Why Bike Chain Won’t Go Backward? (How To Fix)

The bike chain won’t go backward because the chain is not tensioned when pedaling backward. Pedaling forward is the only time your chain is under tension.

Have you ever tried moving your bike in reverse? It didn’t work, right? This is the same way the bike chain refuses to move backward. Many may be wondering why this happens. 

Well, the cause of this action is that the bike chains are not designed to pedal in that direction. Even if you force it, you might just end up damaging the chains.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the reason why bike chains don’t go backward and how you can fix a bike chain that won’t go backward.

How Does Your Bike Chain Work?

The bicycle chain is made up of two steel inner and outer plates, which are held by rivets. A roller separates both inner plates while the rivet pin extends to the outer plate. The rivet pin now moves freely on the outer plate and roller for the chain to turn the bicycle wheels.

The bike chain is not an exciting part of a bike, but it’s a major component of a cycle that, without it, you will not be able to go far. 

While the chain’s job looks easy, a lot of things go on in a bike chain that makes it mesh perfectly with the chainrings and ensures the cassette sprockets shift smoothly when necessary. 

The chain has to be in a continuous link for this to happen. A chain is made of a combination of links.

Each chain has different combinations, which may be narrow or wide. Each of these links is held by pins (or rivets) and rollers which are on the outer link’s shoulder. 

When the rider pedals, the power from their feet is transferred to the pedal, which rolls the chain and ensures that chainrings and the cassette mesh perfectly to propel the rider forward.

Should Your Bike Chain Go Backwards?

No, The way the bike is designed, it’s not supposed to go back because the sprockets do not roll backward when you pedal backward. 

bike chain

A lot of people like to see what happens if they pedal backward. Except your bike is a fixie which is fixed to slow down or halt the bike, no action would happen when you pedal backward except your chains moving back.

This is because the chains are made up of sprockets fastened to the links connected by the rivets that fit into each hole within the links. 

These rivets allow the chains to move freely without coming off the cassette or falling apart. 

When you pedal forward, the sprockets move forward, but when you pedal backward, they remain stationary with everything attached. 

So, if you regularly pedal backward, the sprockets will wear out over time because of the lack of movement between each pin and tooth. This will greatly affect the movement of the chain going forward. 

Reasons Why Your Bike Chain Won’t Go Backward? 

Before you begin to worry or inform your bike repairer of the latest changes you noticed to the chain, you have to know why your chain cannot move backward. 

In many instances, it may be a result of a loose chain. Other times it could be because of bent parts, wrong alignment, or lack of grease. 

bike chain management

As we go further, we will look at the reasons why your bike chain won’t move backward.

(i) Conflicting Chain Links

The inactivity of a bike chain or long-term use can make a bike chain to become displeasing or crooked. 

You will find a few of the links bent in different directions, which can cause unsmooth movement in the chains, resulting in them not moving backward.

(ii) Slacked Chain

Having a slacked chain can also cause your chain not to reverse. A loose chain will cause chain dropping and poor shifting in the chainrings when you move.

Slacking will cause your bike chain to become stuck or break. This will not be good for the bike’s movement.

(iii) Lack Of Grease

A lack of regular greasing and oiling of your bike can make the bike run out of torque. You will encounter a hard, stuck chain while riding and cannot move.

(iv) Hostile Chain Wheel

You will notice an inability to move backward when your chain wheel is bent. You may overlook the issue because a bike’s chain rarely gets bent. The best way to notice this issue is to reverse the chain wheel. 

(iv) Dirts

Your sprockets can gather dirt and grime over time from use if you regularly use your bike without cleaning it. This can cause your bike not to move smoothly anymore.

The buildup of dirt and grime will not allow the teeth of the cassette to fit into the groove of your sprockets.

(v) Derailleur

If your chain wobbles slack or gets stuck, they have not aligned with the derailleur and can damage your bike frame and cassette.

To see if the derailleur is functioning properly, you need to check the alignment and the bolt carefully. If it’s bad, you need to contact your repair shop for a replacement.

How To Fix A Bike Chain That Won’t Go Backward

What Bike Gear To Use On Flat Roads

The chains on bikes can malfunction even for seasoned cyclists. But you can fix it relatively easily, which is good news. 

Unfortunately, you could end up paying a lot of money to fix your bike chain if you do not know how to do it.

However, if your bike chain won’t move backward, there are a few ways to fix this problem, and we will show you some of the techniques here. 

1. Look For Obstructions

When your bike chain doesn’t move backward, the first thing to do is to look for obstructions. 

There may be debris or rocks between the derailleur’s cage and the sprockets, which can stop the chain from moving through its gears smoothly.

Find a flathead tool, preferably a screwdriver, and ply the debris or rocks away from the sprockets or derailleur.

2. Clean The Chains And Gears

At this point, you must remove the bike’s rear wheel for cleaning. Using soapy water and a brush, clean all the first away from the wheel. 

Get compressed air to blow away any dirt that might be stuck in gear. This will clean the gear thoroughly and prevent jamming.

You have to clean your chain regularly in the future to prevent a jamming reoccurrence. 

3. Lubricate The Chains

After cleaning your chain thoroughly, you have to Lubricate the chain on both sides. You are mandated to use bicycle chain oil only for this lubrication. 

Apply the oil on both sides of the chain using a brush, paper towel, or old rag.

Rotate it slowly along its axis while you apply the oil on both sides until you have covered 5 full rotations on both sides, making it 10 rotations in total. 

4. Replace Deformed Cassette And Chainwheel

Unfortunately, replacing a deformed cassette and chain wheel is not relatively easy. But you can DIY if you have the experience. 

However, if you don’t have the experience, you can get a new cassette or chain wheel, as it’s more reliable than repairing and would give you peace of mind.

5. Tighten All Loose Chains

If you notice the chain is loose after all these cleaning steps, you have to tighten it. Get a screwdriver to tighten the chain wheel bolts while checking that the sprockets are perfectly aligned.

When they’re aligned, this would cause tension in the chain and ensure you cycle faster.


The bike chain is not designed to affect the bike when you rotate backward, except it’s a fixie. 

Originally, bike chains are not designed to move backward. But if you do it, you will wear the sprockets in your chain, which will negatively affect its overall performance. 

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I’ve been riding (bicycles) my entire life and am passionate about everything that comes along with it. I wouldn’t call myself a true “roadie”. I’m just a guy that loves riding because of the pure joy it brings.

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