I commute to work by bike. Sometimes my chain slips off when I do a big gear shift because I use indexed shifters.

I would use a handkerchief, rag, or something else to put in between my hands and the chain, but I don't have anything like that on me (I don't want to get my clothes dirty either).

How do I put the chain back on without getting my hands dirty?

  • 3
    You could use the local vegetation around you :) Dec 9, 2014 at 23:50
  • 4
    This sounds like it would be better on Bicycles.
    – Kaz Wolfe
    Dec 9, 2014 at 23:55
  • This question does belong on Bicycles SE. As a commuter though, you should have a basic tool bag to deal with small things like this (along with changing flats). One of the items to keep in the bag would be a rag or gloves for this reason (along with some hand wipes, because it will happen).
    – BPugh
    Mar 9, 2015 at 15:44
  • This isn't a life hack, so not posting as an answer... If you're commuting regularly, surely you carry a spare tube or patch kit, some tyre (yes, that's how we spell it outside America!) levers and maybe a multi tool, either in a saddle bag or a backpack or something? I certainly do, and one of the items I keep in my kit is a small rag for precisely this reason. Chuck an old pair of undies or an old face cloth in there and you'll be sweet.
    – Adam
    Mar 29, 2016 at 22:30

4 Answers 4


Use the local vegetation around you to replace the chain. A twig can be used as a lever, leaves-a cloth... If you have no vegetation and are in downtown, small wood scraps, old "litter", and even strong paperclips can be used!


Not sure what indexed shifters are, but assuming it was your front gear (the one with the pedals), here's a method that works for me:

  1. While riding, as soon as you realize the chain came off, stop pedaling.
  2. Stop riding and dismount.
  3. Shift the gears of the bike all the way opposite of the side the chain fell off. So if the chain fell to the right, you want the derailleur all the way to the left, and vice versa
  4. Lift the back wheel of the bike off the ground. Some bikes have a kickstand in a location that allows the bike to be leaned rather than lifted, which is easier.
  5. Start pedaling the bike with your hands.

The chain should go back onto the gears on its own, but it might slip a few times.

Naturally, if it feels wrong or the chain feels like its under a lot of stress, stop. It's better to get your hands dirty than to break a chain.

  • @Downvoter Can you explain what I can improve with this post or what I did wrong? I'd like to know how I can improve my answers.
    – Justin
    Dec 14, 2014 at 23:51
  • I'm not the downvoter, but the "freewheel" is part of the rear hub of a bike, and so the question can't refer to the "one with the pedals" (technical terms for the one with the pedals include crankset, chainset, chainring, and chainwheel)
    – Random832
    Mar 11, 2015 at 17:36

I've found that If I accidentally shift to far one way, I generally am forced to stop pedaling. At this point while coasting, I backpedal a bit to give the chain some slack, move the shifter in the opposite direction that it slipped on, and slowly pedal forward. The chain generally catches on a cog pretty easily doing this, and on the plus side, it's hands free and I don't have to stop to fix it. Obviously, if the chain is caught somewhere tight this won't work, but if it's just fallen off a gear, this gets me going most of the time.


Ride it back on without stopping. https://bikenewengland.com/2015/07/22/ride-your-chain-back-on-without-touching-it/

  • 1
    while links may have good information, it is best to summarize the information that is found on it in case the link dies
    – Dragonrage
    Mar 25, 2016 at 19:10
  • I'd like to know this technique, but if the linked page disappears, there's nothing useful here. Don't copy in the entire contents, just tell us, succinctly, how to ride the chain back onto the chainwheel.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 26, 2016 at 0:32

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