How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool?

Last Update On: September 27, 2023 // Article Written By:
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Cycling is the most enjoyable and coolest thing ever that can provide a healthy body and free transport. Bicycles come with some common issues like loosening the bike chain. It becomes the most irritating thing when someone has to go for some important work. We will provide all detailed methods for how to shorten a bike chain without a chain tool.

It may seem very difficult to tighten the chain without any chain tool. Actually, it is not. Only with three steps of removing, shortening, and reassembling the chain you can do it. This article will help you to shorten the bike chain without a chain tool anywhere and anytime.

Why Do You Need to Shorten Your Bike Chain?

At first, let’s understand the reason for shortening the bike chain. Every bike is designed with a certain chain length. For a comfortable, trouble-free ride and to prevent further issues, it is essential to maintain this length. You can see the awesome bmx bikes, and they come with the best quality bike chain.

Why Do You Need to Shorten Your Bike Chain

The bike chain is the reason for tire rotation and makes the bike get in motion. With an unfit bike chain, you can’t move the bike properly because the bicycle will get disrupted. Also, it will hamper the cycling experience. Here, we will provide the main three reasons for resizing the bike chain.

  • The first one is when you realize that your bike chain loosens up frequently due to wear and tear.
  • Secondly, if the replacement chain length is inappropriate for the bike.
  • Lastly, if the chain ages, the links get slip or stretch, and the bike becomes unable to run.

How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool? (Step by Step Guide)

You already know the reasons for shortening the bike chain. So, it’s time to learn how to shorten a bike chain without a chain tool. With three main steps, you can easily change a bike chain without using any chain tool. Let’s dive into it.

How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool? (Step by Step Guide)

1. Removing the Chain

Step 1: First, count the chain pins out and examine if the distance is more than 12 inches or not. You have to change the chain if the distance is more than 12 inches and 30 cm.

Step 2: Mount the bicycle on a stand or use a sharp object to put the cycle upside down.

Step 3: At this stage, clean the debris and dust off the chain. To dissolve all dirt and grease, use isopropyl alcohol or a high-quality biodegradable chain cleaner.

Step 4: Look out for the master link. It looks slightly lighter or darker and includes some additional pins on the outer side than others. If the chain doesn’t have any master link, you have to use a chain tool to split any random link. As you don’t have any specialized tools, use any sharp instruments to do this job.

Step 5: Place the master link between the gear’s back and front side. To do this, rotate the pedals.

Step 6: Open the master link, then swivel, bend, or flex it for sliding off. After that, keep it in a safe place so that it won’t get lost.

2. Shorten the Chain

Step 1: Now, to get the correct length, decide the number of links you want to take off. For the first time, take off a few links; otherwise, you may have to add them.

Step 2: Find out the last chain that is not attached to the master link. You can use any other link if the chain doesn’t have any master link. Use a vise or clamping mechanism for holding that link in place.

Step 3: Use a hammer, thin nail, and pliers to push the pin. Keep the chain over a socket for hitting the nail by using a hammer. After that, you can pass the bolt through the holes.

Shorten the Chain

Step 4: For shortening the chain, repeat the above process to remove the additional links.

3. Reassemble the Chain

Step 1: Now, take the chain’s both ends to place the master link. Use a screwdriver to push the links.

Step 2: Steadily place the two links and reconnect the chain by using the screwdriver.

Step 3: After reconnecting the links, it may become too tight. So, check the chain carefully and loosen it a bit if it feels too tight.

Step 4: This step is very essential, and never forget to apply high-quality lubricant. It will increase the lifespan and flexibility of the chain and improve the cycle’s shifting performance.

How Do You Remove a Chain Link Without a Tool?

When the bike chain stretches out and becomes rusted, you have to remove it. There are several bike chain link removal tools available. But removing the bike chain link without any specialized tools is possible. To remove them, you just only need needle nose pliers and a hammer.

How Do You Remove a Chain Link Without a Tool

Some bikes are designed with a master link, which is the removal link. So, simply twist the master link off with the help of needle-nose pliers. Then, for fully removing the link, press the nubs of the link through the other side. You may need a hammer for tapping the link and making the chain separate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here, we answered some frequently asked questions about bike chain issues. Hopefully, it will help you to solve all problems.

When Should I Shorten My Bike Chain?

You should count the chain links and start measuring the distance from the first pin to the last pin. The distance should be 12 inches between each pin. If you see more than 12 inches or 30.80 cm distance, then the chain should be replaced.

What Happens If the Bike Chain Is Too Long?

Too long bike chains will cause a frequent dropout and inconsistent front or back shifting.

What Happens If the Bike Chain Is Too Short?

With a too-short bike chain,  the derailleur cage will be stretched out. Also, it will become difficult to make shifts.


Due to regular use and age, bike chains can lengthen; it is a normal thing. With chain tools, it is very easy to shorten them. But, every time, it is not possible to fix the chain by using tools. Thus, we provide the easy steps for how to shorten a bike chain without a chain tool.

Learning these simple processes are very essential. It will allow you not to spend money on a third party to do this for you. Regular bikers will find this skill very handy and beneficial. This guide will help you to save money, time and get the job done by yourself without using any chain tool.

David Brayton

About The Author - David Brayton

David is the owner and the main Author of this site Electricalwheel. Basically, he is a businessman and research writer. He had engineering degrees in Bachelors and Masters. Besides his business, he loves to do research on different aspects and share his findings with others.

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