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Bike Chains: What to do if it is loose and how to tighten

August 16, 2024
Bike Chains: What to do if it is loose and how to tighten

Bikes are a great company. There is always a before and after in your life when you have a bicycle. It is as if you will forget what it was like to live without her and feel you need her forever. Unfortunately, there always comes the point where our bike begins to fail us. It may be that the wheel is deflated, if it is electric, it may run out of battery, but one of the biggest problems is when the chain loosens. This article will focus entirely on Bike Chains: What to do if it is loose and how to tighten them so you can fix them yourself.

Bicycle is one of the most comfortable means of transport. You can go at your own pace, exercise, and go down as many alleys as you like. If you want, you can take it to the mountains, or even through the traffic jams in the big city.

The important thing is that you don’t panic in any case. So if your bike chain comes loose, you’ll find here how you can tighten it, and you can also fix it yourself. In addition, we will give you other tips so you can identify when you are about to loosen or how to avoid it.

What are the main reasons that can cause the bike chain to lose its tension?

Two main factors can be the reason why the chain of your bike has loosened. The first reason may be the continued or excessive use of your bike. The second reason may be that the rear wheel is not under adequate pressure and has moved, causing in conclusion that it has slackened.

If the bike chain is loose, how to tighten it? The Step-by-step explanation

  1. Take some pressure off the rear wheel of your bike, thanks to the bolts on each side of the axle.
  2. Tighten the turnbuckles with the 10mm wrench mentioned above in a clockwise direction. It is always recommended that you start with the tensioner on the chain side.
  3. Notice the tension as follows: With your fingertips, try to bend the chain inwards.
  4. This step, which consists of centering the chain, is very important since if we leave it aside, it can rub against the frame. Take a reference that is in the center and bring your wheel so that it is completely centered.

How can I tighten the chain if it does not have the tensioners mentioned in the previous step-by-step?

  1. Take some pressure off the rear wheel of your bike, thanks to the bolts on each side of the axle.
  2. Move the wheel backward so that the chain takes the proper tension. When you think you have it, first put pressure on the nut on the side of the chain, keeping the chain with the pressure it needs.
  3. Check that everything has gone well, and you can check it with your fingertips by taking the chain inwards.
  4. You have to center the wheel by setting a reference point so it fits well and cannot rub anywhere.
  5. Give adequate pressure to the rear wheel bolts that go clockwise.

How to check whether the bike chain tension is correct or not?

To check if the chain tension is correct, put a small chainring and a small pinion. In this position, the derailleur must be fully retracted and the chain taut without any curve or touching the upper roller’s lower part of the chain.

How can I prevent the bicycle chain from losing tension?

The chains have a limited useful life so it can happen that it becomes loose and it is not your fault, or that it happens due to the use that you give to the bike. However, there are some ways to prevent it from coming loose, and this will help you extend its lifespan.

What you should avoid is:

  • You should avoid riding with the derailleur out of adjustment.
  • It is very important that no matter what happens, you avoid having sudden impacts or making jumps with your bike since these movements damage it. Of course, if you must do it so you don’t have to crash, then it’s preferable to do it, but it’s recommended to avoid it unless you have to.
  • Some people forget, but on those bikes that have gears if you don’t make the shift correctly.

What are the signs that chain tension is about to be lost?

Another great way to prevent the chain from losing its tension is to notice any signs that it is related to a loose chain. If you start seeing this, you can take action to fix it and your problem will be solved.

The main indicators are:

  • Have a visibly worn chain. Even if it has rust spots, it means its useful life is nearing the end.
  • If you start to see it even if it is barely loose, this means that it is almost about to come loose.
  • If it tangles quite often, or if it locks up when you pick up speed, that’s one of the main signs.

For how long can the same bike chain be used?

As we told you before, bike chains are not made to last forever, so it may be that if it is malfunctioning this is because it has already served their useful life.

Now the important thing is, how long is the useful life of a bike chain? The standard time is between 3 thousand and 8 thousand kilometers. This is a wide range, but remember that its durability depends on several factors.

It depends on whether it is a bicycle that is stored outdoors, so it is exposed to rain or snow (this oxidizes and damages the chain materials faster). It also influences whether you use it on uneven terrain, on the city street, or in the middle of the mountains. Finally, the brand influences, if it is factory or not, if it was the right one for your bike or not, etc.

We always advise you to take care of the chain, put oil at least once a month, and not expose the chain to heavy rain (unless you have to use the bike that day). Another tip is to write down the date you bought the new chain, to calculate more or less how long it will last.

We can also help you with how to untangle a bicycle chain. You can check everything here: how to untangle a bicycle chain. Visit our reviews and buyer’s guide here about Best Electric Bikes For 2024.


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