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How to Fix a Dropped Chain – Without Stopping!

track cyclist with dropped chain

So you have mastered the basics of gears and shifting, but one day you shifted down to the small chainring, and your chain just dropped onto the bottom bracket shell?

Or maybe you went to the big ring and the chain flew off the ring and onto your shoe?

Well, here is what you can do…

If your chain drops onto the bottom bracket shell:

If you are pedaling along, shift down to the small chainring, and immediately lose all resistance at the pedals, there’s a good chance that the chain dropped off onto the bottom bracket shell.

If this happens, the first thing you should do is relax! You don’t need to panic or screech to a halt, just roll along.

Begin pedaling easily, and gently shift the front derailleur up like you’re going back to the big ring. Typically this is enough to get the chain back onto the small ring and spinning smoothly. (You don’t want to actually shift the whole way back up to the big ring.)

However, if the chain bunches up, you have a bigger problem…

If your chain digs onto the bottom bracket shell (chainsuck):

If your attempts to shift the chain back onto the chainring fail, it’s probably because the chain got jammed into the bottom bracket shell. When this happens, the chain bunches up and completely jams. This is known as chainsuck.

When this happens, you should stop pedaling! You’ll need to slow to a stop, get off the bike, and lift the chain off the bottom bracket shell and onto the chainring. Sometimes you may need to physically pull the chain out, if it is jammed in there tightly.

If you don’t want to get your hands greasy, take a tire lever and use that to pry the chain free and drop it onto the chainring.

If your chain drops off the big ring onto your foot:

Finally, what do you do if the chain flys off the big ring and ends up hanging outside the crank arm? Or perhaps it ends up on your foot?!

In this case, you gently roll along and use a similar shifting technique, except that now you are shifting down toward the small ring. So you will pedal gently and shift down, hoping the chain comes back up and over to the big ring.

This actually happened to me in the inaugural Tour de Susquehanna. I shifted the chain right off onto my foot! I had to slow down quite a bit, but by some stroke of luck, I was able to unclip my foot and lift the chain slightly (with my foot,) then it shifted back into place!

It won’t always work that well, but it’s worth a shot.

Photo Credit: Edmund White

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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