How To Remove a Bike Chain? – 3 Easy Methods

Man using a quick release tool to break a bike chain

Removing the chain from your bike is one of the most important steps in its maintenance. Whether it’s to replace it when it’s too worn or simply to clean it, you’ll find in this article the quick and easy steps to do it yourself.

As a bike mechanic, this is an operation that I perform daily. I’m going to share with you in this article everything I’ve learned from doing it and give you my tips.

For example, being well-installed and working on a stationary and well-maintained bike always facilitates the interventions. For that, I advise you to place your bike in a stable position and in a well-fitted area

In this article, you will find the techniques and tips to disassemble your bike chain with or without tools. 

At first with a master link, then without a quick master, and finally with a Quicklink.

Let’s get started.

3 ways of removing a bike chain

First of all, a little advice. Place your chain on the smallest chainring and the smallest sprocket. This will reduce the tension of the chain. Shift gears gradually by turning the wheel. 

Take off a bike chain with a quick-release/master link

A close up view of a dismounted quick link on a wooden table

A quick release consists of two identical pieces, two plates with a female notch and a male rivet. Easily identifiable on your chain.

Man using a quick release tool to remove a bike chain

Use a quick-release tool (master link pliers) to separate the two plates by pinching the two male rivets of the quick-release. 

If you don’t have this tool, here’s a technique for opening it using a cable and two conventional pliers. Pass the cable outside the two rivets of the masterlink, then use the pliers to pull the ends of the cable in opposite directions.  

Take apart a bike chain without a master link

Chain breaker tool displayed on a wooden table

Use a chain breaker.

To do this, choose any link of the chain, place the chain breaker and screw to push the rivet, and disassociate it from the link. 

Man using a chain breaker to remove a bike chain from a bike

If you do not have a new rivet or quick release for reassembly, push the rivet back in without disengaging it from the outer plate. Although this is not recommended, it can be a temporary solution only.  

Removing a bicycle chain with a Quicklink

Mainly present on chain size  ⅛  (single speed) or ¼  (6-7-8 speed), the Quicklink link consists of 2 parts. A plate with two rivets attached and a slotted plate.

To remove it, you simply bend the slotted plate of the Quicklink link so that the first rivet is released through the slot expansion. Then turn the slotted plate with the second rivet as the center of rotation, slide it and release it through the slot widening.  

How to remove a bike chain without a tool? Is this recommended?

The more you avoid it the better.

Removing your chain without an appropriate tool should be done only in case you are not reusing it. A chain removed or fixed not correctly will probably break while giving the first powered pedaling. In all cases, it would be possible to remove your chain with a power saw or cutting pliers.


Here I have listed a series of questions that many clients ask me.

Are all bicycle chains the same? 

All bicycle chains are different, depending on the type of bike and the number of speeds. Chains for transmission from 6 to 8 speeds are the same. Then all chains get thinner once you add speeds from 9 to 13. In addition, a chain for a single chainring transmission cannot be installed on multiple chainrings (2 or 3) even if the number of speeds is the same. The chain has been designed not to derail. 

Do all bike chains have a master link? 

Not every chain has a master link. In general, it depends on the quality of the bike. If almost all high-end bikes have a master link installed when you purchase them, you will find it less often on cheap ones. 

How to find a Master Link in a chain?

There exist different types of master links with different shapes. But in all cases, they are different from the other link of your chain. Whether you’ll find a slot on at least 1 plate or a larger rivet.

How much does it cost to replace a bike chain?

Depending on the number of speeds you have, the age of your bike and the range of your groupset the price will fluctuate between 5$ and 50$. But you can also find the lightest chain made of titanium such as the Yaban’s for 250$…  

How often should a bike chain be replaced? 

According to the manufacturers, a chain should be changed approximately every 2000 miles. Note that a dirty chain and a non-adjusted gearing reduce drastically its use duration. On another side, a well-maintained chain will live longer. 

How do you know when your bike chain is worn out?  

Because of the friction the chain loose material therefore it extends. So basically to control if your chain is worn out you control the length between the links with a chain wear checker. You’ll always need this tool to control. By the way, It’s the only tool I use while doing a diagnostic. 

When you can see the worn without the wear checker, it’s too late!

Are Shimano, Sram, and Campagnolo chains compatible? 

Once you’ve found the right chain depending on the number of speeds you can install it, whether it’s a Shimano or a Sram gearing. Campagnolo has its own standards. No matter if the chains are made by these fabricants or any other such as KMC, Clarks, Sunrace, and more. Make sure it’s mentioned Shimano/Sram compatibility or Campagnolo compatibility.

What to do next

Removing a bicycle chain has never been easier. Just make sure before you do the operation what type of chain you have and choose the right tools.

Now that you know how to remove a chain, you should know how to put it back on your bike or put on a new one. For that, read our article!

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