On my commuter bike I decided to rid myself of the small inner chain ring (which is almost never used) and front dérailleur (now redundant). However, I have come across an unusual problem. Whilst cycling the chain is coming off of the outer chain ring and falling onto the crank arm. This usually coincides with a shift of the rear dérailleur onto a smaller sprocket, although notably not onto the highest gearing - it has happened shifting from the 5th to 6th scrocket on the 12-27 cassette for example. Furthermore, I am not exerting abnormal force on the crank, just sitting and riding as normal. This just happens out of the blue and as you can imagine is quite disconcerting/dangerous.

I have considered and checked the following so far:

  • Chain length - tension is good so no obvious problems there...
  • Chain dirty - it most certainly is not, it has only seen 200 miles and its lubed up a treat ;-)
  • Chain ring to cassette alignment - Hollowtech II BB and Ultegra 53T 6600 crank in 68mm shell, standard setup afaict, no obvious problems there...
  • Lack of front-dérailleur - I removed this since there is only one chain ring - could this be a factor that prevented me noticing the problem before (surely not...)
  • Chain ring worn - the chain ring looks in pretty good shape to me

I experimented briefly, turning the crank and applying a very slight outward pull (away from frame) on the chain and it promptly fell off onto the crank. Frankly, I was surprised how such a small misalignment could cause the chain the fall off...

My question: Has anyone else encountered this problem before?

Any comments on the things I have checked (why I may be mistaken in my assessment of the problem)?

Other possible causes I have missed would be gratefully received - this is spoiling an otherwise nice bike and I really do not want to go back to using the double crank configuration if possible.

Ultegra crank adapted to use only 53T outer chainring

  • landstatic, welcome to the site. Interesting question! Please consider continuing to update your question text as you resolve this problem. I'm looking forward to seeing how this gets resolved. Will share this with a mechanic friend of mine not on this network. Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 23:51
  • I really appreciate that, I will certainly update the ticket so those interested know the outcome. Thanks again!
    – user1092
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 10:06
  • I bet it is chain line. I have the same thing but on the other end. In the big gear on the cassette the chain gets pulled off to the inside on the chain ring.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 14:43
  • "...now redundant..." lol nope
    – Swifty
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 21:03

7 Answers 7


Yeah. A modern double chainring is ramped and pinned, in order to be more easily shifted from one ring to the next. Simply put, the chainring "wants" to pass off the chain to the next cog. Without a derailleur to keep it in place, the lateral pull of the chain shifting across the rear, combined with some road jostling, can make the chain fall off the front.

A couple solutions:

  1. install a singlespeed chainring without ramps or pins, with "straight" teeth.
  2. use an outer chainring guard and inner "dog tooth" chain keeper
  3. combine the two (which is the best solution).

The free and easy way to keep it on while looking at other solutions is to reinstall the front derailler and adjust the limit screws so it keeps the chain in place.

This is a pretty common concern with cyclocross. Racers often use a single-chainring setup for the sake of reliability, and either or a dual chainguard or chainguard-and-chain watcher setup for just such reasons (also because they keep picking the bike up and putting it down whilst running and jumping over stuff), so you get stuff like this: http://www.bikeman.com/CC-SRAMS300CX.html.

  • Another solution I've seen is the Jump Stop. Site: n-gear.com. Ebay: cgi.ebay.com.au/ws/…
    – Mac
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 6:48
  • Thanks for your very interesting observations and practical suggestions for how to resolve this; a great response to my original question!
    – user1092
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 10:12
  • 1
    This is a perfect answer.
    – zenbike
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 11:44
  • @Matt, I am going to move to a single speed chainring and get a dog tooth chain keeper for good measure.
    – user1092
    Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 14:04
  • Totally agree. +1 Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 11:55

How many miles on the chainring? A worn chainring could be part of the problem.

In addition, the rear derailer tension arm may be sticking a bit and not maintaining good tension (though from the looks of your bike in that picture the derailer is probably shiny clean).

