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Bike Gears Question: Pushing bikes' limit or need for chain fix?

I am a newbie in cycling. Have been cycling for a month now. I have a hybrid bike with 2 gears on the front and 8 gears on the back. The track I ride on is a flat track. I normally ride on 6th smallest gear on the rear. However, when I switch to 7th gear the chain starts making sound and the ride becomes extra hard (as it should with higher gear). Question is am I pushing the limit on the bike or need to get the chain fixed for a better ride?



2 Replies

@sgona2008 Hard to say based on the information you've got, and it may depend exactly on where the sound is coming from. Here are some scenarios, but it could be multiple of them at the same time, or something else entirely.

Option 1: Cross-chaining

Does this happen when you're in the smaller/easier front chainring but not when in the bigger ring? If so, it could be cross-chaining, where the chain makes an extreme angle from being all the way inboard up front to being outboard in back. Generally not a recommended gear combination. In this case, the sound is probably from the chain rubbing on the outside edge of the front derailleur cage. You may be able to reduce the sound if your front gears have a "trim" feature, but that's mostly seen on road bikes not hybrids, otherwise there's not a lot to be done mechanically, just move up to the bigger ring on front when you're in the harder gears in back. Yes, this makes it a harder gear, but there is some overlap: Instead of a 1/7 combination, a 2/6 combination should have a similar gear ratio. The middle gears like 3-6 should have enough lee-way to use either front ring.

Option 2: Limit screw

Are you able to shift into the very smallest rear cog, 8th? Not just is it hard to pedal, because it is the hardest gear, but literally can it even make it onto that cog? If it can't then maybe the rear derailleur's high limit screw is set too tight. If this is the case, the sound might be from the limit resting between gears, and so the chain could be rubbing against the next inboard (easier) cog, or riding up over the cog as it tries to shift but can't, which can also give a clunky/skipping sensation in your pedaling.

Option 3: Cable Tension/Indexing

The symptoms here can be very similar to Option 2. If there's too much cable tension, it may be preventing it from dropping down to smaller cogs (harder gears). Generally though, poor tension will cause poor shifting performance throughout the cassette, so I'm not sure this would be top of my list, but it could still be a contributor.

There's a few other things that could come into play, like alignment of the derailleur hanger, but I wouldn't expect anything wrong there after a month of cycling unless you've had a bad crash or routinely set the bike down on it's drivetrain side. But the common thread and takeaway here is that there's probably nothing broken about the chain or the bike, it may just need a tune-up as these are relatively simple and quick adjustments.

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@sgona2008 Thanks for reaching out!

@TomV did a great job talking you through the different things that may be causing your chain to make that sound in that gear combination. If you're not comfortable making the adjustments yourself, we encourage you to reach out to your local REI bike shop with your questions and they may be able to provide some guidance over the phone. Additionally, if you purchased your bike at REI, you receive a free warranty tune up after a few months of riding. If you haven't taken advantage of that service yet be sure to bring this up with the bike techs when you do.

Hopefully this helps, thanks!

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