How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free

As I mentioned in my Week Two round-up for the 30 Days of Biking effort, last week my chain came off while we rode up the hill in search of frozen yogurt.

My husband called out from behind me, “Shift and pedal it back on!”

In the heat of the moment as he tried to instruct me while I kept rolling, I didn’t quite pull off this magic trick. Instead I managed to wrap the chain quite solidly around the pedal shank. We stopped and he was the one to get the greasy hands putting the chain back on.

Up ’til now, every time I’ve dropped a chain—usually by shifting one more time when I’m already on the big (outside) ring in the front so the chain comes off on the outside, but sometimes the equivalent action on the inside toward the bike—I have had to get off the bike and get all greasy putting the chain back on.

But no more! After we were safely seated with our frozen yogurt Sweet Hubs explained exactly how to get the chain back on without stopping if it comes off the front rings.

I’ve done this twice in the past week. Yes, I’m apparently quite prone to this particular shifting error–I like to think it’s because I’m so strong that the top gear just doesn’t feel hard enough. I am here, grease-free, to attest that it works.

When your chain comes off the big ring, which you’ll know because you no longer feel that you’re pushing anything when you pedal (accompanied by a chain-rattling sound), do this:

  1. Shift toward the middle: Up (toward the “harder” end) if the chain dropped off toward the bike, down if it dropped off on the outside. (Note: This assumes you know which hand shifts which set of rings–something with which you should familiarize yourself ASAP. On bikes sold in the US you should accomplish this shift with the left hand.)
  2. Pedal gently.
  3. The chain guide that helps shift the chain over will catch the chain and move it in the right direction. (Note: If you ride a fixie you don’t have a chain guide. Prepare for grease.)
  4. The chain will climb back on as the teeth on the cogs roll past.
  5. Keep riding!

So simple.

——————

Posts in our 30 Days of Biking Blogging Inspiration & How-to Series for Sept. 2011 30 Days of Biking

  1. 30 Days of Bike Commuting: You Can Do It!
  2. Why We Ride/Resolve to Ride–A Blogspedition
  3. Preparing to Commute by Bike: Get the Worry out of the Way
  4. Buying a Bike for Commuting: Some Questions and a Blogspedition
  5. How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together
  6. Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff
  7. On a Roll with Wilma Flanagan
  8. 30 Days of Biking: Week One Report
  9. Ride with your Community: SpokeFest Rocks!
  10. There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
  11. Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
  12. More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
  13. Thinking Like a Driver vs. Thinking Like a Bicyclist
  14. Biking as Downtime and other Musings on Overproductivity
  15. 30 Days of Biking: Week Two Report
  16. On a Roll with Katherine Widing
  17. I Shouldn’t Assume
  18. Falling Down on Your Bike. It Happens. To Grown-Ups.
  19. Pretty Handy, Gloves. The Blogspedition Assumes You’ll Get ‘Em.
  20. What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.
  21. How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free
  22. 30 Days of Biking: Week Three!
  23. It’s All in the Attitude
  24. Things I Now Do on My Bike Without Having to Think About It
  25. Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Risk and Trust
  26. More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Friendliness and Openness
  27. Even More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Tolerance, Humor, and Persistence
  28. Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style
  29. Dear Reader, I Chicked Him
  30. 30 Days of Biking: Final Report!

Your Turn

  • What common mechanical problems do you wish you could fix?
  • Have you had any great “aha!” moments figuring out some mechanical trick with your bike?
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32 Responses to “How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free”

  1. If you are having this problem, it is likely that your high and low limit screws on your derailleur are not adjusted quite right. They keep the derailleur from moving too far in either direction and dropping the chain. Also, if the pedaling trick doesn’t work, you can grab a stick or similar item and use it to “nudge” the chain back on while rotating the pedals (this is done when you are off the bike, of course).

  2. Can’t figure out how this would work. I usually drop a chain to the outside and it is flopping around my right crank, operator error when shifting :(. I could shift all day and the chain till not come bcd on.

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