How to Shorten a Bike Chain With or Without Chain Tool

Want to learn how to shorten a bike chain with or without a chain tool? Then you’ve come to the right place. A bike chain that’s too long is never safe to ride on. Here you’ll learn all about shortening the bike chain and ensuring a safe and comfortable ride.

Is My Bike Chain Too Long – How to Be Sure?

Before you learn how to unlink a bike chain, how do you know if your bike chain is too long? You’ll need to take some measurements. Measure the length of the first 12 links in the chain. It shouldn’t be over 12 inches. If it is, it’s a major sign that your chain is too long.

How To Shorten a Bike Chain Without a Chain Tool?

Tips on how to unlink bike chain

How to remove bike chain links without tools? Contrary to what you might think, it’s pretty simple. All you need is a single nail and some pliers. Here’s how to split bike chain without a tool.

Step 1: Elevate the Bike

Before you begin, you must elevate the bike. This is the first step on how to take off a bike chain without a tool. Either elevate the bike on a stand or lean it against a wall. Next, you must find the master link and detach it.

It’s also a good idea to decide how many links you want to remove at this point. It’s better to remove fewer links initially, as it’s harder to reattach them if you erroneously remove one. Decide how many extra links you have by measuring the first 12 links. They shouldn’t be over 12 inches.

Step 2: Detach the Master Link

The next step on how to remove a bike chain without a chain breaker is to remove the master link. You should keep the loose link in place by holding it with a clamp or any similar instrument. Keep the master link safe with you as you will need it again later on.

At this point, you’ll want to ensure that you can safely reach the pin without any hindrance. This is the pin that will let you remove the extra links. It’s not easy to remove it, so expect to use pliers and some nails.

Step 3: Remove the Bike Chain Links

Bicycle master link

Now that you’re ready, here’s how to shorten the chain.

To finally remove the links, hit a nail gently against the head of the pin on the link. You may use a blunt side of your pliers to do this. The pin should pop out from the other side. You can also try pulling it out with your pliers, but don’t force it too much as it can break easily.

Once you’re done, the link should come out fairly easily. Again, don’t be too aggressive. These links are quite fragile in their structure. Repeat the same process for all the links that you want to remove.

Step 4: Reattach the Bike Chain

Finally, once you’ve done removing the links that you want to remove, reattach the master link. Place it on both ends of the chain and use the blunt end of a screwdriver to push it in. Be gentle as the master link is very sensitive.

Keep pushing until you hear a distinct “click”. That should be a sign that the master link is in place. Now that you know how to install a bike chain without a chain tool, it’s time to test your bike.

How To Shorten a Bike Chain with A Chain Shortening Tool?

Oumers Universal Bike Chain Tool with Chain Hook, Road and Mountain Bicycle Chain Repair Tool, Bike Chain Splitter Cutter Breaker, Bicycle Remove and Install Chain Breaker Spliter Chain Tool

How to shorten a bike chain with a chain shortening tool? If you do have a tool, the task becomes even easier. Here’s how to take a chain off a bike with the tool and shorten it.

Step 1: Remove the Chain

The first thing you want to do is to remove the bicycle chain from the bike. Now, there’s no need to do that. You can always elevate the bike. But since most people don’t have the necessary tools to do that, it’s best to remove the chain entirely.

Different types of chains have different methods of removal. Identify if your chain is a master link chain or not. These chains are easy to remove. You just need to squeeze the gap between the master link using pliers and the chain should come out easily.

Step 2: Clean the Chain

Cleaning bicycle chain process

Cleaning the chain is the first step on how to make a bike chain shorter. You don’t want to be dealing with an oily chain. But be sure to oil afterward.

You can clean the chain using warm soapy water. It’s also a good idea to remove any superficial gunk or rust stuck between the links. This will not only hinder normal chain operation but will also get in the way when you’re removing the links.

