Why does my bike chain skip? (and How to Fix)

The bike chain is an essential part of your bicycle’s drivetrain. An issue in the drivetrain will generate a lot of trouble, and one of the most common issues is bike chain skipping. 

That’s why so many cyclists ask why does my bike chain skip?

Well, there’s not one specific way to answer the question, because the chain is an essential part of the drivetrain, you’ll need to assess the entire drivetrain to spot any potential issues. By performing these regular inspections, you’ll be able to ensure that your chain remains in perfect health. 

These regular inspections will help you identify why the bike chain keeps slipping and address the problem as quickly as possible. While it might seem like a bit of a hassle, it becomes very simple to understand once you get into the habit. 

Why does my bike chain skip

Why’s it difficult to identify why your bike chain keeps slipping? 

There are plenty of different reasons that make it challenging to identify why your bike chain keeps slipping. It’s also made even more challenging because there’s no time frame where the problem might kick. 

A bike chain that keeps skipping is something that both a new bike and an old bike can suffer. The myriad of reasons why a bike chain might skip and the lack of time frame makes it difficult to identify what problem is causing the mess. 

That’s why periodic running inspections of the drivetrain is the only option available. Here’s everything you need to do to perform a proper inspection of your bike’s drivetrain. 

Reasons Behind why my Bike Chain Skips 

To understand why your bike chain keeps skipping, it’s essential to assess different components of the drivetrain and check if they’re functioning properly. If there’s an issue with any one of the drivetrain components, it could be the contributing factor to why your bike chain keeps skipping.

A Damaged Chain 

The main reason behind why a bike chain keeps slipping can potentially be a damaged chain. If you’re experiencing the problem after a significant period, a damaged chain could be causing the issue. 

It’s natural for the chain to showcase signs of wear and tear after you use it for a few months. High-intensity pedaling can significantly increase the level of wear and tear you’ll see on the chain. 

With time, it’s possible for the chain to get damaged and lose its shape. The plates will get stretched and cause misalignment with the cassette. 

When the chain loses shape, it can no longer maintain decent contact with the sprocket teeth and will start slipping when you try to pedal hard. 

If after your inspection, you feel like the chain isn’t in the best condition. It’s a good idea to replace the chain as quickly as possible; a damaged chain can increase the amount of wear and tear in your other components. 

The best way of getting a good idea of your chain health is by using a tool that’s known as a “ruler.” A ruler is very effective at helping beginner cyclists identify any potential issues with their chain and is available in many different shapes!

Whenever you get a new ruler, always be sure to read through the instruction manual. Most rulers have different ways of operating depending on their shape and size. 

Using too Much Lube

Most cyclists are starting to understand the importance of properly taking care of their bikes. However, there’s still a vast majority of people who don’t know how to properly take care of their bikes. 

A big portion of the maintenance mishaps that occur has to do with over-lubrication of the bike chain. Over-lubrication of the bike chain could be a reason behind why your bike chain keeps slipping so much.

When you add too much lube to the chain, it makes it much easier to slip over the sprocket teeth, especially when the chain starts to wear out. It’ll cause the bike chain to slip more often. 

A lubed-up chain won’t only cause the chain to skip, but it’ll also accelerate the overall wear and tear that the chain goes through. When you use the right amount of lube, it can help reduce the wear and tear you experience. 

However, when the chain has too much lube on the surface, it’ll become more of a source of dust and gravel. As they get mixed up with the lube, it’ll start to accelerate the deterioration. 

Drivetrain Doesn’t Work Together 

When cyclists start experiencing bike chain skipping, their first thought is to replace their chain with a new one. However, inexperienced cyclists tend to end up picking parts that aren’t compatible with their existing drivetrain. 

An incompatible drivetrain can be a contributing factor to why the bike chain keeps skipping. In case of major misalignment, it can also cause the bike chain to jump as well. 

If you decide to replace any component on your drivetrain, it’s important to check the compatibility first. Make sure that you pick a chain/cassette combination that works together effectively. Otherwise, you’re going to be in a significant amount of trouble. 

Worn Out Cassette 

If you got a new chain and it doesn’t fix the bike chain skipping, there might be another reason why it’s happening. In certain cases, a worn-out cassette is what causes the problem. 

When your bike chain isn’t in good condition, it can cause wear and tear on the cog teeth to increase. So even when you get a new chain, it won’t align properly with the cassette, which can often answer why is my bike chain skipping. 

It only becomes a problem when multiple sets of teeth are worn out. If it’s just one or two teeth, then there’s nothing you need to worry about. However, if one too many teeth are worn out, it’ll cause your bike chain’s condition to deteriorate as well. 

After you decide to replace the cassette, it’s essential to make sure that you pick a new one that fits properly and is compatible with your drivetrain. Actually, replacing and installing the cassette is also challenging; it’s good to visit a bike mechanic to help with the installation. 

Gearing System Issues 

Another common reason behind bike chain skipping is problems with the gear system on the bicycle. Any bad shifting will cause the chain to jump cogs and make the riding experience unpleasant. It’ll also make a cracking sound when you pedal, which can be very annoying. 

