How To Put A Bike Chain Back On?

Man installing a bike chain back on

Reinstalling a bicycle chain is a simple action that you will have to do often in your cycling life. You must learn how to do it.

Whether it is to put it in place after a change or a cleaning, 3 methods are possible, they depend on the type of chain you have in your hands.

Having a workshop specialized in bike restoration, I remove and install chains daily. Whether it’s to put them back on after cleaning them or to replace them when they are too worn, the methods to follow are the same.

In this article, you will find the methods and techniques for putting the chain back on your bike whether it is new or removed. You can remount your chain with a classic quick release or Quicklink or by installing a new rivet called a pin.

I always say this, but in order to facilitate the intervention it is essential to work on a fixed and well-maintained bike.

Let’s go.

Tools you need to put a bike chain back on

Depending on the type of chain you wish to use, different tools may or may not be required.

The reassembly of a classic quick-release link can be done without tools by exerting enough tension to position it well. There is also master link pliers that make it easier to close the quick-release link and ensure that it is correctly positioned.

The QuickLink type links do not require any tools.

However, installing a new rivet (pin) cannot be done without a chain breaker or pliers.

close up view of a chain breaker on a wooden table
Chain breaker

How to put a bike chain back on – The 3 methods:

First, position your chain correctly

To start, place the rear derailleur on the smallest sprocket (far right) and on the smallest chainring (left). This will facilitate the installation of the chain due to the reduced tension applied to the derailleurs.

Before closing the chain, it is necessary to respect its direction of rotation, which is often determined by the writings engraved on the chain. These must be visible, i.e. on the right side of the pedaling direction. Some brands do not recommend a direction of rotation.

Now the chain has to follow the right path. To do this, I usually stand in front of the transmission and slide the chain from the top onto the chainrings and then onto the gears.

On one side you have to pass the chain through the fork of the front derailleur and then drop it on the small chainring following the pedaling direction.

Then, drop the other end of the chain to the back of the small sprocket, then to the front of the guide roller, and finally to the back of the tensioner roller. Be careful not to jump the anti-derailment tabs on the rear derailleur. Don’t hesitate to push the derailleur forward to facilitate the sliding of the chain.

Well done, the first step is finished!

Now you have to reassemble the chain with one of the following 3 methods:

#1 – Reassemble the bike chain with a master link.

Close up of a bike chain master link in 2 parts

Using a master link when installing your chain is the easiest and most durable solution. The quick-release link can be installed without tools and can be reused, which offers a nice advantage for future cleaning or disassembly of your chain.

Man placing the 2 part of a masterlink together
Masterlink installed before being clicked and locked in place

Insert the male rivets of the quick link plates into the female links of both ends of the chain, join them, and tighten the chain.

Man locking a master link without tools

If you don’t have master link pliers, place the quick-release on top of the chain and then kick the pedal while locking the wheel. This will close the quick release properly.

#2 – Reassemble the chain with a Quicklink.

Insert the plate into the male rivets of the Quicklink by joining the two female links on the ends of the chain.

Place the slotted plate over one of the two rivets through the expansion, slide it horizontally, make a half-turn with the first rivet as the center of rotation, and then insert the second through the expansion.

The tension of the chain should be sufficient to close the Quicklink. If not, place the Quicklink on the top of the chain and pedal while locking the wheel.

#3 – Reassemble the chain with a pin (new rivet).

Close up of a pin on a wooden table

A pin is an applicator attached to the new rivet to help insert the rivet into the links.

Man reassembling a bike chain
Man putting a bike chain back in place

The ends of your chain should have a thin link on one side and a wide link on the other. Join them and insert the pin through the female part of the wide link and the thin link.

Man placing a new pin in a bike chain
New rivet placed on a chain
Man using a chain breaking to put a new rivet on a bike chain

Install your chain drift and screw it in until the new rivet is fully inserted. You can now use pliers to break off the pin.

Man checking if the new rivet is well installed on a bike chain

If you have kept the old rivet, you can follow the same steps.

To ensure that the new rivet is set, you can hit it with a hammer on a hard surface. It happens that after this maneuver the link slides with difficulty, to overcome this, manually force it sideways with your hand.

Your chain is now reassembled, make sure it has no hard spots, and remember to lubricate it well.

Difference between bikes with or without rear derailleur

There is no major difference between installing a chain on a bike with or without a derailleur. In both cases, it is important to respect its proper routing. This makes installing a chain without a derailleur a little easier.

The only important difference between a bike with or without a derailleur is the length of the chain. It is essential to respect the chain length corresponding to your transmission. Without it, it is impossible to ensure the correct adjustment of the gears.

Find here everything you need to know about bike chain length.


Can a bicycle chain be put on backward?

Although some manufacturers do not recommend a direction of rotation, it is important to check. To find out if your chain is mounted in the correct direction, first, check to see if there is an arrow indicating this. If there is no arrow, the engraving on the links should be placed on the outside.

It is possible that there are engravings on both sides of the links. This means that there is no direction of rotation.

How do you put a bike chain back on a kid’s bike?

Putting a chain on a kid’s bike is no different than putting a chain on an adult bike. The difference will be if the bike has derailleurs or not. This has an impact on the chain length.

How do you put a chain back on a single-speed bike?

The steps for putting a chain back on a single-speed bike are the same as in the article above. It depends on the mounting system you have. The real difference is the chain length.

What happens if a bike chain is too loose?

A slack chain will result in frequent derailments, premature wear and tear, and the risk of breakage. A loose chain is either the result of a bad chain length, wear, and tear or a faulty derailleur. Either way, it needs to be fixed.

What happens if a bicycle chain is too tight?

A chain that is too tight is often linked to a chain that is too short. This results in a loss of efficiency, as the excessive friction will slow down the smoothness of the transmission and consequently the pedaling performance. Very often, the overstressing of the chain causes it to break.


You are now able to put your chain back on by yourself without much difficulty. The most important is to follow the steps, use the right tools and know your equipment.

Before going out again, make sure you have properly lubricated your chain.

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