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Cycle Maintenance - Changing a chain

an easy task

This is an easy task, no matter what you think or what you get told. In fact, let me grab a camera and laptop and I'll change mine now and show you how easy it really is

Tools and equipment required
- - A new chain.
- - A chain splitter

Tools and equipment recommended
- - A quiet night in when the wife is out so won't know
- - a warm kitchen
- - a cloth to protect the floor, and prevent "evidence"
- - an offcut of wire (read on)
- - a bike stand
- - Beer!

The first job you have to do is to get everything ready. Here I've got the bike on a stand, I've put an offcut of electrical wire between a couple of links to take the tension from the gears, and I've gone to look for the chain splitter. Any wire will do, as long as it is strong enough.

This piece, if you're interested, is 2mm mains cable left over from when I wired my garage

Now that I've found the chain splitter, I am here pushing out one of the links. Two words of CAUTION.
- DO NOT push the link the whole way out! You will not get it back in. (Unless like me you have several hours and a lot of patience.)
- If you have a Shimano chain, DO NOT remove the special pin that was used to join it last time (but do push the pin you have chosen this time right out)

... and here I have pushed the pin out and the chain is ready for removal.

Whilst holding both ends of the chain, carefully remove the piece of wire you've used to take up the tension, (if you haven't used the wire, then the chain will probably now be off and you'll have oily marks everywhere from where it went "ping").

Take a careful look at how the chain runs through the derailleur, remember this for in a minute! Now relax the tension and take the chain off.

Take the new chain and from the rear of the bike drop it down the front of the top cog on the derailleur, remembering to get it between the cog and the metal tab. Then feed the loose end around the rear of the bottom cog, again getting it inside the restraint. Hold that loose end. Take the other end over the top of the cassette, through the front gear changing mechanism and around the chainwheel. Now, with that handy piece of wire join the two ends of the chain together, but let the ends hang loose; it's best to put the wire above the chain, with the hooks downwards, as per the photo above.

Slacken the chain splitter right off, then put the two ends of the chain together making sure you align the pin with the hole. If you have a Shimano chain this is when you need to get a new pin. Then carefully wind the pin back into the chain. Keep your eyes on the pin, and ensure it is inserted the same amount as all other pins.

You're nearly there. The final check is to make sure that link you've just remade isn't tight. Make sure it is as flexible as all the other links. One thing I've found helps here is to reverse the chain tool and push the pin back ever so slightly. The other tip is to gently flex the chain sideways (at 90 degrees to the normal flex). As soon as everything is as smooth as it should be, remove the wire support.

The only thing left to do is to check your gears.

A last note here. If you changed you chain after many many miles, because your gears were jumping, and your new chain is just as bad, then bad news for you I'm afraid - you're going to need to change your cassette and even your chainwheels. It has been recommended by some sources that the chain should be changed when the distance between 12 links is above 308mm (or 12 and 1/16 inches) to reduce risk of wear to the cogs.


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