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Why Does My Bike Chain Skip? – 5 Causes and Solutions

Written by Gary Johnson / Fact checked by Henry Speciale

why does my bike chain skip

That dreaded noise that everyone fears when the chain passes over the front derailleur may indicate chain skips. Your bike chain skips when the chain does not move smoothly because of various causes like worn-out chains, dirt, rust, and others that lead to friction.

Like any object that gets regularly used or abused, your bike chain has to be taken care of – otherwise, it will skip and make all your work for yourself really difficult.

This guide will show you why does my bike chain skip and how to fix it once it happens.

List of Causes

If you’re reading this article and wondering “Why is my bike chain skipping when I pedal hard?”. That’s because we’ve all been there at one point or another.

Here we’ll take a closer look at the different causes and possible solutions to fix a slipping bike chain and when they jump under load and prevent it from happening too often.

#1 Worn-Out Components


The chain, freehub, or cassette of the bicycle may be worn out due to consistent wear-and-tear. This means that it is not able to rotate smoothly and quickly causing skipping whenever you ride your bike.

  • Chain – If your bicycle’s chain is very stretched or elongated in shape, this may result in a lost cable tension which causes slips and skips even while pedaling hard.
  • Freehub – A worn-out freehub shell may result in bad mechanical contact.
  • Cassette – A loose chain can also affect your bicycle’s cog teeth further worsening the skipping and slipping.
  • How To Fix?

In order to fix a skipping bike chain caused by worn-out chains, you have to first check if your chain is still good for use or needs replacement.

  • Pedal your bicycle until the largest chainring is placed at the front and the smallest at the back.
  • Pull the chain away from its place and check to see if there is a noticeable gap between the chain ring cogs and the chain itself.
  • If the gap is big then you may have to replace it with a new and compatible one. Else, the chain is still good to use.

Note: In case you have to change your chain, also inspect your freehub or cassette in case they need replacement. Just because one component is new doesn’t mean that you will get the optimal performance if the rest are in worse shape.

#2: Dirty Components


The other reason why your bike chain skips are due to dirt accumulation in the derailleur or bike rear cassette slipping.

The dirt usually accumulates on the front sprocket, back sprocket, or sprocket holes where they meet their respective cogs. Dirt can get into these gaps and cause friction between the two parts which causes skipping of the gear mechanism.

This might happen when you ride through heavy mud or rain, which gets stuck in the gears.

  • How To Fix?

Do a regular cleaning especially if you traversed a very rough terrain recently. Don’t let the dirt sit for too long or these lumps of grime will harden and damage your gears and other components.

#3 Incompatible Components


Although rare, there are still instances when a chain can be incorrectly placed or installed. The use of improper chains can cause skips due to the incorrect size.

This issue can occur if you have two different-sized chains on your bike, or if the chain has been swapped with another type of chain.

For derailleur chains, some cog sets have different numbered sprockets with different spacing in between each link. You must choose the correct chain length and type accordingly to avoid loose or tight tension.

  • How To Fix?

Check your bicycle’s manufacturer installation manual. This is a great way to determine which piece is incompatible and what is the correct component to use for your two-wheeler. Else, you should bring your vehicle to the local bike shop for a professional check-up and proper replacement.

#4 Lubrication Problem


Another reason for a bicycle chain skip is improper lubrication. If your bike has been sitting outside in the sun, then there’s a good chance that there’s not enough oil in the chain or sprocket, which can cause issues like this one.

If not fixed, your chain can rust, rot, and snap when used under pressure.

Too little lube is bad but so is too much. It’s a good idea to check your chain lube and make sure that you have the right amount of lubricant.

Lubricants are sticky in nature and too much solution can attract dirt and grime which will accumulate over time (Problem #2).

  • How To Fix?

Before using a lubricant, be sure to choose according to the terrain you are going to ride on. There are different types such as dry lube, wet lube, ceramic lube, and many more.

For the “too much lube” issue, do a post-lube cleaning where you will grab a rag and give a thorough wipe all over the chain. The lube should have permeated through the gaps of your chain and what you will do is just absorb and wipe off any excess solution.

#5 Indexing Adjustment Issue

Bike chain skipping can also be caused by simple shifting system problems. Shifting the gears of a bicycle with an indexing issue can cause bike gears slipping and even get the chain stuck mid-ride.

This problem may be common to MTB gears and mountain bike chain since they have different gear levels.

  • How To Fix?

You should bring out the manufacturer installation manual in order to do a simple cable tension reset or re-indexing your gear system to the correct place.

Why is My New Chain Slipping?

A new bike chain should fit perfectly on your bike, otherwise, it will not work properly. The slipping may be caused by component incompatibility or some indexing issue.

You may have to re-adjust your gears and make sure that your bike is balanced properly in order to avoid any problems.

Why is My Bike Chain Slipping in One Gear?


There are times when the chain slips when you pedal hard single speed. This popping sensation can be caused by various reasons.

In cases like this, try to check and investigate the possible cause of the chain slips and solve the problem with the solutions provided above.

How Do I Stop My Bike Chain From Jumping?

Before you go on a ride, you should always check the condition of your two-wheeler and its components.

  • Examine if everything is aligned and in the perfect place.
  • Are the components in tip-top shape?
  • Is the chain loose or is it too tight?
  • Are the cog teeth sharp or are some of them bent?

There are some simple ways to fix this problem, but keep in mind that this is more of a maintenance issue than a fix for it together.


Bike chains are a critical part of the bike. They transfer the power from the pedals to the wheels, and they can be very sensitive.

The problem with “Why does my bike chain skip?” is that it can be a sign that your bike needs some work. If you want your bicycle to last long, then you must take extra care in maintaining your two-wheeler.

I hope this article has been informative regarding the causes and solutions for bike chain skips.

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