You are likely to experience a loose or detached chain occasionally if you ride your bike regularly. However, it does not indicate that something is wrong with the bike. You can learn how to tighten a bike chain quickly if you have the proper tools.
A bike chain can fall off entirely in some cases, but it is more likely to become loose rather than broken. You can tighten it when you arrive at your destination if it isn’t too loose.
The purpose of this article is to take you through the process of tightening your bicycle chain on a single gear bike and how to do it on a bike with many gears. Additionally, you will be able to find answers to some frequently asked questions regarding bike chains.
Table of Contents
- 1 What’s a Bike Chain?
- 2 Reasons Why a Bike Chain Become Loose
- 3 How to Tighten a Bike Chain
- 3.1 Single-Gear Chain Tightening
- 3.2 Tightening a Bicycle Chain on a Multi-Gear Bike
- 3.3 How to Tighten a BMX Bike Chain
- 3.4 How to Tighten a Bike Chain on a Fixie Bike
- 4 What Causes Looseness in Bike Chain?
- 5 How Tight Should a Bike Chain Be?
- 6 What’s better? To tighten the chain or replace it?
- 7 Bike Chain Maintenance Tips
- 8 Conclusion
What’s a Bike Chain?
A bike chain is a crucial part of any bicycle. As you pedal, you transfer power to your wheels, allowing you to move forward. If the chain is loose, power transfers are less efficient, so the bike can’t be propelled forward. Loose bike chains lead to power and efficiency losses, and tight bike chains help you achieve efficiency in your ride.
Reasons Why a Bike Chain Become Loose
It is normal for the chains on a well-maintained bike to become loose from time to time. There are several reasons why this might occur, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to change your bike.
- An old bike with a new chain – If the chain bands or cogs are worn out, a new chain may not fit well. This shouldn’t be a concern, as long as you tighten the chain using this guide and give it some time to fit properly.
- Bottom brackets that are loose – It only needs a small amount of tightening.
- A loose derailleur can occur when one is riding a multi-gear bike.
- Nuts on the rear axle are loose – When this occurs, your steering wheel slides forward, closing the gap between your pedals and wheel. As a result, the chain falls off due to a loose string.
How to Tighten a Bike Chain
It is almost certain that every biker has experienced their chain falling because it was loose. This article is only meant for those individuals facing this problem.
Without a derailleur, bikes may lose their chains frequently. Located at the rear of a bicycle, the derailleur is where the gear selection is made. Chains on bicycles should be so tight that they only move one inch up and down. When the measurement is looser than that, however, you must tighten the chain very quickly.
As you read through this section, you will become familiar with tightening certain types of bike chains. To learn more, keep reading!
Single-Gear Chain Tightening
This method can be used by those who have a bicycle with one gear. Here are the steps.
The first step is to flip your bike, and the wheels should point up. Make sure you’re in a comfortable position before you tighten the chain perfectly.
Loosen the Rear Tire
When loosening axle nuts, you need to be careful. Using these nuts, you will be able to adjust the tension in your chain and keep your tire in place.
Pull the Rear Tire towards the back.
Increasing the tension on the bike’s chain will be done by pulling the rear wheel back. Be careful not to pull the tire too hard, or the chain will break. Therefore, take your time to complete this step.
Identify The Right Tension.
When you move the chain in both directions, you will be able to identify its tension. Push it back further if it moves a bit more.
Ensure That the Rear Wheel Is Tight
After you have tightened the chain tension appropriately, tighten the axle nuts carefully. It is important to attach the rear wheel to the frame of the cycle. Always pay attention to the rear tire’s position when tightening the nuts.
Once you have completed all these steps successfully, it is time to recheck your work. What is the chain’s movement in either direction? If you answered yes, you must do an excellent job at tightening your bike chain; if not, repeat the steps once more.
Tightening a Bicycle Chain on a Multi-Gear Bike
For bicycles with many gears, such as a mountain bike, the chain tightening process is imperceptibly different. While cycling with a loose chain on a bike equipped with a derailleur, you can anticipate getting the chain caught in the foot. Therefore, if you have noticed a loosened chain on your bike, you should walk it in a safe location. Here are the steps for tightening a bicycle chain on a multi-gear bike.
