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Last updated: October 29, 2022
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Most of the tasks that we carry out to maintain our bikes are easy, but when it comes to how to shorten bike chains, this is where many cyclists become confused. Your bike, like every other bike out there, has a recommended chain length from the manufacturer. If you want to protect your rear derailleur and also ride comfortably without the risk of an accident, you have to shorten your bike chain to meet the recommended length.
The bike chain is used to rotate the tires so that your bike can move. So, if the chain doesn’t fit, it would be hard to move your bike. You might have to shorten your bike chain when you replace it, and it’s not a perfect fit or when the chain ages and stretches.
Shortening your bike chain is straightforward, whether you are DIY inclined or not. In this guide, we would look at how to shorten bike chains in different ways.
How to Shorten a Bike Chain with a Chain Tool
If you see that your bike chain is longer than it’s supposed to be, you can follow these steps on how to shorten a bicycle chain.
Step 1: Purchase a chain tool
Trusted SourceChain tool - WikipediaA chain tool is a small mechanical device used to “break” a bicycle chain in such a way that it can be mended with the same tool. A bicycle chain has links and plates that are pinned together; these pins can be pushed out with the chain tool. Because the pins are pushed out gradually with a screw, they can be partially removed or fully removed, depending upon the intention of the user.
if you don’t already have one. There are a wide of chain tools that you can go for, but you should purchase those that are universal so that it works for you regardless of the bike that you use. Or, you can ask your bike manufacturer to recommend a chain tool.
Step 2: The next thing to do is set up your bicycle on the repair stand. This is important if you want to keep the bike in place. If you don’t have one, you can lean the bike against the wall in a way that you have enough room for the tires.
Step 3: Now, you should clean your bike chain before you start shortening it. Cleaning it would make it easy for you to ride it right after you shorten it.
Step 4: Now that your bike is in place, the next thing to do is find the master link. It usually stands out from the other links on the chain because it is darker or might be encased in a plate with different pins coming out of it. In some cases, bike chains don’t have a master link. If this is your case, use the chain tool to break the chain and remove some links.
Step 5: Put the master link between the back and front gears so that you can easily reach them. When you loosen the master link, it’s best to store it somewhere, so you don’t misplace it.
Step 6: Then, decide how many links that you want to remove so that you can shorten the chain. Remove a few links at a time, and then check the length before continuing. To remove links, you need your chain tool.
Step 7: Check the manual of your chain tool and follow it to remove the links from your bike chain. Removing the first link might be difficult, but after a while, it would be easy to finish up. Don’t throw the removed links away in case you need to reconnect them.
Step 8: Now that you have shortened your bicycle chain, you need to reassemble the chain using the chain tool. Attach the two ends of the chain to the master chain using the tool, and push the pin until you hear the clicking sound. Once you do this, your bike chain would be shorter and securely installed, so you can start riding.
How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool
If you don’t have a chain tool or you don’t want to purchase one, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to shorten your bike chain. You can follow our steps below on how to shorten a bike chain without a chain tool.
Step 1: Since you don’t have a chain tool, you would have to replace your tools and use a hammer, screwdriver, small nail, and a pair of pliers instead. A clamp is also an important tool when shortening a bike chain without a chain tool to hold the chain in place.
Step 2: Just like it was mentioned previously, place your bike on a repair stand or lean it against the wall. Then, look for the master link and remove it. If you don’t have a master link, you can just break the chain and remove some links. You can refer to steps 2 to 5 in the previous section so that you can prepare your bike properly.
Step 3: Decide how many links you want to remove. It’s always better to remove fewer links than too many because there’s not much you can do with a bike chain that is too short. You can measure the chain and compare it to the recommended length given to you by the manufacturers.
Step 4: After detaching the master link from the chain or breaking the chain, if you don’t have a master link, you can use a clamp to hold the loose link in one place. When clamping the loose link, do so in a way that you can remove the pin when you need to, by using the pair of pliers and the small nail.
Step 5: If you want to remove the pin with the pliers and nail, do so by placing the nail on the pin. Then, hit it gently with the pliers until it comes out on the opposite side. You can also use the hammers if they are too stiff to move. Continue to do this to remove all the pins connecting the links until you have removed all the links you need.
Step 6: Once your bicycle chain has been shortened to the right length, you can reconnect it. Do so by putting the master link on the two ends of the chain and pushing them in with the screwdriver until it clicks into place. Test the chain out to see if it is of the right length.
Tips and Advice
There are a few tips that you should keep in mind when it comes to how to shorten the bike chain. You should keep them in mind so that you don’t damage your bike.
If you’re a frequent bike rider, you shouldn’t depend on shortening your bike chain without a chain tool. This is because you would have to adjust the bike chain regularly, and it would help if you have a chain tool to help you with this. Buy a high-quality chain tool and add it to one of your bike tools.
