Have you ever wondered if bicycles can go in reverse, and if so, how?
The short answer is no. Pedaling in reverse whit classing bicycles is not possible. However, with a fixed-gear bike, which is designed to go both forward and backward, it is entirely possible.
Before we start it is important to break down two things.
Classic bicycles can go in reverse but without pedaling. There are other ways you can do it which I will break down a little bit later.
If you try to pedal in reverse with a classic bicycle nothing will happen. You can only pedal forward and that’s it.
While with a fixed-gear bicycle, you can pedal both forward and backward, it goes in either direction.
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The Reason why you can’t pedal backward with a bicycle
Every classic bicycle has a freewheel mechanism and this is how it works.
When you pedal in a forward direction, the sprocket gets locked with the ratchet and moves along with it. Which enables your bicycle to move forward.
On the other hand, when you try to pedal in reverse the sprocket just slides over the rachet without drawing him.
That’s why when you pedal in reverse your bicycle is not moving, you just hear that strange sound of a sprocket sliding over the rachet.
The same happens when you are in the middle of the ride and all of a sudden you just move your feet from pedals, the same sound will appear.
Ways to go in reverse with a classic bicycle
Despite the fact that you cannot pedal in reverse, there are still some ways in which you can go backward.
1. Get off the bike
This is probably the easiest and simplest thing you can do. Getting off the bike is a good solution when you have plenty of space around you.
So you can safely turn around your bicycle without disturbing other people.
2. Pushing the ground with your feet
The method that I use 90 percent of the time when I need to go backward is to bounce over the ground with my feet.
If I need to go in reverse I will just gently kick the ground with my feet and slowly start to turn my handlebar left or right depending on which way I want to go.
3. Use the gravity and your weight
This is a little bit more complex to do and usually, BMX freestyles use this in their stuns.
Here is a short tutorial on how to do it.
First, you need to stand up and get comfortable in that upright position. Then you need to bend a little bit and shift all your balance and weight to the back.
It will be super slow and super unbalanced, you may even fall off the bike a couple of times but you will get used to it over time. It’s not that practical but it’s good to know some tricks.
Does backpedaling harm a bicycle?
I heard many people say that pedaling back when cycling is damaging your bike, is that really true?
Pedaling back when cycling is not damaging your bicycle. It will only drain your energy and slow you down a little bit. It can even be useful, when you want to put your pedals back in the position or when you want to apply oil or chain lube.
When it comes to the fixed-gear bike you can’t even pedal backward in the middle of the ride.
Because you are already moving forward and if all of a sudden you try to pedal backward nothing will happen, you will just slow yourself down little by little.
Reversing with a fixed-gear bicycle
With a fixed-gear bike if you pedal forward bike goes forward and if you pedal backward bike goes backward.
In this type of bicycle, there is no freewheel mechanism and everything is happening only in one gear.
When it comes to riding it, it has a completely different style. Pedals are directly coupled to the wheel which means that pedals are in charge of both riding and breaking.
If you ever sit on this type of bike you will see that it is very unstable to ride and it is extremely difficult to even start pedaling.
When cycling backward at the beginning you will be moving very slowly and completely out of balance. But as time goes you will start to see some improvement and in a couple of weeks, you will be confident and able to cycle backward without any problems.
Moving backward with the bicycle is not that useful skill. There are very few situations in which it is practical.
Because bicycles are relatively small and there is no need for reverse function when you can simply rotate your bike for 180° and continue the ride.
Only if you are some sort of freestyler or you just want to impress your friends. I have been cycling for over ten years now, and I never had the desire for my bike to go backward.
I hope this article was helpful.