How To Tighten A Chain On A Bike

If you need to know how to tighten a chain on a bike, you have come to the right place. This guide will explain why you have to do it and how it should be done.

Loose chains tend to come pretty easily; therefore, you have to take care of that sag in your chain before it becomes an issue. This sag shouldn’t be more than an inch, or you will face some problems while pedaling your bike.

If your bike doesn’t have a derailleur, your bike chain will get loose pretty frequently. Regular shifting is the reason why your bike chain gets loose, and it needs to be tightened accordingly. We are going to deal with this problem in our guide, so continue reading.

Bike Chain

Do I Need Some Special Tools to Get the Job Done?

To get the job done effectively, you will need the following tools if you’re looking to tighten a chain on a bike.

●     Socket wrench and adaptor

A socket wrench will make it easier for you to work on those bolts on the wheels. Along with it, you will need the adapter as well, especially if you have a pegged bike. This will allow you to handle the pegged wheel conveniently.

●     Lubricant and a rag

Lubricants always come in handy when it comes to maintaining your bike properly. You will need to lubricate your chain to reduce any wear and tear. And for any excess lubrication, you can use a rag to clean it.

●     Bike stand

This might not directly be associated with the job you are doing, but a bike stand will make your life much easier. For example, you will easily work on the lower section of your bike by flipping it on the stand upside down.

●     Gloves

Again, not a mandatory piece of equipment, but wearing gloves will prevent any injuries while dealing with your bolts and wires.

When Should I Adjust the Tension of My Bike Chain?

Your bike chain needs regular adjustments regardless of the type of bike you are riding. Chain adjustment is not only required when it’s too loose. You will have to adjust if it’s too tight as well. The good thing is that adjusting the bike chain is just a few minutes, and you will be good to ride again.

If you ride your bike frequently, then you will have to adjust every 500 miles. If you are riding a dirt bike, you will have to make any adjustments more frequently than that. When you go for the adjustment, you can also examine your bike chain for any rusts or kinks as well.

The chain needs to be tight or loose enough only to allow you to move it up or down for about an inch. If there is no slack in your bike chain, then it would be too tight. But if there is too much slack, you need to tighten it for sure.

Tight bike chain

What Happens If a Bike Chain is Too Loose?

Riding with a loose chain is not a good practice. It’s going to make pedaling a lot harder for you, and your overall riding experience will worsen.

And how can you forget about that continuous clicking sound that’s coming out of it? Those jarring noises will come from the chain as it runs over the sprockets. The chain will go out of the sprocket eventually when you start pedaling faster.

You will also notice your peddles are missing with a clanging motion even when you are pedaling. Riding a bike this way is not very convenient, and you might end up hurting yourself in some way as well.

Ultimately, your power rate drops significantly, and you will notice that you have to put in more effort to get more from your bike to propel it. You can continue to ride slowly with a loose bike chain, but you will notice that your bike is skipping if you try to put in faster pedals. This might result in a break, so you need to slow it down a little bit.

How Do You Tighten a Chain on A Mountain Bike?

Mountain bikes are multi-geared rigs, so they do come with a derailleur. However, the entire process of tightening the bike chains is similar to all bikes with derailleur on them.

Begin the process by flipping the bike over the bike stand. Doing this will allow you to access the rear tire pretty comfortably. If you don’t have a bike stand with you, you can use anything with a softer surface to prevent any scratching.

You will have to locate that screw that is there on your bike’s derailleur. It will be present right next to the axles of your rear wheel. Different bikes have different derailleur positions, but the placement will always be around the rear wheel axle. So, you will have to go for a very similar approach no matter your derailleur’s position.

Rotate this screw clockwise to tighten your bike chain. Next, you can lift the rear wheel of your bike. This is where your bike stand is going to come in to play its role. If you disconnect the brakes, tightening the screw on the derailleur will become a much easier task.

You will have to slide the wheel axle towards the dropouts on the rear end of your bike. But make sure that you do it in small adjustments. This is because you don’t want your chain to be too tight.

Now that you are done with the adjustment, you will have to put any disconnections back into their place. To be sure, you need to check everything before you start with the reassembling process.

The screw that is there on the derailleur needs to be tightly positioned like it was previously. You also need to check if the bike tire is rolling in a smooth motion or not.

Chain on a derailleur

What About those Single Speed Bikes?

If you own a single-speed bike, you will have to adjust the bike chain as well, as there is no derailleur present here. This bike is more prone to chin breaks if you pedal faster with a loose chain. Therefore, if you have noticed that your single-speed bike chain needs to be adjusted, do it as soon as possible.

Again you will have to loosen the bolts of your rear bike wheel. As single-speed bikes don’t have derailers, therefore, you will have to move the wheel from its axle if you want to adjust the chain.

With the loose chain, if you pull the wheel back, it will slightly tighten the chain. So, you will have to pull it back enough to check its tightness. And use a single-speed bike chain tensioner to set it.

When you have the right bike tension, then put the wheel back in and resemble everything else. With single-speed bikes, the process of tightening the chain is much simpler if you have that bike tension with you.

When done, clean off any residue from the chain and lubricate it by using a few drops of lubricant on the sprockets and turn the rear wheel until the entire chain is lubricated. Use a few drops more if needed.

Why is My Bike Chain Loose?

One of the most common reasons your bike chain gets loose is that you might have installed a new chain on an old bike, and the fitting is not right on your rear axle. In addition, you might have a loose bottom bracket on your bike, and this might be causing that chain to get loose. With the multi-geared bikes, you might end up having a loose derailleur as well.

Apart from that, if you ride your bike a lot and do a lot of shifting, the bike chain tends to get loose. Maybe your bike chain has gotten too old, and it’s time for a new bike chain.

If your bike chain shows various signs of wear and tear and it again gets loose even if you have recently tightened it, then it is time for a new bike chain. You don’t have to keep working on that old bike chain because replacing it will show results right away, and you won’t have to retighten it again and again.

After you’re done tightening a bike chain, you might need to be sure you have done it the right way. Then, you can run an immediate test by riding it and checking if you are getting the right push with each pedal or not.

With each pedal, you should be able to propel your bike just the way you used to. When you are getting that yield, it means that you have done it the right way.

And if you are not getting the yield like you used to, you need to repeat the entire process again and then run another check to confirm that everything is right.


To tighten a chain on a bike is a pretty simple task with the right tools at hand. However, you have to be meticulous in your approach and get the job done by ensuring everything is right.

It’s better to run a few checks now before you end up with a chain off the sprockets when you are in the middle of your ride out there in the middle of nowhere.

With multi-gear bikes, you can easily screw the derailleur and adjust the bike tension according to your requirements. And if you have a single-speed rig, you can use the bike chain tensioner to do it.

Either way, make sure you are getting the suitable yield with each pedal while running a check. And don’t first lubricate your bike chain and clean any residue to keep it in shape. Doing this will significantly improve your overall riding experience.

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo… so you can pin it to your Mountain Bike Board!