How To Shorten A Bike Chain With And Without A Chain Tool

Shorten A Bike Chain With And WIthout A Chain Tool

Decline Magazine is supported by its readers. We may receive a commission if you buy products using our links.

A bicycle chain needs to be of a particular length to work perfectly with the drivetrain and gear systems. In cases where a new bike chain is too long, you’ll need to shorten the chain.

Shortening your bike chain is a simple 6-step process that includes the following:

How To Shorten A Bike Chain With A Chain Tool

Purchase a chain tool to unlink and link the chainrings.

You can purchase a chain tool easily on your own. But if you’re having trouble locating a good one, you can try contacting your bicycle’s manufacturer and asking them to recommend a good chain tool for your required use.

Set the bicycle on a repair stand.

By setting your bicycle on a repair stand, you’d make it easier to fix your bike chain. That is because the bike won’t move around when you’re trying to adjust the bike chain, and you won’t have to expend so much energy trying to hold it in place.

Clean the bike chain.

Before you get down to business, you need to clean the bike chain. Keeping the bike chain clean promotes a smooth riding experience after adjusting the chain length.

It also makes your job much easier because you’d remove all the dirt and grease from the bike chain, increasing the visibility of individual chain links. For this process, you can use chain degreasers along with an excellent biodegradable chain cleaner.

Find the master link.

The master link of a bike chain is a part of the chain that helps to connect the rest of the chain. It looks different from other links because it is either darker or enclosed in a plate (with different pins coming out of it). As soon as you locate the master link, your next task is to loosen it, and you can do this with your chain tool.

Remove the extra links.

You can use your chain tool to achieve this goal. But bear in mind that the more chainrings you remove, the shorter the bike chain becomes.

You must be careful not to remove too many chainrings. Otherwise, the bike chain would be much shorter than the length you require, and you might need to attach more chainrings to make up for the lost inches. The best way to prevent this is to check the length of the adjusted bike chains as you remove every couple of rings.

Reassemble the bike chain.

After attaining the required length, you need to reattach the bike chain to the bike. Again, this is something you can quickly achieve with the aid of your chain tool. 

You may need to apply a high-quality lubricant or any of these alternatives before installing the bike chain to ensure a smooth riding experience. You can carry out all these steps by yourself, or you may choose to take your bike chain to the bike shop for adjustment.

Shortening The Chain Without A Chain Tool

You can still shorten your bike chain if you cannot obtain a chain tool. Here’s how.

Collect your replacement tools.

Without a chain tool, you would have to get other tools like a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, a hammer and a small nail. You will use them in unlinking and linking the chain links of your bike chain.

Set your bike on a repair stand.

As with the method described earlier, you have to place your bike on a repair stand and secure its position before making any adjustments.

Determine how many chain links to remove.

It is essential to decide the number of links you want to remove beforehand. You can pull this off by first measuring the original length of the chain and comparing it to the required length.

Find and unlink the master link.

Finding the master link should be pretty straightforward because it usually looks different from other chain links in the bike chain sequence. You can then detach it using the hammer and pliers (or other similar tools).

Remove chain links.

To remove the required links, you have to put the small nail on the chain pins and hit them with pliers or a hammer. Do so gently not to damage the chain. Also, you will have to repeat this process until you finish removing all the extra links.

Reattach the bike chain.

After shortening your bike chain to the required length, you must reattach it with your screwdriver and other tools. However, you must ensure that the chain reconnects appropriately.

How To Shorten A Bike Chain Without A Master Link

Additionally, it is possible to shorten a bike chain without a master link. Use tools such as pliers, a small nail, a hammer, a chain tool or a chain breaker. However, this method requires some skill. You would first have to break the bike chain at a point.

Then, you would have to use the tools to open a predetermined number of chain links. Once the bike chain is at its appropriate length, you would have to reattach it using your tools (particularly the pliers or some other kind of clamping mechanism).


What happens if the bike chain is too long?

When bike chains are too long, they may drop during riding or cycling. This can also affect the gear shift transmission of the bicycle and the rear derailleur, which can result in riding accidents. Quite simply, a long bike chain is a safety hazard.

How do I shorten a KMC chain without a tool?

Without using a chain tool, you can shorten a KMC bike by employing other replacement tools such as screwdrivers, a nail, and a hammer.

How do I find my chain length?

First, you could check the bicycle’s manual to see the manufacturer’s specifications for chain length. However, if that is not possible, you may need to ask an expert or measure the length of your bike chain by yourself using a measuring tool.

How do you cut a chain without a bolt cutter?

There are many other tools you can use if you don’t want to cut your bike chain with a bolt cutter. You can use a pair of pliers or a saw. However, you may have to exercise caution not to damage the chain or injure yourself. 

How do you break a bike chain with pliers?

To break a bike chain with pliers, focus on the master link. It is much easier to loosen the master link than to break the chain at other points, especially while using pliers.

Related: How Often Should You Lube Bike Chain


The process of shortening a bike chain is not very difficult or time-consuming. 

We have covered different ways to help you shorten the chain’s length. In case you still have any trouble, you can either get help from an expert or write to us with your doubts, and we’ll do our best to help. 

Photo of author

Written By

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

Leave a Comment

Related Post