Why Does My Bike Chain Skip

Why Does My Bike Chain Skip? 5 Tips And Solutions For Prevention

A skipping bike chain is extremely frustrating and can easily ruin your bike ride. Not knowing if your gears will change properly or skipping the chain impacts your riding performance and enjoyment.

There are several reasons your bike chain could be skipping while you ride and change gears. Some of those include a stretched chain, too much lube, a stretched gear cable, worn teeth on the cogs, or your rear derailleur hanger may have lost shape. Any of these would cause a bike chain to skip.

Let’s explore why your bike chain skips and look at five great ways to prevent this from happening in the future.

Your Bike Chain Skips Because Your Chain Is Worn 

This is the most common reason for a skipping chain while riding. Even though bike chains are strong, they will stretch over time, which causes the chain to become worn and loose on the cogs.

When the chain stretches, it loses the tension it needs to lock onto the gear teeth properly and securely, so it will end up skipping as you ride and change gears.

Tips & Solution For A Worn Chain

  1. Using the chain ruler ( a freely available tool to check chain tension), check your chain and see if the plates have stretched or the rollers have changed shape.
  2. If the chain has not stretched, you may need to make it shorter by removing one link using a chain tool and then testing it again.
  3. If your chain is worn, you need to replace it, and you can do this yourself or have it done by a bike mechanic at your local bike shop.

A Loose Cable Is Causing Your Bike Chain To Skip 

Another common cause of chain skipping is a loose cable. This typically happens after the first few rides on a new bike as the cables stretch with the use or when the cables have been in use for a long time without being changed or adjusted.

As the cable loses tension on the back derailleur, the chain doesn’t move properly over the cogs as you change gear, and this causes the chain to skip. There are a few tips and solutions to prevent this from happening.

Tips & Solutions For A Loose Cable 

Fortunately, loose cables are relatively easy to fix and check.

  1. Park your bike and pedal the bike manually, shift into the smallest cog, then shift up a gear and see if the chain moves.
  2. If it doesn’t, you need more tension, and you can tighten it using the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur. The cable passes through this before it gets to the shifter.
  3. Twist it away from you and then check whether the bike will shift gears as it should; keep adjusting until you find the sweet spot.
  4. If this doesn’t work, you need to check the cable itself and see if there is too much or too little slack.
  5. You may need to manually adjust the cable using the screw that controls the tension as the cable exits the derailleur.
  6. Adjust it until the bike shifts gears as it should.

If these solutions don’t fix the issue, you may need to replace your cable, but try this before spending money.

Your Bike Chain Skips Because There Is Too Much Lube

While you need lube on your chain and sprockets to prevent rust and allow the chain and metal parts to move properly, too much lube can have the opposite effect and cause the chain to skip.

This happens because when there is too much lube, the chain skips over the cogs as it loses the proper contact between the chain and the cog teeth.

Tips & Solutions To Prevent Over-Lubrication 

Please don’t use too much lube on the chain as this will make it act like a magnet and a sponge for dirt, and this will lead to your chain becoming worn out and stretching faster than usual.

When it comes to lube on a bike, less is always more, so only use just enough to be effective.

  1. First, with your bike on the stand, use a degreaser to remove any dirt and grime from the chain.
  2. Use one drop of chain lube on each link and cycle the chain backward to allow the lube to penetrate the chain links and onto the cogs.
  3. Wipe any excess lube off with a cloth and ONLY use proper bike chain lube!

Your Bike Chain Skips Because Your Cogs Are Worn

After years of riding, your cog teeth will start to wear down and lose their ability to lock the chain in when changing gears properly. This often occurs on the most used cogs, and there is no other solution than to change them.

As the chain wears over time, it ‘eats’ the head of the cog teeth. 

Tips & Solutions For Worn Cog Teeth 

Having one or two teeth worn on gear cogs is not unusual, but having your new chain slip or experiencing increasing incidences of chain slipping, could indicate it may be time to change your cassette.

  1. Check the condition of the teeth on each cog and if you see more than two damaged teeth heads, consider changing your cassette.
  2. If you have just put on a new chain and you find your chain skipping, you may need to check the cog teeth as well.

A Worn Rear Derailleur Can Cause Your Chain To Skip 

The rear derailleur takes a lot of punishment, and with impacts and wear, it may lose its shape, and this can cause the chain to skip.  The rear derailleur hangar may also be the culprit as it can bend and cause misalignment between the chain and the cogs as you shift gears.

Tips & Solutions For A Worn Rear Derailleur Hanger

  1. Set your bike in the park or on a stand and shift through the gears. Check whether the derailleur hanger is aligned properly as you change gears or whether it has bent to the outside.
  2. If it has bent slightly , you may be able to straighten it using a little force and a shifting spanner or pliers.
  3. Bend it a little and then check the shifting and see if the bike chain shifts properly.
  4. If not, you can then bend it a little more until it comes right. Do this carefully to avoid damaging the hanger.
  5. Some hangers cannot be repaired and need replacing; check your bike shop on yours if you aren’t sure.

Conclusion 

These are the leading causes for your bike chain skipping while riding or changing gears, and with a few simple checks on the drivetrain components, you can eliminate this irritation from your riding.

Remember that if you feel you don’t have the experience to do this at home, your local bike pro can help even if it costs a few bucks to sort it out; a better riding experience will justify the cost.

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