Bike Chain Slipping When Pedaling Hard? Reasons & Tips

For any rider, gears slipping on a bicycle when pedaling hard is one of the most annoying situations. This bothersome problem is sometimes easy to predict. But in many cases, it is difficult to identify its causes.

This article will debunk 10 causes and provide useful tips to help you get rid of this nuisance.

Why Does My Bike Chain Skip?

When pedaling hard, you might face your chain skipping. There are many causes for this issue, such as:

  • Gear indexing problems
  • Loose cables
  • Old or worn-out component details
  • Improper chains
  • Inadequate chain oil

Below are 10 possible causes and explanations of your bike chain slipping:

Gear Indexing Issues

The first culprit is gear indexing issues. Since they are so common, you can observe these signals from many brand-new bikes.

Cable Tension

Loose cables are the second thing to blame for a new bicycle chain slipping.

In the first few rides, the new shifting cables stretch a lot. Once they have stretched excessively over time, your chain will start to slip between gears.

Broken Or Worn-out Chains

Chain is what you need to check first if your bike chain slips. This step is even more important when you have used the bikes for a long time. 

From time to time, the chain stretches with use. So, worn chainrings are inevitable. It would help if you regularly replaced it to maintain your driveline at its best.

Unsuitable Chain Size

Chain size is another reason for your bike chain slipping.

Big chains will create friction between the chain and sprockets, which causes pedaling resistance issues. On the other hand, chainrings that are smaller than your gear configuration cannot engage the drive sprocket with suitable force.

Worn Cassette

If the chain is damaged beyond repair due to wear and stretching, it is almost impossible to replace it.

This situation means that the bike’s cassette cogs have suffered from serious wear and corrosion. So a new chain will not function properly.

Dirty Components

When you ride for a long time, dirt and grime build up on drivetrain parts. And this also leads to shifting problems, such as skipping chains.

Misplaced Components

Alignment issue in the bike’s parts can be the culprit for your slipping bike chain. A misplaced front derailleur body is a vivid example. The two most popular problems with this part are limited screw setting and the wrong height.

Bent Derailleur Hangers

Most of the time, a bent derailleur is at fault. Derailleur hangers are likely to bend since they are made of fragile materials.

Not Enough Lubricant

Lubricant plays a crucial role in the functioning of mechanical parts. So you can think of this reason when finding your bike chain skipping.

The lack of lubrication reduces the friction between your bike parts. This makes them not move as easily as they should.

Damaged Sprockets

Sprockets are a typical bike component that can affect your chain. A faulty bike sprocket will make your chain slip, as insufficient cog teeth cannot keep the chain links tight.

Quick Fixes For A Chain That Skips

Fixes For A Chain That Skips

Tighten The Cable Manually

The simplest thing you can do is tighten the shift cables.

Go to your lowest cog and adjust the cable tension. If the chain is not parallel to the cogs next to it, continue to do this with more tension until you achieve flawless shifting performance. 

Limit screws should also be checked since they prevent the derailleur from removing the chain from the cogs on either end of a cassette. Timely adjustments will help you avoid a ruined derailleur and a stuck chain link.

These steps hold true with both the front and rear derailleur. But the barrel adjuster should be turned towards you (or the opposite direction of the rear one).

Straighten The Rear Derailleur

You can straighten the derailleur hanger if you notice that it is bent.

Work this with some specialized tools for bending. However, make sure you are familiar with them. Or else, you can bring your bicycle to the bike shop for professional repair. 

10 Tips To Prevent Chain Slipping On A Bike

Sprocket Adjustment

This is the easiest yet most effective way. Rotate the rear sprockets either clockwise or counterclockwise. However, try this on a bike that you do not mind being damaged on first.

Make sure you have the right tools on hand if you have a beautiful bike.

Sprocket Clean-up

All you need is a toothbrush and grease remover. Take the rear cassette out of the wheel and soak it in a bowl of this liquid. Leave it alone for a while. 

After that, clean the sprockets in and out with your toothbrush. Remember to re-oil it before reinstalling it.

Clean Your Pedals Regularly

This step will prevent dirt from building up in your pedal. 

Start with a degreaser to clean the impacted areas. Next, use a toothbrush to sweep dirt stuck between your crankset’s gears (the part of your bike where your pedals attach).

After cleaning all the debris, treat the chain with a rag and a thin layer of grease (or lubrication).

Avoid over-greasing since this can make it difficult to pedal smoothly and efficiently.

Regular Chain Clean-up

A dirty bicycle chain may slack to pedal. It is crucial to use top-notch chain lube to prevent this situation.

Remember to use a tiny brush when you have trouble getting into all the crevices of your bike chains.

Chainrings And Cassette Check-up

As soon as you find out your bike chain skips, check the chain and cassette first.

You can pull the bicycle while making a little pedal pressure to test. You need to tighten the chain when there is any slack in it.

The second step is checking the cassette chainrings. There should be no space between the gears. If the gaps appear, you can opt to fill or replace them.

Tip: Your crankset or chainrings keep slipping even after you have done the guides. Then, something else is wrong.

Cog Check-up

It is also very important to check the chainring cogs for wear. A worn-out cog can do more harm to a new chain.

A few worn cog teeth are normal. But if you see much more than that, you should replace the cassette immediately to prevent harm to your chain.

The chainring replacement process is simple and quick. Yet, you must use specialized tools: a chainring whip and a cassette tool. 

Do not forget to consult the manufacturer’s advice for proper chainring types. You know how improper chains result in terrible experiences.

Lubricate Your Chain

Take the chain off the bicycle. Clean the chain with a rag and a few drops of high-quality chain oil. Give the chain a thin oil coating and soak it in a metal tube.

Before putting the chain on your bicycle, ensure the sprockets and gears are lined up properly.

Derailleur Adjustment

Use your hand to remove the derailleur’s screw. It should have gears inside that work with your bicycle’s shifting mechanism.

Put a thin coat of chain oil on the two derailleurs’ bearings.

Make sure it is not too thick, which could make them slick while riding.

Check each derailleur manually. This will ensure it moves easily, smoothly, and without binding or catching noises.

Wheel Bearings Check-up

Take the wheel off your bicycle. See whether the bearings have any sign of wear or tear. The optimum equipments you can trust are a magnet and a magnetic screwdriver.

Should you figure out many bearing problems, it is necessary to repair more than one bearing at once.

Change Your Shift Cable

For a smooth drivetrain, you also need to notice the shifter cables. It is best to change the surrounding cable housing as well.

You must put your bike in the lowest gear. Next, turn the barrel adjuster and discard the old cables. Pull them out by loosening the derailleur’s clamp.

Final Words

When pedaling hard, bike gears slipping might get on your nerves when you first have it. But once you have known the root and ways to fix this issue, you will soon feel at ease.

If you have other pocket tips to fix bicycle chain skip problems, share them with us in the comment below.

See also: How to Remove Rust from Bike?


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Nathan Bergmann

Nathan Bergmann

Cycling Instructor at BikeDenver

I've been a semi-professional cyclist for 7 years and currently coach classes at BikeDenver. I want to share my passion and experience with those who love cycling, let me make your journey better.


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