​How Do I Replace a Bike Chain

How Do I Replace a Bike Chain

One of the most essential pieces of equipment found on all bikes is also one of the most abused pieces as well. This extremely important accessory is known as the common bicycle chain. If it weren’t for your bike chain, you would not be moving anywhere very quickly. Luckily for us, our chains are built to withstand a lot of abuse and continue to keep spinning and moving us on to our destinations.

Unfortunately though, our chain will only put up with so much wear and tear, after which it will need to be replaced. Let’s take a closer look at how a chain works to help us understand how we can maximize the life expectancy of our trusty bicycle chain. Even if you are not an expert on how to fix bicycles, you will find that there are easy things that can be done that will help make your chain very happy. Eventually though, your chain will need to be switched out. If you have ever asked yourself the question, “how do I replace a bike chain” then the information that follows is for you. Let’s see how.

Let’s Break It Down

A bicycle chain is made up of many smaller parts (plates, rollers and pins) that join together to form one large flexible unit. Although its primary job is to spin around in a circular motion, it also needs to be able to change shape at a moment’s notice (like when a gear change takes place). As you are pedalling down the road, your chain is continuously threading itself onto your chain rings and rear cogs to allow you to create torque with your legs.

As you are pushing down on the pedals, you are putting a lot of pressure on your chain, especially under those circumstances where you are trying to accelerate or climb a hill. This pressure over time starts to wear down and stretch your chain.

Besides, the normal pressures that you put on the chain through biking, your bike chain is also exposed to a lot of nasty elements that gets picked up off of the surfaces that you ride over. Dirt and mud act like sandpaper when grit gets wedged into the moving surfaces of your chain. If the dirt is not cleaned out on a regular basis, your chain will really start to wear out quickly.

Keep It Clean

Besides wiping your chain with a cloth after each ride, you should also be giving your chain a thorough cleaning with a chain cleaner (see picture below) on a periodic basis. These specially made units fit over your chain and literally scrub all the dirt, grit as well as old grease off your chain. These chain cleaning tools are simple yet work amazingly well.

Any bike mechanic who knows how to fix bicycles will also tell you how important it is to use chain lubricant on a regular basis. It is very important that you keep all the moving parts of your chain lubricated and moving freely. If you’ve ever touched two metal surfaces that have been rubbing against each other at high speeds, you will know how much heat can be generated. If too much heat is created, the deterioration process speeds up. The picture below shows both a wax type as well as oil based lubricant. Both work well when used on a regular basis.

How Do You know When Your Chain Is Worn?

Even with all best chain maintenance, you will eventually wear out your chain. How do you know if your chain needs to be replaced though? There are specialty chain wear gauges available but the trusty 12 inch ruler (or tape measure) will also do an adequate job.

New chains typically measure ½ inch from the pin to pin. Knowing this, you can take your ruler and measure over 24 pins (12” on a new chain). As long as your chain measures less than 24 23/32” your chain is still in good shape. If your measurements hit 24 1/8” though it is time to get not only a new chain but you are probably going to have to replace your rear cog set as well (ouch!).

How Do I Replace a Bike Chain – Time To Find Out!

You have a few options when a chain replacement is forth coming. Since the removal of most chains requires a special tool called a chain breaker, you may need to bring your bike into the local bike shop. If however, you do have one if these tools than removing the chain is a relatively simple task.

The usual steps involve locating the existing connecting pins which will usually be fairly obvious as they have a differ finish than the rest of the chain links (see picture below for an example of what this link looks like).

Once the connecting pins have been located, you need to remove the pin from the chain linkage using your chain tool. There are some chains that have a quick release linkage built right into the chain and as such do not require any special tools. For a more detailed explanation, read my article how to replace a bicycle chain.

With the old chain removed, you can now install the new one using the reverse steps that you just took to remove the old one.

​You Are On Your Way to Being a Bike Mechanic in Training

​Congratulations, you have now answered the question of  how do I replace a bike chain. You will find that it is much easier (and cheaper) to maintain your equipment than it is to try and constantly fix and replace it. Even with the knowledge of how to fix bicycles, proper maintenance procedures will extend the life of your bike and all its necessary parts. Besides, it is way more fun riding your bike than it is fixing it.

You Are On Your Way to Being a Bike Mechanic in Training
Robert Flaherty

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