How to Tighten a Bike Chain Properly

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Learning how to tighten a loose bicycle chain is the same as learning how to cook or change a tire. It’s a basic skill that everyone needs to be familiar with. Plus, it’s perhaps one of the easiest skills to acquire (just takes six steps and you’re done).

Whether you’re an avid bike rider using your bike to commute to and from work each day, taking your bike out only on days you’re free, or waiting for a sunny day every once in a while to ride your bike, you’ll inevitably have to deal with your bike chain coming loose. In which case you’ll have two options.

Walk alongside your bicycle all the way back home or to a bike shop, or read on to find out how you can tighten the chain most simply and efficiently possible.

Are you wondering how to tighten a bike chain? Keep reading this blog to find out!

How to Tighten Chain on Bike

The purpose of a bike chain is to transfer power derived from the pedals to the drive wheel forwards. Riding a bike is, therefore, impossible without the bike chain being in its correct position.

In the case of a loose bike chain, the power transfer to the wheels is reduced and you aren’t able to propel the bike ahead no matter how much force you use.

A bike chain tends to come off or become loose with repeated use. It doesn’t mean your bicycle isn’t as good as it used to be. Think of it as routine maintenance.

This is why it’d be smart for bike owners to familiarize themselves with the process and the tools needed to do.

The standard tools are:

  • Bike stand
  • Bike lubricant
  • Socket wrench
  • Gloves
  • Position your bike (use the bike stand)

Position your bike onto the stand. Placing it upside down: the wheels should face up.

You may or may not need a bike stand specifically to position your bike if you have a surface that’s adequate enough for the bike to rest stably.

However, it’s definitely a good investment for quick and easy chain tightening. All to learn the basic skill that is how to tighten chain on bike.

1. Loosen the Back Tire

Loosen the axle nuts holding the rear tire onto the bike using the socket wrench.

Turn the screws counterclockwise until they are loose. Loosening the rear tire will allow you to adjust the tension on the chain.

2. Pull on the Rear Tire

Pulling back on the rear tire will increase the tension in the chain. This is to be done as slowly as possible.

Why? Because any quick movement might break the chain. If you think about it logically, pulling the tire increases the tension in the chain.

If you do it too fast, you’ll surpass the chain’s threshold limit and it might snap. It costs nothing to learn how to tighten a bike chain, but it does take a whole lot to replace one (especially if your bicycle is custom-built).

Move the tire back just enough to reach your desired tension making sure that the chain moves half an inch both ways. Make sure the tire remains in the center to tighten it back easily.

3. Find the Right Tension

Try moving the chain about one inch in both directions. If it’s able to move easily, you’re good to go.

However, if the chain feels a little too loose when you move it or even a little tight, you might need to adjust the rear tire a bit more slowly.

This is the step where you perform the bike chain tensioner adjustment.

4. Tighten the Rear Tire into Position

Once you’re okay with the tension on the chain, lift the rear tire back into position. Tighten the nuts one by one to ensure the rear tire is properly secured onto the bike frame.

When the tire is securely in place it shouldn’t come in contact with the bike frame or the chain.

5. Check the Chain and the Tire

Last but most definitely not least you need to check the chain and the tire for one last time before hitting the road.

To test the chain, move it an inch in both directions to check the tension on the chain. To test the tire, spin it to make sure it’s moving properly.

The tire shouldn’t contact either the chain or the frame. If it comes in proximity with the chain or the frame, you probably haven’t fitted the tire back in properly.

The Difference Between Tightening a Single Gear and Multi-Gear Bike Chain

Learning how to tighten a bicycle chain on a single gear bike (as described above) is slightly different than tightening one on the multi-gear bike because of the derailleur screw.

Likewise, it’s different if you want to learn how to tighten mountain bike chain. A derailleur screw is a small screw with the letter B printed near it. Rotating the screw clockwise will do the job.

Bike Chain Maintenance

Your bike chain will come loose eventually, but it isn’t an alarming situation. It’s important to learn how to fix a loose bike chain.

A loose bike chain represents routine wear and tear that’s easily adjustable. Older bike chains come off loose more often than newer ones, but a properly maintained chain will last longer.

One way to maintain the efficiency of a bike chain is by lubricating it often. If you don’t clean and lubricate the chain regularly.

There are two types of lubricants; dry and wet. Avid bike users prefer using liquid lubricants over dry ones because they last longer.

However, they’re also known to attract more dirt. On the other hand, a dry lubricant will evaporate almost immediately, but it’s easier to apply and doesn’t attract as much dirt.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a bike chain is an integral part of your bicycle. It’s literally one of its main functioning components.

Your bike chain is necessary to transfer power to propel the bike. In case the chain is loose, your bike won’t move at all.

Learning how to tighten a bike chain loose is a basic skill that takes six steps; bike positioning, loosening the rear tire, adjusting the chain, tightening it back into place, and you’re good to go!

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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