How to Remove & Install a Bicycle Chain

by Raymond Parker on April 30, 2011

in Technical

A guide for derailleur-equipped bikes

Without your chain, you’re going nowhere, so it pays to maintain it. Removing your chain also makes cleaning a snap. Inexpensive tools or quick links help.

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Derailleur-equipped bicycles require “endless” chains. That is, links must not interfere with the passage of the chain through the derailleur gear system. In most cases this will mean that the chain has no link mechanism and a chain tool will be needed to break the chain.

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Center position to break chain
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End position for tight link

Bicycle chain tools (above) are comprised of a screw or pressure-operated pin, used to drive a chain rivet through the plate. To remove the chain, insert a link into the end opening of the tool—taking care to line the tool driver pin precisely with the chain rivet—and tighten until the rivet is held only by the outer plate. Caution must be taken not to drive the rivet right through the plate—an irreversible action. Practice on some spare links until you get the feel.

To replace, simply reverse the procedure. Use the centre section of the tool to loosen stiff links that often follow.

By far the easiest method of chain removal is with a special quick link. SRAM and Wippermann are common. By far the easiest to use is the Wippermann Connex, which requires no tools or vile oaths to remove.

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SRAM Powerlink
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Wippermann Connex

To disengage the SRAM Powerlink try squeezing opposing link plates together—with the chain straight—while pushing chain links in opposite directions. You will likely resort to pliers. As illustrated above, put a kink in the chain and apply one jaw to the lower chain plate, and the opposing to the top, so that you can push the plates until pins are in the larger opening toward the centre of the link plates. Try to avoid blood blisters.

The Connex link opens easily by kinking the chain, as shown above, and wiggling toward the middle of the link.

Links are replaced by reversing the process and tugging the chain straight. A bit of pressure on the pedals assures the chain/link is joined securely.

Note: Some chains are joined with proprietry pins and special tools used to drive the pin. The end of the pin is then snapped off at the plate. I avoid these chains by using the methods and products discussed here.

Cleaning is much easier and more thorough while you have the chain off the bike. Also, don’t forget to measure your chain occasionally to monitor its wear. It’s more economical to replace a chain before it has worn the whole drivetrain—including cassette cogs and chainrings—to its elongated size. Lube and ride!

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Pat August 10, 2011 at 5:11 am

This information helped me very much. I always had trouble getting a sram powerlink apart. After looking at your video and pictures I did it in about 2 seconds.

Thanks, Pat

Raymond Parker August 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Great to hear, Pat. Glad it helped.

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