tools required shorten bicycle chain

How To Shorten A Bike Chain?

You are riding your bike on a nice holiday with your friends, or you are having a bike race with your friends. Unfortunately, suddenly your chain falls off and you have to stop to repair the bike. This happens more often whenever you go out with your bike, and this makes you disappointed. So, let us help you in solving the issue.

It has been happening with you since the day you have bought your bike, and you realize that maybe bike riding is not for you. So you start blaming yourself for not correctly riding the bike. Take a second and try to realize the situation. We all have faced the same issue while riding a bike. What if I help you overcome the issue of falling down the chain more often by shortening the bike chain?

How to shorten a bike chain? There are many ways of shortening a bike chain, and thus you can use different ways. Despite changing the whole chain, I have always tried to shorten the chain to the perfect length. This will help you to save your money too. Before going into that, let us learn about why do chains need to be shortened. Then we will find out the ways of shortening the bike chain.

Why Do Chains Need to be Shorten?

Chains need to be shortened due to many reasons. One of the most important reasons for shortening the bike chain is the wear. If the wear of the chain is broken, then your chain needs to be changed or shortened. In most cases, you need to check where the chain is broken due to stretching out, then shorten the chain to a proper length by excluding the broken part.

Another important reason behind shortening the chain is the size of the chainring. If your chainring is smaller than the length of the chain of the bike, then the chain will fall off more often and create problems for you. That’s why you need to shorten the chain based on the size of the chainring.

I have faced these issues more often, and to get the solution easily, I have tried some methods. Now let us learn about the methods of shortening the bike chain.

Related reading: Bike Chain Size Guide And Chart

How to Shorten a Bike Chain with a Chain Tool?

Using a chain tool, you can easily shorten the bike chain. Let’s discuss how.

1. Removing the Chain

This is the first step of shortening the bike chain. At first, you have to remove the chain from the bike. After removing, you have to check whether the chain needs to be replaced or shortened. If the chain has wear issues, then it might need to be replaced.

To check this, you have to count the links by using a scale.

The second step will be buying a chain tool if you don’t have any. You have to buy the chain tool depending on the model of your bike.

You have to use a stand to remove the chain easily from the bike without any problem. You have to clean the chain if it is dirty, and this will help you to remove the chain easily.

Now you will find the master link of your chain. Every chain doesn’t have the master link, and if there is no master link, you have to use the chain tool to remove the chain from the bike.

2. Shortening the Chain

After removing the chain from the bike, you have to decide how many links you should remove to shorten the chain. It is better to remove few links rather than removing many links and then adding them again.

To remove the links from the chain, you have to use your tool. If you haven’t done it earlier, you may find it difficult to remove the links.

For removing the link, you have to connect the link with a tool to get the link removed. You have to press the pin sensitively to push the pin way out of the link.

After removing the first link, you have to do the same things for removing the other links. Then the chain will shorten enough.

3. Reconstructing the Chain

After shortening the chain, you have to reconstruct your chain. The first step to do so will be placing both ends of the chain to the master link. If your chain doesn’t have the master link, you have to use another link to connect. You have to make sure that the pins are connected, and for doing this, you will hear a click when the links are attached.

At times you may have to reposition the pin if it is necessary.

At last, you have to use a good quality lubricant to make the chain work more smoothly.

How to Shorten a Bike Chain without a Chain Tool?

It is not necessary to have a chain tool for shortening the chain. You can follow the same procedure by using other things instead of a chain tool to shorten the chain perfectly.

1. Removing the Chain

Just like before, in this case, also you have to check whether you need to replace the chain or shorten the chain. After checking the condition of the chain, you can easily decide what should be the correct method of fixing your chain issue.

Then you have to use a scale to measure the links of your chain.

Your bike should be standing safely to complete the other necessary steps. You can use the bike stand for keeping it stand safely, or you can use a strong wall or something to lean the bike on.

Then you have to clean the chain so that you can see the real condition of your chain. You should use a good chain cleaner so that you don’t face any problems after cleaning the chain.

Now you have to search for the master link if your chain has any. If you don’t have any master link, you have to break the chain to remove it from the bike, but if you have the master link, you can open it and then remove the chain from the bike. For breaking the chain, you can use any sharp instrument as you don’t have the chain tool here.

