How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool!

In the middle of a pandemic when almost the whole world has gone into lockdown, it is very inconvenient and, more importantly unsafe! If you have landed on this article, then there are high chances that you are looking for a way shorten your bike chain, but like most people, you do not have any chain tools.

This is why today we will be making your life just a whole lot easier by giving you a thorough demonstration of how to shorten a bike chain without a chain tool.

Let’s begin.

What You Need

As an alternative to the chain tool that you do not have, you will need pliers, small nails, and a hammer. The great thing is all of these are very common tools and are likely to be found in your house, so you will not have to spend any extra money or even have to go to the hardware store. Oh, we forgot to mention, you need to have a lot of good quality bike chain lubricant with you for this process.

How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool

This process is actually a bit complicated, but we must add that it is definitely not impossible! There are basically three stages. To begin with, you will have to remove the chain, and then you will have to shorten it, and finally, you will have to reassemble it.

Step 1: Removal of the Chain

An effective way of understanding whether your chain is in need of a replacement is to count the number of links going from the first to the last pin; You will have to shorten your chain if the gap between the links exceeds 12 and a half inches.

To make things easier, it would be great if you positioned your bike on a bike stand. However, if you do not have one in hand, you can just have it leaning upside down against a wall. Then do a thorough cleanse of the bike chain, which will be necessary, especially if you ride your bike often.

After that, you will have to locate the master link, which looks different from the other links. Open the master link first, and then you will be able to easily disassemble the chain. 

However, some bikes do not have a master link, so for that, we will also be showing how to remove the bike chain without the master link. This is pretty simple as well; you can open any link first, then start to break and shorten it.

Step 2: Shortening

Now onto the main stage of the process, we have to shorten the chain after removing it. Firstly, you will have to count the number of links that you have to remove to achieve the desired length and make the chain tight, so your bike runs smoothly.

Make sure you actually count the number of links you have to take off precisely and not eye it because if done incorrectly, this will affect the performance of your bike later on.

Then, you will have to push the pin in, and this is where you need the substitutes for your missing chain tool. As mentioned before, you will need a pair of pliers, a small nail, and a hammer. Using these tools, you will be able to push the bolt through the holes easily and thus remove the link.

You simply have to repeat the whole process for the other links, pushing the pin into the open holes by a hammer and a nail. Do this until you have removed enough links and have reached the ideal length of the bike chain.

Step 3: Putting Things Back into Place

After you are done, you have to carefully reassemble the chain. You will have to get hold of both the ends of the chain; then, you have to place the master link using a screwdriver to put pressure on the master link. The pressure applied by the screwdriver helps to keep the chain steady.

Once the ends are connected, it’s time to put the whole chain back into place. When the chain is put into place, check whether it is too tight or not. If it is too tight, you will need to put a lot of force on the pedals to ride the bike, which can be uncomfortable, to say the least.

Get hold of the bike chain lubricant that we told you you would need, and apply the lubricant to the chain properly. The oil and lubricant help to keep the bike running very smoothly and also is necessary so that your chain does not erode quickly.

Finally, get your bike up on its wheels and take it out for a spin to test whether everything is working properly. On your test ride, do a close inspection so if there is any issue, you can fix it instantly, or else you will have to go through all that hassle another day.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, the process of shortening your bike chain is quite time-consuming and a bit complex. Therefore, if you own a very expensive bike and have little mechanic skills, we would suggest you visit a bike shop or at least call someone experienced over to help you with the process.

Otherwise, you should be good if you follow all of our advice properly in all of the three stages. Be patient, and try to do everything carefully, so you do not break any of your bike parts! If you have any further questions regarding this topic, please feel free to drop down your questions in the comments section below.

Also, if you have a single speed bike, make sure to check out our review guide on best single speed conversion kit. Believe me, you won’t regret it.