How to Cut a New Bike Chain Without a Tool

Written by justin wash
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How to Cut a New Bike Chain Without a Tool
If your chain isn't sized correctly, it will likely fall off while you are riding. (boy repairs the bicycle image by Stepanov from

Bicycle chains are often sold with a "master link" that allows for the breaking and reconnecting of a chain link on the fly. However, most chains, even with this functionality, need to be cut down to size before being installed on a bike. This is a difficult process without an expensive chain tool, but it can be done, and can save you some time and money over taking your bike to the shop or purchasing a chain tool for a single use.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Hammer
  • Small punch
  • Small nut
  • Master link

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  1. 1

    Wrap the new chain around the small front cog and smallest rear cog of your bike. Route the chain through the rear derailleur pulleys, then pull the two ends of the chain together until there is about one inch between the chain and the upper pulley. Make note, then, of how many links you need to remove to make the chain exactly this length.

  2. 2

    Count out the number of links noted previously from one end of the chain. Mark the link at which you wish to break the chain using a marker or a pencil so you don't lose your place. Set the pin of this link over a small nut or similar object. Be sure there is enough open space beneath the pin that you can push it out of the chain without interference.

  3. 3

    Align a small punch with the pin of the chain that sits directly over the nut. Hold the punch steady and hit it forcefully with a hammer to push the pin out of the chain. This may take a few tries, so be careful and be patient. When the pin is pushed at least halfway out of the chain, you may separate the two pieces.

  4. 4

    Wrap the chain around the small sprockets and derailleur pulleys of your bike once more. This time, use a master link -- usually supplied with new chains -- to attach one end of the chain to the other. Take your bike out for a ride and shift through all the gears to be certain everything works properly.

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