You can get rid of rust quite easily using baking soda, vinegar, and some steel wool. Be warned that not all corrosion is rust, so you’ll need to tackle the situation accordingly.

Step 3: Remove the Master Link

The next step is removing the master link. If you’re wondering how to find the master link on a bike chain, it’s fairly easy to identify. It will usually be a different color, style, and/or have different markings from the other links.

Bike chain master link removal is relatively simple. Remove the master link and keep the loose link safe by holding it in place with a clamp. Do not throw away the master link. It’s crucial for putting the chain back together.

You should also remove the small rivets that mount the master link to the chain. Your chain removal set should include special master link pliers to remove the rivets.

Step 4: Shorten the Chain

Now, start the chain shortening process. Each chain removal kit has its instructions. Usually, you’ll need to unwind the pushpin on the tool and fit the chain into it. Then, tighten down the pushpin such that it pushes down on the link’s rivets.

Keep tightening it until the rivet comes out. Do not apply too much force. It can take some time, but patience is key. Once done, unscrew the tool from the link and proceed to the other links.

After that, reattach the master link, and voila! You now know how to shorten a bike chain!

3 Reasons Why You Need a New Master Link After Chain Shortening

Hao Pro 6 7 8-Speed Bike Missing Master Links Steel Reusable Bicycle Chain Repair Connector Locker 7mm Width Easy Install Bright Finish 8 Pairs Tool-Free Joint Pins for Mountain Road Bikes

Should you install a new master link after chain shortening? We say yes, and for 3 main reasons:

  1. Master links wear down very fast, so a frequent replacement is mandatory
  2. It ensures you don’t need to use a removal tool
  3. Some master links are not meant to be reused and need to be replaced

Chain Shortening with Or Without Tool – What We Suggest

Should you remove the bike chain without a tool or with the tool? It depends. If your chain does not have a master link, then you’ll need to use a tool. With a master link, however, using a chain tool can still be faster and easier. But it’s not mandatory.

Tools You Will Need for Shortening Bicycle Chain

What do you need to shorten a bicycle chain?

Here’s a complete list:

  • Master link
  • Chain tool
  • Chain cleaning kit
  • Nail and pliers (for tool-less shortening)
  • Screwdriver

SHIMANO KMC 410N-CL Master Link Single 1/2" x 1/8" / 3 Piece Black

GORNORVA Bike Chain Tools with Chain Hook Chain Cutter Bike Link Plier Chain Wear Indicator Tool + 3 Pairs Bicycle Missing Links, Road and Mountain Bike Chain Repair Tools for All Models Bike Chains

Park Tool CG-2.4 Bicycle Chain and Drivetrain Cleaning Kit

Bates- Nail Puller, Pliers, Nail Remover Tool, Cutting Pliers, Carpenter Tools, Staple Puller, Nail Puller Tool, End Cutting Pliers, Nail Remover, Nail Pliers Cats Paw Nail Puller, Nail Pulling

SUNHZMCKP 8 in 1 Screwdriver, Portable multi-purpose screwdriver,High- Strength Bits, Phillips, Slotted, Torx,Suitable for outdoor and daily repair tools, The best tool gift for a man

Universal Chain Tool 1 to 12 Speed, Reliable and Hardwearing Breaker for Chain Link Break and Removal, Shop Quality Bike Repair for Road and Mountain Bikes, Easy Splitter


Do all bike chains have a master link?

No, not all chains will have a master link. There are also regular link and split link chains.

Can I shorten the bicycle chain without tools?

Yes, you can do it with just a nail and some pliers. Check above to see how to shorten a bike chain without a master link.

How to know that the bike chain is too long?

Measure the first 12 links. If the measure is more than 12 inches, then your chain is too long.


Now that you know how to shorten a bike chain, it’s time to put that knowledge to good use! But before you continue, consider that you might just want to tighten the chain. If that’s the case, head on over to our How to tighten a bike chain guide.

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