What To Do When a Mountain Bike Grip Shifter Is Stuck


Whether it is the enjoyment of riding in nature or the adrenaline rush that it provides—mountain bikes are now more popular than ever. Owning a mountain bike also comes with the responsibility of maintenance and knowing what to do when there is a problem, like when the grip shifter is stuck. We’ll discuss how to fix a mountain bike grip shifter that’s stuck in this article.  

To fix a mountain grip shifter that’s stuck, clean the grip shifter with a cotton cloth and lubricate it, replace the grip shifter, repair the grip shifter cable housing, or clean the mountain bike derailleur pivot points with chain lube. 

What Is a Mountain Bike Grip Shifter?

Being able to shift gears—especially over tough terrain—is what makes mountain bikes uniquely suited to handle nature trails and other off-road riding experiences. The grip shifter makes gearing up or down possible during a ride. 

A mountain bike grip shifter, also known as twist-shift, is a mechanism for changing gears by twisting the handle. Grip shifters include marks to indicate which gear is currently selected. 

Make sure to also take a look at our article explaining how to choose mountain bike grip shifters as well.

Signs That the Mountain Bike Grip Shifter Is Stuck

You need to be able to shift to higher or lower gear level depending on the trail that you’re riding. A grip shifter that’s stuck can be hazardous and impair proper handling of your mountain bike. It can also cause you injury and damage your bike.  

A grip shifter is stuck when it is hard to turn, no longer clicks, or stays stuck in place. 

Grip Shifter is Hard to Turn

When the grip shifter is hard to turn it takes several attempts to turn it properly. Turning will require extra time and effort and can be frustrating during a ride. The ebook, “Mastering Mountain Biking Skills” by Brian Lopes and Lee Cormack states in the introduction that having confidence in your bike greatly influences the overall enjoyment you’ll achieve while riding your bike. 

Grip Shifter No Longer Clicks 

Normally, when a grip shifter is turned to adjust the gear level, a click can be heard to signal that it has been changed. If you don’t hear the click, your shifter is stuck. 

The Grip Shifter is Stuck in Place

A shifter that is jammed and won’t move, is stuck. This one is self-explanatory. 

Why is the Mountain Bike Grip Shifter Not Moving? 

A stuck grip shifter can be easily solved with proper knowledge and resources. By thoroughly checking each key component of the bike you’ll be able to eliminate those that aren’t affecting the grip shifter and find out what is causing it to stick. 

Possible reasons that the mountain bike grip shifter gets stuck could be because of issues with the cable housing, problems with the grip shifter, or trouble with the derailleur.  

Issues with the Cable Housing

There might be gunk in the cable housing that could stop the grip shifter from moving. This can be easily checked by taking the cables out of the housing, adding lubricant or degreaser, and then pushing the inner cable back into the housing. Make sure you also wipe the cables with a lint-free cloth. Most cable housings are supposed to be oiled regularly, so apply a high-quality bike oil like Bike Butter

Cleaning cable housing if a mountain bike grip shifter is stuck.
To clean the cable housing, remove the inner cable from the housing. Apply some lubricant. Then thread the cable through the housing and wipe off any excess lubricant as the cable emerges. Image from Youtube.

Problems with the Grip Shifter

The grip shifter needs to be regularly cleaned or sometimes replaced. With continuous usage, and after the bike has endured a rough journey, the grip shifter can wear down and stick. It’s always a good idea to keep checking if the grip shifter needs to be oiled since oiling helps solve a lot of problems. This video tutorial explains how to clean and lubricate a grip shifter. 

Pull out the grip shifter wire.
You need to remove the grip shifter in order to clean it and oil it. The trick is to cut the gear wire and simultaneously pull the gear wire (away from the shifter) and to twist the shifter to take it off so you can add oil. Image from Youtube.

Trouble with the Derailleur

Sometimes, the derailleur might be causing the grip shifter to stick. Gunk or rust on the derailleur will need to be removed so that it works properly. A pinch bolt holds the cable to the derailleur and needs to be loosened in order to oil the derailleur. This video discusses how a derailleur works and how to maintain it. 

Loosen, Oil, and Tighten the derailleur.
Use an allen key to loosen the pinch bolt which holds the shifter wire to the derailleur. Then oil the derailleur in order to clean up any gunk that’s preventing it from shifting. Image from Youtube.

What To Do When a Mountain Bike Grip Shifter Is Stuck

When examining the faulty or stuck grip shifter you will first need to determine what is causing it to stick and then decide if the grip shifter needs to be repaired or replaced. We recommend having a bike repair toolkit set like this one handy when repairing or servicing your mountain bike. 

