How to Put a Bicycle Chain Back On

Don't you ever break the chain… or let it fall off your bike! 

You don't have to tell us that one of the best ways to spend an afternoon is on a long bike ride. However, if you don't leave the house prepared, a trip like that can quickly turn into a disaster. 

As a cycling enthusiast, you will find yourself picking up all sorts of odd skills, and it's impossible to regularly ride your bike without learning quite a bit about mechanics.

One of the skills that cyclists at all levels should have is being able to fix and reattach a bike chain.

a picture of the chain in a yellow bike

If you're looking for a guide on how to fix a broken bike chain check out this article. 

In this article, we'll be talking you through why your chain might come off, what you'll need to fix it, and how to do it yourself. 

Read on to find how to put a bike chain back on your bike.  

Why do bike chains come off? 

If you do any amount of cycling the chances are you will eventually experience problems with your bike chain jumping ship. 

There are many things that can cause your bike chain to come off. So many in fact that we don't have time to list them all. So, here are the five most common issues we see with bike chains: 

Your chain is clogged with oil and dirt 

We do want our chains to be well oiled, but when we don't clean the oil off the chain regularly enough then it collects a layer of dirt. If this layer gets too thick it will begin to harden and the chain will no longer be able to function correctly. 

When the chain stops flowing smoothly along with the chainring, it is a lot more likely to fall off. Especially at high speeds or on bumpy roads. 

Taking a cotton rag dipped into warm soapy water to the chain can solve this problem (although it is very messy). If you don't have the time, break out the trusty ol' pressure washer. 

Your chain is the wrong size 

This may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised by how frequently we see this when people replace their chains. 

Because the chain is too loose (or too tight), it cannot flow smoothly along with the chainring and is likely to slip off. 

Take your bike down to your local bike shop and they'll be able to help you fit the perfect chain. Unless you went there originally, then try somewhere else. 

Your chain ring is bent (or at least one of its teeth is) 

Sometimes it isn't the chain that is at fault. If the chainring gets bent then the chain will not be able to grip it properly as it spins. This can cause the chain to jump at high speeds, this jumping will most likely cause it to slip off. 

The same thing can happen if just a single one of the teeth on the chainring becomes bent. 

The teeth of the chainring can become very brittle and attempts to straighten them may actually cause them to snap. You're best off either replacing the whole thing or taking your bike to the repair shop. 

You need to replace your drivetrain 

A drivetrain is not the most glamorous part of our bikes and it often gets overlooked or forgotten. So think back, when was the last time you replaced your drivetrain? 1000 miles ago? 2000 miles? 5000 miles? 

If it's been a long time since you've changed your drivetrain and your chain is falling off every other mile… It's time to change it. 

A good way to tell if your drivetrain needs replacing is to look at its teeth. They should have square edges and look more like a cartoon cog. When your drivetrain has been on your bike for too long then they will start to curve and look like waves or shark teeth. 

Your chain has stretched 

Now, chains technically don't stretch but they do become less compressed.

Why is this bad?

Well, before your chain stretched it was the perfect size for your bike, now its too big and we're back to issue 2. 

Tools you'll need to put your bike chain back on

We find the best way to enjoy cycling is knowing that you are fully prepared for any mechanical issue that may arise on the journey. 

The good news is that putting a bike chain back on your bike doesn't require any equipment (except for your hands but we'll assume you backed those).

You may find a pair of gloves helpful, but if you're not fussed about the grime then you don't need anything at all. 

How to put your bike chain back on

Here is our step by step guide to putting your bike chain back on: 

Step 1 - if you're riding whilst the chain falls off stop immediately, and wheel your bike to a safe stopping position on the side of the road. 

If you are very confident on your bike try using your gearbox to move your front derailleur to the big ring position. Sometimes by doing this you can put the chain back into place without stopping. 

Step 2 - Once you are in a place safe enough to work, use your gearbox to move the rear derailleur and push the smallest sprocket to the rear of the bike. Also, move the smallest chainring to as far forward as it will go. 

Step 3 - Create some slack in the chain by pushing the rear derailleur forward with your hand. This may be a little messy. The looser the chain is, the less likely it is your fingers will get caught. Keep your hand on it. 

Step 4 - Lift the chain up and place it on top of the smallest chainring. 

Step 5 - Now let go of the derailleur. This movement should pull the chain back into place. 

And it really is that simple.

Time to start peddling again and carry on your journey. 

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