If you own a bike, you should know how irritating it is to have a loose chain. The truth is that this is an issue you will face often. Having loose chains is even more common on single-speed or fixed-gear bikes. As such, whether you own a single-speed or multi-speed bike, learning how to tighten a bike chain will be helpful in the long run.
Let me tell you a little story of how knowing how to tighten a bicycle chain saved me from frustration…
Last spring, when I was on my way back home from a bike tour, I faced this problem. Earlier that day, my bike was in top performance, and I was just finishing up a 15-mile route. However, my chain decided that it’s the right time to come loose in the last two miles. But luckily, I had learned how to tighten a bike chain from my friend, who is also a bike enthusiast and mechanic and could fix it on the fly. Also, I always made sure to carry a portable wrench, which you can find in any local hardware store or here on amazon.
With that said, learning how to tighten a bike chain has been a lifesaver.
Problems with a loose bike chain can happen anytime and anywhere. Especially if you are biking alone somewhere far, you need to be well-equipped to tackle all possible inconveniences that you may face. And, a loose chain tops the list of inconveniences associated with a bike.
So, without further ado, let us directly jump into the topic. This article will cover everything related to how to tighten a bike chain that always comes loose on a single-speed as well as a multi-speed bike.
Tools you need:
- Portable socket wrench
- Bike grease or lubricant
- Bike stand
- Piece of cloth
How to tighten a bike chain on a single-speed bike
Single-speed or single-gear bikes, as the name suggests, have only a single gear. The whole cycling mechanism works on a cog. This type of bike is also known as a fixie. Because of the absence of a derailleur, you are more likely to face a loose chain problem.
Turn your bike upside-down.
This step is not required if you are already experienced in tightening a loose chain. But since you are here, we assume you are still a newbie. To work on the chain more conveniently and have easy access to all the parts, we recommend you upturn the bike.
You can place it on a bike stand or a smooth flat surface against a wall. To avoid any scratches on the saddle, make sure to place your bike on a cloth or cardboard.
Unscrew the nuts in the axle
Once your bike is in the proper position, take the socket wrench and unscrew the nuts on the rear axle. Loosen the rear axle to adjust the rear tire. Make sure to turn the nuts with the wrench in an anti-clockwise direction.
Pulling back on the rear tire
You need to be extra careful with this step. It can make or break the entire thing. Be slow and steady while pulling back on the rear tire. Keep pulling back on the tire slowly until you have reached the desired chain tension.
Checking the appropriate chain tension
This is one of the most crucial steps.
To ensure the right chain tension, you need to check that the chain is moveable in both directions up to half an inch. If you can move more than half an inch, pull back on the tire a little more.
Also, if it gets too tight, you should go ahead and loosen the tension a little. Be precise with this step. Any miscalculation in this can ruin the entire chain mechanism.
Tightening the rear axle
Once you are satisfied with the chain tension, you can fit the tire back. Take the wrench and tighten all the nuts back into place. However, while doing so, ensure that the tire stays in the proper position.
Once you have completed the entire process, recheck your chain tension. Also, try spinning the rear tire. Make sure the tire spins conveniently without any contact with the chain as well as the bike’s frame.
You can repeat the entire process if you need to tighten the chain further.
How to tighten a loose chain in multi-speed bike
To tighten a loose chain in a multi-speed or multi-gear bike, you need the same list of tools as used for the single-speed bikes. However, the method is quite different as multi-speed bikes come with a derailleur.
Putting the multi-speed bike in the right position
Upturn the bike and place it on a bike stand. Place the bike in such a way in which you can easily work with the derailleur and rear tire.
Fixing the Derailleur Screw
The derailleur screw is usually attached on its back, or next to the letter B. All you have to do is tighten this screw slowly in a clockwise direction.
Working with the rear tire
In order to tighten your bike’s chain, you need to increase the chain tension. For this, you first need to detach the cables and brake by lifting the brake lever. Next, lift the quick-release lever. This is located in the center of the rear tire.
Then slowly push the rear tire towards the rear dropouts in a backward direction. This way, you can increase the chain tension. Once you have achieved your desired tightness, you can put down the quick-release lever.
Assembling the parts
Carefully put all the parts in place like before. Also, ensure that the derailleur screw is fixed and tight as before. Also, make sure that the rear tire has no contact with the chain or frame while it’s spinning.
Repeat the process for further tightness.
Frequently Asked Questions on tightening a bike chain:
Shall I tighten my chain or replace it?
If your chain is old and loose, it is better to replace it. But if you bought the chain recently and it became loose due to other possible reasons, you can simply tighten it.
What is the perfect tightness for a bike chain?
The chain should be moveable in both directions, up to half an inch. If it’s slightly less or more, you can repeat the whole process mentioned above.
Is a chain lubricator good?
Yes, make sure you lubricate your bike chain daily. This way, you can increase the durability of the chain and also maintain it. Check out our guide on the best bike chains lubes and learn about lubing your chain the right way.
There you have it; with the instructions here, you should be able to go ahead and tighten a bike chain anytime you need to. However, you need to be careful and precise while tightening your bike’s chain. Any fault in it may even cause further damage to your bike. Though it requires some work and time, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be a pro in no time.