me-cheviot

i’m attracted to the internal gears due to imperviousness to winter conditions, but the simplicity and cheapness of a friction shifter cannot be understated. it’s just that it needs more cleanup and i don’t have the space for hosing down.

NuncFluens
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Location: Bavaria, Germany

Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by NuncFluens »

Alphaville wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 11:38 am
now i’m pondering my next bicycle build, and it looks like due to knee and back issues a fixie is out of the question.

so it must have gears, and now i’m debating friction shifters vs internal gear hub.
Part of why I took an off-the-shelf bike was that I didn't really want to think about that. I didn't fancy a "build", so I just trusted that a new bike with a reputable shifting system would do the job. If you build it from components you'll probably have a few more choices. Maybe I should have done that :/

Alphaville
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by Alphaville »

NuncFluens wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 1:22 pm
Part of why I took an off-the-shelf bike was that I didn't really want to think about that. I didn't fancy a "build", so I just trusted that a new bike with a reputable shifting system would do the job. If you build it from components you'll probably have a few more choices. Maybe I should have done that :/
don’t worry, it’s always a learning curve, and you have a long cycling life ahead of you, so don’t sweat it.

my mechanic says thst you start with one bicycle and end up with multiple ones. i’ve never actually done that, but i’m heading in that direction now.

since a gravel bike is a “sportier” model, maybe you could take your sweet time to slowly build a proper city/commuter model, with upright seating, fenders, chainguards, the works...

so you could ride it in a suit, like this:

Image

:mrgreen:

i don’t wear suits anymore. but modern bicycles are made for lycra, and i don’t like that. so i’d want a city bike that doesn’t require a change of clothes, plus a trail bike to go have a picnic with the lady or something, and longer excursions with the right clothes. that’s 2 bikes. from there, who knows...

NuncFluens
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:25 am
Location: Bavaria, Germany

Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by NuncFluens »

Alphaville wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 1:47 pm
my mechanic says thst you start with one bicycle and end up with multiple ones. i’ve never actually done that, but i’m heading in that direction now.
Been there, done that, wouldn't recommend. I was mostly buying for who I wanted to see myself as, as opposed to what I needed, so YMMV. The gravel bike ticks all the boxes for me right now, though, so I hopefully stick with just that one after I got rid of my BMX and Road Bike (2 Mountain bikes are already gone).
Alphaville wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 1:47 pm
i don’t wear suits anymore. but modern bicycles are made for lycra, and i don’t like that. so i’d want a city bike that doesn’t require a change of clothes, plus a trail bike to go have a picnic with the lady or something, and longer excursions with the right clothes. that’s 2 bikes. from there, who knows...
I never wore suits (or the female equivalent), but I have no problem with jeans shorts on my gravel bike. We'll see how it goes in the fall, but I seem to remember riding my old road bike with office pants, too.

Alphaville
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by Alphaville »

NuncFluens wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 4:06 pm
Been there, done that, wouldn't recommend. I was mostly buying for who I wanted to see myself as, as opposed to what I needed, so YMMV. The gravel bike ticks all the boxes for me right now, though, so I hopefully stick with just that one after I got rid of my BMX and Road Bike (2 Mountain bikes are already gone).



I never wore suits (or the female equivalent), but I have no problem with jeans shorts on my gravel bike. We'll see how it goes in the fall, but I seem to remember riding my old road bike with office pants, too.
i was going to write you a long wordy reply about this and that, sort of thinking out loud as i often do, but in the middle of the brainstorm i realized that you're right, you're absolutely right: i don't really want 2 bicycles, i just need one that serves all purposes.

that means i absolutely have to build one, because what i need is a trail bike for adventure... with fenders and a chainguard and an internal gear hub (for 365 days a year of city service with apartment-friendly minimal washing/maintenance). plus it has to have an upright-yet-agile geometry for good posture and back comfort as i get older. no way to get that outside a custom build.

i have looked at gravel bikes, but due to geometry etc they only get me halfway there.

thanks so much for this. i mean the talking.

i currently have an old hybrid frame that i've been turning into a city bike, but it's not quite the right geometry for me or the parts i've added/ need to add. it works okay, but it's a bit of a kludge, so it addresses the basic problems but doesn't solve them completely.

before i tweaked it, it had become a torture device over the years-- it was hurting my back, my wrists, my knees, etc. the right fit really is everything. i need to start with the right frameset, and i found clarity at last.

i need this: https://momentummag.com/rivendell-cheviot-review/ but with an internal gear hub (and cheaper. a lot cheaper ha ha ha.)

anyway, best wishes with the warranty--here's to a quick and painless fix!

NuncFluens
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Location: Bavaria, Germany

Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by NuncFluens »

Well, my warranty request is out. Now we wait.

Best of luck with your build, Alphaville. Sounds complicated. but at least you get exactly what you need.

NuncFluens
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by NuncFluens »

The warranty-process was a nightmare, so I went at it again and found the problem. I'll document the process here for closure and on the off-chance that someone cares :p

The problem was that the shifting cable sprang out of the attachment point in the shifting lever. This made the parts pop into different nooks in the lever itself, which made the problem a bit hard to spot if you don't know what to look for. A user on a german biking forum dug up the mechanics manual (not the user manual!) for me, where I found the details that made me have another go at it.

I treid to insert pictures, but this gallery is the best I could do: https://imgur.com/a/OrVVMYe

And now the shifting works just as before. The test ride is still pending, as I need to adjust the lever and apply new handlebar tape, but I don't see how things can go wrong now.

Alphaville
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Re: Fixing Shimano gravel bike levers

Post by Alphaville »

oh nice! great news—congrats! huge relief

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