How to Replace Your Bicycle Chain

Posted on Jul 9, 2013 in News | 0 comments

How to Replace Your Bicycle Chain

A worn bike chain can cause a host of drivetrain problems: poor shifting, increased chance of mid-ride breakage, and extreme wear on your cassette and chainrings. But avoiding these problems is easy enough—follow these steps to replace your chain like a pro.

Know When to Say Goodbye:

The easiest way is to grab a chain-checker tool at your local bike shop. This device will measure exactly how far your chain has worn, and give you a solid idea of whether you need to replace. Alternatively, you can use the “ruler method.” Using a tape measure or ruler, place the end of one inch at the end of one link. Look twelve complete links down the chain—on a new chain, this rivet will also line up directly with an inch mark. If the rivet is 1/16” past the inch mark, you should replace the chain, but don’t need to replace the sprockets. If it’s 1/8” or more, you’ll probably need to replace both.

Out With the Old:

First, remove your old chain. If it has a master link, you can simply squeeze the sides of that link together lengthwise to release the link. If not, use a chain tool to push out a pin just far enough that the chain separates easily.

Size Does Matter:

A new chain will almost always come longer than it needs to be. There are a few ways to measure your new chain for optimum shifting. The simplest, but most time-consuming, is to count the number of links in the old chain and use the same number of links in the new (just make sure you don’t lose count in the middle!) Alternatively, thread the new chain through the large/large combination, avoiding the rear derailleur. Meet the two ends of the chain, and measure one complete extra link. Break the chain there, and thread it through your derailleur. If you’re in doubt as to what length will be best, it’s better to go longer than shorter—it’s easier to remove links than to add them.

In With the New:

It’s very important to thread the chain through the pulley wheels correctly–look at another bike for reference if you need to. Once you have it set up, install the master link or use your chain tool to connect the ends. You may need some pressure on your master link to get it to lock into place. To do this the easy way, pedal until the link is on top, squeeze your rear brake and push your pedal forward. It’ll exert the pressure you need without a ton of effort. Your chain should be able to easily handle the large-large combination, but shouldn’t droop when you shift into small/small.

With a new chain, your shifting should improve significantly. However, this isn’t always the case. This happens when the cassette sprockets wore together with the old chain, and are no longer the correct shape to fit a new chain. This means that you would also need to replace the cassette too (and possibly the front chainrings). In the future, replace your chain before it needs it to avoid this problem.

And remember – if you don’t feel like you’re ready, willing and able to replace a chain yourself, bring it to your local bike shop and let them do the dirty work for you!

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