How to Tighten a Bike Chain With Gears? (Step by Step)

The struggle is real! Anyone who owns a bike knows how troublesome it’s to have a loose chain in the middle of the road. But a loose chain doesn’t make your bike a bad one. It’s simply common to face such a situation after a certain time for every biker.

Then, how to tighten a bike chain with gears? Bikes come in single gear and multi gears. How you tighten your bike chain solely depends on which type of bike you have. Here, in our article today, we’ll talk about how to tighten a loose chain on your bike and answer a few questions to make things clear for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Having a loose chain is common. Check for regular loose bike chain symptoms like unnecessary jerks, lashing, and slapping of chain or, in extreme cases, chain frequently slipping off the sprocket.
  • To make sure whether you have a loose chain or not, pick up the tension meter and check where the value stands.
  • Having a value of more than 0.5 means your bike has started to loose.
  • With a value over 1, it sure needs tightening. Look for the nearest repair shop or get your wrench and complete our guide to DIY tightening.

How Tight Should a Bike Chain Be?

You must be thinking because bike chains get loosened every 2-4 months, tightening it hard will be the ultimate solution. That’s not true at all. Bike chains shouldn’t be too loose or too tightened. The tension should be 0.5 inches. This value of tension should be within 0-1 inch. Any measure less than 0.5 inches means the chain is too tight. New bikes usually have a tension rating of 0.25 inches.

How Tight Should a Bike Chain Be

A regular bicycle chain tension check is recommended if you want to avoid the value suddenly going over 0.5 inches.  Are you thinking about how you’re going to measure bike tension? Check out this tutorial by the Cyclist.

Why Does a Bike Chain Become Loose?

Having a loose bike chain is unavoidable. The best you can do is prevent it by keeping regular updates on bike tension. Chains from bikes often tend to loosen after a certain time. The main reason behind it is aging or often crossing the gear range. Bike chains are made of steel with internal plates of rivets. With time, these materials tend to stretch out or get corrosion over them, which causes the chains to loosen up.

Why Does a Bike Chain Become Loose

Gear range refers to the difference between the top and bottom gears of a bicycle. There’s a specific ratio to be followed by every biker. There’ll be operational error when this ratio is exceeded, eventually leading to a dripping bike chain. The gear range ratio is appropriate when kept within 0.8:1 to 1.0:1.

However, there’s also another reason why you might end up with a loose chain. Often, bikers insert a new chain with their old bikes. Old bikes definitely have more torn apart elements that aren’t suitable for new chains. When you repeat this scenario, new chains frequently bounce and slip leading to an ill-suited composition and thus loosening the chain.

How to Tighten a Bike Chain With Gears?

Bikes are available in a single gear or with multiple gears. And there’re separate ways to tighten them in distinct ways.

How to Tighten a Bike Chain With Gears

Let’s check it out.

How to Tighten a Bike Chain With Single Gear?

Single gear bikes are also known as fixie bikes. This is because, unlike any multi-gear bike, these kinds of bikes avoid the freewheel technique. Instead of that, single-gear bikes have a cog that turns the wheel every time you put pressure on the paddle.

How to Tighten a Bike Chain With Single Gear

Follow these steps below to tighten a fixie bike chain:

Step 1: Place Your Bike

This process includes placing your bike upside down (wheels in the air and saddle near the ground) on a bike stand. Professionals can fix a bike even standing. However, if this is your first time, it’s wise to do as mentioned. If you don’t have a bike stand, you can use a clean cloth or sheet large enough to hold your bike.

Step 2: Relax the Rear Axle 

In this step, you’ll need a socket wrench to loosen the nuts that hold the wheels. Take time and slowly turn the nuts to an anticlockwise direction until they come along.

Step 3: Adjust the Rear Tire

This is where you tighten the chain. It’s a slow process and requires patience. You may end up fracturing the chain while trying to fasten the process. In this step, pull the rear tire until you reach the desired tension. If you have a fully functional bike, chains will be able to move 0.5 inches on both sides.

Note: Please make sure that the rear tire stays on the wishbone. This will make the entire process easier.

