How To Tighten A Bike Chain – Bike Maintenance Tips

Every type of cyclist would want to keep their bike in the most top shape. From cleaning the bike chain to tightening it, these are necessary steps to keep the bike in prime condition. In this guide, we will be showing you how to tighten a bike's chain in the easiest way possible.

Cyclists enjoy different types of bikes, there are single-speed bikes and multi-gear bikes, what do all of them have in common though? Chains! People love cycling, that is a fact but when it comes to bike maintenance, they get irritated very easily, no one likes a slipping or loose chain.

What do we do when that happens? We shove the chain back into the sprockets thinking that everything will be fine now. What if it happens again, what are we going to do then? If this problem becomes consistent then you have a bigger fish to fry and that will not be easy. A loose chain is definitely something that you need to fix ASAP!

There is a silver lining here though, although this is an annoying problem, it can be solved very easily. You just need to follow some simple procedures and your bike’s chain will feel brand new in no time. These tips and tricks have been sought out from professional mechanics themselves, so you will get the best care possible.

Tools Needed To Tighten Bike Chain

You cannot expect to tighten a bike’s chain with just mere hands, can you? In order to maintain your bike chain without any kind of hiccups, you will be needing the following items:

  1. An Adjustable Bike Wrench
  2. Chain Degreaser
  3. Hex Key
  4. Chain Lube
  5. Rags (Dried)
  6. A Buddy!
  7. Screwdriver
Bicycle Repair Toolset
Bicycle Repair Toolset

All of these tools are equally important in maintaining your bike’s chain. You can find them at a variety of outlets, although make sure to get the best quality products, this will prolong your bike’s life!

There are two types of bikes, right? There are single-speed bikes and then there are multi-geared bikes, both of them have different kinds of chains, thus they will require different methods. Let us get started!

How To Fix Chain On a Single-Speed Bike

Single-Speed Bikes are easy as they come, there are almost no complications to them, although you need to be careful when fixing the bike’s chains. Follow these steps to clean and tighten the chain.

In step one, you need to turn the bike upside down, flip it and rotate the chain using the pedals. Examine the chain thoroughly for any kind of damage. You need to check the grease and dryness level of the chain, in the case of too much grease, you will need to degrease the chain and then apply a fresh coating of lube.

In step two, you need to apply lube to each of the chain links. You can rotate the pedal to move up the links but make sure that every area is covered, there should also be no excess of the lube, if there is just remove it using the rags. 

In step three, you will be needing the adjustable wrench and loosen the bolt of the rear wheel that is fixing itself to the bike’s cradle. You need to pull back the wheel so that the chain has the correct tension, and you need to be careful while doing that. Once this is done, you will not be able to move the chain that freely and that is where your buddy comes in. You will need to ask them to hold and wheel and align it properly so that you can tighten the bolts that have become loose. While doing that, examine the rear wheel and all the slots, bolts, if there are signs of damage, they will need to be replaced.

In step four, you will need to align the rear wheel, make sure that the distance between the rear fork of the bike and wheel is the same. Move the wheel back and forth now, it should now be working well and be fully secured.

Repairing Bike Chain

If the problem persists even after doing all the steps successfully then you need to take the bike to a professional mechanic.

NOTE: You will have to do things differently if you have an internal hub bike. There is a gear-shift mechanism located on the rear wheel that you need to attach before you can access the bolts leading to the chain. You can easily remove that mechanism using a hex key or a screwdriver.

How To Fix Chain On A Multi-Geared Bike

Multi-Geared Bikes are all about derailleurs. There is a specific spring in the derailleur that pulls the chain appropriately, causes the necessary tension. Whenever you change the gear of the bike, that tension loosens up and the chain slips and moves into smaller sprockets, that is the main issue with chains in geared bikes.

There are different types of geared bikes, some of them will have these derailleurs in the rear wheel while some of them will have derailleurs on both the wheels, you need to check that before you get started. Most of the problems with multi-gear bikes come from the derailleur. In order to get started, make sure that the bike is sitting properly and the rear wheel does not touch the ground, you will need to prop up for that.

If the chain is in fine condition then the top portion would barely move, maybe less than an inch and if it does then you have the problem of a loose chain. In order to fix it, you would have to follow some steps and move the rear wheel. 

Firstly, make sure to engage the derailleur in full tension, just pull it and then let go, also make sure that the chain is perfectly aligned, only do this if the chain is sagging though. Engaging the derailleur should tighten the chain and bring it back to the normal L-shape, if it doesn’t then you would have to get the derailleur repaired, there is not much that you would be able to do.

Multi Geared Bike Chain

NOTE: You can try applying a lubricant (spray) or degreaser on the derailleur mechanism, the problems could arise because of excessive grease.

What Is The Reason Behind A Bike’s Loose Chain?

There are many reasons behind a chain getting loosened up, although the main reason that pops up every time is wear and tear/damages. This does not go away even if you clean and service your bike often, as a result, the links of your chain will slightly pull apart, which is what makes them loose.

You feel an extra stretch in your chain because of the rivet and cradle wearing down, this naturally happens during the life of your bike. It is recommended that you change the chain of the bike completely, at least once. 

When it comes to single-speed and multi-geared bikes, things don’t go wrong that often. The rear wheel slips sometimes and that loosens up the chain, this isn’t that much of a problem, easily fixable. With some adjustments, your chain will feel brand new.

Derailleurs can sometimes become messy, they are the gearing mechanisms in multi-geared bikes, they maintain the chain tension. If in a multi-geared bike, the chain gets loose, it is most probably the derailleurs fault and that is when it would have to be repaired or replaced.

Oiling The Chain
Oiling The Chain

The Common Chain Problems

You have checked the wheel thoroughly and the derailleur, if the problem still hasn’t been fixed then it is definitely the chain’s fault. With the help of a chain wear tool, you can easily check it for wear and tear and see if it has to be replaced.

A chain wear tool has prongs on either end, if they fit properly inside a chain simultaneously then it has to be replaced ASAP. The problem also persists in second-hand bikes, sometimes owners fit a faulty chain in those bikes to lower their own costs. The faulty chains are either too short or too long and that makes problems for the derailleurs. 

When these things happen, the smart thing to do is remove and replace the chain fully, repairing does not always help.

Read More Bike Maintenance Tips:

FAQs

When should I tension my bike chain?

Normally, the bike’s chain should only be movable by an inch. If it sags too much then you should tighten it.

Why is my chain so loose?

Old chains have this problem, they stretch too much. That is why it is recommended that you change the bike chains at least once.

How do you check the bike tension?

You have to loosen the bolts on the rear wheel and then check the tension of the bike.

Recap

Bike Chains get loose from time to time and it affects different kinds of bikes differently. In order to fix them, you also need to use varying methods. They are not that hard but focus and patience are the main aspects here. A bike chain can become loose because of:

  • Being very old, having too many links
  • Derailleur could be damaged
  • Wrong positioning of the rear wheel

By following these methods and tips, you will be able to fix these problems in no time!

 

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