How to Change Bike Chain

How to Change Bike Chain in Eight Simple Steps

Unless you have plenty of experience cycling or working on your bike, you probably don’t know much about chain upkeep, maintenance, or how to change a bike chain. You may not even be sure when a replacement chain is needed. But despite the fact that bike chains are made out of a tough steel, and regardless of how well you may take care of the rollers, pins, and links, the day will arrive when you have to swap out your old bike chain for a new one.

Getting Started

If you cycle on a regular basis, we recommend investing in a chain checker. This simple device works by sliding between the rollers in the chain, so you’ll be able to accurately gauge the wear and tear. This device will take the guesswork out of determining when a new chain is needed.

If you continue to ride around on a worn out bike chain, your gears will slip under the load, which can result in an accident. Additionally, a worn out chain can actually eat into higher priced chainrings and cassettes which can end up costing you big.

Ditching the Old Bike Chain

If you’ve determined that it’s time for a change, you’ll need to purchase a chain tool and a new chain. Make sure the chain you buy is compatible with your bike. It should have the same number of sprockets.

After you’ve bought the necessary supplies, begin by removing the old bike chain.  If the chain has a quick link, which is a two-piece link that you just squeeze together to unfastening the chain, you can simply compress this to split the bike chain. The links should be slotted between the teeth of the chain tool, then, just twist it until the pin cleanly pops out.

The Degreasing Process

While you’re at it, take the time to check out the cassette and your chainrings. This will be a good time to clean them. Make sure that the profiles of the teeth are still symmetrical. If they’re worn down, they can start to take on an uneven spikey appearance as the chain begins to eat into them. If everything looks okay, make sure you scrub down both the cassette and chainrings using some cleaning solvent. This is an important step you don’t want to miss and there’s no point in putting a new chain onto a set of dirty cogs.

Threading the New Bike Chain

New Bike Chain

Next, you’ll want to shift down to the smallest chainring and sprocket. Now you’re ready to thread the new bike chain through the front derailleur, then you can loop it over the cassette and around the upper jockey wheel. Next, make sure you carefully thread the chain through the cage and keeping it between the plates, fit it inside the divider. Your next step is to bring it to the lower wheel.

A new bike chain needs to be cut down to the right size. Once the chain is around the smallest chainring and sprocket, pull the ends together below the chain stay. You need to find the longest length possible that will still generate a little tension on the rear derailleur, which will prevent the chain from dragging. Keep in mind that you’ll have to join the internal link with an external one.

Getting the Perfect Fit

The open end of the chain should face backward. Picking out the link that needs to be cut, grab your chain tool once again. Next, drop the link you’ll be working on between the jaws of the chain tool. Continue turning the handle until the pin begins to push the center of the link. Make sure everything is lined up correctly in order to avoid damaging the chain tool.

Inserting the Pin

Take the joining pin that came with the new bike chain and locate the pointy end. Next, slot both ends of the chain together. From the drive side, facing the bike, you can push the pin into the bike chain in order to hold it together. The chain should remain in place without having to hold it together. Now, pick up the tool again to unscrew the handle with a few turns.

Pushing the Pin Home

Take the link that’s held together with the pin and slot it into the chain tool. In order to push the pin home, you’ll need to screw the handle down. As the pin becomes close to becoming almost flush with the outer plate it’ll become much easier to turn the handle. During this step you’ll want to work very slowly. The goal will be to get the pin exactly flush with the outside of the plate. Once you get it you can remove the chain tool.

A Job Well Done

Make sure the link you’ve joined is able to move freely. If the pin is protruding more than the other pins in the chain and it’s not able to move freely, you’ll need to reattach the chain tool again and give the pin a small push. If the pin looks like it’s in the right position, you can also try to flex the chain horizontally in order to free it up. Once you’re satisfied with the results, it’s time to snap off the end of the back of the pin.  To do, just give it a sharp twist using a pair of pliers or the back of the chain tool.

Prolonging the Life of the Chain

The best way to keep your chain in top shape is to make sure you lube and clean it regularly. You can easily clean the chain using a basic chain cleaner then make sure you lube each of the rollers. The lube should be kept away from the outside of the chain. Once you’re done, make sure you wipe off any excess lube.

When you’re cleaning the chain, avoid getting any cleaning products or the degreaser into the freehub body or bottom bracket because it can strip the grease from these parts, which can lead to all sorts of problems.