How to Shorten a Bike Chain With and Without Chain Tool

Bike chains are one of the essential components of a bicycle. A faulty bike chain can lead to numerous problems for your biking experience.

They tend to stretch out and get loose over the wheel, which makes the bike lose its momentum or worse lose all its motion. In these cases, learning this can prove to be a handy skill.

Sometimes one can unknowingly mess up the bike chain link removal process, so it’s necessary to learn how to remove links from a bike chain the right way.

Here we explain the process of how to shorten a bike chain, the equipment you need for it as well as how to do it without a chain tool. 

Let’s get started!

Why Do You Need to Shorten Your Bike Chain?

Before moving on to learn how to shorten a bicycle chain, it’s crucial that you get a good understanding of whether your chain needs shortening or replacement.

All bicycles have a certain chain length and you must maintain this length to prevent any further problems.

Bike chains are the reason behind the movement of the bike and get them in proper rotation. If your chain doesn’t fit properly, the motion of the bicycle gets disrupted and severely hampers your cycling experience. 

The two most common reasons are:

  • When your bicycle chain has gotten loose over time due to wear and tear
  • When the replacement chain isn’t the appropriate length for your bike

While the process of shortening a bicycle chain seems complicated, with the correct equipment, you can get the job done at home in no time.

Here we’ve also mentioned how to shorten a bike chain without a chain tool as well.

How to Shorten a Bicycle Chain

First, ensure that the bike chain needs shortening by taking the measurements. To do so, measure 12 links and make sure it makes 12 inches. Any longer indicates a loose and worn-out chain that needs to be shortened. 

After measuring the bike chain, here are the steps you need to follow to remove the excessive links and get the desired bike chain length:

1. Get Yourself the Compatible Chain Tool

Buying universal chain tools makes the job more comfortable. But in case you can’t find one, call up your bicycle manufacturer to get a chain removal tool built just for your bike model.

2. Place Your Bicycle on a Stand

Placing it on a stand eradicates the chance of the bike leaning and turning over and makes the examination and removal process easier.

3. Clean Your Bike Chain Thoroughly

Cleaning your bike chain and removing rust will provide you with a better view of the chain’s condition and will help in maintaining a good condition.

4. Locate the Master Link

After cleaning your chain, the next step is to find the master-link. Loosen up the master-link and remove it according to its specific type. Keep the master link away in a safe space.

5. Remove the Chain Links

Based on the recommended measurements, you can get a good idea of the number of links needed to be removed.

Take it slow and comfortable so that you don’t overdo it. Don’t throw away the links you removed as you’ll need them later on if you happen to make the chain too short.

6. Reassemble the Chain

Use the chain to attach the ends of the master-link and press its pink till you hear a confirmatory click sound.

Attach the two ends and viola; you have your new bike chain all ready. Now you can ride your bicycle more comfortably and your chain will last longer.

How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool

While the process of removing the chain links is relatively similar, in this scenario, you’ll need a separate list of tools to get the job done just as well as with the help of a chain tool.

You will need:

  • Small-sized nail
  • A pair of sturdy pliers
  • Hammer
  • Small clamps for holding the chain accurately in place

Once you have the equipment ready, you can begin the shortening process. As mentioned previously, take the measurements to determine the number of links you need to remove.

Then follow the steps ahead to complete the process:

  • Locating the master link. Prop your bike against the wall or place it on the bike stand to get a good view. Then carefully look for the master-link and detach it. Keep the master link in a safe place.
  • Deciding the number of links you need to remove. Take a small part of the bike chain to examine the number of links that need to be removed. It is always recommended to remove one by one and to check what works best for you. Keep the removed chain links with you in case you need to reattach them. 
  • Disengage the master link and other excessive links which you can cut by the way. After detaching the master link, keep holding the loose connection with the clamp and reach for the pin. Now you can use your small nail plus the set of pliers to remove it entirely. To perform this task, place the nail over the hook and continue to gently hit it with the pliers. Do this until the link pushes out. Repeat this procedure on all the other links you want to remove. 
  • Reattaching the master link. Now put the master link back in its place with a screwdriver and do so till you hear the confirmatory click sound. Now, check the chain and test it out to see if the appropriate chain length is achieved. 


We hope that through this article, you’ve successfully learned how to shorten a bicycle chain.

This skill comes in handy quite often for regular bikers, and now you can save yourself the time and money from making excessive trips to the mechanic’s place.

Now you can get the job done with or without a chain tool!

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with my pet bunny when not out cycling through the best routes, reviewing the latest gear, and sharing tips on everything biking.

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