The Cycling Trick That Will Surprise Your Fellow Riders
As a longtime cycling coach — and avid rider of over 35 years — Darryl MacKenzie has heard (and answered) just about every cycling question you can think of. From serious safety concerns to training tune-ups, he’s handled a little bit of everything.
Over time, he’s turned those questions into a never-ending supply of tips for his fellow riders. Those tips have helped countless cyclists get better at pedaling and grow more committed to the sport.
But there’s one particular tip that’s always sparked an extra surge of surprise when cyclists try it out. Maybe that’s because it almost seems like he’s given them a magic trick. It may not be magic, but it’s a trick no rider can live without.
“Every cyclist should have this skill perfected!” says Darryl.
Read on to find out what it is.
The Awkward Shame of a Dropped Chain
Whether you’re a new rider or a longtime cyclist, there’s one thing that can make you feel especially embarrassed around other riders: a dropped chain. There’s nothing quite like the sinking feeling you get when you’re pedaling along with the group, keeping a steady pace, and suddenly you lose all your power. You feel like a clown as your pedals spin fast and free while you slow to a halt.
“There’s something almost degrading about it — especially when you’re riding with someone else — when you have to stop, get off your bike, get your fingers dirty, and put the chain back on again,” says Coach Darryl.
If the whole group has to stop and wait while you fix it, you may feel an extra twinge of shame. But, there’s nothing you could have done, right? Dropped chains happen, and you’ve always got to stop to fix them. Everyone knows that.
How To Fix a Drop Chain Without Stopping Your Bike
Not so fast. Darryl has a trick that will turn that whole situation on its head. Your moment of embarrassment can become a point of pride, and your fellow riders’ annoyance will transform into awe.
In many cases, you can fix that dropped chain without ever stepping off the bike. You don’t have to stop, and you don’t have to get your hands dirty. As long as you can keep your momentum going (sorry, this won’t work uphill), you can make some magic happen. Here’s how:
- Inspect your chain: As you continue to coast, carefully look down at your front chainrings to see where the chain came off. Note whether it’s loose on the inside or outside of the chainrings.
- Shift your front derailleur: Shift your derailleur into the position farthest from where the chain came off. For example, if the chain came off on the outside, you’ll need to shift to the innermost gear.
- Pedal slowly: Rotate your pedals very slowly, allowing your derailleur to pull your chain past the closest chainring onto the opposite chainring and drop it into position. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to your pedals.
In most cases — maybe eight out of 10 times — your drivetrain will be humming again in seconds. And your fellow riders will look at each other in shock. However, it gets a little tricky if your chain is on one of the smallest or largest cogs in the back, as this could leave too much or too little slack for you to work with. In that case, you may just have to fix your chain without magic.
Prevent Dropped Chains in the First Place
As fun as it is to impress your fellow cyclists with this little trick, you may find it even more rewarding to simply avoid dropped chains altogether. After all, they can damage your frame in some cases.
One of the biggest reasons cyclists drop their chains — and one of the easiest to avoid — is that they get cross-chained. This occurs when you shift your chain into opposite extremes in the front and back. So, you might have it on the outer chainring and the inner cog, for example. Then, when you try to shift toward the inner chainring in front, the chain will likely go too far due to the extra tension pulling that way from the rear.
To avoid this problem, it’s always best to ensure you only shift in front when your chain is not on the three cogs on the outside or inside in the rear. If you have eight cogs, that means your chain should be on one of the inner two before you shift in front.
Avoiding cross-chaining should largely prevent you from dropping your chain. However, in some cases, your derailleur may get misaligned, causing it to pull your chain off the chainrings frequently. That calls for a visit to your mechanic.
If you truly want to avoid dropped chains, there’s only one (nearly) fool-proof solution: Switch to electronic shifters. Just as replacing your old saddle with a Selle Anatomica saddle will eliminate saddle soreness, electronic shifters will take care of your chain-dropping ways. You won’t get to perform your magic trick, but it may well be worth it.
Image by Andreas Mayer from Pixabay