Why Is My Mountain Bike So Hard to Pedal

Last Updated on August 7, 2022

Mountain biking is downright fun. However, it can be a big hassle especially if you are having a hard time pedaling it down the trails or wherever you may be.

This is why many new mountain bikers easily give up on cycling, not knowing that they only need to do a few tweaks and adjustments to their bike to avoid the issue.

In this article, we are going to dive deep into that very problem and discuss the many common reasons why your mountain bike might be hard to pedal.

We are also going to show you the solutions so you can avoid these issues and have a better time out on the trails.

Dirt and grime

The most common reason why you might find it hard to pedal your bike is that there is a lot of dirt and grime sticking on it. These can drastically affect your performance especially if it sticks on the frame, wheels, and drivetrain.

Check your frame especially its down tube and see if there is any mud sticking on its surface. If there are, then they’re putting up more weight on your bike.

There might also be dust and small dirt particles stuck on your chain and cranks which make the pedaling motion rough.

Make it a habit to clean your bike every after ride. A simple wash with gentle water pressure from the hose is enough.

Damaged bottom bracket

Maintaining mountain bike bottom bracket

A damaged bottom bracket is a huge problem because you can’t pedal properly. You see, your pedals and crank are connected directly to your bottom bracket which is locked inside the bottom-most part of your downtube.

What usually happens is that the bottom bracket has rust in it which is why it becomes loose and functions poorly.

If this is the case, it is best to have your local bike shop service your bottom bracket. They will also regrease it for smoother performance.

Wrong gear

Most beginner mountain bikers don’t know that gearing is a very important part of mountain biking. You need to be in the right gear depending on your speed, terrain, and level of inclination so you can pedal easily.

If you are climbing and you find it too hard to pedal and move forward, then simply shift to the higher gear to gain momentum. This also makes it easier to pedal because you don’t have to exert much effort trying to move through the big cassette as compared to if you are in a lower gear.

Flat tire

Young caucasian woman athlete tourist cyclist uses a hand tool, a bicycle pump to inflate air into a tire wheel mountain bike. Breakdown and quick repair of a bicycle in the countryside outside

This is another very obvious reason why some bikes become hard to pedal. However, these might not be easily seen because they might just appear as a low PSI setup.

This is why you need to make sure that you’re running on the right tire pressure. If you’re into cross-country mountain biking, you should maintain a 30 to 40 tire pressure at the front and rear wheel respectively so that you’ll have faster rolling tires.

Although this might compromise grip, this will surely make you faster. You also have to exert less effort in pedaling because there is minimal contact between the tires and the ground.

Damaged hubs

Hubs are another vital component of your bike because it is what allow your wheels to turn depending on the amount of effort you exert when pedaling.

We recommend that you have your local bike shop service your hubs regularly, at least once every two months. Servicing means that the hubs undergo regreasing and part alignment so that all of their components are ensured to be in place.

Derailed chain

Although derailed chains aren’t any more a big problem today because of the huge technological advancements that drivetrains have, especially with the premium ones, they can still happen now and then.

This is especially true if you are riding on very rocky trails or technical downhill sections. And most often than not, you won’t notice that your chains have been derailed from their proper position.

This is why you need to check it always. What usually happens is that the chain can be suddenly placed a cog higher or lower than what is at the right speed.

You can avoid this by lubricating your chain so that it will smoothly follow your shifting motion from the lever.

Hardened sealant

Tubeless tires have sealant within them. However, this has an expiration date which usually lasts around three to six months depending on the brand and type.

If you haven’t changed sealant beyond that time frame, there is a good chance that it will harden. This then forms into a sticky and slimy mold that can affect your riding performance because it isn’t anymore in liquid form.

Instead, it throws itself around the interior of the tires every time it turns. This results in sudden jerking motions that can suddenly slow down your bike when you’re pedaling via your rear wheel axle.

It also makes it harder for you to pedal because you’re bringing along additional weight.

Wrong frame size

Frame size is an important thing many riders fail to include in their list of considerations.

This means that you should get your right frame size depending on your height. If you have a height of 5’5 and below, then a small-sized frame is ideal for you. A medium frame is then best if you are 5’6 to 5’9 tall.

Meanwhile, a large-sized frame is what you need if you are a six-footer. There are even some instances when taller riders choose an extra-large frame because these are more stable than the smaller ones.

Make sure you choose the right size because if it’s too big for your height, then you’ll have a hard time pedaling it and balancing your weight along with it.

Misaligned brakes

mounting brake caliper on mountain bike

Bent brake rotors can rub on your calipers and brake pads. This can make it hard to pedal because every motion leads to a rub off between the pads and rotors. Make sure that your brakes along with your brake pads are aligned before you go out on a bike ride.

Tire treads

Another reason why you are experiencing a mountain bike hard pedaling is because of the kind of tires you are running in.

Cross-country or XC tires have the least ground contact and rolling resistance just like road bike tires as they are designed for fast-rolling speeds.

If you want to exert the least amount of effort when biking, then better get a pair of XC tires because they have smaller treads that ensure fast speeds for climbing and downhills.

However, they’re not the most durable as they don’t have the additional layer of protection that trail and enduro tires have.

Cross-country tires that have low-profile patterns have short treads that are designed to make it easy for the rider to pedal.

Meanwhile, aggressive tires that are built for enduro and downhill racing are harder to pedal because they maximize ground contact using their large treads to improve maneuverability and durability.

Lacks lubrication

Lubrication is important for mountain bikes because this is what allows their many moving parts to function properly alongside each other.

Specifically speaking, make sure that you lubricate your chain regularly. The linkages of your full-suspension bike should also be greased enough so that it will be more in tune with rocky trails.

Aside from those, we also recommend you use a silicone spray on your fork and rear stanchions so that it will slide smoothly when you’re out in the trails.


Many riders have experienced having a hard time pedaling their bikes.

Don’t worry if you are one of these people because it’s not that hard to solve this issue. You just need to know how your bike works and do the right solutions to have a better mountain bike ride the next time you go out.

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