Why is my Bike so Hard to Pedal?

When you’re cycling regularly, it’s possible for some factors to contribute to a decrease in pedaling efficiency. The most common question asked by most bike owners is, ‘Why is my bike so hard to pedal?’ 

If you’re encountering a similar issue, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not an unusual problem. Almost every cyclist you meet will recall a time when they asked why is my bike so hard to pedal?

While it’s not an unusual problem, there’s definitely potential for a lot of trouble. If not addressed properly, it can lead to a significant issue in the near future. If your bicycle becomes hard to pedal there’s clearly something wrong with the bike.

To diagnose the definite cause for why your bike is difficult to pedal it’s important to understand all the different reasons behind what might be causing the trouble.

Keep reading to find out more about what makes your bicycle difficult to pedal.

Why is my bike so hard to pedal?

If you feel like your bike is hard to pedal, then there are a few reasons that could contribute. From a brake pad that’s coming into contact with the wheels to a dirty bike chain, several factors could contribute towards making your bike harder to pedal.

As bicycles continue to evolve, their pedaling efficiency continues to increase drastically. The bikes are easier to ride and they’ve made a number of changes to combat the pedaling issue. They’re introducing simply gears, better bikes, light-weight bikes, and ones that provide high levels of comfort.

There can be different reasons as to why your bike may be hard to pedal. These could range from simple problems like the wrong gear, bumpy terrain, the height of the saddle, etc. The issue can also be a complex one, like rusty chains that are harder to fix.  

How to Figure Out Issues with the Pedaling of a Bike?

If you feel that your bike is hard to pedal, that means something is preventing your bike from functioning normally. These issues are in the bike’s drive train, which are the different factors that help move a bike forward.

Drivetrains consist of:

  • Chain Rings
  • Brakes
  • Pedals
  • Bike Chain
  • Tires
  • Cranks
  • Cogs  

If you’re experiencing that your bike pedals are hard to turn, you could inspect the different components that are involved in the pedaling process.

You need to ensure that all the components are intact and that none of them are too loose, tight, dirty, or haven’t been lubricated.  

The most common issue that impacts the drivetrain is a dirty chain or one that’s too tight.

Factors that impact how hard your bike is to pedal

There are plenty of different factors that impact how hard it is for you to pedal your bike.

These include:

Being in the wrong gear

The most common reason for pedaling problems and the easiest to troubleshoot is the wrong gear. Pedaling can be very difficult when you’re cycling uphill or just starting to ride, being in the wrong gear can make things worse.

However, if you start with low gear, it’s easy to get started with a shifter. Then increase that speed and slowly adjust to a higher gear.

If your gear is too high, the cadence (revs per minute or RPM) will not be on point. Hence, a cadence monitor makes it easy to keep on track.

The revolutions per minute vary from person to person, but experts usually recommend an RPM that is close to 90 RPM on flat roads and 7080 RPM on hills.

If you push too hard and the speed is slow, shifting to a lower gear is recommended. If you overdo it, it will only hurt your knee.

If your bike is relatively new, you tend to confuse high gear with a low gear. Shifting your bike to low gear makes pedaling comparatively easier, but you’ll need to rotate the pedals further to reach high speeds.

Low gear is mostly used for uphill driving and extra-weight driving.

Friction between tire and brake pads

Another common reason for bikes being hard to pedal is the friction being caused between the tire and brake pads.

A common cause of friction is the rubbing of the rims of the bike against the brake pads. Fixing this problem can be as simple as a simple brake adjustment, but other factors can also affect this. For example, a bent rubber makes it more inconvenient to fit.

There are also times when newer bikes have very tight bearings, which you can check by removing the wheel and cranking the hub shaft. Although this procedure requires some professional tools and some knowledge of cycling mechanics. It is recommended that you contact your mechanic directly.

Tire Pressure is too Low

Riding a bike with tire pressure that is too low has a direct relationship to overall bike speed. When the tire pressure is low that means more of the bike will come in contact with the road.

Consequently, cyclists will need to pedal much harder than what you would normally do to maintain a certain tempo.

For instance, if you’re riding your bike with other riders, you’ll have to pedal much harder to keep up. It also makes your bike more to suffering from tiny punctures which cause air to escape out rapidly.

So, when this happens, you should stop the bike as soon as possible and replace the punctured tire. The rubber should also be checked very carefully, but punctures are caused by minor scratches and not necessarily dents in the tire.

What is the easiest tire maintenance you can do? Check the tire pressure regularly. Not only is this one of the simplest maintenance tasks you can perform on your road bike, but it’s also one of the main reasons for getting more performance from your ride.

Flat tires and tires with low air pressure have higher rolling resistance. As resistance increases, you need to step on the pedal hard. Check the tire pressure before you set out. If the tire looks a little flat, use a bicycle pump to fill the tire. You also need to use a pump with a pneumatic gauge.

Rubbing between rubber and frame

One of the reasons the bike gets stiff when pedaling is that the rubber rubs against the frame. This can be a bent rubber, fork (for front wheels), or frame (for rear wheels) wheels.

The rubber is also misaligned. This often happens on older bicycles with eyelets on the frame to absorb the tension in the chain. If the rear axle is not properly adjusted in the frame, the chain may be pulled, and the wheels may slip when pedaling.

