How to Tighten a Bike Chain in 30 Minutes or Less

When purchasing a mountain bike, the first thing I suggest you learn to do is how to maintain your bike. Bike maintenance is incredibly crucial to the life of our bike, the quality of your riding experience, and how your long your parts last.

When I’m out mountain biking all day long or learning new tricks to improve my skills, I’m not thinking about maintenance, no one is. It’s not until you get home and realize, “hey, I’ve got to clean this bike up and get it into rest mode.

Everyday bike maintenance is essential to keeping your bike healthy. You need to check for debris and buildup, wipe down the tires and frame, check the brakes and pedals, replace air in the tires if needed, and care for the chain.

Do you know how to tighten a bike chain? No? Let me help you get started!

Get Out the Tools

Before we tighten the chain, you first need to make sure everything you need is around in an easy to reach spot, so it’ll take less time. Gather your tools, and I’ll show you how to tighten a bike chain by yourself!

1. Bike Knowledge

Before getting started on tightening up your loose chain, you need to have basic knowledge about your bike. You should know the names of the parts, especially those you will be messing with, such as the rear derailleur, the chain, the gears, the axle, and the wheel.

If you don’t feel comfortable with these parts, look over your bike and try to name the parts, touch them as you learn them for the physical item to be identified. This will make knowing your bike easier and will help you in the future to solve problems when it comes to your bike.

As you practice, you will be more aware of things such as squeaky brakes, flat tires, and loose bike chain symptoms.



2. Socket Wrench Set

A socket wrench is for the bolts on your wheel’s axis. You will need a socket wrench to loosen and tighten the bolts back into place. The socket wrench you use is entirely up to you and your preferences.

You will also need the correct socket that will fit your bolts. Bikes are made differently, so you may find your bike has bigger or smaller bolt’s than a friend’s bike does.

Lastly, if you do have pegs on your bike, you will need a socket wrench adapter to reach through the pegs and twist the bolts. It’s hard to do when you can’t see them, but it is possible to do.

3. Lubricant

You should be using a bicycle chain lubricant already for your chain, but in case you aren’t you need some. This is for after finishing tightening your chain; you need to care for your chain by giving it some lubrication.

4. Rag

Any rag will do, so long as it’s clean. This rag will be to wipe down your chain after you tighten it back up. You just want to clear any excess debris off the chain before adding lubrication to it.

5. Space

You will be flipping your bike upside down and sitting on the floor behind it. You will need space to tighten your chain securely. You want to be in an open space, but safe such as a garage or back yard.

Wherever the space is that you choose to occupy, make sure you have a large enough area to work without feeling cramped and cluttered.

6. Strength and Patience

You will be pulling tightly on your back wheel while keeping it in alignment as you tighten it into place. This will take some strength and patience. You will need to be able to keep the wheel straight, pull back on it, and tighten the bolts at the same time.

You can do this alone or have a friend help you if you find it to be too difficult to handle alone.

Tightening Your Chain

We are finally to the part where I teach you how to tighten a bike chain! Are you as excited as I am? There are just a few steps, but overall, it’ll be very easy to do and if you are a beginner, have no fear, because this is an easy maintenance to take care of!

Step One: Flip Your Bike Over

I wouldn’t recommend this except to perform bike maintenance. Some people use a bike stand to do this. However, most people do not own a bike stand, so you can just flip your bike over.

Lay it on the seat and handlebars even so your bike is not leaning or trying to fall over. You want your bike securely upside down.



Step Two: Loosen Your Back Wheel

Taking your socket wrench, loosen the bolts on your wheels. Do not completely remove them, just loosen them enough for you to pull back on your wheel with ease.

If you have pegs, at this point you need to place the adapter on the socket wrench and loosen the bolts from inside the pegs. You can’t see inside the pegs, so you will have to do it by touch. This will be a challenging task, but doable.

Once your tires are loosened from their position, you are ready to continue.



Step Three: Pull on Your Wheel

After you have loosened your tire, you can place your hand on the outside center of the wheel and pull back. You want to pull back on your wheel to tighten the chain to the proper tightness. Once the wheel is pulled back as far as you think it needs to be, hold it in place without it touching the frame.



Step Four: Tighten Your Wheel

While you are holding your wheel in place, tighten the bolts on your wheels with your socket wrench. Tighten one side first, then the other. Continue to go back and forth between sides to ensure both sides are equally tightened.

You want to avoid you wheel touching the frame or other components of the bike, or you will have to redo these steps. Make sure to keep your wheel straight as you tighten both sides.



Step Five: Check Your Chain

Once you have tightened your wheels, flip the bike back over and check your chain. If you chain is tight and is no longer sagging, you now know how to tighten a bike chain!

If your chain is still saggy, there could be a problem with your rear derailleur, which you may need to know how to adjust rear derailleur on a mountain bike, or you might need to replace the chain.

Back to Biking

You can now rest assured and be proud of yourself. You now know how to tighten a bike chain in under 30 minutes! Tightening a chain isn’t daily maintenance, it’s usually caused by wear, age, and slack building up.

Most of the time your rear derailleur will pick up the slack in a chain, but when it is too worn or aged, the chain should be replaced.

Have you ever changed a bike chain before? Are you more confident in your ability to change your bike chain? Will you still leave it up to your local bike shop?

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Hi my name is Dale Obrien. I started Mountain biking 8 years ago. I also worked as a manager in a local mountain bike shop for 5 years. I love helping beginners getting their first mountain bike. Welcome to our blog. Enjoy!

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