How To Tighten A Bike Chain- A Step By Step Guide!

Let's explore how you can tighten your bike chain to keep it running smoothly!

 Isn’t it fun to ride the bike? But when it comes to maintaining the bicycle, things certainly take a u-turn from fun! Bikes need maintenance to deliver constant performance. And all kinds of bicycles whether single-speed or multi-gear bikes have one thing in common. Guess What? Chains! you guessed it!

Let me tell you an interesting fact. The part of your bicycle that requires the most maintenance is the drivetrain. Including the chain! So, like it or not, you will be spending time on maintaining the bicycle chain. Sometimes, you might come across a bicycle chain that has gotten loose over time. It might happen because the chain is over-stretched, it’s too long or has an odd angle. 

Whatever the reason, isn’t it convenient to know how to tighten a bike chain so you can fix it yourself? Rather than running to a bike shop now and then? Exactly!

So How about I show you how to tighten the chain in simple steps? What do you say?

Tools Needed To Tighten Bike Chain

Here is what you will need:

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

Bicycle Repair ToolsetBicycle Repair Toolset

The method of tightening the bike chain will be different for single-speed bikes and multi-geared bikes. Let’s learn the method for a single-speed bike first.

If you’re looking to repair a broken bike chain, check out our comprehensive guide on how to fix a bike chain.

How To Fix Chain On A Single-Speed Bike

Single-speed bikes are simple. All it takes is 4 steps to fix the chain: 

Step One: Flip Your Bike And Rotate The Chain

First, turn the bike upside down, flip it, and rotate the chain using the pedals. Examine the chain to see if it has any kind of damage. Also, check the level of grease and dryness of the chain. If the grease is overdone, you will need to degrease the chain and then apply a fresh coating of lube.

Now, apply lube to each of the chain links. Rotate the pedal to move up the links but make sure that every area is covered. Remember, don’t overdo the lube. If there is access to it, remove it using an old rag. 

If you’ve removed your bike chain read this step-by-step guide on how to reinstall your bike chain will help you get it back on your bike in no time.

Step Three: Loosen The Bolt Of The Rear Wheel

Using the adjustable wrench. 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. Here you will need an extra hand. Ask them to hold and wheel and align it properly so that you can tighten the loosened bolts. Take a look at the rear wheel while you are at it.  Examine all the slots and bolts. If there are signs of damage, you will have to replace them. 

Step Four: Align The Rear Wheel

Now align the rear wheel and make sure that the distance between the rear fork of the bike and the wheel is the same. Move the wheel back and forth. 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 and 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 wheels. You need to check that before you get started. Most of the problems with multi-gear bikes come from the derailleur.

Step One: Get The Bike Seated

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. If it does then you have the problem of a loose chain. To fix it, you must follow some steps and move the rear wheel. 

Step Two: Engage The Derailleur 

Engage the derailleur in full tension. Just pull it and then let go. If your chain is sagging, align it. 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 because there is nothing much left to do. 

If you’re having trouble shifting gears on your bike, it might be time to adjust your front derailleur. Check out this guide for detailed instructions.

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.

1. There Is Wear And Tear

However, the main reason that pops up every time is wear and tear/damage. This does not go away even if you clean and service your bike. As a result, the links of your chain will slightly pull apart. This makes them loose.

2. The Rivet And Cradle Are Wearing Down

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. I recommend that you change the chain of the bike completely, at least once. 

If you’re not sure how long your bike chain should be, our guide will help you determine the correct bike chain length.

3. Maybe Your Rear Wheel Slipped

The rear wheel slips sometimes and that loosens up the chain. It’s easily fixable.

4. Your Derailleurs Might Be Messy  

Derailleurs can sometimes become messy. They are the gearing mechanisms in multi-geared bikes and they maintain the chain tension. If in a multi-geared bike, the chain gets loose, it is most probably the derailleur fault. You will have to get it replaced or removed. 

Check out this guide to learn why bicycle chains break and how you can prevent them from happening.

Oiling The ChainOiling The Chain

5. Or It’s Simply Your Chain!

If you have checked your wheel and derailleur thoroughly and the problem still exists, then it’s your chain’s fault. Use a chain wear tool, and see if your chain needs to be replaced. Take a chainwear tool and try to fit it inside the chain. If it fits properly inside the chain simultaneously, you’ll have to replace your chain ASAP. 

A faulty chain will either be too short or too long. This causes problems for the derailleurs. When these things happen. The smart thing to do is to remove and replace the chain fully. Repairing does not always help.

If you’re having trouble shifting gears on your bike, check out my article which explains some common reasons why your bike won’t shift gears and how to fix them.

Read More Bike Maintenance Tips:


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.


Bike Chains get loose from time to time and it affects different kinds of bikes differently. To fix them, you also need to use different methods. These methods are not too hard but you’ll need to focus and be patient. Let’s go through why your chain might become loose once again:

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

So, are you all set to tighten your bike chain? If you need any help, reach out to me in the comment section below! 


Should you have any questions or require further clarification on the topic, please feel free to connect with our expert author Luke Ameen by leaving a comment below. We value your engagement and are here to assist you.

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Luke Ameen

Luke Ameen

For many years, I've journeyed the world as an ardent cyclist, feeling the pulse of the road beneath two wheels. Even though competitive mountain trails might not be my battleground now, my zeal for cycling remains undiminished, pushing me to chase new escapades every chance I get.

My heart beats for everything related to cycling. Over the years, I've immersed myself in extensive research and hands-on tests of cycling equipment and enhancements, aiming to guide fellow cyclists in amplifying their riding experience. My mission is clear: deliver trustworthy insights and reliable guidance that readers can lean on. My vision is to kindle the same fervor for cycling in others, whether they're seasoned veterans or just embarking on this journey. Rest assured, I'm here to equip you with the freshest updates, advice, and perspectives to enrich every ride.


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