How to fix ghost shifting under load bicycles

Last Updated on July 7, 2022 by FAB Jim The Cyclist

I’ve spent about the last year trying to stop my Fuji Cross Comp from ghost shifting.  Every time I checked it on the stand it shifted perfectly.  Often, I would have rides that it shifted fine.  But most often I would shift and later when I put some power down, I’d get that loud shifting under load sound.  Really annoying. 

What is ghost shifting?

Ghost shifting is when you are pedaling along, and your bike shifts by itself without you shifting. It can really slow you down when this happens. Your first thought is that something just broke. Read on to find out how I fixed my ghost shift problem.

Early on I brought the bike into the shop, and they tested the rear derailleur hanger and said it was a bit bent.  They bent it back a little, but said it was still off a bit.  Seemed like the problem was better for a while, but it came back.  So, I bought a new hanger to replace it.  While I was replacing the hanger, I noticed the chain was actually broke.  Not completely, but one rivet was loose.  So of course, I replaced the chain. 

For a ride or two the bike seemed fixed, but then the problem returned.  Well for some rides, sometimes I wouldn’t notice it.  What the heck.

I had checked the cable and housing before but decided to go back to it.  I disconnected the cable from the rear derailleur and started checking that it would move freely through the housing.  I found that it moved very inconsistently through the short piece of housing near the derailleur.  Sometimes it would feel smooth, and then suddenly it would be difficult to move.  The cable looked fine so I’m guessing the housing was either kinked or just dirty in some way that it would sometime slow the cable.  So, I replaced this small piece of housing and now I’ve had no problems for over a year. Problem solved!

Ghost Shifting Cable Housing

I’m guessing I would shift, and the cable would bind up and not really shift.  Then later I would put some power down and the cable would slip through the housing and cause the ghost shift.  I would recommend you check the cables and housing first if you are having ghost shifting problems. 

Here is a list of common issues that can cause ghost shifting:

  1. Cable not moving through housing smoothly.  May be dirty housing, frayed cable binding, kinked housing…  Replace housing and cable.
  2. Bent derailleur hanger.  Replace hanger.
  3. Shifting not indexed properly/limit screws not set properly.  Adjust indexing.
  4. Shifter broken and not functioning properly.  Replace shifter.
  5. Chain broken or has a stiff link.  Replace chain.

What room does a ghost not need in a house? A living room.

13 thoughts on “How to fix ghost shifting under load bicycles

  1. Worn cogs can also cause shifting issues. If you replace chain too infrequently, you may need to replace cogset at the same time. (Another advantage to old bikes – pre-hyperglide cogs last much longer; and you could replace a worn cog rather than a whole cassette.)

      1. I don’t have one, either. So expensive. But, yes; great benefit if they are used. 🚴 I have a mountain bike.

  2. Excellent post. I’ve been having this issue between 4th and 5th rear gears. I put thousands of miles on my bike each year. It happens quite often and at the wrong moments usually lol.

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