Why do Bicycle Gears Slip and How to Handle Them?

Last updated on August 1st, 2017

Nothing is as annoying as slipping gears when riding. Slipping gears will occur due to some factors all of which can be avoided or handled. Bicycle gear slips will cause inconsistencies while riding as well as slow down a racer. They will also lead to one using more energy to cycle especially if the damaged gears are the heavier ones. It is important that you take the time to inspect the condition of your gears and chain before any ride. They will tend to wear with time and can be costly in the end. Repairing or replacing the gears and chains is easy if you know what the problem is. It is easy to tell that your gears are slipping right from the way the bike is handling. Slipping gears limit you to the use of certain gears on the bike which also limits you to the kind of terrain your bike can handle. You will end up using more energy to handle terrain that is not that difficult.

What causes gear slips?

Slipping gears and how to fix them

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Damaged cassettes

Worn cassettes will involve a damaged chain. The teeth will end up looking more like a ‘u’ instead of a ‘v’. The links will also be longer. The only solution to this is to buy a new chain and replace the cassettes. Longer chains will not fit snuggly into the sprockets which will cause consistent slipping and in the worst-case scenario the falling of the chain. This is caused by wear and tear which happens over a long time. Replacing your chain after a set number of miles will ensure that you do not encounter slipping due to worn out cassettes. This can also be done by inspecting the chain regularly to note the length of the links as well as the shape of the teeth on the cogs.

Bent Derailleur

The derailleur gauge needs to be straight when viewed from behind.  A bent measure will be the cause of some chain issues. Bringing it back to the original point will be costly if you do it yourself. This is because you can damage it even more. Taking your bike to handle the hanger will be ideal. Do not try to bend the hanger by yourself as you may end up regretting the action. A bent gauge will quickly shift the cable towards the side it is bent. It will also wear the chain out because the bike will be struggling to keep in gear while countering resistant from the derailleur.

Slipping gears and how to fix them

Photo Credit: Bike Radar

Grinding gear shifts cables

Cables can be fixed easily with a little lube where they enter and leave the outers. It is also ideal for you to remove the cables and replace with new ones. Cables can also get worn out and rough when dry. You can clean the original cable with a degreaser and apply lube on it before fitting it back. Grinding cables will not move easily when the gears are shifted, and this will cause a strain slipping the gears back to where they were. Very loose wires may also cause immobility in the gears. This may not be termed as slipping gears but will be one of the reasons why the gears will not shift. Checking the tensile strength as well as the condition of the cables in critical to the shifts the gears need to make.

Weak derailleur springs

A weak derailleur spring will lead to serious gear slips. An expensive one will allow you to replace the spring while a cheap one will need replacement. It is important that you take the time to lubricate all the parts and ensure that they are not predisposed to rust.

Some of the leading causes of damage to all these parts are weather and wear and tear from use. As long as a bike is on the road, it will become worn. Taking time to check in with a bike shop especially before a long trip will be wise. Slipping gears can make the trip longer than expected. The best news about this is that these parts are not very expensive to replace. They are however expensive when it comes to getting stuck on the road.

Some riders argue that water after degreasing will cause gear slips. This may be true in some instances which are why you need to clean and lube your bike well. This reduces the amount of damage and eventually the slipping action of the chain.

Things you can do to improve the shifting of gears

Slipping gears and how to fix them

Photo Credit: Cycling Weekly

  • Ensure that you use sufficient lube on all the moving parts of the gears all the way to the cog. This will slow wear and tear as well as facilitate the smooth transition of gears in all the parts.
  • Clean your bike and in particular the gears sufficiently. This does not mean using high-pressure cleaners but ensuring that there is no dust in any of these parts. You can then lube for the next trip or storage.
  • Replace all the moving parts religiously. You do not have to wait for the bike parts to fall apart before doing something about it. Replacing chains, derailleurs, and sprockets will ensure that your bike lasts longer and performs best.
  • Take time to visit a professional especially if you ride professionally. A good bike shop will do a thorough analysis of your bike gears and give you recommendations on the same. Neglecting your bike or fixing most of the issues on your own may lead to missing crucial problems on the gears.

Finally, it is recommended that you buy a bike with a suitable mechanism. Take time to assess and even get professional help when purchasing a bike with gears. It is easy to get conned into buying one with already dying gears which will lead to slipping in no time. A good bike will have the best parts that will ensure that you enjoy riding for a long time before replacements are required. Cheap bikes may have this issue, and so it is important that you steer clear of these.

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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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