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Changing the jockey wheels on your rear derailleur [How to]

25 February 2020

Many cyclists know that they need to replace or maintain their chain regularly, but forget about the derailleur pulleys, or jockey wheels, which are also an important part of your drivetrain. They wear out slowly, so often you don't notice it. In this blog we'll explain how and when to replace your jockey wheels.

How do I know if my derailleur pulleys need replacing?

How do you know when your jockey wheels need replacing? You need to look at the teeth - if they are starting to look sharp or pointy, then they are worn and the jockey wheel should be replaced. In the image below you can see that the jockey wheels in the centre and to the right both are worn and ready to be replaced. When it's time to replace your jockey wheels, make sure that you get the right replacement wheels.

worn derailleur

You can tell by the teeth of the jockey wheels whether they are worn or not.

What tools do you need for replacing derailleur pulleys?

To replace your jockey wheels you need the following:

the required derailleur pulleys
Check carefully exactly which derailleur wheels you need if they need replacing.

How do you remove jockey wheels?

For novices, the easiest way to fit and remove jockey wheels is with the chain off the bike. It's also possible to do the job with the chain still on (see video). If you need to do a quick job that obviously works well, but you need to pay extra attention during the assembly - because you won't be the first to run the chain round the wrong side of the derailleur cage.

Remove the rear wheel and the chain. Once you've done that you can start loosening the jockey wheels. Unscrew the screw on the lower jockey wheel and remove the wheel. Make sure you're truning the screw the right way - it's often indicated on the jockey wheel. Set the screw aside in a safe place, and note that the screws for upper and lower jockey wheels can be different sizes. Next you can also loosen the screw of the upper jockey wheel. Make sure that the cage of your derailleur also comes with it.

Don't forget to clean your derailleur well with degreaser. Dirt and grease build up in all the nooks and crannies of the derailleur cage. Spray the degreaser on a rag, not directly onto the derailleur.

How do you fit jockey wheels?

Next it's time to mount the upper jockey wheel together with the derailleur cage. Make sure that you have the correct wheel and screw. What the upper and lower derailleur wheels are called varies by brand. You can find this in the table below

BrandUpper jockey wheelLower jockey wheel
ShimanoGuide pulley of G-pulleyTension pulley of T-pulley

Also pay attention to directionality when you mount jockey wheels. If there is nothing written on the jockey wheel itself, to indicate direction, then it doesn't matter.

Optionally, you can put some assembly grease on the screws before you retighten the wheels. Once you have also tightened your lower jockey wheel, you can re-fit your chain. Make sure you put the chain over the cassette and derailleur and not over the guides. You can then re-attach the missing link with the pliers and put the rear wheel back on. Then check again whether everything shifts properly. If this is the case, your derailleur wheels have been replaced correctly and you are ready to roll.

Video: How to change the jockey wheels on your derailleur?

Keen to see it done? In the video below you can see how you replace the jockey wheels on your derailleur.

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Eva van den Berg

Eva van den Berg

Since starting work at Mantel, I’ve been reading and writing about bikes on a daily basis. This added to the fact that I am testing new products, has caused me to get excited to expand my own bike collection. I wonder what the inside of my garage will look like in a few years. Luckily I have a big garage at home!

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