Metal fatigue and impact are two common reasons why most bike chains fail. For example, if you’ve ridden your bike for longer than 3,000 miles, the chances are that its chain is old, overstretched, and susceptible to failure. The cassettes and the chainrings will wear out as well.
Now imagine riding with such a weak chain and putting in one bad gear shift. That’s all it takes to break it. If this happens to you, there’s no need to worry as it affects even the most careful amongst us. What if your chain breaks in the middle of nowhere, and you don’t have a bike tool? How do you remove the chain?
If you’re wondering how it’s done, you’re in the right place. Today’s article looks at various easy ways to remove, fix, and replace your bike chain without the bike tool. Let’s get rolling.
General Steps to Follow for All Broken Chains
- The first thing you want to do is shift down to the lowest gear. Doing so loosens the chain and makes it easier to do repairs.
- Next, go to your derailleur and turn off the clutch. In the “on” position, the clutch locks the jockey upper and the idler lower pulley wheels in place. When in the “off” position, the cage plate holding the two pulleys is free to move to give you an additional slack.
- Then, remove the chain from the front chainring to give you more slack in the chain.
- Afterward, do as directed in the sections below.
Tools and Materials
- A bike stand
- Regular/ long-nose pliers
- A nail punch
- A small nut
How to Remove and Fix a Broken Bike Chain without a Bike Tool?
A bike chain tool is a small specialized device used to “break” chains or, in other words, remove the pins that hold the chain together. However, not many people walk around with chain tools, and they may need to fix their bike chains while on the trail.
Here are some methods you can employ.
Method 1: Fixing a Chain with Broken or Twisted Links
Some bike chain links break due to stress or impact in some scenarios. In such cases, having a bike chain tool makes work more manageable as you line the pin to the punch, apply some pressure, and the pin is out. If you don’t have one, don’t worry.
Follow the steps below, and you’ll be good.
- Position your bike on its side such that the chain mechanism is on the bottom. You don’t want to hammer your pins out when the chain is not resting uniformly on a platform.
- Next, look for a hammer or mallet, a nail punch, and any solid metal with a small hole. For me, I usually prefer a bicycle nut for this task.
- Place the nut on a flat surface such as a rock or piece of wood for added stability.
- Next, locate the broken or twisted section of your chain and place it over your bike nut so that the pin is directly above the nut’s hole.
- Now, align your nail punch to the pin and hit with caution, as you wouldn’t want to damage your chain by applying excess force. Second, it’s tough to align the pin to the bushing in some chains. Therefore, leaving a section of the pin still attached to the outer plates is safer.
- Do the same to the opposite side of the faulty chain links while ensuring to leave one part with a roller plate and the opposite side with a pin/outer plate. You can opt to add a replacement chain link if you have one, but if not, you’ll have to be contented with a shorter chain.
- Finally, align the roller/inner and outer plate holes and drive the pin with a hammer to connect your chain.
Method 2: Fixing a Chain with a Broken/ Twisted Master Link
A chain master link is a quick-release link or a roller chain component that makes it easier to connect and disconnect chains from the drive mechanism without needing a chain tool. They are instrumental, especially when replacing or repairing your chain quickly.
However, some master links are not reusable; hence you need to be careful before damaging yours.
Here’s how you can fix a broken chain with a master link/ PowerLock.
- First, locate the PowerLock/master link and hold it to isolate the link at the top.
- Second, use pliers to press on the opposite sides of the PowerLock to release the lock. For a master link, you can use regular pliers or long-nose pliers to remove it by twisting.
- Third, get a similar replacement link for your chain. The more speeds a chain is designed for, the narrower the pins and plates get. For example, a 10-speed chain is thinner than a 5-speed chain.
- Fourth, ensure that you’ve passed your chain over the front chainring before reconnecting your chain.
- Finally, replace the new master link and pull the chain link apart so that the master link lock can slot into position.
Challenges You Might Face When Connecting a Chainlink without a Bike Chain Tool
Connecting a chain is more complicated than removing it for the following reasons:
- Some master links from SRAM, KMC, and Shimano are not reusable, and you might find yourself in trouble if you remove one. But you don’t need to worry.
And I’m not encouraging reusing non-reusable chains as they may fail unexpectedly. Reuse one if you lack other options but replace it as soon as possible.
- Quick/replacement links come in many different sizes depending on a bike’s gear speed. 8-12 speed chain links are smaller and thinner than 5-7 speed links. Therefore, use similar-sized pins, or else you’ll damage your bike’s gears.
- Also, check to see if your chain has non-reusable flush pins. A small ring on the flush pins breaks when pushed out, rendering the pins unreusable. On the brighter side, they’re usually easy to tell as they have a small hole in the middle, unlike regular pins with flat surfaces.
- You need to be careful when hammering out the pins as you might bend your chain.
I bet you can agree that having a bike chain tool is more convenient, faster, and cheaper than removing and connecting your chain manually. With a bike chain tool, you can fix your chain in less than two minutes.
Regardless of the method, be very cautious when fixing your chain. If you’ve shortened it, inspect it first to see if it’s long enough to reach the largest sprocket gear. And, just so you don’t forget, limit yourself to the lower gears until you get an extension link.
If you replaced the broken part with an extension link, inspect first to see if the chain is straight and not sagging.