Are you looking for ways on how to tighten a bike chain?

When you own a bike, you might find the need to be a mechanic. Adjusting the chain on your bike is an important task to ensure your bike is safe to ride. A loose chain can fall off, damaging your machine and causing injury. On the other hand, if the chain is too tight, it puts damaging stress on your bike.

This article describes how to adjust chain tension.

How To Tighten a Bike Chain?

The process of tightening a bike chain with a single gear bike or with a derailleur is as follows:

Tightening A Bike Chain With A Single Gear Bike

1. Place the bike in the correct position

A professional generally puts the bike upright, whereas an amateur might turn it upside down for easier access to its parts. To avoid scratches, lay paper or cardboard under the bike.

2. Loosen the rear axle and pull back the rear wheel

To adjust the chain, you must remove the nuts that hold the wheel to the bike. Use a socket wrench for this purpose. First, rotate the nuts in an anticlockwise direction to loosen them and make the adjustment easier. Then, slowly pull back on the rear wheel until you achieve an optimum tension of the chain.

3. Ensuring the proper chain tension

The chain tension should be such that it only moves about half an inch in either direction. Displacement of the chain for more than half an inch indicates a loose chain setup, and that of less than half an inch means a tight bike chain that prevents the pedals’ smooth movement.

4. Fixing the rear wheel and testing

Once you get the perfect chain tension, bring the rear wheel back to its position, and tighten the axle nuts. If the wheel does not touch the chain or the frame when you spin it, you have successfully tightened the chain. Otherwise, redo the steps again.

Tightening Of A Bike Chain With A Derailleur

1. Positioning the bike

To ensure that the wheels and the derailleur are within reach, it is best to flip the bike upside down.

2. Locating the derailleur screw and tightening bike chain

Usually, a letter B is mentioned adjacent to the screw which is behind the derailleur. It would be best if you turned it in a clockwise direction to increase the chain tension.

3. Adjustment of the rear wheel

Disconnect the brakes from the cable and lift the brake lever to access the rear wheel. Next, adjust the wheel axle to increase the tension on the chain of a derailleur. This also ensures optimum tension of the chain. Still, avoid tightening it too much.

4. The setting of the wheel and testing

After achieving a good chain tension, tighten the screws properly. Spin the wheels. If they do not touch the chain or the frame, you have successfully tightened the bike chain. Otherwise, redo the steps again.

How Does A Bike Chain Work?

A bike chain is an essential component. It generates and transfers mechanical energy to pedal wheels, thus enabling the bike to move forward. However, when it is loose, the amount of power transfer drops significantly, making it impossible for the rider to move the bike forward.

You can ride with a moderately loose chain but learning the adjustment technique helps the rider manage the journey effectively.

For a bike with derailleurs, the rear derailleur provides the optimum tension. However, for a bike with a fixed gear consisting of two chainrings, rotating the two rings allows you to align the chain correctly.

Appropriate turning of the cranks, subsequent fitting of the bolts, and proper lubrication will help get the correct chain tension.


It is common for a bike chain to become loose or even fall off, so don’t panic when it happens. Instead, you can fix it yourself by following the steps mentioned in this article. Of course, the process of tightening the bike chain is different for a single and a multi-gear bike, and there is a massive range of bikes present in the market today. Nevertheless, the process for tightening the bike chain is almost identical.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs of a loose bike chain?

The first sign of a loose bike chain is slapping the bike chain against the frame, often leading to the bike chain falling off and stopping your ride.

How to adjust a bike chain without a stand?

A rope can be used as a support to position the bike when a stand is not available.