How to Cut a Bike Chain in 9 Steps

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High-performance bike maintenance is no walk in the park and one of the most essential aspects of it is knowing how to cut the chain or change it altogether. In fact, learning how to do this is probably one of the most essential skills that you’re going to have to learn from the moment you purchase your first bike, especially if you plan on using it regularly.

Here’s a step-by-step process on how to cut a chain quickly and effectively so that you can get back to bike riding.

How to Cut Chain Links on a Bike Chain

As you figure out how to cut chain links, you’ll find that the following tools are an indispensable part of getting the job done:

  • A chain whip
  • Chain rivet tool
  • Chainring nut wrench
  • Wrench
  • Screwdrivers
  • Chain cleaner
  • Pin
  • Chain breaker or cutter

1. Find a Universal Chain Tool 

First things first in your journey to learning how to cut a bicycle chain you’ll need a universal chain tool. This will come in handy when it comes to getting pins out of an elongated chain.

You’ll also find that it’s easier to get rid of links with this tool and it’s a versatile implement that you can use for other applications.

Alternatively, use a chain tool that’s specific to your bike’s manufacturer if that’s what you’re more comfortable with.

2. Get a Reassembly Pin 

You might require a special reassembly pin in order to cut your bike’s chain. You’re going to need it if you want to put your bike chain back into place when you’re done.

Perch your bicycle on a bike stand so that it’s nice and stable as you work on it. To make your life even easier, you’re welcome to put your bike upside down as well.

3. Clean the Bike Chain 

In addition to learning how to cut a bike chain you also want to be a master at cleaning it as well.

Remove the chain and get rid of any dirt or grease that has built up on it using a special chain cleaner.

You’ll find that it’s that much easier to work on the chain when it’s clean because you’ll be able to spot the master link from a mile away.

4. Remove the Master Link 

Speaking of the master link, that’s what you need to find in order to get to the next step. The master link is so called because it has a different and distinct color that’s either a shade lighter or darker than the other links.

From here, get the master link to a position between the bike’s gears by twisting the pedals. Nothing fancy about this folks; just to make it easier to access.

Then, remove the master link gently and slowly. Make sure that you’ve placed it in a visible area so that you’ll know where to find it later.

5. Figure Out What to Cut 

Now, this is the fun part! You’re going to finally cut the chain. But, you should probably decide the length you’re going to cut out first by removing a few links at first and take it from there.

You want to avoid removing multiple links at once because then you won’t be able to backtrack whereas you can always remove more if you feel like you need to do more.

6. Start Cutting 

Using a bike chain cutter, proceed to cut the part of the bicycle chain that’s at the far end of the master link while holding the latter down with your other hand.

At the end of the day, you want a properly cut bicycle chain so you should turn the chain tool’s handle so that you’re able to halt at the area where the pin juts out from the external plate.

7. Cut Some Pins 

On the topic of the pins, it’s important to note here that you should be gentle with these and try to not shove them out.

These pins are integral to the life of the chain itself and you’ll need them later when putting the chain back together again.

Your bike chain cutter will work beautifully in this situation because it’s built for this job precisely. But, to get the most out of this tool, you must know how to wield it. Either way, you’ll want to take your time when cutting these pins and follow the recommended process.

8. Get Rid of the Links 

Put the chain tool aside and store it in a safe place after it has done its job so that you can focus on removing the links.

Start with a few links at a time and avoid removing too many as that will make it difficult to put the chain back on the bike when you need to. It’s recommended to not remove more than five links at a time.

Again, the last thing you want is a bike chain that’s too short because this will make it difficult for your bike to work properly.

It’s also the fastest way to compromise your bike’s safety. Plus, you should save the removed links for future repairs. Now that you know how to cut a bicycle chain, this will give you the confidence to perform other repairs.

9. Put the Chain on the Bike 

Once you’ve cut the chain out to your preferred length, your job is to return it to your bicycle. Start with the master link and remember to take your time.

This is where those pliers or screwdrivers we mentioned earlier come into play. This is your chance to determine how loose or tight your bike chain is, depending on your unique needs and riding style. Either way, you want it to go on the bicycle smoothly and simply.

Once the chain is back on the bicycle and you have removed any rust, the final step of learning how to cut a bike chain is to grease it up with some oil to protect it from the elements and optimize its performance.

Conclusion

That’s how to cut a bike chain! We hope that this guide has been helpful to you and that you have now added yet another skill to your repertoire of useful skills as a bike owner.

The longer you have your bike, the more important it is to learn how to do different things so that you don’t have to visit the bike shop for every little thing.

Learning skills like these will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

James Mattis

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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