Before you remount your bike chain, you need to apply a top-quality lubricant to it. This is very important to your chain because it prevents rust and allows it to move smoothly. This is especially important if you ride your bike often and on rough, muddy, or snowy trails.
Apart from when you lubricate your bike chain after shortening it, it is important to lubricate it frequently afterward. Do so to prevent wear and tear so that your bike can ride well and last for a long time too.
If you don’t ride your bike every day, check the bike chain for subtle damage once every few months. There might be unnoticeable damage there, which can cause it to suddenly break down, even if the bike chain doesn’t feel slack. If you ride your bike every day, you should check the chain once every few weeks.
If you are not DIY inclined, it’s quite risky to maintain or shorten your bike chain by yourself. You can damage it and also invalidate the warranty, which is why you should go to a repair shop. You can choose a shop that is experienced with your specific brand and ask them to shorten the bike for you. If it is included in your warranty conditions, you can also ask the manufacturer to do it.
Clean your bike chain before you shorten it. Although your bike chain might seem like there is nothing wrong with it, cleaning it would help you see the actual condition of the chain. In some cases, the chain is damaged and needs to be replaced, not shortened. So, cleaning it would reveal this to you.
What out for the chainring and other sharp parts of your bike. While you’re engrossed in removing parts from your bike, you can end up cutting yourself. So, pay attention to the sharp parts. The bike should also be secured on the stand to prevent accidents.
If you still have a few things you don’t understand, we have some commonly asked questions on how to shorten the bike chain.
How can I shorten the chain on my mountain bike?
You might think that shortening the chain on your mountain bike is more complicated than a normal bike, especially because of the extra units that they come with, but this isn’t so. Instead, mountain bikes are not that complicated to take care of, so you don’t have to get running to the nearest bike repair shop.
Before shortening the chain, you should read the manual that it comes with on removing the links on the chain. Many MTB manuals have extensively detailed information on shortening the bike chain. It also helps if you have a chain tool when you own a mountain bike. You also need lubricant for your mountain bike chain.
You need to place the bike on the stand, clean the chain, and then use the chain tool or the nail, and plier method explored earlier in this guide to remove the excess links. Then, securely and properly reattach the chain on the mountain bike and lubricate it before you start riding out again.
What should I do to clean my bike chain?
Cleaning your bike chain does not only help you see the full condition of the chain but also ensures that it moves smoothly. It’s best to clean your bike chain once every few days, although this depends on how often you ride it, the trails that you’re riding on, and the lubricant you’re using.
You can clean your bike chain by removing it and using some household supplies like rags, bike maintenance gloves, lubricant, degreaser, and a tarp. After removing the bike chain, you can follow these steps to clean it
Trusted SourceTips on How to Clean a Chain on a Bike (Updated 2021) - CyclingityIf you look at available resources online you will find different suggestions. Some say you should use household products, others that you are better off with commercial preparations; some say that you should take the chain off, others that you can clean with the chain on.
and put it back.
If you don’t want to remove the bike chain, the cycling industry has upgraded so much so that there are bike chain-cleaning devices. You can purchase a bike chain cleaning kit and follow the steps in the manual to clean the chain. Once your chain is clean, you can move on to shortening the bike chain.
What do I do if my bike chain is too short?
Now that you know what to do if your bike chain is too long, you just need to do the opposite if the chain is too short. If your bike chain is too short, it would be difficult to shift with your bike. Your derailleur would also be stretched out uncomfortably. It would be very easy to notice that your bike chain is too short when you see that it is opposite the chainstay or you can’t get to maximum chainrings.
Follow the steps in this guide, but instead of removing the links, you can reconnect some of your extra links to the chain. You will also need a bike chain repair kit if you don’t have any extra links.
As you have seen, how to shorten the bike chain is easier than it sounds, and so you can follow these steps whenever you find yourself in a maintenance fix. With the right tools and concentration, and if you follow instructions to the latter, you can prevent accidents caused by a bike chain that is too long and also avoid having a loosely secured chain. You can also avoid the extra costs of buying a new, short-chain for your bike when you have a long one that you can shorten.
Learning how to take care of your bike is important, and now that you know this important maintenance step, you can ride safely and comfortably with your bike or MTB.
Chain tool - Wikipedia
A chain tool is a small mechanical device used to “break” a bicycle chain in such a way that it can be mended with the same tool. A bicycle chain has links and plates that are pinned together; these pins can be pushed out with the chain tool. Because the pins are pushed out gradually with a screw, they can be partially removed or fully removed, depending upon the intention of the user.
Tips on How to Clean a Chain on a Bike (Updated 2021) - Cyclingity
If you look at available resources online you will find different suggestions. Some say you should use household products, others that you are better off with commercial preparations; some say that you should take the chain off, others that you can clean with the chain on.