Motorcycle Stuck in Gear? Here’s What to Do

Motorcycle owners know the feeling of the open road and the risks involved with owning and riding a motorcycle. One of these risks is the chance of your motorcycle getting stuck in gear.

Older motorcycles can get stuck in a gear more often. Temporary fixes for a stuck gear are:

  • Pulling the clutch and slightly revving up to force it to change gears
  • Rocking the motorcycle back and forth until you can shift; making sure to always shift up before starting to shift down
  • Slowly release the clutch to see if there’s a point where you can shift to get it unstuck

Whether or not this has happened once or more than once, you may be wondering how exactly to get it unstuck and what can help prevent the gears from getting stuck in the first place. Read more in this article to find out what is causing the motorcycle to get stuck in gear and ways to prevent the gears from sticking. 

What Causes A Motorcycle to Be Stuck in Gear?

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There are many different things that can cause your motorcycle’s gears to stick. Maybe you have thought that just taking your motorcycle apart to look inside the motor and transmission is the answer. However, there are simpler ways to check your motorcycle before tearing apart the motor. Let’s dive deeper into what will cause this to happen. 

Checking into individual causes can save you a ton of time. It can be a simple problem or really end up being inside the motor and transmission. But looking at the simple problems and solutions first can save time and money. 

Here are some reasons that your motorcycle is getting stuck in gear:

  1. Loosened Chain
  2. Lubrication
  3. Slack
  4. Clutch cable
  5. Worn-out chain sprocket
  6. Transmission problems

Any of these situations can cause your motorcycle to be stuck in gear. There are ways to check and fix the problems with simple steps. Read on for the causes and solutions to these problems.

Causes for a Stuck Gear

Close-up of engine
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Since there are many different scenarios for your motorcycle to be stuck in gear, there are also some pretty common causes. As previously discussed in the article, there are some ways to fix the problems associated with stuck gears before taking apart the bike as a whole. We can dive deeper into those possible problems and figure out what is causing each one to happen. 

Lubrication

Motorcycles have different parts that require certain degrees of lubrication. At least two of the mechanisms that require lubrication are the clutch and the chain. When either the chain or clutch is dry this can cause a stick in your gears. 

The motorcycle chain must be lubricated to be used effectively. If your motorcycle has been sitting for a while there is a good possibility that the chain has started drying out.

Motorcycle transmission oil

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The clutch is another important piece that requires proper lubrication. Since most motorcycles use a type of wet clutch, the clutch will typically be covered in transmission oil. Wear and tear are more noticeable and occur when the lubrication is not done right. The clutch being dry can cause a difference in gears shifting and be a good reason for a stuck gear. There are two ways that lubrication could be ineffective: your motorcycle is low on oil or the oil is not lubricating correctly – either due to using the wrong type of oil or using very old oil.

Slack

This particular section will apply to both slack in the chain and slack in your clutch cable. Having both can influence how your bike works and operates on the open road or track. 

Slack in your motorcycle chain is often a less common reason for gear issues; however, not impossible. It is common for your motorcycle chain to become loosened over time and it is always a good idea to keep a check on your chain anyway for not only the lubrication but to ensure the chain is tightened to the degree it should be. 

Having slack in your clutch cable is a different story. There are several ways that the improper slack in clutch cables can cause your gears to slip or get stuck. 

  • Slack is too high: this causes the clutch and gears to slip even when the lever is released completely
  • Slack is tight or too loose: this can cause the clutch wire to be pulled incorrectly creating an ineffective release for the clutch plates.

Clutch Cable

Motorcycle clutch cable kit

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Clutch cables can have leaking cylinders. This typically occurs from the fit, clutch line, and even the master cylinder leaking because the seals are loose or worn. If the master cylinders are leaking, you are going to need to replace the hydraulic system.

Worn-out chain sprocket

Having a worn-out sprocket in your motorcycle, gear transmission will not properly, and smoothly take effect. This is going to be the main reason that your motorcycle keeps getting stuck in gear. Determining whether or not you will be needing to replace the chain and sprockets will depend on how damaged they are. Damages can be caused by rust, normal wear-and-tear, or just having damaged chain teeth.

Transmission issues

When the transmission is worn out or has problems going on, there is usually a reason. Your motorcycle being stuck in gear can be because of a faulty or damaged transmission. Reasons for transmission issues are:

  • Seized transmission gear
  • An object being stuck in-between the gears
  • Shift shafts that are bent or damaged
  • Transmission gears have not been assembled correctly

This is going to create the problems of shifting and cause the motorcycle to have stuck gears. A hard shift or resistance when shifting is a good indicator that there is a problem with your transmission. 

How to Fix A Motorcycle Stuck in Gear 

Man working on a motorcycle engine
Photo by Aaron Huber on Unsplash

Since there are many reasons as to why your motorcycle is getting stuck in gear, there can be many solutions. When you are able to pinpoint the issue, fixing the problem can be fast and get you back on the road.

These are going to be solutions that require at-home fixes or to be done in a workshop Fixing your motorcycle’s problems can be very simple. However, sometimes they may be more complex than you expect and may need a professional in order to be completely solved.

Once you find out the issue, you can be well on your way to fixing the problem. Below is the answer to helping you fix your motorcycle’s stuck gears. 

ClutchChain
LubricationCheck the amount of oil that is inside the motorcycle; if the oil is low add more; sometimes there needs to be an oil change done to the motorcycleClean the chain in sections first with a cleaner; dry completely; apply the correct lubricant or oils 
SlackLoosen the left nut on the adjuster; pull the cable and sheath free; shorten the sheath by spinning the right nut in the direction that lengthens the inner cables; put everything back together and the cable should have enough slackFind the proper slack requirements in the user manual; loosen nuts on the wheel axle and chain adjusters; adjust the chain slack; tighten up all the nuts so that the wheel is easily moved with tension on the chain
Clutch CableYou will need tools, cable lube, and replacement cable; get access to the cable by removing flares and seats; remove the clutch cable from holds by bottoming out the adjuster screw; remove the cable from the handlebar and the engine also removing the cover; taking note of the clutch cables route, remove cable entirely; lube new cable and replace in the same path; reattach screws and covers
SprocketsPull chain away from the rear sprocket; check the teeth for damage and rust; if the chain sprocket needs replacing, go to a professional; if you choose to do it yourself, make sure you put everything on the same way you take it off
TransmissionAlways get the transmission fixed by a professional 

This table was put together from Motorcycle Vibe, Bike Restart, and Motorcycle Forum.

Conclusion

Even though it is easier to do repairs yourself it is always important to get advice or a professional to help. Sometimes fixes for your motorcycle’s stuck gears are simple but other times they can be more complicated and require more work. 

Remember that finding the cause is a great place to start. Even though you can do a temporary fix on the side of the road, that won’t be a long-lasting solution and can potentially cause more issues down the road.

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