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In one of our previous articles, we gave you tips on how to clean your chain properly. Unfortunately, cleaning the chain will not help sometimes because it is too worn out so the only solution is to change it. How to understand when and how to change a bicycle chain? 

The first and most simple method for checking chain wear is to simply lift the chain off the front chainring. Shift into the smallest cog on the rear cassette and the largest chainring in the front, and lift the chain off of the chainring.

Chain check
Checking the chain slack

If it lifts off the chainring to the point where you can see a lot of daylight between your chain and chainrings, you’ll either need to replace your chain or you are quickly approaching the point of replacement. It’s nearly as accurate as using a proper tool but it’s a good starting point if you haven’t replaced your chain in a while.

The second and more precise method is using a tool called a chain checker.

Chain check
Checking the chain slack with a chain checker

The tool measures the percentage of how much longer your chain has gotten over time. You will want to replace it when it gets 0.75% longer. If the chain is worn, the tool will drop in and you should immediately replace the chain or you’ll end up having to replace the cassette and chainring later, and these components are much more expensive than the chain itself.

So, how do you replace the chain if it’s worn? You’ll need a new chain, make sure your chain is compatible with the number of speeds on your cassette. You will also need a chain breaker – to make the job easier you can use a quick link.

Bicycle chain
A chain breaker, chain link and a new chain

First, you’ll need to break the chain. Put the chain breaker to any link in the chain and turn the handle until you push the chain link all the way out.

Chain breaker
Break the chain with a chain breaker.

The new chain will be too long to fit the bike properly. A great tip is to hold the old chain and the new one next to each other so you know the right place where to break the new chain.

Chain check
Comparing the old and the new chain to see the length

Once you’ve found the correct length, shorten the chain with the chain breaker. Thread the chain back on your bike and make sure it’s threaded well through the derailleur. To connect the chain, use the chain quick link included with the chain.

Chain shortening
Shortening the new chain to fit the bike
Chain link
Chain link
Chain threading
Threading the chain. Make sure you don’t leave any jockey out.
Chain link
Putting in the chain link

Put in the two opposing quick links and join them together. You will need to apply some pressure so they click into each other. The best way to do this is to move the linked part to the top, secure the rear wheel and press the pedal down, creating enough tension on top to pull the quick link together.

Chain links
Joining the chain links
Chain links
Join chain links and click them together
Bicycle chain
Push the pedal by hand to secure the chain links together
Bicycle chain
Chain clicked together
Bicycle chain
New chain installed!  © Tobias Lobkowicz

That’s it, now you have a brand new chain and won’t have to worry about it for a couple of months. Enjoy the smooth ride and don’t forget to clean and lube your chain regularly.