Avoiding Cross-Chaining

June 5, 2015

Many of us have grown up riding bikes. We are familiar with the basics of pedaling, steering, and shifting, but may not live every day on a bicycle. So when we arrive somewhere with beautiful scenery and smooth roads that just BEG to be ridden on…somewhere like San Juan Island…renting a bike is a great way to brush off the dust!

Here at Discovery Sea Kayaks we offer extremely user-friendly bikes for hourly and daily rental rates. Our focus is ensuring that you have the most enjoyable adventure possible during your visit here. We are always happy to suggest scenic routes and provide maps to help get you wherever you want to go. A crucial component to an enjoyable bike ride is feeling confident and comfortable on whichever bike you choose. This is why as part of our brief tutorial in the shop, we go over some of the technical aspects of our bicycles. Some of this information includes: how to adjust seat height, which brake lever controls the front brake and which controls the rear, and how to properly adjust your helmet. We also give a brief explanation of “cross-chaining” and how to avoid it. Understanding a bit more than the basics of cross-chaining, however, can prevent damage to the bicycles, as well as ensure that you have a smooth enjoyable ride.

Cross-chaining occurs when front and rear gear ratios are improperly combined. The most immediate result is a noisy clanking coming from the drive train. If not adjusted, the chain itself may break. Our fleet of Café 24 bikes are equipped with 24 speeds. This means they have three chain rings in the front, and eight cogs in the rear. For the smoothest, most enjoyable ride you will want to avoid gear combinations that compromise the chain’s integrity by bending it. This happens when the chain is shifted to: A) the smallest (outermost) rear cog and the smallest (innermost) front chain ring. Or B) the largest (innermost) rear cog and the largest (outermost) front chain ring.



Image from: http://www.bicyclechainrings.com/crosschaining.html

Most of the roads on our island can be easily pedaled by staying in the middle (2) front chainring. For those few big hills, you may encounter, you can shift down to the little (1) front chainring, and the biggest (1 or 2) cogs in the rear. This ratio gives you the easiest pedal up hills. For the descents where you may want a bit more speed, you can shift up to the largest (3) front chain ring and the smallest (7 or 8) rear cogs. In this combination, you will definitely be cruising.


Our bikes are conveniently equipped with twist shifters that display in numbers the gear you are in for both the front and rear. A quick glance at the numbers and you will be able to easily adjust for the road grade and desired speed. With this extra bit of knowledge on cross-chaining, you will also be able to avoid any distracting noise and damage that could possibly take away from your island vacation!

Questions or comments? Phone us at or send an email to [email protected]. You can also visit our contact page and submit an inquiry via our contact form.