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Chain Installation and Replacement

When in doubt, visit a local bike shop for assistance!

What You'll Need

  • A chain, of course
  • A chain tool
  • Master link pliers - for chains with a master link
  • Chain lube
  • A shop rag

Depending upon the manufacturer, chains can be connected using either a special connecting pin (Shimano, Campagnolo), or a connecting link (SRAM and Wipperman). In some cases the connecting link is reusable, as in SRAM single-speed, 8-speed, and 9-speed chains. In other cases, such as in SRAM 10-speed and 11-speed chains, they are considered single use.

Note: Campagnolo 11-speed chains require a special Campagnolo 11-speed chain tool.

Remove Chain

Connecting Pin

  1. Shift front and rear derailleurs to small rings. Drop the chain to the inside of the small chainring to create slack in the chain.
  2. Select a pin to remove on the lower span of chain. If it is a Shimano chain, the pin should be a factory-installed pin, not a mechanic-installed connecting pin. Mechanic-installed connecting pins can be identified by their darker color.
  3. Tighten the chain tool around the chain where the pin is until it makes contact with the chain, and stop. Make sure that the chain tool is contacting the chain pin and not the plate itself.
  4. Continue to tighten the chain tool and force the pin out of the chain.
  5. When the pin is pushed out of the chain, back out the chain tool, and carefully remove the chain from the bike.

Master Link

  1. Shift front and rear derailleurs to small rings.
  2. Disengage master link by pushing the rivets within the link together. In some cases master link pliers may be required.


There is no better time to give your bike a good cleaning than with the chain off. So while you're at it, clean the cassette, cranks, and all the nooks and crannies around the drivetrain that tend to get neglected.

Sizing a New Chain

  1. Without routing the chain through the derailleurs, wrap the chain around the largest chainring and the largest cog.
  2. Find the first place where you could physically attach the chain. This must be where an inner plate and an outer plate come together. Add one inch of chain (an additional outer plate/inner plate assembly). This extra inch is necessary to allow the chain to route through the rear derailleur.
  3. Mark the pin you will be removing. It should be a pin that is leading the link in the direction of chain movement. Mark the plate with a Sharpie to indicate what direction you pushed the pin out. IMPORTANT! For chains that use a connecting pin (Shimano), the new connecting pin must be pushed in from the same direction as you pushed the old pin out.
  4. Use the chain tool to break the chain at this point.

Installing a Chain

Connecting Pin

Note: Narrow 9, 10 or 11 speed chains often have specific installation guidelines regarding pin installation. Consult the enclosed instructions before installing chain.

  1. Shift derailleurs to small rings, front and rear.
  2. Install chain, routing it through the front and rear derailleurs.
  3. Lubricate connecting pin. Align the inner and outer plates and insert the connecting pin with the tapered guide portion first. The tapered guide will be removed once the pin is fully installed.
  4. Ensure that you are pushing the connecting pin in from the same direction as you pushed the old pin out. Slowly tighten the chain tool, ensuring the pin remains perpendicular with chain.
  5. Continue to slowly tighten chain tool until the outer face of the pin is flush with the plate. The links should move freely without any binding.
  6. Use pliers to snap off the tapered guide portion of the pin.

Master Link

  1. Shift the derailleurs to the small rings, front and rear.
  2. Install the chain around the cogs, through the derailleurs with no tension on chain.
  3. Install master link pieces on each side of chain
  4. Engage master links with rivets and pull tight; the rivets should click into place.
  5. Engage the chain with the chain rings and shift to a gear that puts some tension on the chain.
  6. With the bike on the ground, apply a small amount of pressure to the pedals to ensure that the master link is properly installed.
  7. Once the chain is installed, shift the bike to the smallest cogs, front and rear. There should still be some tension on the chain. If not, you may need to remove an additional link or two.
  8. Initial Maintenance

    Chains should be lubricated at regular intervals. Use a high-quality chain lube, applying a drop to each roller. The outer chain plates and cogs do not need lubrication. Excess lubrication will attract dirt and grit, which will accelerate drivetrain wear. Wipe the excess lube from the chain plates. Repeat every couple of rides to keep your chain running smooth.

    Chain installation is critical to the performance and safety of your bike. Improperly installed chains can break and cause serious injury. For further questions regarding chain installation, contact us at [email protected] or 1-800-682-0570. We have a staff of trained mechanics and experienced riders available for consultation about any chain selection, installation, or maintenance issues.

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