When a mountain grip shifter is stuck, clean the grip shifter and derailleur. If this doesn’t help to loosen the grip shifter, determine whether to replace it or repair it.

Clean the Grip Shifter

Remove Mountain Bike Handlebar Sleeve 

Removing mountain bike handle bar grips to clean a grip shifter that’s stuck.
How to remove the handlebar grips from mountain bike handlebars. Source: Youtube.

To remove the handlebar grips, first carefully detach the end caps from the handlebar. Our article on tips for mountain bike grip installation covers all the steps needed to successfully remove and replace various types of handlebar grips. We also can tell you which mountain bike grip to purchase for numbness and where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture. So make sure to take a look at that as well.

Cut the Grip Shifter Cable 

Replacing mountain bike grip shifter cable
Replacing a grip shifter cable. Source: Youtube.

The shifter cable often needs to be cut or replaced after long and demanding rides. This can be done with the help of grip cutters or any kind of cable cutter.

Remove the Grip Shifter 

Removing a mountain bike grip shifter.

How to remove the grip shifter. Source: Youtube.

The grip shifter will need to be removed to check for gunky grease or rust. It has to be removed and thoroughly cleaned with a degreaser before any lubricant can be applied to it. 

Clean Grip Shifter

Cleaning a mountain bike grip shifter that’s stuck.
Watch Tony as he cleans the grip shifter on a mountain bike. Source: Youtube.

The grip shifter will need to be cleaned with a soft cotton cloth like these from Amazon. You will need to make sure not to apply too much pressure to it and will have to make sure that you clean the entire surface of the grip shifter. 

Lubricate the Grip Shifter 

The grip shifter will need to be oiled and lubricated in order to make sure that it does not get stuck anymore. Some bike cleaners, like this one, also contain a lubricant that includes rust protection. Below is a table of various lubricant types that are available. 

Type of Lubricant Key Features Product Price
Dry lubricant Reduces friction.Ideal for dry weather. Muc Off dry lube 50ml ~$5
Premium bike oil for suspension dust seals Bio-based oil with natural ingredients.Is rubber compatible.  WPL forkboost lube ~$10
Cleaner and lubricant in one Cleans and lubricates in one step PJ1 1-12 Cable lube ~$20
Aerosol bike lubricant Contains additives to prevent fling-off and protect against rust and corrosion Maxima 77920 Synthetic Chain Guard ~$10

Re-install the Grip Shifter 

The grip shifter then needs to be reinstalled and tightened. Our article on grip shifter installation should again help you with this step.  

Feed a New Cable Through the Grip Shifter Cable Housing

Feeding cable through the cable housing.
Feeding a new cable through the mountain bike. Source: Bikeradar.

Since the previous cable was cut to remove the grip shifter, a new cable will need to be fed through the mountain bike cable housing. Various bicycle cable housing and cable hose kits can be found on Amazon.

Replace the Grip Shifter If Cleaning Doesn’t Loosen It

Sometimes, you need to replace the old grip shifter with a new one because it’s really stuck. 

Purchase a New Grip Shifter

New Mountain Bike Grip Shifter.
Mountain bike grip shifter. Source: Amazon.

A new grip shifter for your mountain bike can be easily purchased through Amazon or any other reliable retailer. 

Remove the Mountain Bike Handlebar Sleeve

Video about removing the sleeve from a mountain bike handlebar.
How to remove the sleeve from mountain bike handlebars. Source: YouTube.

If your handlebar grips are the lock-on type then you will need to loosen them with an Allen key. If they are slip-on grips then simply positioning a thin flat-head screwdriver under the edge of the grip and easing it in will release the old grip. For more information about mountain bike grips, read our article on choosing a mountain bike grip diameter for your bike. Or, you might find interest in our guide to mountain bike grip sizes to find a new set of grips for your bike. Additionally, when re-installing the grips, you may need to add some adhesive. Check out our 5 tips to choose mountain bike grip adhesives for more information on this topic.

Remove Grip Shifter 

Remove the mountain bike grip shifter.
The video from Park Tool will help you to remove the grip shifter. Source: Park Tool.

An old and worn-out grip shifter that remains stuck will need to be removed so that it can be replaced with a new one. 

Cut the Old Grip Shifter Cable

Cutting grip shifter cable
Again you’ll need to cut the old grip shifter cable in order to make it easy to remove your existing, stuck, grip shifter. Source: Cyclist.

It is a good idea to replace the grip shifter cable while you are already busy with installing the new grip shifter. The grip shifter cable is relatively inexpensive and has a stainless steel inner cable for durability. 

