The chain on the wheel is the linchpin for many problems. It must be maintained and changed. Also, You must know how to remove a bike chain, how to fix a bike chain and how to do this, and how a chain riveter works. You can read all about it here.

The bicycle chain is the dirtiest object on the bike. Actually, this is usually just annoying, it squeaks or breaks. Perhaps it does not fit at all? Or the chain lock will neither open nor close? I show you in this tutorial various tools that you absolutely need or in which case you can do without them. The topic has many facets, or should I say links?

How to Remove Bike Chain

1- Place the bike on a stand or turn it upside down, so you can turn the pedals without moving it.

Remove Bike Chain Using Quick-release chain

If your chain has a quick-release link (there are several types):

  • Locate it.
  • Rotate the chain so that the link is accessible.
  • Slip a pair of pliers through it and tighten the link. When retracting, it will open. For some models, you should be able to open the quick link the same way by simply pressing with your fingers.

Removing Bike Chain Using Chain Tool

If your chain does not have a quick release link, you will need to use a chain tool.

  • Place the chain tool on a link.
  • Turn the lever clockwise. The chain tool dislodges a small metal rivet that holds the links together.

Important: Stop before completely removing the metal rivet. It must always be attached to one side of the link.

How to Fix a Broken Bike Chain

There are 5 easy steps that you need to follow to fix a broken bike chain.

Step 1- REMOVE BROKEN BIKE CHAIN: In order to repair your bicycle chain, first shift gears to the middle position. Thus, the chain will be less tense and easier to handle. Once you have passed an intermediate gear, you can remove the chain from its axle. To do this, you just need to use a chain tool, unless your chain has a quick link.

Step 2- CLEAN BROKEN BIKE CHAIN: Once the chain is removed, use an old toothbrush or special chain brush to remove dirt, grease residue, and/or rust from the chain links while applying WD-40 SPECIALIST® Bicycle Degreaser. It is important to clean your chain well; indeed, a clogged chain sees its performance decrease rapidly.

Step 3- USE THE CHAIN TOOL TO REPAIR THE BICYCLE CHAIN:  Each chain link is attached to other links by an axle. Find the broken link and detach it from the chain using the chain tool. To do this, follow the manipulation indicated in the video. Push the pin halfway in, just enough for the broken link to come off, but not too much for the pin to stay attached to the neighboring link.

Step 4- REMOVE THE BROKEN LINK AND DISCARD IT: While the pin is halfway out, remove the broken link. The pin will then be used to secure the new link. After this step, you are almost on your way to a full chain repair.

Step 5- REASSEMBLE THE CHAIN AND INSERT A NEW LINK: Insert the new link in place of the old one and put the chain back on its axle. Use the chain tool to reinstall it on its axis and close the removed links. If possible, replace the old link with a quick link. So you won’t need a chain tool the next time you need to repair your bike chain.

How to Put a Chain on a Bike

  • If you have the old string, just transfer its length to the new string.
  • If you broke the old chain or picked up a bike without a chain, you will need to refer to the instructions that came with the new chain to determine your chain size. It will tell you where to place the chain (large chainring/large sprocket, large chainring/small sprocket, small chainring/small sprocket) and what angle should be between the derailleur and the ground (90°, 180°). Put the derailleur in the recommended position and mark the length of the chain.
  • Finally, remove the excess links using the chain tool and close the chain.

Note: Links have male and female ends to fit together. You will therefore always have to remove them in pairs, in order to have a male link and a female link to close the chain. Also, note that the quick links instead attach to two male links.

How Much Are Bike Chains

What are the different types of bike chains? There’s an entry level chain that can cost as low as $15. More expensive and higher performance ones will range anywhere from $25 to $60, with the more durable wearing over time!

How to Find Master Link on Bike Chain

If you have a chain with a master link, look for the one that is significantly different when viewed from both sides. This will be your master link and it has an insert pin on one side which inserts into notch thingy-side up (the other ends meet).

How to Take a Link Out of a Chain

Have you spotted the quick link? Engage the pedal backward until the element in question is on the lower line.

Use your quick release pliers to disengage the part, proceeding as follows:

  • Insert the jaw into the quick link so that the ends of the pliers are on the outer sides of the link rivets.
  • Tighten the pliers to slide the pins and unlock the quick link.
  • Open the chain in half and remove the two quick link plates.

The cord, or lace, will replace the action of the pliers on the axes of the quick link. Introduce the end of your strand from bottom to top outside the first axis, then slide it from top to bottom outside the second axis. The rope should form a small bridge over the quick link. Then, just cross the two wires under the link and apply strong pressure to release the mechanism.

Some Common Problem of Bike Chain

In the bike chain, there are many problems and steps to solve, first check where you are and what is the next step. I will explain each step in detail afterward.

  1. Is your chain still usable or does it need to be changed?
    (Why change the chain)
  2. How do I find the right length, width, and designation to fit my bike?
    (Which chain)
  3. How do I open the old chain to remove it?
  4. How do I mount and close the new chain correctly?

Let’s go through this step by step.

How to Check for Chain Wear

With a chain gauge, you can determine the wear of a bicycle chain. Because a chain stretches and then becomes unfit. Only through this stretching, the chain damages your chainrings and sprockets. Rust and dirt may be unsightly, but this is not decisive for whether a chain needs to be changed. Finally, you can simply clean and oil your chain, then it goes again. And it’s more environmentally friendly if you don’t always throw everything away and buy a new one.

You can find the right guides for these three topics here:

Does it all fit? Is the chain no longer usable? Then we go to the next step.

