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Why Is My Bike So Hard to Pedal? – The Ten Possible Reasons

Written by Gary Johnson / Fact checked by Henry Speciale

why is my bike so hard to pedal

There are instances that you barely get to turn your pedals when cycling and would normally ask yourself – why is my bike so hard to pedal?

Well, struggling to pedal is a common problem among hobbyists, especially when you fail to perform regular maintenance checks. You might find your pedals hard to turn because of a filthy chain or an increased tension on the cassette area, which should easily be resolved.

So, in order to correctly identify the cause of the problem, continue to read this guide.


Identifying the Problem

1. Rusty chain


For those who frequently use bicycles in wet areas without lubricating the chain, having a rusty chain can be an issue. The build up of rusts on the bike chain can be why you find it hard to pedal.

The rusts that go to your bike chain may penetrate other components of your bike like drivetrain, derailleur, cogs, or chainrings. As a result, there will be an increased tension in these areas when you try pedaling the bike.

Thus, it is essential to perform a routine cleaning and oiling your chain. This can lessen the build up of rust or debris, and ensure that the bike chain is protected from any form of corrosion.

2. Not enough tire pressure

If you have a flat tire or a tire with low air pressure, you might find it hard to pedal as well. Having a flat tire or those with low air pressure creates rolling resistance. The force induced by your tire means you have to pedal harder.

If you notice that you put more effort on pedaling, inspect your bicycle immediately. If it is flat or does not have enough air pressure, inflate your tire using a bike pump. Make sure that you do not over inflate your bike too.

Then, test drive your gear and check whether your bike or even your exercise bike is hard to pedal. Start from lower gear. If you find it difficult to pedal, increase your gear until you can pedal smoothly and easily.

3. Misaligned brakes


If you have misaligned brakes, you will also encounter a mountain bike too hard to pedal. The brake rubs against the rotor or the rim of your bike wheel. To ensure that your brake is properly aligned, the brake pads, bike wheels, and gears must be parallel to each other.

You can spin the wheel and look for any inconsistent gaps among the rotor, rim, and brake pads. If you find a gap, you can adjust the rotor or the bike rim.

4. Out-of-true wheels

If you have out-of-true wheels, you will notice that they wobble laterally from one side to another. This can also result in difficult pedaling because your wheels no longer maintain the right tension among the bicycle spokes.

Uneven spokes can deform the shape of your bicycle. A deformed wheel can result in a bike rim grinding against the brakes. Thus, you will have a bike hard to pedal. You will also hear a disturbing noise indicating that your rim rubs against your brakes.

To address the issue, loosen the bike spokes on the area that you feel more tension. It is important to relieve the tension to realign the shape of the bicycle wheel. If the issue persists, you can consider replacing your wheels.

5. Broke cartridge system or cup-and-cone bearings

When you have a damaged cartridge system or cup-and-cone bearings, pedaling and steering will be harder. It is important to address the problem right away to avoid accidents in the future. You should remove the bearing from the hub and clean it using a degreaser.

Then, make sure you lubricate the bearing before reinstalling it. If you still encounter difficulty in pedaling after repairing the cartridge, you might need to replace it with a new cartridge system.

For a cup-and-cone bearing system, you can simply inspect the bearing for any dirt or debris. Clean the bearings or replace them.

6. Mudguards


You can rely on mudguards in wet or muddy conditions. They are important in protecting the tires from spraying while you are on the road. However, mudguards can also makes pedaling harder.

When the bike mudguards extend too far or are attached improperly, they can also create friction to the rear tire. If this happens, you need to exert more effort in pedaling. You should remove the mudguards and take your bike for a spin.

7. Tight components

Ensure that the hubs, axle, brakes, pedals, and pedal crank are properly installed. You need to regularly check your bike to make sure that none of these components are grinding while you pedal.

To test drive your bike, switch to lowest gear, turn your bicycle over, and rotate your bike wheel. It is important that all the components are running smoothly. While you are rotating your bike wheel, you should pay attention to the parts you feel an increased tension. Loosen the part a bit and spin the bike wheel again.

8. Small bike frame

Bike frame size can heavily impact your pedaling experience. If you have a small frame, your legs may not have enough room for you to pedal comfortably. You might engage in a cramped position; thus, it would be harder for you to pedal on your bike.

You can use a bicycle size chart and check the right frame for your equipment. Based on your height, choose the correct frame size for you. If you are 5’7 foot tall, size 16 or 17 frames are ideal.

9. Wrong saddle height


If your saddle is too high, you will not be able to pedal comfortably. It is essential that you are in the right posture when you pedal. It can put less energy when pedaling, too.

Incorrect saddle height can also cause hip, back, and knee pain when biking. Ensure that the positions of your bike saddles, handlebar, cleats are correct. In this way, pedaling is easy and you can put the right amount of energy on your legs or knees.

10. Wrong gears

Bike gears have a crucial effect on your overall biking experience. Even single speed bike can be hard to pedal. If you ride using the wrong gear, your equipment will not perform optimally. The wrong ratio combination can also lead to difficulty in pedaling. Even if you’ve just purchase a bike, you will find your new bicycle hard to pedal if you are using the wrong gear.

Ensure you are choosing the right gear when climbing a hill, riding on a flat surface or biking downhill. You will notice that you do not have to put in too much effort when you pedal, too.


There are plenty of reasons why is my bike so hard to pedal. It can be because of failing bike components, wrong settings, or improper use of gear. To prevent this, it is crucial to regularly inspect your bike or perform a routine check. In this way, you can be certain that all your bike components are operating at their best.

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