Thinking back to the basics of gear selection, I stated that cross chaining was a bad idea because it causes excessive wear and tear on the drive train, not to mention the grinding noises that would certainly get annoying. A straight chain line is a much better idea.

But how do you see the difference? Just look at all these pictures…

Straight Chain vs Cross Chaining

proper chainline

cross chaining


The pictures are taken at a very similar angle, yet the bike on the right looks askew. That’s because it is cross chaining.

The photo on the left, however, shows the bike with a very straight chain line. In other words, the chain is parallel to the bike, so it looks (and rides) like normal.

Let’s see some more pictures…

The two pictures below will show you more of the havoc of cross chaining.

The Big/Big Combo – A Bad Idea!

This one shows how stretched the rear derailleur is when riding in the big/big combo:

(Big chainring and big rear cog.)

cross chaining

The Little/Little Combo – Another Bad Idea!

And this shows the rear derailleur doubled-back on itself because there is too much slack in the chain, caused by riding in the little/little combo:

(Small chainring and smallest rear cog.)

cross chaining

The Moral of the Story

Let me say it one more time…

Do Not Cross Chain!

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  1. Great job of showing cross chaining. I don’t think I’ve seen anything that shows it so clearly.

    I do think there’s one time when cross chaining is a good thing. On fast, rocky descents on a mountain bike, using something at least close to the big ring/big cog keeps the chain from slapping into chain stay so much. It also reduces the chance that the chain will come off.

  2. Good point Rob, I do try to go as big/big as possible to keep the chain in place on those rough descents.

    I also have another similar article coming up about “when it is OK to cross chain” 😉

  3. “Great job of showing cross chaining. I don’t think I’ve seen anything that shows it so clearly.”

    The amateur photographer in me says thanks for the compliment!

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