There are so many different parts in the gear system, so diagnosing exactly what’s causing the issue isn’t easy. To identify potential issues and determine whether it’s your gearing system that’s causing the bike chain to keep slipping, you’re going to have to look at the following components;

  • Rear Derailleur – It’s possible for a rear derailleur to lose its shape after an extended period. When a derailleur loses its shape, it causes a misalignment between the chain and the cogs. If your bike skips when pedaling hard, this might be a reason behind why 

Another common issue that occurs with the derailleur is that the hanger can lose its shape. The hanger loses its shape much easier in comparison to the derailleur. Periodically checking the alignment of the derailleur can help ensure that you don’t suffer from any issues. 

  • Low-quality Shifter – If your gear system features a low-quality shifter, then bike chain skipping will be a common occurrence. A bad shifter can loosen the cable tension, which can significantly deteriorate the quality of your shifting. 
  • Shifting Cable – Speaking of the shifting cable, the cable will stretch and lose the optimal tension after using it for a while. When the cable loses its shape, you’ll either have to readjust the cable or get a completely new one instead. 

Water Frozen inside Body 

Although it’s very situational, if you’re riding in the winter, there’s a chance that water went inside the cassette or freewheel body. In below-freezing temperatures, it’ll cause issues with the alignment.  

An easy way to fix the issue is by getting the bike warm. You don’t need to invest in any fancy tools. All you’re going to need is a hair dryer. A hairdryer will help speed up the process exponentially. 

While sometimes it might be enough to get rid of all the moisture present inside the bike, you may sometimes face a situation where there’s still some moisture inside the body. To effectively get rid of that moisture, you might need to flush the body out with solvent and lube. 

Lube’s super effective at getting rid of moisture stuck inside the body because water doesn’t like being around oil. 

Wheels aren’t straight 

Although it’s uncommon, it’s possible that the bike chain keeps slipping because your wheels aren’t properly straight. 

When the wheels aren’t straight it can cause alignment issues as well. Your bike chain skipping won’t stop if your bike has wheels that aren’t straight. It’s much easier for bike wheels to be bent out of shape than most cyclists assume. 

While you might not encounter the issue while you’re riding a road bike, mountain bikes tend to go through a lot more punishment. 

After your wheel is bent out of shape, there are two options that you can choose between. You can either true the wheel with a hydraulic press or go for a replacement option. 

However, a hydraulic press will only work if the wheel is slightly bent out of shape. In more drastic situations, the only option available to you is to go for a replacement wheel. 

Wrong Chain Link Width 

Another issue that occurs with replacement chains is that modern chains often feature different speed ratings. Most beginner cyclists don’t know about these different chain ratings and get one that doesn’t match their cassette. 

When the gear ratings don’t match, then chain width won’t fit with the cogs properly. An improper fit will cause the chain to skip frequently and significantly diminish your overall riding experience. 

Freehub Issues

Although it’s rare, sometimes cyclists can confuse freehub skipping with bike chain skipping. It’s very easy to get confused because the sensation you get is the same as chain skipping. 

If the freehub is making noise, it becomes much easier to identify that it’s an issue with the freehub and not the chain. The noise that a freehub makes is significantly different from the noise that a chain will make once it starts skipping. 

Once you identify that there’s some sort of issue with your freehub, it’s a good idea to replace the freehub body. If you’re having trouble finding a freehub body that matches the wheel, it might be a better idea to get a new wheel entirely. It’ll save you a lot more time than trying to fit a freehub body. 

Another issue that can arise with the freehub is that it can become misaligned with the wheel hub. Consequently, that means that the freehub loses the ability to turn the wheel properly. As the level of contact to turn the wheel decreases, it’ll cause the chain to start slipping. 

Depending on the designs that you get, some freehubs are more prone to losing their shape and causing skipping issues. 

These are the main things you need to identify why your bike chain keeps skipping. After performing a thorough inspection of the drivetrain, you’ll be able to identify why the chain keeps slipping and the steps you need to take to solve the issues. 


A bike chain that keeps skipping can be a very annoying experience. Nobody wants to go for a ride when your chain keeps skipping and causing problems. That’s why it’s important to understand what steps you need to take to solve issues. 

By performing a regular inspection of the drivetrain and understanding what it takes to fix the individual components, cyclists can make the best possible attempt to solve the issue. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Will a new bike chain still skip?

More often than not, getting a new bike chain can help fix any issues that you encounter with a bike chain that keeps skipping. However, it’s still possible for skipping to persist even with a brand new chain. 

That can happen sometimes because a new chain won’t be compatible with the cassette which will cause skipping. 

Q2. How to tell if your bike chain has the right amount of tension?

Installing the bike chain isn’t the only thing you have to worry about, you’ll also have to worry about the tension. Well there are no set guidelines, generally, your bike chain should be tight enough so that you can only move it an inch up or down. 

It’s definitely possible that your bike chain keeps skipping because it’s either too tight or too loose. 

Q3. Is a bike chain that slips dangerous?

Yes, a bike chain that slips can potentially be dangerous because of the sudden nature of the incident. It can easily catch beginner cyclists off-guard which in turn can easily lead to a potential injury.

James Dawson

After learning how to ride a bicycle much later than all the other kids, James Dawson hasn't looked back. The author now actively rides a bicycle as a part of the community cycling group and competes regularly in local competitions. Aside from that, he loves technology and always keeps up to date with the latest cycling tech.

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