How to Repair a Bike Chain

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How to Repair a Bike Chain

Just like checking oil and changing tyres on an automobile, bicyclists who want their bikes to last longer should perform routine maintenance on their machines. Eventually, however, all bicyclists go through the frustration of a chain giving out right in the middle of a ride. Knowing how to change a bike chain in any circumstance, such as being stuck out in rough terrain during a bout of mountain biking or while pedalling their bike to work, can save cyclists time and money.

Cyclists should also learn measures to keep bike chains healthy. Many of these measures require riders to buy supplies, such as lube for chains, but those costs pale in comparison to the cost of repairs at a bike shop.

Types of Chains

While bike chains look similar, a few characteristics distinguish the three main types.

Type of Chain



Chain with replacement pin

Special pin takes place of stock pin

Found on Shimano chains and Campagnolo chains

Chain with connecting link

Chain connected via two outer plates with protruding pins

Chain and plates snap together by applying pressure to pedals

Chain with other pins

Chain connected via any type of pin that flexes chain

Temporary solution, such as getting home after a chain breaks

Shoppers should check their bike chains before buying a replacement.

Know When to Replace a Bike Chain

A chain wear tool functions like a ruler for chains. One end of the tool shows a rating of 1.0. Stick the opposite end into a chain link, and then lower the end marked 1.0 to the chain. If the 1.0 end slips through the link, the chain needs replaced.

Tools-free methods of checking bike chains exist, although they produce less accurate results. Locate the largest chainring on the front and the smallest cog on the cassette,, the stack of gears on the rear wheel. Pull the chain on the chainring. If it lifts up, replace the chain.

Repairing a Bike Chain

Before replacing or repairing a bike chain, riders should inspect their chain to get an idea of the tools and process they should use.

Removing a Broken Chain

When a chain breaks, riders can replace it using a chain tool, the most common option. Alternatively, they can use replacement links such as a master link. Always consult the manual included with a chain tool or replacement links for full details.

Using a Chain Tool

Somewhat counterintuitively, a chain tool breaks a chain first, and then gives riders the means of repairing that same chain. The tool breaks a chain by pushing out links and pins, allowing riders to remove them or swap in fresh links.

Examining the chain tool reveals two positions where riders can insert a chain: one near the movable screw portion, and one below the fixed end. Each position includes two protruding tabs. To fit the chain into either position, fit one tab into the chain's centre link, and the second into the next link in the chain. With the chain in place, press the movable screw on the end of the pin. This action pops the pin through the link, allowing riders to replace it.

Replacing a Bike Chain

Feed the new or repaired chain through both derailers, exactly as the old chain sat. Keep a wrench handy to unscrew bolts that prove tricky. For the path of least frustration, feed the front derailer over the smallest chainring, and the rear derailer over the smallest cluster gear. Work the chain through the front derailer from the rear unit, and run the other end of the chain over the rear of the smallest cog, guiding it down and behind the lower pulley, and toward the other end of the chain.

To join the two ends of the chain, insert the narrow end of the chain through the side plates on the opposite end, matching up the pin with the hole in the link. Use a chain tool to push the pin all the way in.

Master Link and SRAM Power Link

Many chains include a master link, which expedites the replacement process. First, remove the old chain and fit the new one in its place. From there, use the master link to join the chain. To orient the chain, tighten it toward the direction the chain flows when the rider pedals forward. Continue tightening until the chain shows just a bit of sag.

Riders who feel uncomfortable using rivet tools can try the SRAM power link, a set of connector links that function by setting them over chain links, pinching the plates together, and then sliding them apart.

How to Buy Bike Chains and Maintenance Products

After learning how to clean, install, and repair a bike chain, cyclists should stock up on maintenance products and replacement parts to stay a step ahead of repairs, similar to keeping a spare tyre in one's boot. Shoppers can find what they need by visiting any eBay page and entering a keyword phrase into the search bar. eBay's Top Sellers offer new and used chains. Shoppers should also look into products that support bicycle chains, such as the BLUE tensioner..

Make sure to stock up on cleaning supplies while stocking. Chain lubricant keeps chains rotating smoothly, and tool kits give cyclists everything they need to assemble and reassemble bikes.

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