The Cycleplan Blog

Becoming Bike Handy: Reattaching a Slipped Chain

Having your chain come off mid-ride is a bit of a nuisance and can turn a pleasant afternoon cycle into anything but. Luckily, reattaching a slipped chain is straightforward (most of the time) and requires no tools at all. Here’s our guide to getting your chain back in working order in no time…

Chain

Keep on moving

When you feel your chain first slip off, you might be able to pedal it back on. If the chain has fallen off the smaller chainring at the front, then use your gear shifter to downshift the bike into the lowest front gear.

Being in the lowest gear means the chain is riding on the largest chain ring. If you’re lucky, this might just do the trick without having to pause your ride!

Chain
Sometimes you can get the chain reattached without even having to stop.

If that doesn’t work

Hop off your bike and:

  • Use your gear lever to move the derailleurs to the position of the smallest rear sprocket and the smallest front chainring.
  • Push the back derailleur forward with your left hand. This gives you as much loose chain as possible, meaning your fingers won’t get caught.
Pushing the front derailleur forward releases tension on the chain. Image credit: Cycling Weekly
  • With your right hand, lift the chain and put it back onto the front chainring. 
Chain
This step might take a few attempts, but make sure you persevere! Image credit: Cycling Weekly
  • Once the chain is in place, slowly turn the pedal forward while lifting the rear wheel. This will pull the chain around the entire chainring and realign the chain – then you’re good to go!

What if the chain keeps falling off?

If the chain keeps falling off, it’s likely too long. If this is the case you’ll need a chain tool to remove the extra links. Here’s how to do it:

  • Remove the chain.
  • Put the chain on the outer chain guide of the chain tool.
  • Turn the handle on the chain tool to push the chain pin most of the way out. Make sure you don’t push the pin all the way out or it will be extremely difficult to put it back together.
Chain
This step requires quite a bit of force so don’t be afraid to use a bit of elbow grease! Image credit: IFIXIT
  • Remove the chain tool by turning the tool’s handle in the opposite direction.
  • Now you should be able to pull the chain apart.
  • Repeat steps 2-4 to do the same to the chain link’s second pin, and disassemble the link.
  • Remove any additional links using these same steps to shorten the chain to size.
Chain
Both parts of the link (one narrow, one wide) need to be removed in order for the chain to fit back together again. Image credit: IFIXIT
  • Thread the chain back over the chain ring and back through the derailleur.
  • Finally, use the chain tool to push the pin back through both parts of the chain to reassemble the chain.
  • Give the link you just reattached a wiggle to loosen up the new connection.

Our final tip is to keep some latex gloves handy – bicycle chains tend to be oily!

Now you have all the information you need to tackle that pesky chain slip should the situation arise – the only thing left to do is practice!

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