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Last year just before 'cross season I bought a bike with SRAM Rival grouppo. While I like it for the most part, I have almost always had issues with the front shifting - either it takes a fair amount of effort to get the chain to climb up to the big ring or I have to *really* soft pedal to get it to shift, or it tosses the chain to the outside of the crank. I have had the shop I bought it at adjust the front derailleur, I've tweaked it, and several other mechanics that are well-regarded have adjusted the front derailleur. Limit stops, cable tension, and angle have all been adjusted to get this dialed in.

When it works, it works pretty well but it's been unpredictable as to when it acts up. Lap Two at USGP-Louisville it didn't want to go to the big ring but laps one, three and four were just fine (as an example).

On the workstand it works beautifully. Under feet it feels like a fight to get it to shift sometimes. Several other people locally have also had issues with SRAM front shifting including the mechanics at one of the shops (he doesn't dislike SRAM, just says the SRAM fronts are more difficult to work well). What really puzzles me is my monster crosser with Tiagra shifters, 105 front der and ancient Deore rear der just shifts soo much easier. This shouldn't be - the newer, more expensive stuff is supposed to work better, right?

Is there something obvious I'm overlooking? I'm about ready to toss it.

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You are not the only one. I love my SRAM groupset (force) for the most part, particularly the rear, and appreciate that they sponsor several cx events. However, my front has done some things I have never even seen before. Today it actually managed to completely lock up the rear wheel by sucking the chain up-  and I had to jump off the bike, usually it just drops the chain (albeit only on maybe 1/250 shifts). This is why I keep that groupset on my road bike and use 105 for cx.

No help here but I have the same issue.  I love the look I get at the LBS when its on the stand shifting so precisely.

I had the same issues. Finally, this year after starring at the bike hanging on the wall over the summer, it dawned on me. The front derailleur cage is designed for a 53/39 set-up and I am running a 44/34. The directions tell you to place the derailleur cage 1-2mm above the large chainring. This works if you are running a standard road set-up, but not with a 44 chainring. Therefore, I move the front derailleur cage up to where it would normally be if I was running a 50+ chainring. If you look closely at the derailleur cage, you will see an indentation on the outer plate. Make sure this clears the chain when the chain is in the small ring in front and the smallest cassette (11 or 12 tooth) back. This will allow you to get all the gears in the back with both the large and small chaingring and no trim.

This solved the problem for me! Shifting has been great this year.

Of course the best solution would be for SRAM to make a cross-specific front derailleur. Either that, or offer trim in both positions.

Ah... Makes sense, but makes me worry a bit about tossing the chain off the big ring, or even having it bounce off the big ring during a less-than-graceful remount.

I had also wondered about the pulley (top-routed cable) and cable itself but at the shop we played with that and all the factors up to the derailleur work great.

Michael - thank you, I'll try that.


Michael makes a really good point.

Unfortunately my new Force groupset is actually on a standard 53/39 road bike, and has been adjusted a couple of time by some pretty good bike mechanics, but I still have issues. Never had a problem with tiagra or 105 though.

I'm glad I got it, and will definitely keep in on my road bike, just not the cross bike (particularly considering what Michael mentions).

Sram's FD works with either standard or compact chain rings (they don't make one specifically for 53/39.)  I had problems with my clamp on Rival FD for quite some time.  It wasn't until I purchased an adapter and switched to the Force braze-on version that all my problems went away.  It literally took a few minutes to install, set the limit screws to have perfect shifting. 


This very magazine did an article earlier this year about SRAM front shifting on cx bikes.  You mention you looked at the pulley, but maybe replacing would help. 

Thanks, will re-read.


I've had some challenges with my SRAM Rival FD also. Mine was driving me so crazy this year that I just put a 42t on the front and decided to never shift during a race (if possible). Next year might just go to a 1x10 set up, probably with a 44t ring.

In general, SRAM levers require a good deal of effort to lift the chain. And yes, the issues never surface in the shop, only when you're really stressing the bike.


Check that the big ring is installed correctly. The pin should go under the crank arm. If not, the ramps aren't lined up right and might be contributing to your problem.


Then try these steps (with apologies if you have already):

1. Replace the cable, and also the housing if it's noticeably gunked up or more than one season old. Peel back the hood and lube the lever mechanism pivot points with a tad of Tri-Flow.

2. Remove the pulley and clean it thoroughly. I like to lube with Phil's Tenacious Oil before re-installing.

3. Carefully futz with FD alignment (both vertical and horizontal). This is the key step. Take your time. You'll have to install the cable, check the alignment, loosen the cable fixing bolt, change the alignment, and repeat several times.

4. Finally, adjust the limit screws to end the overshift (chain falling off on cranksor to the inside).


Joe -

Thanks. All good suggestions, and almost all things I had gone over myself or with several very experienced mechanics. I had mentioned the pulley last time and the mechanic seemed to think that it wasn't part of the issue.

I was also told by several mechanics that due to the way SRAM fronts shift, you do have to set up the front derailleur to indeed "overshift" a bit because it needs to push the chain over, and once the chain is on the big ring the derailleur comes back into position. Found this out when I set the limit screw as I would with most other derailleurs and had issues. 

The problem has been happening since day one but I am going to replace the cables and housing when season is over in any event.

I don't mind doing the right things to make it work but I also don't like the idea of having to throw money at a problem that really shouldn't be. Yes the article mentioned the pulley and the Gote-Tex sealed cables - both good improvements, no doubt. But when TIAGRA can shift more than fine without these upgrades and Rival can't, it seems a design issue.

Good luck with the problem. I am in agreement that Shimano has never given me a problem with front shifting on CX bikes. I do like SRAM's double-tap system however. Like you, just wished it worked better.


HA! I just switched to SRAM when I got this years Giant TCX1 and everything is great except for the front derailluer!  I was hoping to find a solution in this forum to the crap shifting at the front but it appears as though it rampant.  Has anyone tired gore-tex cables or a Force front derailluer with better results? 


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