How to Tighten a Bike Chain – A Step by Step Guide

Maintaining your bike is a constant aspect that you need to consider over time. A well-maintained bike will run smoothly for a longer time and will save you money. One of the main aspects to be informed about is how to tighten a bike chain. If the chain of the bike looks loose, you need to tighten it.  A more obvious sign is when the chain comes undone while you ride your bike. Normally, your chain should provide you with 1-inch movement space up and down. Let’s look at how you can easily adjust your bike chain and what tools you need!

How to Tighten a Bike Chain - A Step by Step Guide

Required Tools

Learning how to tighten a bike chain is not difficult, but it requires patience and attention. Having the right tools will ease your task a lot as well. You should make sure to get all your tools ready before you start working on your bike. When it comes to how to tighten a bike chain, you will need several tools to get the job done. The basic tools are as follows:

  1. A socket wrench.
  2. Socket wrench adaptor.
  3. Rag.
  4. Lubricant.
  5. A bike stand (If you have it available).
  6. A pair of gloves.

1. A socket wrench 

You will use the socket wrench on the bolts of the wheel and the exact socket to fit their size. The bike comes with bigger or even smaller bolts. So, different sockets are essential.

2. Socket wrench adaptor

If your bike has pegged, you will need a socket wrench adaptor. It is great when you need to reach throughout the bike’s pegs and screw or unscrew the bolts. In case you do not have a socket wrench that is of the size you need, use an adjustable wrench on your bolts.

3. Lubricant and rag

The lubricant and the rag are tools that will help you with the maintenance part as well as the cleaning part. But do not worry if you do not have all these tools. You can always ask a friend, if you are lucky enough, your friend will have those things when they also have a bike like yours.

The lubricant is important to protect your bike's chain from rust, and also ensure your bike work smoothly. You will feel the bike move perfectly when pedaling bike with a well maintained chain.

Rag is also important to do this task, but a dirt-free rag is essential. For cleaning task, a piece of clean rag is crucial. Before lubricating the chain, you should wipe out the excess debris or dirt on your bike chain.

Steps to Tighten Your Bike Chain

Here I will show you how to tighten a bike chain step by step. It is easy and very easy to do. Just follow the steps:

Step 1

First of all, you need to flip your bike over, so you have better access to your chain. You could use your bike stand for this step if you have one. Secure the bike so that it will not lean over or slide. Try to take off the dirt and debris that can be stuck in the chain. Get in a comfortable position that allows you to have access to your chain and the wheels of your bike.

Step 2

After you securely positioned your bike, it is time to slacken the bolts upon the rear wheel. For this step, you will need to use your socket wrench plus socket. However, an adjustable wrench will work as well. Adjustable wrenches will help you if your socket wrench is not of the right size for your bike bolts.

Just keep in mind that you do not require to remove the bolts completely. If you do remove the bolts, it will just add more time and work to put them back in. Loosen them just as much as you need to move your wheel. When it comes to bikes that have pegs, using an adapter upon the actual socket wrench is a must.

Step 3

Drag the wheel carefully, toward the back of the bike and make sure you have enough space to do it. Dragging the wheel correctly will tighten the chain as much as you need to ride your bike comfortably and safely. After establishing how much you need to tighten the chain, recoil the wheel and grasp it in the proper place with one hand. Use your other hand to finish the process.

Step 4

Check the chain intended for the correct tension to ensure yourself that your bike chain is tightened correctly. It might look fine from the outside but feeling it with your hand is important to make sure everything is all right. To do that you can slide your hand on the chain and try to pull it up and down. By doing so, you will notice if it needs to be tightened more. If you need to reposition the bike wheel backward, keep the chain up and check it again.

Step 5

Make sure you screw back in all the bolts upon the wheel by using your socket wrench. You should remember to check both sides of the bike when you are done. If any bolt remains loose, your bike will not run properly, and you will not be safe. It is very important to maintain the wheel that you moved previously straight while tightening the bolts back. Otherwise, you might have to redo this step and waste more time.

Step 6

When all your bolts are back in place, and your bike chain is tightened, use a lubricant on the chain. You can use a spray lubricant or a liquid one. It will keep your bike chain smooth and will help your bike function better over time. Also, using a lubricant will help your bike chain stay in place without you adjusting it too often. You can use a rag or a towel to wipe out any dirt or debris from your chain after you tightened it

Step 7

After this last step, flip your bike over, and you are ready to ride it again! However, if you apply all these steps and your chain doesn’t feel to be tight enough, you need to cut one or two links of chain, or you need to replace the new chain. Usually, your bike chain will need to be replaced when the derailleur is not generating the right chain tension. If you take care of your bike chain carefully, this will not need to change your bike's chain very often.

The below short video on shows how to tighten a bike chain on a BMX bike. You can take a look on basic steps and apply similar for different types of bikes.


To avoid doing this too often, make sure to maintain your bike clean. A dirty bike chain will make all sorts of problems for your bike, including the need of tightening it. Wash the bike every time it gets filthy and especially before you start working on it. All the dirt, clay and debris that might get stuck on your bike will create it difficult to handle and repair.

To keep your bike clean, all you need is a good brush and some soap and water, so don’t skip it! Remember to apply the lubricant/oil after clean the chain. Also, make sure to check your bike chain constantly. A well maintained bike chain is important primarily to have a nice ride and avoid an accident.


Now that you know how to tighten a bike chain, you can enjoy your riding and confide in your bike more than ever before! Keeping an eye on your bike can save your life in the first place. But it can also save you some expenses that might come in the future if you neglect certain aspects. Tightening or changing your bike chain is one of the main concerns that you should have. With good maintenance, your bike should provide you a quality riding time with little financial investment in it. 

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