Bottom bracket is too tight

Bottom brackets that rotate the pedal cranks are usually too tight and can cause considerable friction. This problem is common on very cheap and very old bikes where the bottom bracket is misaligned. This can be confirmed by removing the chain from the chainring and ensuring no friction with rotating objects.

In addition, proper adjustment of the bottom bracket requires some specialized tools and hands-on mechanic knowledge. Therefore, it is advisable to contact an expert to perform the procedure.

If friction is caused because of this reason, the best option is to replace the adjustable bottom bracket with the latest cartridge bottom bracket. This will enable the riding experience of the bike to be much easier and smoother.

Some other common reasons

Depending on the type of brake, misaligned brakes can rub against the brake discs and wheel rims. Pedaling becomes quite annoying as the resistance of the brake increases. If you look directly at the bike from behind, the brake pads, gears, and wheels should be parallel.

Off-center rim brake pads can come into contact with the rim of the wheel and require pedaling hard. Eccentric disc brakes can increase rotor friction. Check the alignment of the brake pads with the rim or rotor.

Rotate the rear wheels and look for uneven gaps between the pads and the rim or rotor. Make sure they are correct and not angled.

“Out of true” wheels no longer maintain full tension between the spokes of the bike. One side begins to pull, and the other side relaxes. This will deform the shape of the wheel. On wheels with an unbalanced profile, the rim can bend to the side that holds more tension.

Due to the deformed shape, the rim rubs against the brakes, making pedaling difficult. In addition to the difficulty of pedaling, you may hear grinding and fricatives as the rim rubs the brakes.

If the chain is well lubricated, the drivetrain will be efficient. So, you don’t have to work that hard (that is, the bike isn’t that hard to pedal). Lubricants also reduce the amount of dirt that builds upon the bike during the rainy season and soothe the shift.

Are Fat Tire Bikes hard to pedal?

Most people think it’s difficult to ride a fat bike just by looking at it. They don’t look very agile. They just look very heavy. However, that isn’t the case. As fat bikes have thicker tires, they are easy to ride in extreme weather.

They make the ride rather smooth and easy as compared to other bikes. Wide tires distribute the weight of the bike and rider enough to teach the impact on the terrain. This allows the driver to drive in difficult areas without feeling the tires sinking into the terrain.

Fatbikes are very easy to learn as they are less likely to get out of balance or tip over. It is convenient to get on and off as many times as you need during your trip. It gives the driver confidence even if they don’t have much now.

For health reasons, driving with thick tires is easy. Vibration is reduced due to the stability provided by the tire. Although there is a risk of injury to the lower back and knees, I feel that it is easier for the elderly to incorporate a comfortable ride into their daily lives.

The fat bike also reduces the chance of an accident. There is always a risk of injury when riding a bicycle, but thicker tires are safer for those unfamiliar with the general ride quality.

Hence, fat bikes shouldn’t be judged by their looks. They are comfortable to ride and aren’t hard to pedal like people perceive.

Why is my Bike so Hard to Pedal?

How to Make Your Bike Easier to Pedal?

Clean your bike

Without a doubt, a clean bike is a fast bike. Not only does it have the psychological advantage of looking down in the sunlight between your feet and seeing your pride and joy shine, but it also keeps mud and dirt out of your drives and cables, making your bike even more, especially during the winter months. Efficient and saves spare parts costs in the long run.

Lube the Chain

Once you’ve scraped off the drivetrain and glossed it to look like new, you also need to make sure it works smoothly. A well-lubricated chain makes the drivetrain more efficient.

This means that mechanical inefficiencies do not waste power and reduce the amount of dirt the chain picks up on wet rides.

Lower the Front End

It’s a proven fact that improving the aerodynamics is the fastest and easiest way to ride faster. Remove the fork, remove one or two spacers, then reattach the spacers to the top and reattach the stem.

However, please note that your body may not be able to respond to sudden changes in position. Therefore, gradually lower the front end for flexibility to prevent injury.

Saddle Height

A saddle that is not adjusted to the correct height will not only cause injury and discomfort but will also slow down, reduce the efficiency of pedal strokes and prevent you from getting all the power through the pedals.

Adjust Pedal Tension

Different pedal systems have different spring tension adjustments, so you’ll need to do your own research here but keep the cleats firmly when riding from the saddle while giving them a little buoyancy to prevent injury. Please adjust so that the tension is the right amount ensuring a comfortable ride.

Tire Pressure

Check the tire pressure regularly. Not only is this one of the simplest maintenance tasks you can perform on your road bike, but it’s also one of the main reasons for getting more performance from your ride.

Gears properly adjusted

If your gears aren’t properly adjusted, it can ruin your bike ride. Making certain your gears are running nicely will boom the performance of your drivetrain, and go away you extra assured to place the energy down, mainly on steep gradients, understanding that you’re now no longer unexpectedly going to be thrown into every other sprocket.

Conclusion

There are many different reasons that can lead to a hard-pedaling experience. These can range from simpler problems like lubrication issues, wrong gear along with others. These are simpler to solve. However, there are cases when the problem is more complex, like rusted chains and misaligned brakes.

Moreover, these issues aren’t hard to solve. There are different precautions and maintenance checks that can be made to solve the problems.

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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