2. Shortening the Chain

Like the earlier method, you also have to decide about removing the number of links from the chain. You can remove fewer links because if you remove more links, you have to reattach some of them, which will cost your time and energy more.

As you don’t have the tool here, you have to use three things instead of the tool. The three things are A Hammer, Pliers, and Thin Nail. These three things will help you to remove the links from the chain.

Then you have to put the chain at a place where you will push the nail with a hammer so that the pin comes out.

By following the same step, you can remove the links, but you have to remember that removing many links might cost you more.

3. Reconstructing the Chain

After removing the links, your chain gets perfectly shorten. Now you will need to connect the chain. To do so, you have to use a screwdriver to connect the chain with the master link. If you don’t have any master link, you can connect with any other link, but you have to make sure that your pin is attached. Thus you will hear a click sound which will make sure the chain is connected.

If the chain gets too tight after shortening it, you can loosen it easily.

The last and the most important part of shortening a bike chain using a good lubricant after fixing the chain. Don’t forget or ignore this part because if you ignore it, then it will damage your whole struggle of shortening the chain. A good lubricant will help the chain give more flexibility and increase the chain’s lifespan.

How to Shorten a Mountain Bike Chain

Mountain Bike Chains might seem more complicated for you to shorten as they come with some additional units. Fortunately, the mountain bike chains are not that complex, so you don’t have to go to any bike repairing shop to shorten the chain. You can do the task on your own.

The first thing you have to do is reading the manual you are given with the bike. Almost all the high end bikes have the manual where you will be given all the instructions of removing the links from the chain and thus successfully shorten the chain.

After reading the manual, you will see the similar direction of how to shorten a bike chain like other bikes.

One of the suggestions will be if you are going to shorten the chain of your mountain bike then use your chain tool to remove the extra links.

So you will basically follow the steps given below:

  1. Decide whether you should change your chain or shorten it.
  2. Stand the Bike strongly
  3. Clean the chain
  4. Find the master link to remove the chain
  5. Decide how many links should be removed
  6. Use the chain tool to remove the links
  7. Place the chain and Reconnect the chain after removing the links
  8. Lubricate the chain with a good quality lubricant
  9. Check whether it is working fine by riding the bike

Some Important Tips

While shortening the chain of your bike you can follow these tips:

  1. Always apply a good quality lubricant to make your chain work more smoothly and give more lifespan to your chain.
  2. Your bike chain might seem flawless, but after cleaning it, you will see the real condition of the chain. So, cleaning is more important. This will tell you if the chain needs anymore repairing rather than shortening the chain or not. Sometimes the chains get totally damaged but if you don’t check them by cleaning, you might not notice it. Hence it will create a huge problem for you.
  3. If you are an everyday bike rider then it’s good to have a good chain tool, as you have to work with your chain more often. You can finish your work fast and efficiently with the help of a chain tool.
  4. Although your bike may seem flawless but it’s safe to check your bike and its chain more often to avoid any kind of problem whenever you are out with your bike.
  5. If you are not comfortable in shortening your chain by your own then you should go to the bike repairing shop to shorten the chain. This will cost you a bit more but if it’s okay with you then you should go for it rather than doing by your own.

Related reading: How Often Should I Lube My Bike Chain?


The answer to the question- “How to Shorten a Bike Chain” has been explained thoroughly in this article. Shortening a bike chain is not that much tricky and complex. You can do it on your own even without the chain tool. You can easily shorten the chain with the help of your chain tool. The best choice will be to have a chain tool for your bike if you are an everyday bike rider.

But, you can send your bike to a bike repairing shop if you find your bike chain more complex and problematic. So, do whatever makes you feel more comfortable and confident about riding your bike.

You can call for professional help if you think your bike needs to be checked before you do anything on your own. My suggestion will be to check your bike and its chain more often so that you don’t face any kind of accident or problem while using the bike. Here goes a proverb “Prevention is better than Cure,” and so checking your bike’s condition will help you to prevent any kind of accident before you use your bike.

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  1. There are several steps to shortening a bicycle chain without a chain tool: To shorten the link position the chain on the socket and hammer it. Remove the links one after the other until you reach the desired chain length, take a screwdriver to push the links together, put the entire chain back on the bike. Make sure that the chain is not too tight to avoid discomfort while riding, and oil and lubricate the chain to increase the smoothness and operation of the chain. The number of links you will remove should be enough to keep your bike chain tight while keeping a smooth and easy ride.

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