You’re out riding your new electric bike, and everything is going great until you try to roll it backward. Suddenly, the pedals start spinning, but the bike doesn’t move. What causes this situation, and what can you do?

When an e-bike doesn’t roll backward, you can reset the disc brakes, engage freewheel mode, replace motor bearings, check for crude gumming in the motor, and lubricate the chain and the crankshaft. An electric bike that won’t roll backward is typically due to an issue with the motor or a stuck chain.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss why your electric bike won’t roll backward. I’ll also cover how to fix this problem. Let’s get started!

Reasons Why Your E-Bike Isn’t Rolling Backwards

Electric bikes have become common as they make navigation more accessible, especially in congested cities with heavy traffic. Commuters in crowded cities spend approximately 54 hours stuck in traffic. Electric bikes are an effective way to navigate such conditions and arrive at work or destinations on time.

However, you may encounter a challenge when the bike fails to roll backward. Here are the main culprits:

Your E-Bike Disc Brakes Settings Are Incorrect

Electric bikes have three types of brakes

  • Disc brakes
  • V-brakes
  • Rim brakes

A majority of these e-bikes use mechanical disc brakes whose cables contain air. The main problem with these brakes is that they can prevent the bike from rolling backward if not set appropriately.

Mechanical disc brakes set too tightly may keep pressing the brake pads on the rotor, preventing it from rolling backward.

Your E-Bike Is Not in Freewheel Mode

Some electric bikes have a freewheel mode that allows them to coast without pedaling or using battery power.

When engaged, the freewheel mode disengages the motor from the pedals. This process is crucial if you want to roll back on an electric bike with freewheel mode.

Disengaging the motor from the pedals allows you to roll back without electronic assistance. Moving the bike backward without engaging the freewheel mode means the motor will continue resisting the reverse movement. Therefore, the bike won’t move backward, no matter how hard you try.

Your E-Bike Has Worn Out Motor Bearings or Slipping Chain

A motor is crucial in electric bikes since it powers the bike’s movement. Any issue with the motor can prevent an e-bike from rolling backward. One frequent problem is worn-out bearings in the motor’s hub and bottom bracket.

These bearings enable the shaft to spin around a load. Consequently, the spinning motion is transferred to the chain, causing the bike to move in a given direction. Wearing these bearings out can stop the spinning movement and prevent the bicycle from rolling backward.

Another potential issue is a slipping chain that can’t turn the crank forward or backward properly. This issue could happen due to the following:

  • A dirty chain
  • A dry chain
  • A loose chain
  • Wear and tear of the chain due to excessive motor pressure

Dirt and Debris Are Gumming Your E-Bike Motor

If your e-bike doesn’t roll backward, it may be due to debris gumming up the motor, which results from dirt and debris trapped in the motor’s housing. This build-up could prevent the spinning motion necessary to move the bike forward or backward.

Moreover, excessive crud accumulation in the bike’s motor overworks the battery, affecting the bike’s overall performance. An overworked battery will also have a reduced range.

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What To Do When an E-Bike Won’t Roll Backwards

You know the potential reasons your electric bike isn’t rolling backward. It’s time to get to the nitty-gritty of fixing this issue. Read on to find out.

Reset Your E-Bike Disc Brakes

Resetting the bike’s disc brakes is first on the line. Disc brake alignment is the leading cause of this problem because most cyclists set them based on forward movement. Therefore, the brake pads start pressing the rims when you reverse the bike’s direction.

To reset the disc brakes, loosen the cable clamp and pull it. This method will relieve the brake pads from pressing on the rotor. Try spinning the wheel backward with your hand to see if it turns freely.

If that doesn’t work, try adjusting the distance between the brake pad and rotor with an Allen key. Keep checking as you work until there’s enough space for smooth backward rolling.

Engage Your E-Bike in Freewheel Mode

If your e-bike version has a freewheel mode, it’s the reason it won’t roll backward. Engaging the freewheel mode disengages the motor from the pedals, allowing the bike to move back freely without resistance from the ratchet or pawl.

Electric bikes have different freewheels; therefore, engaging in this mode depends on your bike’s version. You should consult the bike’s user manual for the appropriate procedure.

The standard e-bike freewheels include:

  • Ratchet and pawl freewheel
  • Star ratchet freewheel
  • Roller freewheel
  • Sprag clutch freewheel

Check Motor Bearings and for Chain Slipping

If resetting the disc brakes or engaging the freewheel mode doesn’t work, the problem could be with the motor’s bearings or chain slipping. 

The motor’s bearings could be worn-out or damaged, preventing them from transferring the spinning motion to the chain.

You can check the bearings by removing the motor and examining its hub and bottom bracket for wear and tear. Some signs that the bearings are worn-out include:

  • Rough spinning
  • Noisy operation
  • Severe vibration

You should replace the bearings if you have worn them out. Otherwise, if the problem is due to a slipping chain, you should clean and lubricate it thoroughly. 

Here’s how to clean and lubricate your e-bikes chain:

  1. Bring the chain down to the lowest gear. This action will make it easier to clean and lubricate.
  2. Using a chain cleaner and a chain scrubber (like this one on Amazon), clean the entire chain by running it through the scrubber. You can make at least 30 revolutions.
  3. Dry the chain using a rag.
  4. Once it’s clean, apply an appropriate bike lubricant like the green oil wet lube on each link as you spin the pedal backward using your hand.
  5. Wipe any excess lubricant with a dry cloth before spinning the pedals to distribute it evenly.

Here is a video that demonstrates how to clean and lubricate an e-bike’s chain:

Consult an E-Bike Repair Technician

You should consult a bike repair technician if the above fixes fail. The technician will inspect the bike and identify the problem. The issue might be due to worn-out parts that need replacing, so you are better off leaving the job to the professionals. 


An electric bike that won’t roll backward indicates a problem with the motor, chain, or brakes. Therefore, you should try to identify the cause of the problem before attempting to fix it. 

You should consider consulting an e-bike mechanic if the above fixes fail, or if you’re not knowledgeable enough to attempt these fixes yourself.