How to Find Right Bicycle Chain

In general, you just need to know what kind of gear you have. So whether it is a derailleur or hub gears. Also, the number of gears on the rear derailleur. This number is crucial for the right chain. Suitable for your bike.

Even more tips on the size and correct bicycle chain can be found in our own article on the subject:

Do you have the right length and width to fit your bike and gear? Perfect, then we can take care of the main issue.

How to Open Bicycle Chain and Chain Lock

Disassembling the chain is a simple procedure. However, you will not get anywhere without special tools. Because you can not bite the pins in the chain with your teeth. And the good thing is: with the same tool you open the chain, you can also close it. There are two options.

Before it comes to the two right options – here is a short hint for desperate people. You don’t have a chain riveter or chain nose pliers to open and close the chain? It is not impossible that you could open an old chain by force (e.g. with a hacksaw). The new chain can be closed with the right chain lock even without tools! It must fit from the length only coincidentally.

In this case, you would have avoided the issue and managed it without any special tools. But how sustainable is that? At the latest with the next chance, you stand before the same topic. And a chain riveter is neither expensive nor useless. It is used for opening and also for closing. So an elementary tool in your bike workshop.

The two (correct) options mentioned above are Chain riveter and chain nose pliers. Modern bicycle chains do not need a chain tool to open/close. But to shorten the chain you will still need the tool. You can read more about this in the chain assembly section (below).

There are now two ways to open the chain: If your chain is closed with a quick link, then simply open it with chain nose pliers.

You will quickly recognize a Quicklinik: This is a large chain link that has a wider “window” in which the pin can be pushed back and forth.

This will make it easy for you to open your chain. If you can’t find such a quick link on the chain, then you have to open any link with the chain riveter. Caution: a chain opened in this way cannot be closed again with the same pin (that you just pushed out). You would have to buy a matching master pin (Shimano chains) or use a matching quick link from the manufacturer. Pins and quick links must always fit exactly! Universal parts do not exist, because each chain of each manufacturer is slightly different.

With a chain riveter, you can open each link of the chain. However, closing this same chain could then become problematic.

Your bike now has no chain since you opened and removed it. Then only the last step remains.

Mountain Bike Chain and Closing the Chain Lock

When mounting the chain, there are a few things to consider. And some little helpers that can make your life much easier. These you can even build yourself, with a simple wire. Here are the tips for closing the bicycle chain or chain lock with chain nose pliers.

There are two locking systems for the mountain bike chain. Older and some cheaper Shimano chains and other manufacturers still rely on the master pin. Here, a pin is used by the chain riveter to marry two “normal” chain links. It is different with Quick links, these can be closed without tools. Even more tips you read (again) in its own contribution to the Quick links/chain locks.

How to Shorten a Bicycle Chain?

Before it goes to the assembly of the chain, the new chain must be adjusted in length. Here there are again two methods to find the right length.

Either you still have the old chain as a reference and can put the new chain next to it. This way you can compare the number of links and choose the same number for the new chain. Be aware that the old chain might have lengthened by 1-2 links (so watch the offset when you put it against the new chain).

Place the two chains (old and new) next to each other, compare the number of links to shorten the new chain to the same length. Use a chain riveter to remove the excess links.

Make sure that if you have a Quick link chain, you shorten the chain so that the end piece is a small link. For a pin-lock chain (Shimano), you must have a large link at the end (the pin connects the large end to the other small end).

If you don’t have an old chain for reference, then you need to install the new chain in full length (without closing it). Put the chain on the largest sprocket at the back and on the large chainring at the front. This is the maximum length your chain will need. The rear derailleur can be pushed through more in this position, in fact, it needs to reach very far forward. Remove as many links until the rear derailleur is in a strongly tensioned position (if the rear derailleur is not strongly tensioned forward in this extreme position, then the chain is still too long).

Now the chain has the correct length. Guide the chain again correctly through the rear derailleur, the frame, and around the chainring. You have to be especially careful with the derailleur. There is a very typical mistake here, as the chain guide can be a bit confusing.

chain shortening
There is something important to note about the rear derailleur: The chain makes an S-shape between the upper and lower shift cogs. On the way between these cogs, the chain remains on the inner side (the cage has a pin here), the chain must not be guided outside (around the pin).

Unfortunately, I have no detailed picture of this chain guide – but it should hopefully work out!

If the chain so far is carried out and on the front chainring, then we must now close the chain. So that the chain in this position does not constantly jump up you can help yourself with a wire. Some chain tools / Multitools even have such a helper:

With a wire, you fix the chain to close the quick link or the last chain link with a pin.

If you have a chain with a quick link, then closing is especially easy. Bring the Quicklink together.

quickline chain
Some quick links are simply plugged in and a “simple” back is inserted on the other side, to do this simply compress the chain a little or bend it slightly.
Still, other quick links are simply joined together. You don’t have to use chain nose pliers to close them!

The easiest way to close such a quick link is on tension/tension! Because the chain tightens when driving when the power is transferred from the crank to the rear wheel. So you just have to align the pin and pedal once hard.

chain in work
Bring the still open chain link into position (between chainring and sprocket at the top).
chain in work2
Hold the brake and briefly step on the pedal. With enough pressure, the chain lock will now close!

Now not all chains have the option of the quick link. Even though this is already very common today! Because this variant is convenient, to open and also close. But with the chain with the master pin, you have to work with the chain riveter. This last variant you see here.

In the best case, the chain now fits perfectly – because you have measured the length correctly! So now shift once through all gears and check the two extremes (smallest sprocket + smallest chainring and largest sprocket + largest chainring) whether everything fits.