Make Sure You Reach The Rear Wheel.
There are two ways to begin the process. You can use a bike stand to easily access the rear tire when your bike is on the stand. If you do not have a bike stand, flip your bike over to rest on the handlebars.
Get To Know The Derailleur Screw.
Almost every multi-gear bicycle features a derailleur with a small screw. Small screws will have the letter B imprinted on them. Enhance the tension of the bicycle chain by rotating the screw in a clockwise direction.
Get To The Rear Tire.
When you are ready to adjust the Real wheel, lift the release lever on your bicycle brakes and disconnect the associated cable. Afterward, you’ll need to shift the quick-release lever to modify the tire.
Setting the Rear Wheel
It is possible to increase bike chain tension by sliding the wheel axle behind in the rear dropouts. It is recommended to lower the quick-release lever after making a few adjustments. In case you aren’t satisfied with the tension, repeat the process.
Ensure That Everything Is In Its Proper Place
You must ensure that all parts are in the right place before riding. It is important to check if the quick-release lever is down or not.
Be sure the quick-release lever is down and that the associated cable is attached properly. During spinning, it should not rub against the bike frame or the chain. Ensure that the chain tension is correct by checking it twice.
How to Tighten a BMX Bike Chain
The following steps will need to be followed by BMX bike owners.
Check The Chain’s Tightness.
BMX chain tightening is easier than geared bike chain tightening. First, pinch the chain tightly together. If it can be lifted out of the chairing, it is loose. Pinching together cannot move a chain that has been installed correctly.
There shouldn’t be a big issue with your chain if it is tight enough to ride and not hit the rear triangle’s frame. In the other scenario, you should follow the steps below if the chain is loosened.
Find Out Whether the Chain Is Longer Than Normal
Your bike chain should have an adequate number of links. In BMX and single-speed bikes, the short rear dropouts are of particular importance. An amazing aspect of the BMX chain is that it can fit perfectly into your bike as it has an exact number of links.
By pushing the wheel forward in its dropouts, you can measure the correct length of a chain. Wrap your chain rings with the chain after that. When the chain overlaps itself by one link, the link needs to be removed to give the chain its correct length.
Set Up the Bike
In this step, there is the most confusion, so focus on adjusting the bike comfortably. The first step is to find an area where you can work efficiently in light and open spaces. Then, flip the bike so that the tires are high up in the air, and it rests on the handlebars. Using this method, you can complete this task quickly.
Tools You Need to Unlink a Chain:
Each wheel should be tightened with its own spanner since this tool can be used to tighten the chain. Therefore, make sure you get a spanner that fits your wheel.
The bike hub is another important feature, which is available in both male and female versions. A male hub has an axle and is threaded through the dropouts and the hub. This means that it needs to be tightened with a nut, and that’s why a spanner is needed.
However, the female version of the duct stops in the bush and can be threaded internally. An Allen key is usually used to tighten the bolt that goes into the axle.
Normally, female axles are more powerful than male ones because they don’t have an outer threaded element.
Female axles aren’t compatible with pegs, which makes them undesirable. For this reason, they are much less common on BMX bikes.
Loosen Your Wheel
This step requires you to loosen the back wheel of your bike and use the tools you gathered in the previous steps. Ensure that the wheel is loose enough to allow you to move on either side freely. If you do not have any trouble removing the wheel nuts, then you can finger-tighten the wheel. This will result in a much quicker tightening of the wheel.
Placing the Wheel
Here’s where your chain tensioner comes in handy. The following two methods can help individuals who experience tension, as well as individuals who do not.
Tension is commonly placed in the rear triangle before the dropouts. The tensioner is not usually part of the frame. The axles are fitted with them before the nut.
Keep your chain on the bike and tighten each side equally. If you know when to stop, you won’t need to tighten anymore.
In contrast, even without the chain tensioner, the job is not difficult. You have to keep your wheel in a more central position and move it away from the nut when tightening it.
There is a solution to this problem. Push the wheel and the bottom bracket of the frame together using a large metal bar or spanner. It will then serve as a lever that will drive the wheel back as far as it can. Aside from that, it can be tilted either to the left or right to align the tire centrally.
