How to shorten a bicycle chain without a squeeze with your own hands – recommendations

How do I shorten the chain on my bicycle? Sooner or later any cyclist asks this question. Unfortunately, time combined with intense stress does not spare any mechanism. In the same way, the bicycle chain, at the most inopportune moment begins to sag and slip off the sprockets, causing a lot of inconvenience to the cyclist.

Today we will tell you how to shorten the bike chain at home, provide instructions that will help reduce the bike chain without squeezing, as well as outline the main points that will be useful in this process.

Why do you need to shorten the bike chain?

Why the bike chain must be shortened

A perfectly tensioned chain ensures optimal transmission of torque from the pedals to the rear axle of the bike. But over time, systematic loading causes the chain to stretch, causing it to malfunction. How can you tell when it’s time to shorten your bike chain? The following factors may indicate that it is time to shorten the bike chain:

  • There is obvious slack in the chain. The chain comes off the sprocket and causes inconvenience to the cyclist.
  • You should shorten the chain after replacing components. Sometimes the chain should also be shortened after replacing the drivetrain.

The chain is also changed for other reasons – breakage, broken links or excessive wear. Typically, a standard bicycle chain has 114-116 links. On road bikes it is used completely, but for mountain models it has to be reduced by about 8-10 links.

To determine the appropriate length, you must switch the transmission so that the front and rear of the bike chain lie on the largest sprockets. Then the links are unlocked, tightening the chain to the stop, make a mark and add 2-3 more links, so as not to put too much stress on the drivetrain.

If you have never shortened the chain and are not confident in your abilities, it is worth to appeal to an experienced craftsman who can shorten the chain, using special tools. But there are no significant difficulties in this process – anyone can cope with the task at hand. And now we will tell you how to shorten the bike chain with your own hands.

The tool you need is

chain tool

chain tool

In the Soviet Union era, bicycle chains were tightened and shortened with simple tools. A stone and a nail were enough to do the job. Today, a special tool has been created for this purpose, which makes the process much easier. The chain tool reminds something of a small vice without a frame. You can buy it at any store where bicycle parts are sold. It costs not expensive: a budget tool will cost 500 rubles, a high-quality analogue will cost about 1 000 rubles.

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Keep in mind that the life of a budget tool is designed for literally 3-5 uses. For multiple use, it is better to buy a higher quality product.

The mechanism of action of the wringer is quite simple: the available stop does not allow the chain link plates to deform in the process of pushing out the connecting pin, and the swivel screw without applying considerable force pushes it out.

In addition to a specialized tool, you will need a rag, kerosene and any lubricant for bicycle mechanisms (the best option – WD-40). We strongly recommend not using “home-made” tools like a hammer, nails and nuts. It can be used only in extreme cases, when there is no squeegee at hand.

Let’s move on to actions. We suggest that you pay attention to the instructions that will help reduce the bike chain.

Instruction manual

To begin with, let’s break down how to shorten the bike chain with a lock (locking link). Sequence:

  1. Turn the bike upside down. Create a stable position.
  2. Clean the chain of sand and dirt (unnecessary rags and kerosene come in handy). It is advisable to go over each link with a dry and clean brush to remove dirt in hard-to-reach places.
  3. Find the lock (closing link). As a rule, it differs from its “counterparts” by its shade. Another distinguishing feature is the presence of protruding rollers.
  4. Next, it is necessary to scroll the pedals, so that the locking link is between the gears. This greatly simplifies the process.
  5. Open the lock. The easiest way to do this is to remove the roll by rotating on the hinges.
  6. Having opened the link, put it carefully in a safe place so as not to lose small parts.
  7. If the bicycle chain without a lock, you need to engage the squeezer. The tool is put so that its rod was exactly in the center of the pin (roller).
  8. After that, start to rotate the squeezer smoothly until the roller reaches the level of the second inner plate.
  9. Unlock the link without pulling the platen all the way out.

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Now move directly to the process of shortening the bicycle chain, that is, removing excess links:

  • Designate the required chain dyn and determine the pin that we will squeeze. Pay attention to the fact that the link plates to be released coincide with the plates of the already squeezed one.
  • Repeat the previous point, squeezing out the roller completely.

Now you need to connect the bike chain. To do this, bring its ends together, having previously centered the squeeze at the start. Then, controlling the process at each millimeter, we press the pin into the released link.

It remains only to check the functionality of the mechanism. First, check the pressed roller. If you hear squeaks or have problems with mobility on the link – put the plates in place, bending the chain along the plane of the link until the clicks stop. You can do this with your hands, without additional tools. Now check directly all chain. To do this, make several revolutions on the smallest gears. Any possible problems will be noticed immediately.

We pay your attention that bicycle chains of repeating type (half-link, for example) to shorten much easier, as there is no need to choose the pairing of links. But it is not possible to remove a few links on lightweight models and some sports bikes. The shortening mechanism is described in detail in the accompanying documents to the bike. You can’t do without a specific tool and experienced hands.

Can the chain be shortened without squeezing?

shortening the chain without a squeeze

It is possible, but highly undesirable. Working without a special tool, you risk bending or crumpling the links so that then it will be easier to replace the bike chain completely. Nevertheless, situations are different, and the squeezer is not always at hand. So here’s how to shorten a bicycle chain without a wringer. We advise practicing on old chains and links so that you don’t take any chances with a serviceable component.

You will need improvised tools: instead of a squeezer you can use a sharp nail, drill bit or dowel. The main thing is that their diameter was smaller than the roller. You will also need a hammer. In the extreme case – a stone (just like in the USSR). The most important thing is to be extremely accurate in their actions, so that the strikes made do not bend the link plates. And now we explain the sequence of actions:

  1. A pin of a suitable size (a nail, a drill bit or a dowel) is attached to the roller. If you don’t have one, put it on any link.
  2. It is desirable to put under a chain and a prospective place of impact something of the amplifier. You can use a washer, nut or something like that as such. This object will not allow the links to be deformed.
  3. Now use a stone or hammer to hit the pin carefully, trying to dislodge the connection. Try to perform this point as carefully as possible.

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For this work in the field, you will have to remove the chain from the bike anyway. We recommend that you practice on some unnecessary links. In general, buy a squeezer. It is inexpensive and it does not take much space. After all, an experienced cyclist should always have on hand a repair kit and a set of tools that may be useful on the road.


So, the first conclusion that begs for itself – a squeezer for the bike chain should always be on hand. This tool greatly facilitates the task and allows you to remove unnecessary links without outside help. Masters engaged in repair of bicycles, give the following recommendations:

  • Always keep an eye on the condition of the bike chain. The care of this component comes down to regular cleaning and lubrication.
  • Observe the technical specifications given on the chain marking. If the product is not adapted to heavy loads, there is no point in constantly adjusting the length of the chain – it is easier to buy a specific chain for a particular category of bikes.
  • If you’re not confident in your abilities and are afraid of damaging your bike chain, contact a bike repair shop.
  • It is possible to remove extra links without special tools, but you need to do it very carefully.

Going to long distances, it is advisable to have a set of tools that can come in handy on the road.


It is not difficult to shorten the bike chain if you have the necessary tools at hand. The main thing is to follow a certain sequence of actions. In the case where there is no possibility to remove extra links with a squeezer, you can use a stone and a nail, but here you need a certain skill and experience in performing such actions.

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