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Can You Ride a Mountain Bike Without a Derailleur?

will a mountain bike work without a derailleur

Mountain biking is a sport for all the adventure buffs ready to take their motorbikes on the rough off-road terrain. It’s a rough ride that both exhilarates and frightens the heart.

It pumps you full of adrenaline and gives you the urge to scream into the air. Its beauty personified, but what if something happens to one of its mechanisms? More specifically, can you ride a mountain bike without a derailleur? 

Technically, a mountain bike can work without a derailleur. If your derailleur stops working, you can rig it to keep the bike working. However, you also have the option to ditch it completely and make it a single speed, if you wish.  

What to Know About Derailleurs

To understand this, you should know what a derailleur is. A derailleur is a bicycle mechanism that helps move the bike’s chain out and up. This allows the bike to shift to different cogs. If it’s damaged, you can rig the bike to keep working, but it will be weaker than it was previously. The rigging will be enough to get you from point A to Point B. 

The derailleur is a pair of gears on the bike, which is a combination of chains and different sprockets. The gears move the chain into the different sprockets to help move the motorbike from one place to another. 

In the modern world, the front and rear derailleurs on a bike operate remotely by a Bowden cable attached to a shifter mounted on the down tube, handlebar stem, or handlebar. You could also liken the derailleur of a bike to a pulley system, a push and pull of chains to achieve a goal. 

The ratio of sprockets goes from small to big. If the chain is in the biggest sprocket, this means that the mountain bike is going full speed. Both the front and rear derailleurs work simultaneously to make sure that the bike is balanced while running and there is a constant thrum on the engine.

The absence of this mechanism would mean that the mountain bike is out of balance. In this scenario, you have two options. You can either walk home or rig your derailleur to work just well enough to at least get you home. 

Rigging a Derailleur

When it comes to rigging a rear derailleur, there are a few scenarios. The first situation is if your rear derailleur is broken. In this scenario, all you need to do is switch to a single speed. What does this mean? Let us talk you through it.

Step 1: Open your chain using a quick or a power link. If this isn’t possible, you will have to use a power tool to break it open. Once you’ve got the chain open, unthread it.

Step 2: Pull out the cable and remove the rear derailleur entirely. 

Step 3: Select a gear where the chain line is straight. This chain line is usually the small and the middle chaining cassette. 

Step 4: Now, put the chain back on, and reattach it with the quick/power link or the chain tool. 

Is a Front Derailleur Needed?

Simply put, no, it is not. A bike has both front and rear derailleurs. The technological and mechanical world is now so enhanced that items like front derailleurs, which were quite integral to mountain bikes before, are not important anymore. Many experts say that the lack of a front derailleur makes riding a bike so much easier. 

The lack of front derailleur on a mountain bike helps decrease the weight of the bike. It also simplifies the process of riding a bike because you’ll have fewer cables to worry about. This also decreases the number of problems that might come about while riding.

Single-speed riding is better than carrying around the weight and complication of a front derailleur! 

If you’re wondering how to take out your front derailleur, then rest assured that the process is the same as we have outlined for the rear derailleur. So, don’t worry! All you have to do is follow the same steps listed above, and you’re set. 

While taking the derailleurs of your mountain bike, either rear or front, make sure that you remember that this patch job has left your bike a little weaker than it was before. Make sure you do it right and be careful. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

How to Convert to Single Speed After Derailleur Problems

After you’ve had derailleur problems and you may want to permanently change your mountain bike to a single-speed one. So, let’s talk about how you can do that. To start with, here are all the tools and items that you will need: 

  • A non-ramped chainring
  • A wide base single speed cog
  • New chain
  • Single-speed rear hub
  • Single-speed wheelset

Once you’ve amassed all of these tools, all you have to do is assemble them onto your bike. If you feel like this is something that you can’t handle, just go to any bike professional, and they’ll do it for you at minimum cost. 

If you are looking to upgrade or replace a faulty derailleur instead of removing it completely, then we recommend this derailleur by Inkesky. It is a direct mount replacement for many mountain bikes and is compatible with 6/7 speed chains.

More Reasons Why Your Mountain Bike Is Better Without a Derailleur

Converting your mountain bike from a derailleur based one to a single-speed one is a significant decision. We know this decision isn’t easy. So, we listed a few reasons why your mountain bike is better without a derailleur. 

1. Less Damage 

Mountain biking is serious business, and a lot of accidents can happen. Having to switch out your derailleur is a common problem, so rather than deal with that, you can turn to a single speed. This way, you can avoid all the future damage that your bike might have otherwise been facing.

2. Shifting Gear

When your bike is on single-speed permanently, this means you can reliably shift gear in all types of weather and terrain conditions without worrying about your derailleur system giving you trouble.

3. Decrease in Maintenance and Money Spent

Once there is no derailleur, the amount of maintenance and adjustments needed for your bike also lessens. You won’t have to worry about whether or not your bike will shift properly on mountainous terrain. 

Another great thing is that once your bike is one single speed, you won’t have to spend money on replacing chains, sprockets, or whole derailleur systems. The single-speed chain is ten times more reliable, and it can cover ten thousand plus miles easily without having to stop for oil changes.

4. Shifting Becomes Easier

When your bike has a derailleur system, the chain has to painstakingly move across every sprocket whenever you have to shift the bike. However, when you’re on a single speed, you can automatically have this happen by a single move of your hand.

You can even do this without pedaling! Transitioning between different gears becomes a lot easier than it ever was before.

5. Choosing Narrower Lines on a Mountain Trail Is Easier

Another drawback of a derailleur system’s late shift in gear is that taking on narrow lines or trailside obstacles becomes harder. As you are unable to make the quick decision to shift gear or go in another direction. It takes too much time. At single-speed, this quick decision takes no time at all! 

Less Noise

Single-speed systems make so much less noise! Well, these are all the different reasons why mountain bikes are better off without derailleur systems. We hope you got all the information you needed.

Final Thoughts

A mountain bike is able to still function without a derailleur. The most prevalent time this question comes into play is if your derailleur has been physically damaged or has become faulty.

Whichever the reason, if you are out on a ride and need a quick fix, rigging your derailleur could work until you figure out a replacement. Simply unlink your chain, remove the cable and pull your derailleur completely.

Relink your chain onto a gear that gives you the most straight chain line which is usually the small and middle cassette.

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