Bike Chain Skipping – What to Do?

Do you find your bike chain skipping or slipping now and then? Most often, you may easily be able to repair it quickly without much cycling experience or tools.

However, sometimes, this issue may involve a more complex repair or replacement of bike parts.

bike chains and bike chain skipping
Bike Chains and Bike Chain Skipping or Slipping

Fortunately, it is easy to learn to fix this issue as long as you know how to go about it. You don’t even have to be a cycling pro or a mechanic for it.

In this article, we will tell you about the top reasons why you have a skipping bike chain and how to fix it the right way. Let’s dive in.

Reasons For Bike Chain Skipping

Here are some of the top reasons for why your bike chain keeps skipping:

Phantom Shifting

If the problem is bike chain skipping while pedaling hard, it is commonly called “phantom shifting” or “ghost shifting.” This usually happens when the cable stretches out over time and becomes weak and loose. You can easily tighten a bike chain. But if it is beyond repair, it is time to replace it.

Gear Indexing Problems

Another reason for a skipping bike chain is a drivetrain that requires a simple adjustment in its indexing. This is a common issue that occurs in even many new bikes. It is easy to diagnose and fix and only needs a quick turn of a barrel adjuster or a reset in cable tension.

Cable Tension

Cable tension is another problem that occurs with all bikes. Over time, bikes face cable-related mechanical issues due to cable stretching or corrosion.

If you have an old bike whose cable has not been refreshed regularly, it can lead to corrosion in the housing and extra friction in the shift cables. This causes poor gear performance, leading to multiple gears shifting at once or bike chain skipping while pedaling.

New bikes, too, can face the same problems if the internal routing cables are not installed properly. In this case, tight kinks or bends in the cables can result in too much friction.

Full-suspension MTBs are also prone to ghost-shifting at times. This happens if the length of the cable does not factor in changes in frame geometry, as the suspension compresses on a ride.

Worn Bike Chain

If your bike is old and worn, it could be that your bike chain is also worn, causing it to skip. Bike chains stretch over time with use. So, you must replace them periodically to maintain the drivetrain and keep it in optimal condition.

A chain checker tool can help you see if the chain is stretched and needs replacement.

Worn Cassette

If your bike chain is too clapped out and overstretched, it may be too late to replace only the chain. If the chain is way beyond the optimal replacement point, you may also have to replace your bike cassette while replacing the chain.

This is because the cassette cogs may already have suffered damage. So, they will do worse with wear and may not function properly, even with a brand-new chain.

Also, if you use a new chain on a worn-out cassette, you may have to deal with your bike chain skipping under load.

Damaged Or Dirty Drivetrain Parts

Worn-out or misaligned derailleur pulleys, bent or broken teeth on one or more cassette cogs, or old shifters causing indexing issues in a few gears can cause a bike chain to skip. 

Excessively dirty drivetrain components can also lead to shifting problems, such as a skipping chain.

Make sure to clean and lube your bike chain and other bike parts regularly to keep them free of rust and in working condition.

Incorrectly Installed Or Mismatched Drivetrain Parts

New bike drivetrains can be confusing to assemble or replace if you are going the DIY route. So, it is easy to make mistakes if you are not too familiar with component compatibility and interchangeability.

Fortunately, you can easily download manufacturer installation manuals from the internet. Read them carefully before trying to install or replace parts on your own.

Is It Dangerous?

A bike chain skipping is not always dangerous. However, it can cause poor shifting performance and increased wear on the drivetrain components, especially if the parts are already damaged. This may cause accidents and injuries while riding. If you’re biking across rough terrain, it can even be dangerous.

So, fixing the issues early on is best to prevent damage to the bike and you.

How To Fix It

If you have a bike chain skipping occasionally, there are many ways to fix it. 

We already told you about the need for regular cleaning, lubing, replacement, and correct installation of bike parts. 

But if the skipping issues arise even despite following these steps, here are two common ways to fix them:

Fixing A Skipping Chain In The Rear Derailleur

To fix a skipping chain in the rear derailleur, slide the chain into the smallest ring on the rear cassette and the larger ring in the middle of the front derailleur. 

Now, press your shifter once. If the chain does not shift up a gear, you must increase the cable tension.

Rotate the barrel adjuster on the right. You will find it on the brake, laterally opposite the brake lever. The brake cable moves through it as it passes into the shifter. Turn the barrel adjuster away from you by half a turn to unscrew it.

Now, move down to the smallest ring in the rear cassette, and press the shifter to check if the shifting is fine. If the bike is still not shifting, repeat the steps listed above. 

Once the first cog shifts properly, keep moving through the cassette gears and fine-tune with the barrel adjuster as you move ahead.

Fixing A Skipping Chain In The Front Derailleur

You can use the same method for the front derailleur, as it also has a barrel adjuster. But note that this barrel adjuster tensions in the opposite direction. So, you need to twist the adjuster toward you to increase tension.

If these methods don’t solve your chain-skipping problems, you will need to enlist the help of a mechanic.

Conclusion

Bike chain skipping is a fairly common issue. But these fixes will help you keep your bike in good condition and enjoy a smooth ride at all times.

We hope you enjoyed reading our article. If you found it useful, check out more such articles and guides on our website and learn more about your favorite sport.

Sources:

Last Updated on November 23, 2022 by Matthew Carpenter

Leave a Comment