Step 4: Put the Rear Axle and Rear Tire Back into Place

Are you satisfied with your bike tension? Is this the tightness you want? If yes, then you’ll have to put the rear tire and axle nut back into place. Use the socket wrench to place the rear tire at first, then fix the axle nuts. Now all you have to do is check for the final results.

Step 5: Test for the Last Time 

Finally, you’ll have to test the chain. Start moving the chain a little. It should be able to move 0.5 inches on both sides. Also, spin the rear tire to make sure it doesn’t reach the chain while you’re moving. If it does come in contact with the chain or the frame, it means there have been some mistakes and you might have to repeat the process to fix it.

How to Tighten a Bike Chain on a Multi-gear Bike?

Single gear bikes share a simple mechanism. Even if you are not a pro, you can still fix a single gear bike with proper research. When it comes to multi-gear bikes, having a loose chain can impose serious injuries like trapping your feet in the chain. This is why, if you feel like you are having a loosen chain while biking, stop it right there. Get off the bike and take it to the nearest repair shop.

How to Tighten a Bike Chain on a Multi-gear Bike

However, if you’re confident enough to fix the chain by yourself with proper equipment, follow these steps below.

Note: The first step is the same as the one for single-gear bikes. All you have to do is place your bike upside down where you can reach the derailleur.

Hence, we’ll be starting from step 2.

Step 2: Find the Derailleur Screw

It might become hard to find. But don’t be frightened, we’re here for you. There’s a screw in multi-gear bikes behind the derailleur and you need to find it. You need to tighten this screw in a clockwise motion to set up the tension.

Note: In multi-gear bikes, the position of this screw is indicated by the letter B. Look for the letter, and you’ll find the screw.

Step 3: Reach the Rear Tire 

The rear tire cannot be easily accessed in a derailleur. To do this, you need to detach the brake from the wire. In order to detach the brake, raise the lever and gain full access to the rear tire.

Step 4: Calibrate the Rear Tire 

In this step, you’ll have to make a few adjustments. Move the wheel axle close to the rear dropout of the derailleur. Check the tension after lowering the brake lever. If it fits your catch, then you’re done. Otherwise, raise the lever again and repeat the process. This time, you can move it back from the derailleur and measure the tension again.

Step 5: Wrap it Up

If it’s all you need, make sure every component is in place. Check if the derailleur screw is fitted properly. Bring down the brake lever and test the rear tire if it’s running right. Also, ensure the tire is not in contact with the frame or the chain while spinning. Once everything feels alright, you are done.

How to Tighten a Bmx Bike Chain?

To tighten a BMX bike chain, you’ll need a socket extension and a ratchet. Once you have them, follow these simple steps below:

How to Tighten a Bmx Bike Chain

  • Start with loosening both of the sides (drive and non-drive) of the bike.
  • Pull the rear wheel back and tighten the non-drive side at first with the ratchet.

Note: When you’re performing this act, make sure the wheel is slightly crooked and there’s a little bit of slack in the chain.

  • The next step includes pulling over the rear wheel from the front part. While doing this, adjust the drive-side nut with the ratchet. Check the tension of the chain.
  • If the measurement is alright, you can stop there. If not, repeat the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Lubricating a Bike Chain Affect Tension?

Lubricant doesn’t affect chain tension. A study by John Hopkin has shown that several factors can affect the overall efficiency of a bike including the chain tension. Lubricant is not one of them.  However, the use of lubricants is necessary to eliminate the inertia of the chain. Using too many lubricants by accident can make bikers feel discomfort while riding.

What Is the Easiest Way to Tighten a Bike Chain?

The easiest way to tighten a bike chain never really exists. No matter how you place your bike, you have to reach the axle nuts and adjust the rear wheels. Even with the simplest mechanism-based like fixed gear bikes, you have to carry out these two tasks. For professionals and someone already familiar with the process, it might take only a few minutes to perform the overall job.

Final Words

Knowing how to tighten a bike chain with gears can be useful when you’re in a real-life situation. It’s not a tough job but not so easy as well. One wrong move, and you may end up with a bike beyond repair.

This is why our guide is here to help you with the overall process. Both for the single gear and multi-gear bikes. If you like our article and have many biker friends, do let them know.

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