Removing a bike chain from a single-speed BMX is a simple and straightforward matter that most kids figure out on their own as soon as they're old enough to pick up a wrench. But bikes with multiple gears almost always have a derailleur, and that makes things much more complicated. In this guide, you'll learn how to remove a bike chain from either a single gear or a multi gear bike.

Here's What You'll Need:

  • A chain tool
  • A rag
  • Your cell phone

First, let me tell you about the chain tool. Trust me, you have to have one to remove a chain. If you are removing a chain that is supposed to be "tool-free," you're probably going to find that you need a tool anyway. Oil, dirt and road grit seem to form a hard cement that practically welds the links' outer and inner plates together. And the best tool in this case would be a chain tool anyway. You can get a good one for about $15.

How To Remove A Bike Chain

Step One: Take A Picture Of The Chain And Derailleur

This step would have made my first attempt at replacing a chain a success. You're going to be putting another chain back on, aren't you? Well, when you remove the chain, that derailleur is going to flip backwards. It may be more difficult than you think to route the new chain once that happens. So take a good pic before you continue. Then you'll have a reference when you install your new chain.

Step Two: Position Your Chain Tool

The idea is that the chain tool's mandrel will push one of the pins out of its link as you twist the tool's handle.

Twist the handle in or out until it looks like the chain will just barely fit between the mandrel and anvil. Now place the tool over one of the links, with the mandrel over a pin. Tighten it until the mandrel contacts the pin. This is where you have to be precise. Continue to slowly tighten the tool until the mandrel is putting pressure on the pin. Constantly watch to be sure the pin and mandrel are perfectly lined up.

Step Three: Push The Pin Almost Out

Slowly tighten the chain tool. But you have to know exactly when to stop.

You want to push the pin until it is clear of the plates, except for the big outer plate on the opposite side of the chain from the chain tool's handle. You stop tightening the tool when the pin is still stuck in that plate, but nothing else. The ends of pins are slightly thicker than their middles, so you will feel a bit more resistance when you get to where you need to stop.

Step Four: Retract The Mandrel

Twist the chain tool's handle the opposite way to remove it from the chain.

There you go! You've just removed the chain. Since you've gone through all this work, go ahead and put a new chain on.


How often should I replace my bike chain?

It depends. The quality of your chain, how well you maintain your bike and how often and far you ride it factor into the answer. A chain can drive a bike anywhere from several hundred to several thousand miles.

The best way to know when to replace your chain is to pay attention to your bike. Does the chain ever slip on you? Does the ride feel rougher when you are pedaling? Is the chain rusty or so gunked up that it won't come clean? These are all signs that you need a new one.

What causes a chain to go bad?

They stretch. A chain is only strong when it is all together and functioning as a chain. The metal that they are made of is usually pretty mild. It's the pins that are the weakest. Over time, each pin bends just a little. It's such a small bend that you probably wouldn't be able to see it. But a little bend in every pin adds up over the length of a chain. Every bent pin adds a few hundredths of an inch to the chain's length. Once the chain gets to a certain length, it's too loose the stay on its cog when you pedal.

How do I maintain a bike chain?

You keep it clean and oiled. You can get a chain cleaning kit that comes with chain degreaser, a cool cleaning tool and oil for a little over $20.

There are a few different designs of cleaning tools available. But you basically clamp the tool over the chain and crank the pedal. When you're done, the chain looks likes it's been scrubbed. It's actually pretty amazing how clean your chain will come. Chain degreaser is made strong enough to remove grime, but not so strong as to cause rust. It helps get all the grime out of the chain, so definitely use some.

To oil your chain, you put your bike up on a stand, if you have one, and put a single drop of oil at each link junction while you slowly crank the pedals. Make sure to get both sides of each link. If you don't have a bike stand, have someone hold the rear wheel off the ground while you do this. You may also be able to set your bike upside down on the ground, with the seat and handlebar supporting the bike.

Protect your floor. Put some cardboard or plastic down on the ground below your bike before you clean the chain. That grime that will come off of your chain can mess your floor up. You may be thinking: "I'll just do it on my lawn." In that case, you'll have to protect your lawn! Grease can kill grass. So can fresh oil as it drips off the chain.

How bad is it to ride a bike with a bad chain?

Replacing a bike chain is part of regular maintenance. If it's not done when it needs to be, it can damage other parts of the bike. All that slipping can damage teeth in the cogs.

A dirty or rusty chain can cause just as much damage as a stretched chain can. The danger here is abrasion. Chain grime is made up of oil, grit and maybe rust. All that grit can wear down metal on the cogs or the chain itself.

You also have to think about safety. If your chain slips often, you may eventually lose balance and fall off your bike. You could get hurt. This is just as true whether you are riding trails or on the road.


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