Should my derailleur(s) be replaced and which should I get?
Derailleurs are the small mechanisms mounted to the frame that shift the chain between the chainrings (front derailleur) and cogs (rear derailleur) when you operate the shift levers. Unless you crash, drop or abuse your bicycle, derailleurs last a long time. In fact, they can last as long as your bike with only minor maintenance, such as occasional lubrication (any time they look dry or after riding in the rain).
Rear derailleurs are more frequently damaged than fronts because they protrude from the bicycle. This means that if someone knocks over your bike, the derailleur or the part of the frame it's attached to, can get bent. When this happens, the derailleur will not shift properly. It will hesitate shifting onto the smallest cog and may overshift throwing the chain off the largest cog. Worse, if it's bent badly enough, on some bikes it might even get hooked on a spoke, pulled into the wheel and end up mangled.
To ensure this never happens, always carefully inspect your bike anytime it falls over or anytime the rear derailleur isn't shifting correctly. To tell if it's been bent, stand behind the bike and see if an imaginary straight line bisecting the cogs will also bisect both derailleur pulleys. It should. If the derailleur looks canted inward, bring the bike in for us to have a look and realign the derailleur and/or frame with our special tools.
Reasons you might want to install a new derailleur include upgrading to save a little weight or to try the latest technology. In order to provide a derailleur that will work with your drivetrain, we'd like to see your original derailleur so we can match its capacity. Or, if you no longer have the old derailleur, we need to know:
What brand, model and type of drivetrain and shifters you have, such as Shimano (brand) LX (model) RapidFire 9-speed (type).
The number of cogs.
The number of teeth on your largest and smallest cassette cogs and chainrings (4 numbers in total, for example, a modern road bike could have 11 and 24 for the cogs and 39 and 53 for the chainrings).
Front derailleurs are less often damaged than rears, though it is possible to bend them by getting baggy pants or shoelaces caught in them. Still, like rear derailleurs, you may wish to upgrade to save weight or improve shifting.
We'll need to know several things, which we can determine by seeing the original derailleur. Or, check it and provide the following details:
We need to know which type you have: On road bikes there are clamp-on types that feature clamps that wrap around the frame. And there are braze-on types that bolt to a special mount built into the frame. On mountain bikes (and some road/cross bikes) there are top-pull types, where the shift cable runs from above to the derailleur. And there are bottom-pull types, where the shift cable runs beneath and up from the bottom bracket (where the crankset is attached).
For clamp-on front derailleurs, we need to know the clamp size, which must match the seat-tube diameter where the derailleur mounts. The common sizes are 28.6mm and 31.8mm for 1 1/8 or 1 1/4inch seat tubes respectively. Use a caliper to measure your frame or if you don't have one, gently close the jaws of an adjustable wrench until it just slips over the tube and then measure the distance between the jaws.
The number of teeth on the large and small chainrings. For example, if you have a triple crankset with 22/32/42 chainrings, your large and small rings are 42 and 22. Usually these numbers are marked on the side of the chainrings. Or, you can simply count them.
If you have any questions at all, just ask and we'll be happy to help!