How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool?

If the replacement chain of your bike is too long then, you will require adjusting it. Otherwise, you may fall a victim of the road accident. The chain of the bikes also stretches over time and be cautious of decreasing the chain for addressing this issue. The stretching of the bike chain is a sign of excessive use.

However, if the chain of your bike exceeds the advised maximum length, then it requires a total replacement. You are safe till it reaches that point. So, don’t forget to check the chain of your bike regularly.

Chain tools can make this work much more easier on the other hand there are three parts of changing the bike chain without a chain tool, and they are:

  1. Removing the chain 
  2. Shortening the chain 
  3. Resembling the chain

These are the three steps of changing bike chain, but in every level, there is a twist. So, I will describe each of the steps briefly for the better understanding of the reader.


Step 1: Removing The Chain

The chain is removed safely in many stages. Here are the steps that you need to follow for removing the chain from the bike.

  • Determining whether the bike chain needs replacement or not: Here, you need to first count out the 12 links of the chain and measure the chain from first pin to the last. The distance between the pins should be 30.48 CMs or 12 inches. If the length is more than 12 inches then, it is time you need replacing the chain. This signifies that, the pins are becoming worn out and the chain is increasing in length.
  • Mount the bike on the stand: You need to safely mount your bike on the stand. In case, if you do not own a bike stand then, you need to try leaning it against something strong in an upside down position. This will make the changing of the chain a lot easier.
  • Cleaning the chain: A lot of debris and dust accumulate in the chain while you ride the bike. When you are shortening the chain, you need to clean it first. You need to use a biodegradable and good quality chain cleaner for dissolving any persisting grease or oil. This will make it easier to find the primary link and also to handle the chain.
  • Locating the master or main link:  You need to keep in mind that the chain of your bike may or may not have the master link. It is very easy to spot the master link because the master link is slightly darker or lighter than the other links on the bike chain. The master link will also have the other projected pins inserted into the special outer plate. This plate holds a typically oversized oval hole around both or one of the pins.
  • Rotating the pedals till the master link is between the back and front gears: This is a very crucial part. This step will help you to access it quickly. Like I said, it is easy to spot the master link because of its lighter or darker color than the other links of the chain. But, what will you do in case your chain does not have a master link? In case of such situation, you need to break the chain. Then, you are going to shorten it in size. Any of the links will do. A lot of the people use the chain toll to break it open but you can use any sharp tool for this purpose.
  • Open the master link then slide it off and keep it aside: The master link comes in many designs. Some of them swivel to allow the pin in sliding out, while the others will open up when they are flexed, some of the master links are also disposable but, you should keep it aside safely so that, it does not get lost. Although it is easy to find the master link available in the market, you will need to spend your money and time on it again. The disposable ones can be removed just by bending it apart with the help of the needle nose pliers or the specialized tool.

shorten a bike chain without a chain tool

Step 2: Shortening The Chain

Congratulations! You are done with first step. The first step is very tough since it requires the finding and opening of the master link. But, once you are done with the stage, you can easily kick-start the second step. This step concerns with the shortening of the chain. Here are the steps:

  • Deciding how many links you need to cut off: It is always better to take off few links that too many at first. Always remember, it is easier to take off the links then to add them back together. It will literally make you spend extra an hour to add the links again. In most cases, adding back is not possible without the professionals.
  • Clamping the next link: Start from the last chain where it is not attached to the master link. Hold the link in the particular place with the help of a vise. If you do not have a master link on your chain then, use any link on the chain to do this procedure.
  • Pushing the pin most of the way out: The tools you will require in this step are hammer, pliers and thin nail. Here you need to put the chain of the bike over the socket and then hit the nail with a hammer. Here, the pin should pass through the open holes. The pliers come with a part where there are wire cutters. The reverse is simply a concave part where you put the chain over it and strike it with hammer and nail. Now, use the reverse order for putting it back.
  • Repeating the same for the next pin: You have already successfully disassembled one pin. Now it is time for the second one. Here, you need to repeat the same process again. Put it on the socket and hit it firmly with the help of the hammer. You will find that the second pin has been unattached from the chain. Do not disassemble more than two links at a once. This is because if you have separated more than two links at a time when the chain might have shortened more than necessary.
  • Removing the other additional links for shortening the chain: If you still think the chain is too long then, remove another one or two links to make the chain work. Generally, if you withdraw less than five links, then the process works without any doubt. Keep in mind that if you remove more links than necessary then, while riding it will affect the links and your chain might broke while riding causing an accident.

Step 3: Reassembling the chain

You are almost done with the shortening of your bike chain without a conventional chain toll. Although a chain toll makes the process easier, you can still use your toolbox for the successful shortening of the chain. All you need is to keep yourself focus while doing it otherwise, you might end up complicating the process.


  • Placing the master link on the both sides of the chain: For this step, you need a pliers or a screwdriver. Push the links together until you hear the click sound. If the chain of your bike comes with a disposable master link or just a unique pin, then you are going to need a replacement part for the reattaching the chain. Most of the special pins are available in two parts which enters from the opposite side. But, it is always the best to look for instructions specific to the model of the bike.
  • Reconnecting the chain: Here you will place the two links back together and with the help of a screwdriver or nose pliers, you will reconnect the chain. Steadily reconnect the chain.
  • Loosening the chain: if you feel the chain is too tight then, you need to loosen it. Sometimes, the links become too stiff after connecting it. So, start by placing the link to the slots and tighten it until it touches the pin of the chain.
  • Applying lubricant: This is very important thing. Most of the bikers often forget this step and they ruin the chain. You need to apply a very high quality lubricant to the chain for the better rotation. This will increase the lifespan of the chain as well as its flexibility. It will also develop the shifting performance of the bike along with reducing the wear on the derailleur, cogs and assemblies.

If you do not have the chain toll, then you need to follow the basic tools for the loosening of the chain. The process seems to be very complicated at first, but if you give proper attention to understanding it, then it becomes very easy. Just follow these basic rules to loosen the chain. Follow every step strictly to get a better result in the end.

Team Chooserly

A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!

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