Bike Pedals won’t Go Backwards [What to Do]

Have you ever realized how many times you have to perform backpaddling? You have to do it while achieving footrest or coasting. Besides, backpaddling is necessary for bike chain maintenance. So, it’s easy to understand how important backpaddling is.

Anyways, the above activities will get difficult or even impossible if the paddle won’t go backward.

So, you must fix the pedals to enable coasting and chain maintenance again. Here is the guide to fixing the problem with the best possible solutions.

Why bike pedals won’t go backward?

Bike Pedals won't Go Backwards

Bike pedals won’t go backward because of problematic freewheel or freehub. It also happens when freewheel or freehub is too gummy or dirty. Besides, it occurs when the derailleurs and chain are misaligned.  Lastly, the pedal bearing can stop the pedal from going backward if heavily damaged inside.

Let’s deep dive into these reasons to understand the problem well.

  1. Misaligned derailleur: A primary reason bike pedals won’t go backward is the misalignment of the chain and derailleur. The rear derailleur gets misaligned if it is not threaded well. The front derailleur is misaligned when subjected to a crash or hit.
  1. Misaligned chain: The chain misaligns after it gets bent in a link. It also happens when the limit screw setting is not correct. Lastly, a bent chain guide/cage can cause the chain to get misaligned. It doesn’t matter how the chain is misaligned; it causes the pedals not to go backwards.
  1. Damaged freewheel/freehub: There are teeth inside a freewheel. Sometimes, these teeth are broken or bent, preventing the freewheel from rotating backward. Thus, the pedals stop going back.
  1. Dirty derailleur: The derailleurs get dirty over time when you use the bike frequently. When the derailleur is too dirty inside, the cassettes get stuck with each other. Thus the cassettes stop rotating backward, and the pedals stop going back.
  1. BB problem: Last but not least, the bottom bracket can also cause the pedal not to go back. There are bearings inside the BB that get rusty or damaged over time. As a result, it can spin freely backward. Thus the bike pedals won’t go backward.

A quick fix way bike pedals backward problem

You have understood the problem well. Now it’s time to solve it. Of course, you must consider a repair job. But before that, try a quick fix to get rid of the problem.

You can do it with a few simple steps. It’s not only necessary for a fix, but it’s also essential to avoid the problem in the future. So, follow the below steps to get a quick fix.

  1. Cleaning: Cleaning is must-to-do stuff for healthy bike rides. You should clean the derailleurs, chain, and the freewheel at least once a week. If you don’t have much time for a bike wash, use a Degreaser to remove the grime. You can follow my Bike Chain Cleaning Guide to do it correctly.
  1. Lubing or Oiling: After cleaning the derailleurs, you should either lubricate or oil the freewheel. If the freewheel is new or over lubed, apply oil to it. Other hands, Lubricant or WD40 will be good for old freehub. By the way, don’t over-lube it. It attracts the dirt and damages the bike part eventually.

Advanced troubleshooting: bike pedals won’t go backwards

After a quick fix, the pedal problem should be solved. If the pedal is still not moving backward, pursue advanced troubleshooting. Follow the below tips to pull out the problem from the root.

bike pedal

Tip-1: Restore the bottom bracket

It’s good to start with the pedal itself. The pedals (actually the crankarm) are held by the bottom bracket. The BB bearing gets damaged or exhausted over time. So it’s better to restore or replace the bottom bracket. Anyways, let’s go step by step to restore or replace the bottom bracket.

  1. Firstly, you have to remove the crankarm. For that, use a Crankwrench or Hex Key. Then pull out the arm with a suitable Crank puller. Here you will need an Adjustable Wrench for loosening the puller.
  1. Secondly, remove the lockring with a BB wrench. Now, take the bottom bracket out of the bike and diagnose it precisely. If the bearing is damaged severely, get a new Bottom Bracket. Otherwise, just restore the old one. For that, you can apply a degreaser to the bearings.
  1. Lastly, install the restored or new bottom bracket. Do it in the same manner you have removed it. Also, make sure the pedals stay at 180 degrees with each other.