How to Tighten a Bike Chain on a Fixie Bike
Here are the tools needed for tightening a Fixie Bike chain:
- Socket wrenches
- Stand for bikes
- A pair of gloves
- An excellent bike lubricant
Once you’ve the right tools, follow these steps to tighten the chain.
Loosen the Rear Axle
Adjust the chain by removing the nuts that hold the wheels to the frame. Utilize a socket wrench to simplify your task. By turning the nuts in an anti-clockwise direction, in a few seconds, they should come loose.
Pull The Rear Tire Towards The Back.
For the chain tension to be increased, you need to do this. The rear bike tire should be pulled on the back, as mentioned before.
Find out Whether You Have the Right Chain Tension
After removing the rear tire, you will notice a change in chain tension. When it moves too much in both directions, it means it needs to be tightened.
In addition, if you have tightened it too much, the pedal will not move. So, keep that in mind.
Keep the Rear Tire in the Right Position
If you are satisfied with the chain tension and the axle nuts are in good shape, you can keep the rear tire in place. Make sure they are tight enough by using the socket wrench. If there is no contact between the wheel and the chain or bike frame, the wheel is well fitted.
What Causes Looseness in Bike Chain?
The chain on your bike will come loose from time to time, regardless of how frequently you maintain it. There are several reasons why it can happen. In most cases, it’s a new chain on an old bike.
If you put a new chain on a worn-out bike, it won’t fit perfectly. As the tires move, it jumps around and eventually becomes loose or falls off. When this occurs, you don’t need to worry. Tighten the chain as described, and it will fit into the cog correctly and won’t come loose again.
A loose nut on the rear axle can also affect the pedal-to-wheel distance as it shortens the space between the pedals.
Damaged derailleurs on multi-gear bikes can cause the problem. If you’re constantly tightening your chain on this type of bike, you might want to check if the derailleur is bent or dented.
How Tight Should a Bike Chain Be?
You should make it move about 50% of an inch in both directions. After following these steps, if you still have some slack on your bike chain, it means that it has extended; over time, the chains may grow longer, so you may need to remove a few links to get the right tension.
What’s better? To tighten the chain or replace it?
Depending on whether the chain becomes loose due to wear and tear, you may need to replace it. Chain replacements for most bikes are affordable and can help extend the life of the bike.
When the chain is relatively new, however, it’s better not to replace it. It only needs to be tightened, and the bike will function again.
Bike Chain Maintenance Tips
Here are some of the bike chain maintenance tips.
The bike should stand alone if you have a repair stand or flip it upside down to rest on its handlebars and seat. If you don’t have a repair stand, prop the wheel securely so that it stands alone. You should also clean your rear cog (that cluster of gears on your rear wheel) and your rear derailleur pulley (that star-shaped part that the chain zips through). Greasy chains will get dirty much faster.
For this purpose, there is a brush made especially for this: one side is toothbrush-like with bristles for scrubbing, and the other side is curved and toothy to remove gunk between the cogs. If you don’t have this, the easiest thing to do is to use an old toothbrush and rag with some cleaning solvent and remove as much dirt as possible.
Oil Your Bike Chain
If you ride in a harsh environment, take a good chain lubricant and apply it evenly to the chain. This can be achieved by continuously dripping oil onto a fixed point while reversing so that the entire chain becomes saturated with oil. Ideally, lubricate the chain’s inner circumference – the part that the gears penetrate.
Wipe It Off
Once the lube has been rubbed in and has sat for a few minutes, take a dry, clean piece of cloth, grip one end of the chain, and work your way back, so the cloth soaks up all the excess oil.
A bike chain can become loose or even fall off quite easily, so you shouldn’t be alarmed if it does. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can reinstall it and adjust the tension.
If you have a single-gear bike, tightening the chain will be slightly different from having a multiple-gear bike.
Bicycles are built differently based on their type of bike, and their process may vary slightly. If you don’t know what to do, you can refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or contact them directly so they can send you the instructions for your particular bike.
Additionally, a good bike shop that knows your type of bike will be able to tighten your chain if need be.