I have two bikes that when I pedal (yes I am pedaling in the correct direction) the gears turn freely, but the wheels don't. One of them I was riding and it felt like it had shifted while I was standing on it, and the next thing I knew I was walking home. The other one my friend was riding at the time.

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    Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. Your question needs more words to convey the meaning. Can you please use the EDIT link to expand your question? Specifically, "the gears freely from the wheels" Exactly what do the gears do? Change up/down? Does the chain jump over the teeth of the cog? If you can, adding one or two clear and well-lit photos showing the problem will help a lot. Finally, also have a browse through the Tour, which is in the Help menu, to learn how SE works.
    – Criggie
    Dec 26 '16 at 2:23
  • Paragraph 2 - "When you were standing (riding out of the saddle I guess?) it (the gears) shifted and you were walking home" What was wrong? Did the chain come off or snap? Did you get a flat? Para3, whats the other bike mentioned for? Is it related to the problem? As it stands, this question is likely to be closed as "unclear what you're asking" but you have till five people vote, to get editing.
    – Criggie
    Dec 26 '16 at 2:25

Inside your rear wheel is what is called a free hub. It has a ratcheting mechanism that allows you to pedal backwards while conversely engaging when you pedal forward so to transfer pedal force to the wheel. I've been stuck on a trail more than once due to a free hub failing to engage.

Unfortunately your free hub is generally not servicable. Depending on the quality of the wheel, it is sometimes cheaper to just buy a new wheel vs paying someone to re lace your existing one.

Other than a broken chain, which would be obvious, I don't know of anything else that would cause your wheel not to move when you pedal forward.


  • Actually, the ratchet mechanism portion of the hub may be replaceable, as a separate part. It's worth a trip to a good bike shop to see what can be done. And the problem is sometimes that the lube inside the hub has gotten "stiff" and is keeping the pawls from moving freely. In such cases simply (somehow) spraying spray lube inside the hub has fixed the problem, at least temporarily. Dec 26 '16 at 13:23

There's this video, which shows how to clean a freewheel without disassembling its innards. (What @daniel-r-hicks said reminded me of this.) It assumes you can get it off the bike to work on it.

This video shows how to do the same thing for a freehub (as opposed to freewheel).

I can't tell if:

  1. yours is a freewheel or freehub, I don't think you've said
  2. the problem is your chain coming off the gears or it's staying on but not turning the wheel

so it's hard to know if this video answers your question.

Difference between freewheel and freehub -

What's in a freewheel (how does it work) -

  • Wow, those are great. Still watching, thanks for posting those.
    – Andrew
    Aug 28 '20 at 22:39

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