For more details, you can follow the below post:

How to repair bike bottom bracket

Tip-2: Adjust the rear derailleur

After repairing the bottom bracket, it’s time to check the derailleurs out. However, it’s good to start with the rear derailleur. Then go to the front one. Anyways let’s check out the steps to adjust the rear derailleur setting.

  1. Firstly, adjust the H-limit screw. Here you have to position the chain into the smallest cog without rubbing and slow shifting. Set the H screw in such a position where these problems don’t appear.
  1. Secondly, adjust the indexing. Here the object is to shift the chain to the 2nd smallest cog. For that, you have to fine-tune the barrel adjuster to ensure fast shifting without rubbing problems.
  1. Thirdly, ensure the L-limit screw setting. Here, you have to achieve soundless shifting in the largest cog. Rotate the L-screw and achieve such a position.
  1. Lastly, set the B screw. It indicates the gap between guidewheel and cogs. Keep the gap between 5 to 6 mm.

To understand the process precisely, follow my Rear derailleur adjustment guide.

Tip-3: Adjust the front derailleur

Adjusting the front derailleur is much easier than the rear derailleur. So, don’t do it before you are done with the rear derailleur. Here is how you can adjust the front derailleur. Check out the below steps.

  1. Firstly, adjust the cage position. Ensure it stays straight and parallel to the chain. Also, make sure it doesn’t rub with the chain.
  1. Secondly, set up the L-limit screw. Here the goal is to achieve such a position where the chain shifts to the lowest gear without rubbing. Keep adjusting the screw until it reaches that optimum position.
  1. Thirdly, adjust the H-limit screw. For that, tune the barrel adjuster until you can shift the chain to the highest gear without the sound problem of rubbing.
  1. Lastly, check out the indexing. Check if the chain is parallel with the chainring or not. If it is not parallel, rotate the barrel adjuster for a minor adjustment.

Check out my Front derailleur adjustment guide to learn about the process in detail.

Tip-4: Replace the freewheel

Changing Freewheel

If the freewheel is restorable, it should be restored after a quick fix. But sometimes, the pedal problem still remains. In this case, you can understand that the freewheel is exhausted. So it’s better to swap it up. How? Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Firstly, shift the chain to the smallest cog and take the chain out of the cogset. Then., loosen the quick release and bring the rear wheel out of the bike.
  1. Secondly, get a compatible Freewheel Removal Tool and loosen the freewheel with it. Now, remove the axle nut and bring the freewheel out of the nut.
  1. Lastly, get a new Bike Freewheel and install it on the bike. Make sure you thread it right, and it is not cross-threaded.

There are other ways to maintain and repair bike freewheels. To know more about it, check out How to repair a bike freewheel.

Frequently asked question

Can bicycles pedal backwards?

In most bicycles, you can’t paddle backward. Actually, you can, but it won’t move the bike backward. The bike will be coasting when you will peddle backward. But in some few BMX and fixie models, there is a backpaddling feature. But you can only use it to stop the bike.

How often should you grease pedal bearings?

Applying grease is a must to ensure good functioning pedal bearings. But frequent over lubing can instead damage the bearing. So, how often should you apply grease to the pedal bearing? Well, it also depends on how often you ride the bike. If you ride more frequently, it’s good to lubricate the bearings every 3 months. Lubricate the bearing twice a year if you are a casual Sunday rider.

Can you over-grease a bearing?

Not really. Greasing the bearing can offer you better performance and a smooth paddling experience. But over greasing instead lower your paddling performance. It can reduce the friction between two components. It causes energy loss and inefficiency. Besides, too much grease increases the temperature of the bike parts. Thus the parts can get damaged. 

Conclusion

While riding a bike, you only peddle forward. That’s why you don’t think about backpaddling. But I have proven how important it is in many aspects. I have also discovered what is preventing you from paddling back. That’s why I have researched the problem well, identified the reasons, and developed a solution. This post is all about that. I hope it will help you to get rid of stuck pedals. Keep paddling back,

Cheers!

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