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Home » Cycling » Fit Recovery’s Noobs Guide to Cycling:  How to Size and Install Your Own Chain as Demonstrated by My Wife

Fit Recovery’s Noobs Guide to Cycling:  How to Size and Install Your Own Chain as Demonstrated by My Wife

March 2017
« Feb   Apr »

Fitting your own chain on your bike, as daunting as it may seem, is very simple – with the right tools.

First things first, take your old chain off.  If you don’t know how to do that, fear not.  I’ve got your back.  Click here.

Second, clean the drivetrain; chain rings, cassette and the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur.

Do not skimp on that step!  Why get a bunch of old crap stuck in your brand new chain?!

Next, on five or six attached sheets of paper towel, lay the old and new chain next to each other.

Now it gets a little tricky.  See, I know how much a chain stretches over time, so laying the two next to each other, I know which link I want.  My wife, being my wife, didn’t trust that so she counted the links…

Now you know my wife was right.  She took all that time!  So was I.  Right on the money.

For the next step, I took over.  Take a chain breaker and break the chain at the proper link.  The following is how the chain goes into the breaker:

Then you just crank it down till the pin falls on the ground (I use a small crescent wrench for leverage 😉).

From there, all you have to do is put the new chain on.  Bob is officially your uncle.

As a side note, because my wife made this mistake, be sure to thread the chain through the jockey wheels properly:  Don’t loop over the metal tabs, the chain goes “under” them.  Give the pedals a good spin.  If you’ve looped over a tab, you’ll know by how hard it is to turn the pedals.  Incidentally, this is what it should look like:

See that little tab, darn near exactly in the center of the photo?  Originally my wife threaded the chain over that tab.  That’s bad.  Just so you know.

UPDATE:  MJ Ray makes a couple of good points in the comments section below.  First, what I wrote above makes sense only if you know your chain is the right length to begin with.  I know mine are right so I glossed over that little nugget.  There are virtually dozens of videos out there that will show you how to properly size your chain to your drivetrain.  Google “youtube size bicycle chain” and you should be in business.  Second, he recommended a better chain break than the one I used, one that is adjustable to any size chain out there.  The one I use is a part of my emergency tool kit that I carry in my back pocket.  A real, adjustable Park Tool break is absolutely a good idea.



  1. Sue Slaght says:

    Great step by step instructions and love the play by play photos.

  2. Sheree says:

    Well done Mrs Jim! Great instructions and even I might be tempted to try this.

    • bgddyjim says:

      The only trick Sheree is getting the right chain break… The small ones take more torque than I can put on them so I have to use the wrench shown in one of the photos. 😉

      Oh, and that was her first go at it too!

  3. unironedman says:

    I like the fact that you just said your wife was wrong but you still seem to be alive and blogging… what’s the secret? 😉

  4. MJ Ray says:

    Two small changes I’d suggest:

    First, you’re assuming that the old chain is the correct length. Sadly, that’s not always true, especially if you had some undertrained unsupervised chain store minimum wager fit it. It’s safer to size it yourself: put the bike in the lowest gear on the big front ring, thread the chain through, hold the ends together, then pull against the rear mech spring to shorten it by one link from completely slack.

    Second, that chain tool looks like a non adjustable one. Unless it’s for the correct width chain, that sort of tool can bend side plates so the chain will never run smooth again. You might get lucky, but don’t trust it: get a decent Park Tool or similar, with an adjustable side plate support on the opposite side to the pin. When you put the chain in, wind the support in or out until the chain is held snug, before you operate the pin press. It’ll do everything from single speed up to the latest thinnest 12-speed chains.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Great points, man. The one in the photo is from a pocket tool kit and has two pre-set settings. It works for 9, 10 and 11 speed chains – at least those are the chains I’ve sized with it.

      Your first point is right on. I am lucky enough to have a very competent shop staff who works on our bikes. I tend not to worry about the “what ifs”. I will absolutely make some changes later this morning. Thank you.

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