How to: Replace a chain and find the correct length

The chain is a vital part of your drive train, however it is often neglected. Every watt of power that you produce has to be converted into thrust, and it is the job of the humble chain to transfer all this energy to the rear wheel. This constant abuse combined with external weather factors, grime, dust and mud, lead to wear, manifesting itself as an elongation of the chain. We tell you here how to replace a worn chain and cut the new one to the exact length.

Regular chain maintenance is essential, especially with the cost of the latest one piece cassettes. If you let your chain get too worn, it stretches and increases the wear on the remaining drivetrain components such as cassette and chainrings, if unchecked this creates a significantly more expensive repair bill. To prevent this, it is important to check the length of the chain regularly and replace the chain in a timely manner.

Schlecht gewartete Ketten schalten nicht nur deutlich schlechter, auch der Verschleiß aller Ritzel steigt enorm.

Badly maintained chains not only shift poorly, but also wear the rest of the drivetrain very quickly.




  • Chain Tool
  • Magic Link Remover or Pliers
  • Power Lock pliers or needle nose pliers
  • How to

    Um den Verschleiß der Kette zu bestimmen gibt es verschieden Messleeren mit deren Hilfe die Ausdehnung der Kette bestimmt werden kann.

    To determine the wear of the chain there are many measuring gauges available which can indicate the level of elongation of the chain.

    Sofern ein SRAM Schaltwerk montiert ist, empfiehlt es sich dieses im Cage-Lock Modus zu blockieren, da so die Spannung von der Kette genommen wird, was die Arbeit erleichtert.

    If you are using a SRAM Type2 derailleur, it is recommended to lock the Cage, removing tension from the chain, and making the work easier.

    Im zweiten Schritt wird die alte Kette, wenn kein Kettenschloss vorhanden ist  mit Hilfe eines Kettennieters geöffnet und aus dem Antrieb herausgezogen.

    For the second step, you split the old chain with the chain tool and remove it from the drivetrain.

    Sollte jedoch bereits ein Kettenschloss verbaut sein lässt sich dieses einfach mit einer Kettenschlosszange öffnen. Im Bedarfsfall geht dies auch mit einer Spitzzange.

    However, if a ‘Power Link’ chain lock is installed you can simply open this with a Power Link pliers. If available, this can also be achieved with needle nose pliers.

    Die neue Kette wird nun über das große Kettenblatt sowie das größte Ritzel gezogen, ohne dabei durch das Schaltwerk gefädelt zu werden. Dies ist nötig um die richtige Länge der Kette zu bestimmen.

    The new chain is then pulled over the large chainring and the largest sprocket, without being threaded through the rear derailleur. This is necessary to determine the correct length of the chain.

    For perfect chain length, there are a variety of approaches and opinions, the advice from SRAM is that the chain is split at the overlap of two chain links and 3 rivet pins. Here clearly marked with the arrow.

    For perfect chain length, there are a variety of approaches and opinions, the advice from SRAM is that the chain is split at an overlap of two chain links and 3 rivet pins. Here clearly marked with the arrow.

    Die überschüssigen Kettenglieder können nun mit Hilfe des Kettennieters entfernt werden.

    The excess chain links can now be removed using the chain tool.

    Nun kann die Kette über die Ritzel und durch das Schaltwerk gefädelt werden.

    Now the chain can be threaded over the sprocket and the rear derailleur.

    Ein Kettenschloss erspart das Vernieten der Kette. Beachte das es es sich bei 10- und 11-fach Kettenschlösser um Einmalartikel handelt und diese anders als eine SRAM-Kette eine Laufrichtung aufweisen.

    A Power Link is the most efficient way of joining the chain. Note that 10 – and 11-speed Power Link are not reusable components and the SRAM Power Link has a running direction.

    Dank des Kettenschloss ist das Verschließen ein Kinderspiel. Um das Schloss fest zu arretieren drehen sie es nach oben und üben bei blockierten Hinterrad Druck aufs Pedal aus. Durch den Kettenzug wird das Schloss dann verriegelt.

    To join a chain with a Power Link is pretty easy. Just partly join the Power Link and wind to the top position between the cassette and chainrings. Hold the rear brake and push the crank down. You will feel and hear a click as the Power Link snaps together.

    The final step is to ensure that the chain has enough length to work with the suspension action of your bike. There are some frame suspension designs (single pivots especially) that when they reach full compression, result in some chain growth (increased distance between the cassette and chainring). To ensure that your chain is the correct length, shift the chain onto the largest cassette sprocket and the largest chain ring, then fully deflate the rear shock spring, and push the bike gently down to bottom-out the rear suspension. If you watch the chain you will see there will be some small level of chain growth which is compensated for by the spring in the rear derailleur. You should be able to cycle the suspension through ALL its travel without the chain becoming too tight! If the chain becomes rigid BEFORE the suspension reaches the extreme of its travel you will have to add some links or you will risk damage to your bike and gears on big hits!

    Tips & Tricks:

    • SRAM chains and Shimano chains usually have a direction.
    • Check the orientation before mounting the Power Link.
    • 10- and 11-speed Power Links are single use items.

    We continue next Monday with the next exciting topic for your bike!

    Picutres: Christoph Bayer Words: Christoph Bayer / Trevor Worsey

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