How Tight Should A Bike Chain Be?

How tight should a bike chain be is regularly asked by mountain bikers? The first step is to understand the problem of a loose chain or if the chain is too tight. And this will help in checking and tightening the chain to the correct tightness.

The chain should be tight enough that it only allows you to move it up and down about half an inch. If there is no slack in the chain then it is too tight. And if there is too much slack then you need to tighten that chain.

In this post, we will go through how tight should a bike chain be. Let’s get started!

Read more on common questions asked

How Tight Should A Bike Chain Be?

Simply, if the bike chain is too long it will cause problems when changing gears and the derailleur can’t pick up the extra length of the chain. With the net result, the chain may keep slipping off.

While on the other hand if the chain is too short it can damage components like the sprockets and chainring. To test if the chain is tight enough by ensuring you can only move it about half an inch in either direction.

Visual Inspection

How Tight Is Too Tight?

Well if it doesn’t bind and moving the pedals is not difficult, then the chain tension is fine. You want the chain to be reasonably tight. It’s no fun feeling that extra-loose section of the crank rotation every so often.

Extra tension on the chain will cause some extra wear on the drivetrain and bottom bracket. There is a natural tendency to overtighten the chain but this will unnecessary tension and extra wear on bikes.

Do Bike Chains Stretch?

Technically the answer is no. If you speak to bike mechanics they will say that there is a thing called chain stretch. This occurs when the chain wears over time in a way as to causes the chain’s maximum length to increase.

Tools and Materials Required

There are a couple of tools and materials needed to tighten the bike chain. These are as follows.

How To Tighten A Bike Chain?

Before tightening the bike chain you need to check to do a quick visual inspection and that includes the derailleurs. Make sure that there is no damage in the area or any of the components in the area.

Let’s get started to tighten the bike chain.

  • Starting off, you need to put your bike into your bike repair stand or you can simply flip your bike upside down so that it is resting on its saddle and handlebars.
  • Next, you need to loosen the axle nuts of the rear tire as this will allow you to adjust the tension on your chain.
  • Now that the rear tire is loosened you can now tighten the chain by pulling back on the rear tire. This will increase the tension in your bike chain. You need to do this slowly and not pull back by too much while at the same time you need to check your chain has the right tension.
mountain bike chain
  • To check the correct chain tension is to see if you are able to move it around half an inch in either direction.
  • If you are happy will how tight the chain is. Then you can tighten the rear axle nuts one by one.
  • Now the last test that the chain is tight enough by ensuring you can only move it about half an inch in either direction.

Can WD-40 Be Used On Bike Chains?

You can not use the normal WD-40 but there are WD-40 products available that are specially made for bikes. There is the WD-40 chain lubricant, WD-40 bike degreaser, and more. Products like the WD-40 bike degreaser can be used for cleaning and degreasing the moving parts of the bike as well.

Wrapping Up

Finally, if your bike chain is too tight it can cause damage to your components like the sprockets on your bike. This can also reduce the life expectancy of the sprockets and the dérailleur. You can test the chain is tight enough by ensuring you can only move it about half an inch in either direction.

And that’s it for now! I’d love it if this post on how tight should a bike chain be was helpful to you. Let me know if you have any questions and let me know if there is more to add.

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Should A Bike Chain Be