When You Should Remove Your Chain
Any cyclist will realize that as a bike is used more and more, it will begin to show signs of wear. It’s common to have to replace your chain several times within the bike’s life. A worn out bike chain will lead to chain slips or difficulty shifting gears which will ultimately affect the speed of your bike. The chain itself, however, will not appear much different.
While one sign of usage is a dirty bike chain, this does not necessarily mean it needs to be replaced yet. If the built up dirt and grease is affecting your performance, however, you should still remove the chain to clean it.
You will know that it is time to replace your bike chain if it has stretched a significant amount. As you ride your bike, the pins that connect the chain links wear down and decrease in diameter. This leads to the elongation of the space between the chain links.
When Is It Time To Replace The Chain?
You should replace the chain before it becomes vulnerable to snapping. A good rule of thumb is to replace it after every 750-1,000 miles traveled. Depending on your style of riding, however, your chain may stay in shape for up to 20,000 miles.
A more precise method is to measure the space between your chain links. To do this:
- Lay your bike on its left side and adjust the chain so that it shows a long space to measure.
- Place a foot-long ruler with the zero mark in the center of one of the chain pins.
- Check the other end of the ruler. Ideally (on a new chain), this end will fall dead center on another pin; if it does not, the chain has stretched. If the center of that pin is greater than 1/16th of an inch past the end of the ruler, it’s time to replace your chain. Your chain replacement is long overdue and you should act immediately if the center of that pin has surpassed 1/8th of an inch from the ruler.
Neglecting a worn-out chain is both dangerous and pricey. A stretched out chain will eventually snap, leading to potential injuries while riding. Additionally, a worn chain subsequently tarnishes the chain ring. The longer you wait to replace the chain, the more likely it is that you will also have to replace the chain ring.
Need a new bike chain? Check out REI’s selection here.
Removing Bike Chain Without A Chain Tool
Some chains are made so that no tool is necessary to remove it. To find out if you fall into this lucky category of bicycle owners, search your chain for a quick link or master link. It will look slightly different from the rest of the links. If your bike has a quick link, then follow the steps below.
To remove the chain:
- Allow for the most amount of slack, shift chain to smallest cog and smallest chain ring. You can also remove the chain from the chain ring or take off the rear wheel of your bike to make the task even easier.
- Using either your fingers or a pair of pliers, push the two plates together and then slide them apart. This will break the chain, which just means to open it.
Removing Bike Chain With A Chain Tool
If your bike does not have a quick link, you will need a chain tool. If you don’t have one, you can buy one here.
To use the chain tool:
- To allow for the most amount of slack, shift chain to smallest cog and smallest chain ring. You can also remove the chain from the chain ring or take off the rear wheel of your bike to make the task even easier.
- Align the slot of the chain tool with one of the chain pins.
- Rotate the handle clockwise, releasing the chain tool through the chain. This will push the chain pin out.
- You can now carefully remove the chain from the bike.
- If you plan to replace the chain, keep the old one long enough to compare the lengths and ensure you have purchased the correct size. If you simply want to clean the chain, now’s your chance to do so.
For visuals on removing and replacing your bike chain with or without a chain tool, watch the video below: