How To Remove A Bike Chain?

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BY Jim Felt
Updated on 03/24/2021

Cycling has never gone out of style, and nowadays it is both a popular sport and leisure activity. Almost everyone has at least owned a bike. Bicycles, in general, require low maintenance, but it does not mean that your bikes won’t be out of order sometimes.

One of the most common problems with bikes is the saggy or damaged bike chain. This problem can be fixed easily at home with a few tools and a new bike chain, but do you know how to remove a bike chain beforehand? If you are still wondering how to do that, just keep on reading!

Bike Chain And The Roles Of Bike Chain

Bike Chain And The Roles Of Bike Chain

Bike Chain And The Roles Of Bike Chain

A bike chain is an indispensable part of a bicycle, with the main mission of transferring the power of the pedal to the wheel, thus making the bike run on the road. The most popular materials for bike chains include alloy steel, carbon, and rust-resistant metals.

Basically, the bike chain can be divided into two categories: one-speed and derailleur bike chains. The one-speed chain is simple and widely used in most bike types, compatible with single-sprocket crankset and wheels. Meanwhile, derailleur chains have more designs and can move between sprockets.

Bike chains are important, make sure that you understand how to differentiate them here:

Watch video: The Park Tool Guide To Chains

Why Do You Need To Remove Your Bike Chain?

The Muc-Off Nano Tech Bike Chain Cleaners

The Muc-Off Nano Tech Bike Chain Cleaners

The removal of bike chains may not be only for bike chain replacement, but can also be for cleaning. Whatever the purpose is, the final aim when detaching chains from bikes is to improve the performance. Bikes could be single speed bikes.

When in a good state, bike chains can be super-efficient in power transfer and thus make the ride better. Therefore, the chain should be well-lubricated, cleaned, and replaced when worn. Note to flip the bike upside.

When there is too much dirt on your bike chain, or the lubrication goes dry, you should take off the chain to get maintenance done. Moreover, when there is a sign of stretch, you should consider purchasing a new chain and replace it.

What Do You Need To Remove Your Bike Chain?

What Do You Need To Remove Your Bike Chain

What Do You Need To Remove Your Bike Chain

There are certain types of bike chains that can be removed without tools, but others don’t. Having a suitable chain tool kit will also help the chain removal quicker and less troublesome. You can buy a chain tool kit at a local bike shop.

If you want to see how worn out your chain is, the chain tool will help. This small chain tool will be hooked between a roller and the opening. The number will show the wear level of your bike chain.

To change the bike chain, having a chain tool will be beneficial. Chain tools can help to break down and re-attach the bike chain. However, chain tools are only for the regular chain.

When your chain has a master link, the master link pliers will help to detach the chain faster. Another thing you should remember is that the chain tool pin and bike chain link replacement should be the same size as your own one. Note that master links are so different from other links.

Tools For Bike Chain Removal At Home

The Finish Line 1-Step Bike Chain Cleaners

The Finish Line 1-Step Bike Chain Cleaners

Some of the basic tools for bike chain removal that you should keep at hand are chain tools, pliers, and steel cutters. Other basic tools like hammers can also be used in some cases.

Chain Tools

A regular chain link will only need normal chain tools to screw them off. You should purchase proper chain tools and pliers for bike chain removal. Their price is cheap and can ensure that your bike chains will not be heavily damaged when removed.


Rub the surface with metal cleaning tools

Rub the surface with metal cleaning tools

The processes of master link chain and split link chain removal are quite similar in method. Both of them need the pliers to squeeze them together to get them off the bike. A master link helps you disassemble the chain easily. During process, you will need a flat head screwdriver.

However, depending on the characteristics of the chain links (including SRAM links), different pliers are required. For the master chain link chains, master chain link pliers will be the most suitable. Meanwhile, the split link chains need needle-nose pliers to take them off the bikes.

Steel Cutter

Sometimes steel cutters can be used to remove the bike chain, but they will damage and deform the chain link where it is cut. It is difficult to connect these cut master links, thus it is only recommended if you want to change a whole new bike v.

Three Ways To Remove Bike Chain

The Finish Line Speed Bike Chain Cleaners

The Finish Line Speed Bike Chain Cleaners

For each type of bike chain, there will be one way respectively to remove it. The reason is that there are distinctive features for each type, so it requires different tools and methods to take it off. To be precise, you can check out these methods right here:

Regular Chain Link Removal

Regular Link Chain Removal

Regular Link Chain Removal

For normal chain link removal, as said before, it will be better to have a chain tool. There are two prongs on the chain tool, put the chain tool pin on the chain link, and then slip the chain link in between the prongs. Check if the link falls into the right place.

