Chains are the unsung mechanical heroes of cycling; they’re responsible for the crucial task of transferring power from the pedals to the wheels, allowing you to move forward.
Without proper inspection and maintenance, chains can fail and cripple your bike, or worse become dangerous projectiles.
If you’re a cycling enthusiast, you’ve probably endured a loose chain during your rides. It may happen randomly or during a moment of heavy load.
If you’re lucky, the chain will only feel loose rather than coming off entirely. It means you can continue cycling until you reach your destination, but it may signal the need for tightening your bike chain.
And in this tutorial, we shall take you through a step by step process on how to tighten your bike chain.
Tightening a bike chain is not challenging, but it will require patience and attention. Having the right tools will only make the task a lot easier, and you should, therefore, ensure that you get all the necessary tools before working on your chain.
The basic tools that you will require for the entire process including;
- A socket wrench
- A bike stand
- A pair of gloves
- A socket wrench adaptor
Before we get to the basics, understand the bike chains are primarily classified into two; bike chains for the single-gear bike and those of multiple-gear bike. We shall look at each type individually.
Ways To Tightening Bike Chain on a Single-Gear Bike
- Position your Bike
The first step is to orient your bike in the correct posture to allow for an easy and hassle-free process.
Turn your bike upside down, and allow it to rest with the handlebar and saddle on the ground while the wheels up in the air.
- Loosen the Rear Axle
Using a socket wrench, carefully loosen the axle nuts that hold the rear tire onto the bicycle. Turning the axle bolt on one side of the rear wheel in an anti-clockwise motion will loosen the tire and allow you to adjust the tension on your chain.
- Pull Back on the Rear Tire
Pulling back on the rear tire is critical to increasing the tension in your bike chain.
When pulling the tire away from the bottom bracket, it’s vital that it’s centered between the wishbone in the frame before re-tightening the axle bolt.
Again, do not exert too much pressure as this might cause breakage of the chain.
In any case, you should go through the entire process slowly and with caution, and while at it, keep checking on your chain to assess its tension.
- Identifying the Correct Tension
To identify the correct chain tension, you’ll need to see that you can move it around half an inch in either direction.
If the chain move/bends substantially, you will need to re-tighten it by pushing it back a bit more on the rear tire.
- Tightening the Rear Tire
Once you’ve established the ideal chain tension, it time for tightening the axle nuts one at a time, while ensuring the rear tire is properly fitted onto the bike frame.
A critical observation you should make is that you should pay attention to the rear tire position to avoid it from making contact with the chain or bike frame.
Once the process is done, assess the state of the chain and ensure it’s still moving about half an inch in either direction.
Finally, spin the wheels and see that they don’t come into contact with the chain or bike frame.
Tightening a Bike Chain on a Multi-Gear Bike
Similar to single-chain bikes, multi-bikes too can get their chains loose.
Remember that multi-bikes have derailleurs, and when the chain becomes loose on these bikes, it’s easy for the chain to get caught in your foot while riding.
Therefore, if you happen to notice your chain getting loose on a multi-bike, we strongly advise that you get off your bike, as the risk of your foot getting caught in the chain is high.
You can use the tips below to tighten the chain;
- Access the Rear Tire
To access the rear tire, you can either place your bike on a stand, and this will give you access to the rear tire and the derailleur, or flip the bikes upside down and let it rest on its handlebars and saddles.
- Tighten the Derailleur Screw
On every multi-gear bike, there is a small screen positioned at the back of the derailleur. It’s easy to spot as it has letter B printed right near it.
Now, if you’re hoping to tighten your chain, you’ll have to rotate the derailleur screw in a clockwise motion.
- Access the Rear Wheel
Accessing the rear wheel on a multi-gear bike is a multi-step process. It will entail;
- Lifting the release lever to allow disconnection from the correlating cable
- Raising the quick-release lever, and this will give you access to adjust the rear wheel
- Adjusting the Rear Wheel
Once you’ve access to the rear wheel and are hoping to increase the chain tension, you’ll need to slide the wheel axle backward in the rear dropouts.
Adjust accordingly and ensure that you don’t overdo to avoid tightening the chain too much.
After you’re done, you can now check on the chain to see if you achieved the right tension.
If not, you can rinse and repeat the entire process until you’re satisfied with the tension.
- Ensuring Everything is in Position
Before getting on your two wheels, it’s vital that you ensure that everything is in position.
Here’s a list of things to look out for;
- Ensure the quick release lever is down
- Reattach the correlating cable
- Ensure your wheels are spinning correctly
- And that the frame or bike chain is not on the wheel’s way
- Double check on the chain tension
Why Bike Chains Loosen Over Time
Loosening of the chain is not an indicator of improper bicycle and chain maintenance; it can happen to anybody and in a variety of situations.
However, there are some pretty common reasons for chain loosening, and they include;
- Worn chainrings or cogs
- Loose bottom bracket and rear bearing
- Worm freewheel
- Other issues
Adjusting or tightening of a bike chain is a rite of passage to every bike owner. Bike chains will at one time become loose, and you’ll need to re-tighten them.
Fortunately, we have provided you with a step-by-step guide on how to go about it.
Nathan Is a Semi- Professional Cyclist & Founder of Mybikexl. He own 2 bike shops and a full time passionate rider. When he is not in his shop fixing stuff, you will find him in the road or mountains enjoying himself with his bike.
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