Replacing the chain is an essential bike maintenance task you can easily do at home with the correct tools. The chain is a consumable item and can last anywhere between 2,000 to 10,000 miles depending on various factors such as riding style, riding terrains, regular cleaning, lubrication, or waxed.
Tools needed :
- Chain tool (for chains that use a connecting pin)
- Master link plier (for chains that use a quick link)
Step 1. Remove the old, worn chain
- Shift the front and rear to the smallest cog to reduce the chain tension.
- Determine if the existing chain uses a chain pin or quick link. Look closely at each chain link while turning the pedal backward. You’ll need to look even closer if the chain is dirty. If you can’t find the quick link, the chain uses a chain pin.
- Chain pin. Pick any rivet on the lower chain section (below the chainstay) and insert the chain tool. Slowly tighten the chain tool and push the rivet out to break the chain.
- Quick link. Turn the pedal backward until the quick link is below the chainstay. Place the master link plier on both sides of the quick link, and squeeze them together.
Step 2. Measure chain length
New road bike chains have between 110 to 124 links. Depending on your chainring and cassette size, you’ll need to size the chain to reduce the slack.
If the old chain is sized correctly, you can use the same length for the new chain.
- Shift the front to the largest chainring and the rear to the largest cog (without a chain).
- Thread the new chain around the front chainring and the largest rear cog, without going through the pulley wheels.
- Pull the chain tight and note the closest rivets where you can join the chain. You can only join the chain with an inner and outer plate. If you can’t match an inner and outer plate, move to the next closest one.
- Cut the chain. Insert the chain tool, slowly tighten and push the rivet out.
Step 3. Install new chain
The following steps apply to Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo, and third-party chains such as KMC.
- Shift the front to the smallest chainring and the rear to the smallest cog.
- Check the chain’s side plates. If there is a printing or logo, they should be facing you (away from the wheels).
- Thread the new chain around the smallest rear cog, followed by the top and bottom jockey wheels.
- Pull the chain from the rear cog towards the front chainring, then thread it through the front derailleur cage and around the front chainring.
- Pull both ends of the chain together below the chainstay.
- Join the ends together using a quick link or a chain pin.
- Visually inspect the connection.
- Run through the gears to ensure there are no stiff links.
More reading : How to Locate the Masterlink on a Bike Chain
Things to note :
- SRAM chains uses a quick link called PowerLock.
- Shimano 8, 9, 10, 11-speed chains can use both quick link and chain pin. Shimano 12-speed chains only use a quick link.
- Use the correct quick link or chain pin for the chain type. Do not use an 11-speed chain with 10-speed quick link, etc.
Should I use a chain pin or quick link?
A quick link (sometimes called master link, connecting link, Powerlock) is an easier and more convenient way of joining the chains. The quick link can be reused up to 5 times (check the manufacturer’s recommendations) and are more cost-effective.
If you regularly remove the chain for waxing, then use a quick link.