To break down the bike chain, you can push the pin off the rollers with the chain tool. To attach the pin onto the link, rotate the tool’s handle clockwise (pushing chain tool clockwise). When the rivet looks like it is out of the like, you should stop rotating the handle. Don’t let the rivet fall off, because it can not be reinstalled.

Similarly, the pin should not fall out too. but if that happens, you can reattach the pin onto the next link, but it makes the chain become shorter. Don’t use too much force with the chain tool, since it may deform or damage the chain.

On the other hand, to get the chain tool off the chain, roll it counterclockwise (pushing chain tool clockwise). When you see the chain tool (chain breaker tool) detach off the link, stop the rotating.

When the chain falls off the tool, pull the chain apart. Be careful when taking it off, don’t let it get twisted or deformed. Then the bike chain shall be easy to remove from the sprockets. To reattach the chain onto the bike, use the chain tool (or chain breaker tool) to get the river on the separated link.

To learn more about using a chain tool, you can watch this video:

Watch video: How To Remove a Bicycle Chain

Master Link Chain Removal

The Finish Line Pro Shop Kit Bike Chain Cleaners

The Finish Line Pro Shop Kit Bike Chain Cleaners

If your bike chain has a master link, which is often signatured by another color or symbol, you will need master link pliers. This tool will help to pull the master link together.

Put the jaws of the plier onto the side of the master link. Slowly squeeze the handle to pull the master link together. The needle-nose pliers should do the same trick, but it will be a bit harder.

Then release all the force to let the master link fall apart. Put away the master link pliers and take off the chain for maintenance or replacement. To put the chain back, screw the rivet on, use the pliers to lock the master link back.

The method of master link removal is well depicted here:

Watch video: Chain Master Link Removal (To install: link in description)

Split Link Chain Removal

Split Link Chain Removal

Split Link Chain Removal

The way to remove the split link chain is also quite the same. First, you have to find the split link chain. It is the one with a cut plate right in the middle.

To remove a split link, you will need needle-nose pliers. This chain tool will break the metal plate off the link. You just need to put the jaws on the left rivet and edge of the plate and squeeze tight.

That way, the link will be pulled together. If it triggers the clip and makes the link fall apart, you will need a spare part of the spring-loaded clip. But if you use the right amount of force, the plate will be released nicely and you just need to take it off the chain.

After that, release the metal plate in front of the split link chain with your fingers. By then, the chain shall be removed from your bike right away. you need to keep all the two metal plates (inner plates) since you will need them to put the chain back on.

For more information, you can watch this video:

Watch video: How to install a link chain KMC lock (slotted link) on a bicycle chain

Some Tips For An Easy Bike Chain Replacement And Maintenance

The WD-40 Bike Degreaser Bike Chain Cleaners

The WD-40 Bike Degreaser Bike Chain Cleaners

Replacing and maintaining bike chains seem like a piece of cake, but it can turn out to be quite troublesome if you don’t pay enough attention. Here are some tips and guidelines that you should know before getting down to work:

Getting the right tools is important. Bike chain removal without a chain breaker is hard enough, but using the wrong tools can cause severe damage to the chains. Chain tools, master link pliers, and needle-nose pliers are recommended for this kind of work. Hammers are less suggested, and steel cutters can be a disaster. Without a chain breaker, it is hard for bike chain link (entire chain) removal. But for sure, without a chain breaker, it is hard, but not impossible.

Putting your working glove on. These gloves will protect you from the dirt and lubrication on the chains, they can be harmful to human skin. Wearing a face mask and protective glass is also a good choice because there are risks that the bike chain, when removed, may have its parts springing into your face.

Moreover, wearing a pair of gloves will help to protect you from accidents, especially if you use hammers or steel cutters. If these tools landed on your hands instead of the link, it will cause quite a scene.

If you remove your bike chain to do some cleaning, remember to use a water-soluble degreaser or dirt-removing liquid, or at least hot soapy water. You can use specialized brushes, cloth, or sponge to do the cleaning.

After cleaning, remember to rinse the chain with clean water, or at least wipe it off with clean damp cloths. Please dry it completely and re-apply the lubrication before re-attachment. The amount of chain lube to be put on the chain should be good enough, but not too much as it can be too greasy for the chain to work properly.


How long do I have to spend to remove the bike chain?

On average, the bike chain can be removed in about 10 minutes with proper tools.

Can I take off the bike chain without using tools?

No, you can’t take off the bike chain without using tools. Without specialized tools, you still need common tools like hammers to take off bike chains.

Is the master link available in all bike chains?

No, not all bike chains have master chain links.

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