Bike Chain Won’t Go Backwards: What to do?

Bike chain not going backwards is an actual problem faced by a number of cyclists. It is quite annoying to take out your bike for a ride only to find the chain is loose and won’t go backwards.

This article is all about why the bike chain won’t go backwards and what can be done to solve the issue. Regular maintenance is key to sustaining the lifespan of the bike. Regular application of grease and lube on the chain and crankset allow for a smooth riding experience.

How does a bike chain work?

The first thing to understand is how the bike chain works and the mechanism behind it. A bike chain consists of teeth/sprockets which are connected together. These teeth/sprockets is where the chain fits and moves when you pedal forward. This makes the bike go forward. However, when you pedal backwards, the bike does not move backwards as the sprockets are designed in this way so as to not move backwards.

Why the Bike Chain Won’t Go Backwards

Before diagnosing the problem of the bike chain not going backwards, we have to see what is causing the problem in the first place.

The bike chain’s inability to move backwards can mostly be attributed to loose chain. However, there may be some other reasons why the bike chain won’t go backwards.

Let’s look into detail the different causes of the bike chain not going backwards.

The chain may be loose

Having a loose chain is the most common cause of why the bike chain won’t go backwards. A loose chain will cause a number of problems while biking. The bike will have trouble shifting gears due to a loose chain.

You won’t be able to generate enough speed in the bike because of the loose chain. This is due to to the lack of tension in the chain.

Lack of tension in the chain also leads to further problems. Your chain will start dropping and eventually break.

Not enough lubricant

Skipping regular greasing of the bike will lead to a rusty chain. This lack of lubricant in the chain will cause the bike chain to move in a problematic way. A well lubed chain moves smoothly and lasts a long time. Normally, it is recommended to apply grease or lubricant on the bike’s components after a ride on the trails. This is an important step of bike maintenance.

Chainwheel may have been damaged

It is possible that the bike chain is not going backwards due to the chainwheel being damaged. Chainwheel can be damaged in a number of ways. Most commonly, riding in the rough trails may cause damage to the chainwheel. A rock may stuck the chainwheel and you may be unaware of it. Similarly, the bike chainwheel may also get damaged if the bike fell at an awkward angle. Damaged chainwheel will cause the chain to not move freely.

Chain may have dirt particles

Dust particles have the tendency to gradually build up over time. Lack of attention to cleaning and regular bike maintenance may cause the dust particles to come in between the smooth working of the chain. Dirt will increase the friction in the chain when you pedal, leading to the chain being overworked.

May be an issue with the alignment of the derailleur

Another possible reason why the bike chain won’t go backwards is that the derailleur may not be aligned properly. Therefore, keep an eye out on the alignment of the bike. The bike has both front and rear derailleurs. So be sure to check both of them to see if the alignment is right and the bolts are not loose.

Cassette might be deformed

Just like the chainwheel, a deformed cassette might also cause the bike chain to not go backwards. This is usually caused by the bike falling on a hard surface or being stuck with a rock or stray object underneath while cycling. If the cassette is deformed, the chain’s teeth will get stuck and move in a quite unsmooth manner.

Steps to Fix the Bike Chain That Won’t Go Backwards 

Now that we know the causes of the chain not moving backwards, let’s look at the solutions to it.

Lubricate the chain

Bike maintenance is extremely important. Applying lubricant regularly will enhance the lifespan of your bike. Lubricant makes all the bike parts work in a smooth and efficient manner. Therefore, don’t forget to apply lubricant to your bike chain, especially after a ride in the rough trails.

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Regularly clean the chain

Dirt particles can really build up over time and cause friction in the chain when you are pedaling. Therefore, it is important to regularly clean the bike chain to ensure no dust remains behind. We also recommend using WD40 for rust prevention.

Replace deformed chainwheel or cassette

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to repair a deformed chainwheel or cassette. You can DIY at home if you are experienced. However, buying a new chainwheel or cassette is much more reliable as you will have more peace of mind when you are cycling on the trails.

Tighten the loose chain

If the bike chain is loose, you will have to do some manual labor work to tighten the loose chain. You can use a screwdriver to tighten the bolts in the chainwheel and ensure that the chain sprockets are fitting perfectly in the chain. Having tension in the chain will help in cycling fast and efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does my chain get stuck when I pedal backwards?

This may be due to a number of factors. However, most common cause of the chain getting stuck is that it is loose and not moving properly. Accumulation of dirt, lack of greasing, and damage to the chainwheel are all possibilities as to why the chain may be getting stuck when you pedal backwards.

How do you fix a jammed chain?

Regular maintenance is key. Be sure to apply grease or lubricant on the bike chain to ensure it flows smoothly when pedaling. Regularly clean dirt buildup, especially after you hit the trails. You can fix a jammed chain by ensuring the chain teeth/sprockets are aligned correctly. If not, you can use a screwdriver to ensure everything is in line.

Can bikes go backwards?

Normally, bikes don’t go backwards. This is due to the design of the chain. The chain sprockets just move in a forward direction. You can customize your bike so that it moves backwards. However, it is quite hard to control the bike in a backward direction.

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