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How to Shift Shimano RapidFire Trigger Shifters

shimano trigger shifter

Mountain bikes are typically equipped with either a grip shift or trigger shifters. The trigger shifters look more intimidating, but they are fun and easy to use once you get the hang of them.

Most likely, if your bike came with trigger shifters, they will be Shimano RapidFire Trigger shifters.

The Shimano Deore XT shifters are pictured to the left.

(For advice on shifting concepts in general, read my Beginner’s Guide to Shifting Gears.)

This article will explain how to use these Shimano RapidFire triggers…


Shimano RapidFire Shifting Basic Concepts

These shifters are very common on mountain bikes. In this case, you’ll have two small “triggers” beside each handlebar grip. There are two triggers on each shifter because the triggers only move in one direction.

The top trigger is in front of the handlebar, and it is operated by your index finger. The lower trigger (which is a little bigger) sits behind the handlebar and is operated by your thumb. The top trigger is pulled back towards you to shift; the bottom trigger is pushed forward to shift.

Pushing with your thumb will execute a shift to a larger cog or chainring. A quick pull with your index finger will shift to a smaller chainring or cog.

The complicated thing is, this could shift to an easier or a harder gear. It’s different on both shifters, so I’ll explain both sides…


Shimano RapidFire Shifting – Right Shifter, Rear Derailleur

The right shifter (the one operated by your right hand) operates the rear derailleur, moving the chain between the eight or nine cogs on the cassette.

To shift to a harder gear:

Pulling the smaller trigger in with your index finger will drop the chain down to a smaller cog.

To shift to an easier gear:

Pushing the bigger trigger with your thumb will push the chain up to a bigger cog.


Shimano RapidFire Shifting – Left Shifter, Front Derailleur

The left shifter (the one operated by your left hand) operates the front derailleur. It will move the chain between the three front chainrings.

To shift to a harder gear:

Pushing the bigger trigger with your thumb will push the chain up to a bigger chainring.

To shift to an easier gear:

Pulling the front trigger back with your index finger will drop the chain down to a smaller chainring.


Trigger shifters may sound complicated compared to the Grip Shift, but they aren’t a problem once you practice with them a little bit. Go practice shifting and you’ll have it memorized in no time!

[Notice: SRAM Trigger Shifters operate differently than Shimano RapidFire.]
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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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