How to Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool? – Detailed Guide

Cycling is a healthy habit that can give you a healthy body and a beautiful figure. Over time, bicycle chains will become longer, which is a sign of overuse. If you do not shorten or replace it, you may become the victim of a road accident.

If your bike’s chain exceeds the maximum recommended length, it is necessary to replace the whole chain. Conversely, if the situation is not too difficult, you can solve the problem by shortening it.

Of course, it is easy to shorten a bicycle chain with a chain tool, and we also recommend it if possible. But, down to earth, you don’t always have such a helpful tool at hand. Do not worry! We are here to help you!

Basically, our guide consists of three main steps, including:

  • Removing the chain
  • Shortening the chain (without a chain tool)
  • Reattaching the chain

So, explore how to shorten a bike chain without a chain tool!

Tool List

First of all, you need to get all the necessary tools to make a bike chain shorter. Here are the tools you need to replace a chain tool:

  • Bike stand
  • Chain degreasers or Chain cleaner
  • Plier
  • Lubricant
  • Hammer
  • Nail punch
  • Nut

After obtaining the necessary tools, you are now ready to break a chain link without a tool.

In general, this procedure is only an alternative as it is much more challenging than using a chain tool. The fact of the matter is that most cyclists agree that it is one of the most tedious repair activities they have to do to their bikes.

Step By Step Guide


Removing the Chain

Step 1: Prepare your bike

Once you identify that the shortening of the chain is essential, start by placing your bike on the bike stand properly. This allows you to work with your bike easier. If you do not have a bike stand, you should turn your bike upside down so that it rests on the saddle and handlebars.

After that, remove debris and dirt from a bike chain with a high-quality chain cleanser.

Step 2: Locating the quick link ( the master link )

Once your bike chain is cleaner, it is easy to locate The Master Link, which allows you to disassemble the chain easily and quickly. In most cases, this link is darker or lighter compared to the rest of the chain.

Also, it is usually wider than the others. It sometimes comes with a dart or arrow on it.

Step 3: Rotate the Pedals and Remove the Master Link

Now you should rotate the pedals until the master link is between the back and front gears.

You will want to use the pliers to remove it. Master link pliers are the perfect tool for this job as they are designed to fit into the chain easily. You’ll insert your pliers into the quick link so that this link is between the jaws of the pliers. Then squeeze the handle on your pliers to unlock the pin.

You can squeeze the master link together using needle-nose pliers. However, it can be more complicated than using the master-link pliers.

What if your chain does not have any master link?

To remove a chain that doesn’t have master link, you can pick any random link and remove it with any sharp instrument, such as a nail punch.

Step 4: Open the quick link and slide it off

To put your chain back later, you have to make sure you do not lose your master link. So, it is best to keep it somewhere easy to remember and find. Then, if you lose it, you can find the master link you want from the local bike shop.

Shortening the Chain (Without a Chain Tool)

Step 1: Deciding How Many Links You Need To Cut Off

After you’ve removed all of your bike chains, it is time to determine how many links should be removed. When performing this step, you must be careful as this will significantly affect how your bike will run later.

Since you are inexperienced, it is best to remove a few links.

You should not remove too many because putting them back is more complicated than removing them. Also, sometimes you can’t fix it yourself, and it may cost you a lot of money to get professional help.

Step 2: Push the Pin

Since you do not have a chain tool for bike chain link removal, you should use a nail punch, hammer, and nut as an alternative.

Put the chain in place so that the pin will come out into the hole. Then, place a nail punch or narrow screwdriver in the center of the pin. Next up, hit it with a hammer until the pin comes out.

Step 3: Repeating the same for the next pin

After removing the first pin, repeat the whole process for the other pins until you have reached the desired chain length.

It would be unwise to disassemble more than two links at once. Remember that if you remove more links than necessary, your chain can break during riding, which can cause an accident.

Reattaching Your Bike Chain

Step 1: Placing the Quick Link on Both Sides of Your Chain

The tools you will require in this step are a pair of pliers or a screwdriver. You’ll hear a ticking sound once it is done. If your bike chain comes with a disposable master link, you will need a new one for reattaching the chain.

Step 2: Reconnect Your Chain

Now, you will reconnect the ends using a screwdriver or nose pliers.

Make sure the chain is not too tight. If you feel that your bike chain is too tight, loosen it a bit to make it more comfortable.

Step 3: Apply Oil and Lubricant.

Applying oil and lubricant can help increase the flexibility and lifespan of your bike chain as well as improve the quality of its performance. So, never take this step for granted!

Step 4: Drive Your Bicycle To Test and Inspect

Once chain shortening without a chain shortener is completed, it is time to test and inspect the bike for a ride.

Check out this video to better understand how to shorten a bike chain without a chain tool.

Determining Whether the Bike Chain Needs Shorten or Not

1. Use a Ruler

After removing your bicycle chain using one of the solutions above, select 12 links and measure them from the first pin to the last.

If your chain is fine, it should be 12 inches long. But, if the measurement you received is more significant than 12 1/8 inches, it is time to change the chain.

2. Use Chain Wear Tools

Using a chain wear tool is the perfect pick to check the bike chain. You can buy it quickly at a local bike shop.

Let’s start by attaching one end over one pin in your chain. The other end can be placed at the gap between the two rollers or on the top of the chain.

This tool comes with indicators that show chain wear. If the reading you get is between 0.5 and 0.75, it’s time to think about shortening or changing your chain. For readings higher than 07.5, in addition to changing the chain, it is necessary to check out the condition of the cassette and chainrings.

Pro Tips for Cyclists

  • If you are inexperienced or do not have time to remove the link yourself, do not hesitate to go to a bike shop to get help from the experts.
  • If your bike chain is too tense, all you need to do is move the derailleur forward. This will slacken your chain.
  • Wear gloves when removing bicycle chain links, so your hands do not get dirty.
  • Extend the life of your chain by oiling it periodically.
  • If you cycle regularly, the best thing is to check the chain once a month. The longer you let it wear out, the harder it will be to repair.
  • Go to the local bike shop for advice. They’ll help you and recommend resources.
  • Do not push the pin all the way out.
  • Keep checking the bike chain every few months.
  • Oil your bike chain regularly.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. Do all bike chains have a master link?

Not quite right! Not all chains come with master links. For example, your bike chain will not have a master link if it has derailleurs.

2. What if I do not change my chain when it’s worn out?

This worn chain can break one day if you do not replace it. Moreover, it can wear down the gears, which will cost you more than just changing the chain.

3. How much does it cost to buy a bicycle chain?

You can buy a new chain for $15.00. The higher-end chains range in price from $30.00 to $60.00 or even more.

4. What If My Chain Is Too Short?

One day, your chain will break, making you the victim of a road accident.

Final Remarks

Your bike chain can lengthen because of age and regular use. With a chain tool, it’s straightforward to shorten it. However, if you do not have one, you do not need to worry much because we offer the ultimate guide to shorten your chain without a chain shortener.

In general, breaking a bicycle chain without a tool is a long and complicated process. However, learning these processes is essential. Thanks to that, you do not have to hire a bicycle mechanic to do this for you.

Happy fixing!