(Editor’s note: Dear Pedalheads is a weekly feature that will run through the summer with members of the local Team Whistler cycling crew answering your questions about all things biking. Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
This week’s question:
I often drop my chain when riding my road bike (and sometimes while mountain biking, too). It usually happens when I am climbing and I lose momentum when
I have to stop and fix it. What am I doing wrong?
Dear Chain Reaction,
Dropping the chain can be very frustrating, not to mention the bruises from hitting your knee on the handle bar or, worse yet, crashing. The cause can come for different reasons ranging from pilot error to mechanical issues.
Pilot error is easy to rectify. Try to anticipate when you will need to make a gear shift entering the hill before you put a lot of pressure to the pedals. The biggest problem is shifting a lot of gears or even one gear under load when standing on the pedals going up the hill. Try to shift one gear at a time and reduce the pedal pressure just a little when you make the shift.
If you have a well-tuned bike, it is hard to make the chain drop even with bad shifting, so let's work on the mechanical side.
You didn't mention if the problem was the front or back, but we will cover both. First check the derailleur travel. Make sure the travel from left to right of the derailleur is properly spaced over the cassette or chain rings. This is done with the limiter screws and is the biggest cause of chain drop.
Next, check your chain — if it is worn out, it will have stretched. This is bad. This will make the chain roll over those little spikes on your chain rings and cassette instead of meshing with them. Not only can you drop your chain, it will wear out your chain rings and cassette, meaning big bucks to replace.
Finally a little tune-up with the barrel adjusters will make sure the chain aligns perfectly with the chain rings and cassette. This will also give you much smoother shifting in general.