Learn what causes skipping chains and what you can do about it
There are two main causes for skipping chains. The most common cause is the misalignment of the rear cogs and the chain itself. The second most common cause of skipping chains is wearing on the chain, cassette, and/or the chainrings. Read below to see what causes each and how you can prevent chain skipping and extend the life of your bike.
There are several things that can cause the misalignment of the rear cogs and the chain.
- Improper cable tension. When the tension is incorrect the chain does not sit in line with the corresponding cassette cog and is trying to jump to the next cog.
- Dirty cable. The dirt prevents the cable from moving like it needs to.
- Slightly bent hanger for the rear derailleur. Can affect the alignment.
Skipping chains will wear on the chain, cassette, and/or the chainrings. The chain is the most likely to wear out first since it is made entirely of small, moving parts. Those parts tend to wear out faster when they are dirty or ridden dry. Chains on most modern drivetrains usually last anywhere from 1500 to 2000 miles. This can change depending on your riding style and how well you maintain your bike. If you keep your drivetrain clean and you tend to spin at a slightly higher cadence then you will get more mileage out of your chain. Follow these six steps to clean your drivetrain.
When the chain wears, it no longer sits evenly on the cassette cogs and chainrings. As this goes on the chain will eventually start to jump since the chain wears much faster than the cassette and chainrings. If you let your chain go too long it will start to wear down the teeth of the cassette first and then the chainrings. If the chain is replaced before it is too worn the cassette and chainrings will outlast the chain many times over. You’d much rather want to replace your chain than the cassette and chainrings.
Pro tip: Use this bike tool to measure chain wear at home.