How To Replace A Bike Chain

how to replace a bike chain

On the list of parts one needs to replace on a bike, the chain is not normally one that first comes to mind. While chains are able to withstand hundreds and hundreds of miles, they can eventually start to wear, and need to be replaced.

It’s a little hard to see with the naked eye, but you’ll definitely be able to feel it when your chain is wearing. The slight stretching in the pins will cause the chain itself to “stretch” just enough that it starts to slip up when shifting, which can not only be annoying, but dangerous. 

Replacing a chain is something many riders often leave to their bike shop, but the process is actually a little easier than you may think. With a few tools and the right knowledge, you can change one out yourself, which can certainly come in handy if you are on a long ride away from home.

Items Needed

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    Chain splitter tool (sometimes called a chain-breaker)
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    Chain checker tool
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    Quick link pliers

Step 1

Take your chain splitter and use it to push one of the pins out of the lower stretch, or simply undo the quick link if your chain has one. After you’ve taken the pin out, take the chain off the bike

Step 2

It’s now time to fit the new chain. Before doing this, make sure you shift your rear derailleur to the largest cog, and the front derailleur to the biggest chainring. 

Take the chain and thread it through the front derailleur, then turn the crankset, leaving a few some of the chain dangling with some slack. Take the other end and lay it onto the rear cogs, and then pull down on the derailleur.

​Now for more chain threading. Run your chain over the top of the upper jockey wheel, and then behind that small tab inside of the derailleur’s cage arm. After this, run the chain over the lower jockey wheel and through the lower tab. Now you can let go of the derailleur.

how to replace a bike chain

Step 3

This is the trickiest part. With the chain in place, take each end and pull them towards each other, and then measure which one to split by holding them together in place. To make things easier, you can use a skinny piece of metal that fits through the opening in each link. A broken spoke works well.

After making sure you have the right length, use the splitter to split the chain. Now you can move on to joining the ends together.

Step 4

If you have a Shimano chain, take each end and insert a joining pin using the chain tool. After the pin is in place, you can use pliers to cut off each end.

If you have either a SRAM or KMC chains, take each end and use your hand to insert the connecting links, and then snap the plates together to make the ends join.

Now that each end is connected, run your bike through a few gear changes to make sure everything is working properly. If the shifting is smooth and timely, you are free to ride.


It’s important to not wait years to replace your chain.

The moment you notice any slippage, it may be time to change the chain. By waiting too long, you’ll cause damage to both the front and rear cogs, leading to even more replacement parts. Chain tools are fairly cheap, so it’s best to purchase some if you don’t already have any. 

This post was last updated on June 5th, 2018 at 02:06 pm

About the Author Max Shumpert

Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.

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