How to Tighten a Bike Chain? (7 Easy Steps)

For people who like riding bicycles, it goes without saying that a bike chain is an essential component of the bicycle. When you’re pedaling, it is the bike chain that usually transfers the power you are putting into the pedals, to the front wheel and the rear wheel so that you’re able to move forward.

If you’re a person who regularly uses your bike, then you are likely to experience either a loose chain or a detached one at some point. This does not in any way mean that your bike is destroyed because it’s really normal.

If it’s not that loose, you can continue cycling until you get to your destination and just fix it there. If you have the right tools with you, you can tighten your bike chain much faster through a few easy steps, whether you’re using a multi- or single-gear bike.

Today, we’ll discuss how to tighten a bike chain. It’s worth going through the two processes below as they touch on how to fix bike chain if you have a multi-gear bike, as well as steps that will come in handy if yours is a single-gear bike.

Here are the things you’ll need:

  • A socket wrench
  • A rag
  • A lubricant of high-quality
  • A pair of gloves
  • A bike stand

How to Tighten a Bike Chain – 7 Easy Steps:

1. Position your bike correctly

People who have experience in tightening bike chains can do it well with their bikes upright. However, if you’re not one of them, the best way to go about it is to flip your bike over on a bike stand.

When it’s in an upside-down position, you can access all the parts easily. The saddle must be right on the stand and the bike wheels in the air so that it will be easy to tighten the chain later on. 

An alternative to a bike stand is any soft surface because the idea is to keep the saddle from scratches.

2. Loosen the bike’s rear axle

For you to properly adjust your chain, you first need to remove all the nuts that attach the tire to the bike. Grab a socket wrench for this and use it to carefully turn your bike’s nuts in a counter-clockwise direction until they’re loose enough.

3. Pull back on the rear wheel

At this point, you’re required to increase the existing chain tension. To do this, carefully pull back the bike’s rear tire until you get that much-desired chain tension.

Ensure you do this slowly since any quick or sudden movements could lead to the chain snapping.

While you’re pulling back the rear tire, keep checking the tension and continue until you get the right tightness. At this point, your bike chain should be movable in both ways by at least half an inch.

While doing this, keep your bike tire centered in the wishbone as this will make sure you have an easier time tightening it back.

4. Make sure the chain tension is just right

As already mentioned, you know you’re doing things right if you can move the chain in both directions by at least half an inch. In addition to that, understand that the chain tension keeps changing as you pull back your rear tire and you can keep tabs of this as you go.

If you notice that it’s moving too far in either direction, that means the bike chain is not tight enough and should therefore be pushed a bit more on the rear tire.

Should it be too tight, the pedals will not turn as they should, so make sure you get it just right in this step.

5. Tighten your bike’s rear tire into place

Once the bike chain tension is just right, lift the rear tire and put it back into place and then replace the wheel axle nuts one at a time. You can do this using the socket wrench so that you’re sure they’re tight enough.

The tire has to fit back onto the bike frame properly so that the wheel works as it should. Once it’s securely placed, avoid touching the bike chain or the bike frame.

6. Test the bike chain and the rear wheel

It’s important that you test the chain and the rear wheel and to do so, move the chain slightly in both directions. Spin your tire a bit to check whether it’s moving as it should and make sure it doesn’t touch the bike chain or the frame when it’s in motion.

If you notice it touching the chain or the frame, it simply means you did not fit the tire back correctly. You will have to repeat this process.

Once your chain is tight enough, you’re ready for the road again.

How to Fix a Bike Chain Using a Derailleur

When bike chains come off a fixie there isn’t much danger as they just hang. However, when you have a loose chain on a bike that’s multi-gear, it can be quite hazardous as your foot can easily get caught in it and cause a serious cycling injury.

If your bike is a multi-gear one, get off it the moment you realize that you have a loose chain and walk it to the nearest place where you can get it fixed. It should be easy to fix in case you already have the right tools with you.

Here’s how to fix a chain on a bike that’s multi-gear:

1. Ensure the bike is in the correct position

Once again, start by flipping the bike upside down on either a bike stand or a soft surface so that both your tire and derailleur are accessible.

2. Find and tighten the derailleur screw

On a multi-gear bike, there will be a derailleur screw at the back of a derailleur often next to a point marked letter B. You need to increase the tension of the bike chain by turning the derailleur screw in a clockwise direction to tighten it.

3. Reach and adjust the rear tire

Disconnect the brakes and cable from each other. Lift and raise your brake lever so that you easily reach the rear tire.

4. Adjust the rear tire

To increase the amount of tension on the derailleur chain, you need to slide the wheel axle in the direction of the rear dropouts. As you do this, keep making small adjustments since you don’t want the chain to become too tight.

For every adjustment you make, ensure you lower the brake lever and confirm that you have enough tension in the chain. If you don’t, just lift the lever and keep making adjustments until you have the desired results.

5. Put everything back together

Once you feel that the bike chain tension is right, you can start putting everything back to the way it was. While doing so, ensure your screw at the derailleur is well-fitted and that it’s tight enough.

Check the tire to see if it’s spinning in the correct way, making sure that it doesn’t touch your bike frame or bike chain, and in case it does, you need to repeat the entire process.

However tedious repeating this process is, it’s important to tighten your chain regardless for you to ride properly. No worries though as after doing this about twice, it will be easier for you to tighten a bike chain next time.

It also doesn’t hurt to clean your bike chain while you’re at it. There are many bike chain cleaners available out there that can make cleaning chains a quick thing to do.

Conclusion

When it comes to the process of how to fix a chain on a bicycle, you’re advised to always wear the right gear. A good pair of gloves can keep your fingers protected as you work on your chain.

Whether you have single speed bikes or not, at some point you will have to tighten the chain because it will come off.

A new chain could fail to properly fit on old gear and your bike’s cogs may end up coming off when the load becomes too heavy for it.

In other cases, this happens when an old chain is already worn out and is stretched a bit too thin. In some cases, the chain may already be completely damaged.

In addition to these reasons, your chain could also become loose because of forceful impacts like accidents. If you let your bike fall down to the ground, you could make your chain loose too.

Sometimes, the chain becomes loose just by randomly slipping.

All that said, the one thing that you should always expect is that when you have single speed bikes such as a dirt bike or a road bike, your bike chain is more likely to skip.

The best thing, however, is that you could always refer to these how to tighten a bike chain guides. All the steps are easy and the entire process won’t take too much of your time.

When you follow them correctly with your single speed bike, you will be ready to start riding again.