I just got this bike - I can't have broken it!
August 4, 2006 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Potentially stupid new bicycle question within.

(I should preface this by saying that I haven't been on a bike since I was about 12). Somebody just dropped off a new bike to me, and I hopped on to give it a try but the pedals don't work. When I put pressure on them and kick off, they sort of grind and shudder down, and don't move the chain at all. It's a mountain bike, best as I can tell, and a wildly cheap one.

Given that I am clueless about bicycles, in baby language, what do I need to adjust to remedy this and start learning how to enjoy this machine?
posted by nyc123 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total)
Have someone help you. They hold the rear wheel off the ground. You kneel down on the side of the bike where the gears are. Try to turn the pedals with your hand. Look at the chain and how it goes over the gears and see why things aren't flowing smoothly.
posted by beatrice at 6:42 PM on August 4, 2006

The most obvious possibility is that the chain is wedged somehow, and needs to be put right. Or perhaps the rear brake is clamped down because something is tensioning the brake cable. Beyond that, it's impossible to diagnose without seeing.
posted by adamrice at 6:51 PM on August 4, 2006

Good suggestions so far, let me take it to the next step -

There's a good chance that the derailers (the metal bits that guide the chain onto the different gears on the rear wheel and the pedal) are misaligned.

First, look at the handlebars for little thumb levers. Figure out which lever moves which derailer and adjust them so that both are aligned, more or less, with the center of their respective gear bundles.

Now, so long as the chain isn't actually bound up in the wheel or anything, you should be able to slowly, but firmly, turn the pedals until the chain is securely onto the gears on both the rear wheel and pedal axel.
posted by lekvar at 6:57 PM on August 4, 2006

Go to the local bike store and have them take a look. They shouldn't be too scary, and if you go in the middle of a weekday or another slow time (not after work or the weekend), they might even help you with the first stuck bits for free instead of pushing a $50ish basic tune up, which at this point might not be a bad idea in order to start from a good known working state.

If you have a make and model, let us know, it might help. If you're invested in having a bike and want to do things yourself, I recommend Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance.
posted by kcm at 6:57 PM on August 4, 2006

Another vote for simply taking it to your local independent bike store (not Walmart!). So many cheap bikes in poor condition can be repaired into great, usable condition simply by spending a few bucks on having a pro give it a tune up.
posted by intermod at 7:05 PM on August 4, 2006

Thanks for taking the time guys. Lekvar, that's exactly the sort of idiot-proof description I needed. Took a bit of time but it worked!
posted by nyc123 at 7:30 PM on August 4, 2006

Glad to hear it! Now that the wheel spins you should probably do what everybody else said and take it to a bike shp for a basic lube-and-tune. It'll make a world of difference.
posted by lekvar at 7:34 PM on August 4, 2006

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