But I suspect the missing derailer is a big part of it. When the chain "jumps" onto a new cog it whips around quite a bit, and the front derailer would help contain things.

Have you tried cranking it and shifting while it's on a service stand, so you can observe the derailer action in detail?

  • A noted before and now in the updated question text, the chain is almost new, having only been ridden for approx. 200 miles. Thanks for your response, I will double check the dérailleur arms action and let you know the outcome should it be presenting a problem.
    – user1092
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 10:13
  • But keep in mind Matt's point -- the ring is DESIGNED to "help" the chain come off. It's not intended to be used without the derailer. (And note I was wondering about your miles on the chainRING, not the chain.) Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 11:31
  • I beg your pardon, the chain ring is a few years old but not overly worn and its got another year in it I reckon. This could be the root of the problem, and I will update you if this is the case once I have eliminated other possibilities. The last thing I shall do is restore the front mechanism, that would be most undesirable.
    – user1092
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 19:23
  • But you don't have any idea how many miles you have on the ring? Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 0:23
  • And have you tried cranking and shifting with it in a service stand (or otherwise supported)? Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 0:24

My bike slip has badly worn components and the chain slips off the front when I am in the big cogs at the back. I know this problem is a combination of chain wear plus alignment between the sprockets and chainring.

For single chain-ring bikes this is a common occurrence and normally you can get one of these to go on the seat-tube to prevent it from happening:

enter image description here

Your bike sounds like it has different chain-alignment to mine, yet the the symptom is the same. A new chain will almost certainly rectify the situation. To check the chain wear, see how far you can pull it at the point on the chainring nearest the front of the bike. There should only be a millimetre or two of movement, if it is a lot more than that then you know it need replacing.

  • I agree, this could be a worn chain. And a new chain rarely hurts. What is the name of this device? I've seen them on bikes from time to time, and there's a similar one used for double-chainring bikes. (Also: How to know when to change a chain might be useful.) Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 1:22
  • @Neil Fein it looks like a Deda Dog Fang wiggle.co.uk/deda-dog-fang
    – Mac
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 6:56
  • I agree its most likely down to chain alignment. Concerning chain wear, its only been ridden around 200 miles so far so I am not expect much, if any, wear.
    – user1092
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 10:11

I have a folding bike which I took the smaller chainring off. It would then occasionally drop the chain whilst changing gear off the front chainring onto the crank arm. By fitting a narrow-wide lite pro chainring with built in chain guard it has never happened since.

  • Narrow-wide chainrings are an important invention which was not present (I think) when the question was first asked.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 0:34

Back in the seventies and eighties it wasn't uncommon to remove the inner chainring from bikes used on flat time trials to save weight. Often the chain length was set intentionally on the long side to reduce friction, which had the undesirable side effect of making it easier to rop the chain. At the same time it was generally considered to be a good idea to NOT remove the front derailler and to use it as a chain keeper. I believe this is mentioned in the Eddy B. book.

I think you need to put the front derailleur back on your bike as a chain keeper. You probably don't need the shifter/cable, etc. just use the limit screws to keep it in a position where it doesn't rub the chain.


You do not mention how many cogs you have on your cassette. The reason I ask is your chain line will be affected by removing the inner chain ring as it will be permanently moved when on the big ring. I feel that this will give you some cross gear issues when you travel up and down the cassette. The chain line for a double chain ring is measured from the bike centre line to the middle of the two chain rings when bolted together.

A single chain ring and crank with a shorter Hollowtech 11 bottom bracket spindle should solve the problem. Hope that helps.


I have a built myself a single chainring bike and I'm just having this problem. Bike ran fine for the first month now the chain jumps off the chainring when on the smaller sprockets. I had a dodgy link in the chain which was giving too much flex so I replaced that and it seems to run better so chain your chain but the problem is still there.

In response to another persons suggestion of putting a single speed chainring on, that probably won't work because single speed chains and chainrings are thicker and so are incompatible.

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