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Bike Repair – How to replace a worn bike chain

By Jo 2 years agoNo Comments

Choose to know how to replace a worn bike chain…

Let’s gain some knowledge that will help you to keep your bike working well. This repair is essential when your regular testing of the length of your bike chain shows it is time to replace your chain. See Know when to replace your bike chain

To ‘get better’ you need to invest a little bit of time to understand how to replace your bike chain. Choose to know what to do and care for your bike. Do regular maintenance and make sure you can goRide with a SMILE.

What type of bike chain do you need?

Replace a worn bike chain - rear sprocket imageThe size of your chain needs to be compatible with your bike. The length of the bike chain link is the same on all chains but the width of the bike chain varies depending on the number of sprockets in your rear cassette.

Count the number of sprockets in your cassette. How many are there? The number of sprockets = the speed of chain that you need.

For example : If there are 10 you will need a 10 speed bike chain. If there are 8 you will need an 8 speed chain.

What are the differences between bike chains and the different brands of chain. The variation in bike chains really comes down to:

  • The durability of the chain – the materials used and their coatings will influence durability, this is can vary even between the components within the chain eg. the outer and inner plates, rollers and pins. This often comes down to you get what you pay for
  • The weight of the chain. the design of the components such as are they hollow versus solid. Having some hollow components eg pins or plates can make the chain lighter but the manufacturers need to use a stronger material to compensate for the the reduced strength.
  • How the chain is connected. You have to connect your chain once it is on your bike – to make it a continuous loop. Chains can be connected using a master link (re-usable link) or connector pins.
  • Is it directional or not. Some chains need to travel around the drive train in a certain direction.
Bike chain - solid outer and inner plates

Differences in bike chains – solid components

Hollow outer and inner plates

Differences in bike chains – hollow components

How to replace a worn bike chain

This method

  • replaces a bike chain with a master link /spare link
  • Relies that the bike chain you are replacing (what will be your old bike chain) is the correct length – it has the correct number of bike chain links.

Get together the tools you need and follow our 4 step process so you can care for your bike and SMILE when you ride.

What tools do you need.

  • You new bike chain that matches the number of sprockets in your rear cassette and spare link to connect the chain.
  • A Chain tool – to remove the old chain and size the new chain to the correct length
  • Optional tool Master link pliers – If you old chain has a master link/connecting link and you are wanting to save your chain then master link pliers helps you to remove the chain by separating the master link.

Note: Some other chains will may require a slightly different method to replacement. We have chosen 1 method – the easiest to ensure your success.

new bike chain

Chain comes with a connector (master link)

Mini Chain Tool side view

A Chain Tool

Masterlink pliers -removing bike chain

Master/Connector Link Pliers (Optional Use)

Position your bike

Position your bike chain on the bike in the smallest chain ring and the smallest sprockets.  Replacing your chain can be a lot easier if there is little tension in the chain…so

  1. You may need pull the derailleur forward (when inserting the connector link)
  2. Removing your back wheel can be an option . You would then need to place your bike upside down or place in a bike repair stand (if you had one)

Note: I replaced my bike chain with the back wheel on and bike upright and supported

#1 Remove the old bike chain

Break your chain using the chain tool by removing a pin. Identify if your old bike chain used a master link or a connector pin to connect the bike. Choose a pin away from either of the master link or the connector pin.  See chain tool for more information.

Note: If your bike was connected with a master link/connector link and you have master link pliers you can remove your bike chain by disengaging the master link. Using this method means that the chain can be re-used. (If you are removing your chain because it is worn and lengthened it is unlikely you will want to re-use your bike chain)

Master Link connector link in a bike chain

Identify how the chain was connected. Master link or Connector Pin ( this pin will appear slightly different to the other pins). You can remove the master link using master link pliers

Line up the pins bik chain tool and the chain

Using your chain tool to remove your bike chain. Choose a link away from the connector pin or master link

Masterlink pliers -removing bike chain

Using your Master / Connector Link Pliers to remove your bike chain.

#2 Size the new chain – using the old chain 

The new bike chain needs to be the same length as your old chain. Match the pins. This may be tricky if the old chain has lengthened. This needs to be correct..so to make it easier and improve your accuracy- Use toothpicks placed at 10 link intervals match the number of links (remember  your connector link needs to be counted as well). Always count twice and mark with a marker pen the link where the pins needs to removed to make the bike chain the correct length.

Note: remember you will need at outer plate an one end (your spare link) and an inner plate at the other end.

length of the new to old chain

Toothpicks placed at 10 link intervals. Always check your counting. Mark what pin you need to remove to match the length of the old bike chain.

2 points to remember : allow for the spare link and you will need an inner plate at one end and an outer plate to connect.

#3 Feed the new chain onto the drive train of your bike

Understanding where the bike chain travels and what it connnects with is essential here. See Know your Bike Chain

Begin feeding the chain around the teeth of the front of the jockey wheel and behind the next jockey wheel pull along the bottom of the loop and of chain rings through the middle of the front derailleur. Make the connection at the top of the loop using your spare chain link.

Note: If your bike chain is directional-Make sure it will travel around the drive train in the right direction. Any branding on the chain will face out towards you.

Feeding the new chain on - rear deraileur

Feeding the bike chain in front of the top jockey wheel and then behind the bottom jockey wheel. Pull it along the bottom of the loop.

feeding new chain on front deraileur

Feeding the bike chain around the smallest chain ring in between the front derailleur and bring the 2 chain ends together on the top of loop

#4 Connect the chain using the spare link

Connect the chain with the spare chain link. You may need to pull the rear derailleur forward to help remove tension in the bike chain making it easier to connect using the connector link. Once positioned the derailleur can be returned to it position to give the chain some tension. The link now needs to be clicked into place. One hand on the right brake lever (the back brakes) the other hand on the seat and using your foot push down on the pedal and the connector link should click into place. Check the chain is working well by back pedaling.

Connector link new bike chain
New bike chain on bike

Why do you need to replace a worn bike chain?

A bike chain wears over time.  The rivets and rollers wear with use and the chain effectively lengthens with this wear. A lengthened chain means that the chain no longer fits well with other parts of the drivetrain – the chainrings and sprockets of the rear cassette. This can cause pre-mature wearing of the sprockets and chainrings (parts that are a lot more expensive to replace than your chain) problems with your gears, slipping of the bike chain.  Regular checking of the length of your bike chain will tell you when is the right time to replace your bike chain. Replacing your bike chain before it becomes too worn is a really good idea.  It prolongs the life of other more expensive parts on your bike saving you money and makes sure you enjoy your riding.

get Better and goRide – How to replace a worn bike chain

Thanks for reading. Used together our stories, resources & products support you to achieve and develop as a rider.

Related Resources:

Know when to replace your Bike Chain

Bike Tools- Bike Chain Wear Tool

Bike Tools- The Bike Chain Tool

Know your bike chain

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