Slide New Grip Shifter Onto the Handlebar 

The new grip shifter can then easily be slid onto the handlebars of the mountain bike and secured in place with a screwdriver. 

Thread the New Cable Through the Cable Housing

As previously discussed, you will need to feed another cable through the cable housing of the grip shifter. If you want to replace the cable housing with a colored one, now is the time to do that. Many shifter cables like this one come with the new cable housing included. 

Adjust the Cable Tension On the Derailleur 

This can be done by either tightening or loosening the cable. If you’re unsure about how much to tighten the cable on the derailleur, a good way to check is to start loose and iteratively tighten and check until you can shift gears as expected with your newly installed shifters. 

Tighten the Nut On the Derailleur

Use a screwdriver to fasten the nut on the derailleur to make sure that the derailleur does not fall off.  

Cap Off the New Cable

The new cable will need to be capped off by caps or crimps in order to prevent it from sliding out. This video covers the entire process of replacing the cable and capping it off. 

3. Repair the Grip Shifter Cable Housing 

If you don’t want to replace your grip shifter altogether, repairing it is the next option. The problem is that it’s hard to identify what is wrong. We’ll cover general tips here but we highly recommend that you have a bike shop repair your cable housing. 

Cut the New Cable Housing to Match the length Of the Old Cables

The brand new cable housing can be cut using specific cable cutters which youc an buy anywhere online like Amazon. 

Use an Awl to Puncture Open the Holes of the Cable Housing

The holes created with the awl will be used to slide the cable through and out the cable housing. 

Place Ferrule Ends On the Cable Housing

Bike cable kit with ferrules
The end ferrules are included in this cable kit. Source: Amazon.

Most mountain bike cable kits include all end ferrules in them, but you can also buy colorful ends like these and use a crimping tool or needle-nose pliers, to crimp them onto the cable. 

Feed the Cable Through the Grip Shift

Using the holes that were previously punched with the awl, feed the cable through the housing and the grip shift. 

Feed the Cable through the Barrel Adjuster

This is done to ensure that the cable is connected to both the barrel adjuster and the grip shifter. The barrel adjuster will have holes to guide the cable into place. 

Check the Grip Shifter For Smooth Shifting

This can be down simply by turning the grip shifter now. If it still gets stuck again, then it quite possibly needs to be replaced or cleaned again. Ideally, it will turn easily and smoothly. 

Install the Cable Housing Onto the Cable

This can be done fairly quickly and easily by sliding the cable housing onto the cable. 

Cable housing on a mountain bike.
A close-up view of cable housing on a mountain bike. Source: CX Magazine.

Feed the Remaining Cable through the Cable Stop

Once the cable is inserted into the cable housing, secure the cable housing into the cable stops by pressing it into the cable stops. This will prevent the cable and housing from slipping loose while riding. 

Tighten the Cable Clamp on the Derailleur

Secure the cable clamp on the derailleur with a screwdriver. Tightening it makes sure that the cable does not end up sliding out of the derailleur. 

Add a Crimp End To the End of the Cable

Crimping the cable end prevents the cable from sliding out of position by ensuring a tight closure over the cable wire. Crimp ends can be easily purchased from Amazon, and can be crimped in place with a crimping tool or pliers. 

4. Clean the Mountain Bike Derailleur

Because the derailleur is the mechanism that moves the bicycle chain from one gear to another it is essential that the derailleur remain free of debris and clumpy grease. Sometimes, a mountain bike grip shifter will be hard to use because the derailleur isn’t moving freely. Regularly cleaning the derailleur with a bike cleaner like this one and then applying lubricant will ensure you get the best performance from your mountain bike. 

Clean Pivot Points with Chain Lube 

Cleaning the chain on a mountain bike.
Using chain lube to clean the chain so that it shifts smoothly from gear to gear. Source: ENDURO Mountainbikes Magazine.

Sometimes, the pivot points need to be oiled or lubricated which is fairly simple. Chain lube can be found easily on Amazon and is inexpensive. 

Wipe Off the Excess Lube

Wiping off excess lubricant.
Wipe the excess using a clean, cotton cloth. Sorce: ENDURO Mountainbike Magazine.

You have to make sure that you do not apply too much lubricant.You only need to apply a thin coat on the chain. The excess can be wiped off using cotton cloth

Replace the Derailleur if it is Worn

If the derailleur is worn or has too much gunk or rust on it, then it will need to be replaced. Derailleurs can be found easily on Amazon or at other reliable retailers. 

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