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How Tight Should a Bike Chain Be

how tight should a bike chain be

Many bike owners are clueless about the right fitting when it comes to the tightness of the bike chain. In fact, how tight should a bike chain be is regularly asked by bikers because many of them do not know the exact tightness that a chain should be in the bike. Only when a biker is experiencing a loose chain or the opposite of it that they will realize the importance of having the right tightness of the bike chain.

The rule of the thumb says that the exact tightness of a chain will only let you move for about half an inch. Now, if the chain is too loose, then you need to tighten it. If you cannot even move the chain, then it is too tight, and it needs to be loosened. In this post, we will be dealing with the exact tightness of a bike chain and how it should be done the right way.

How Tight Should a Bike Chain Be?

The tightness of the bike should neither be tight or loose. It should be just right. Depending on the bike, if you are using a multi-speed bike with a derailleur, the tightness of the bike chain should not bother you. The reason is the presence of the derailleur springs, which will assist in keeping the chain tightened correctly. So, no need to worry about if the bike chain is too tight or too loose. Also, those bike frames which are made to have a derailleur do not even allow for chain tension adjustment.

However, if you own a single-speed bike, the situation is different because the chain should be tightened properly. For example, if your bike’s chain is too loose, it tends to jump off the sprocket when hitting on a bump. Meanwhile, it can cause some friction, additional wear, and excessive force on the different parts if it is too tight. As a bike owner, it is essential for you that these three situations will not happen to your bike chain.

So, how do you tighten the bike chain of a single-speed bike? The standard is half an inch of slack at the center of the bike chain between the sprockets. You should also consider that a new bike chain on new sprockets will have similar tensions all around. But, a worn chain and the word sprockets may cause the bike chain to increase or decrease its tension when it goes around. So, you need to allow some slack when dealing with a worn chain or replace the chain, the sprocket, or even the chainrings that come with it.

In tightening the bike chain, rotating the pedals slowly until the chain is tight should be needed. Then, you can make some adjustments to its tightness. You will need to check the slack; if there is none, then the chain is tight. You will need to loosen while sliding the rear wheel backside so that there is the right amount of slack in the bike chain.

how to tighten mountain bike chain

How to Tighten Mountain Bike Chain

When it comes to tightening a mountain bike chain, you will need some tools to do it. The tools you need to prepare are gloves, a bike stand, lubricant, Allen tool, socket wrench, outlet wrench adapter, and a rag. For the step-by-step process of tightening the mountain bike chain, please check below:

First Step:

The first thing to do is to secure the bicycle in a bike stand for you to check the whole bike’s drivetrain and the other parts that you need to fix. You may also check the bike’s cog and the rear derailleur if they are in excellent shape. The limit screws should also be inspected if they are correctly adjusted. They should not be too tight or too loose.

Second Step:

The next step is to find the derailleur screw, which is usually found at the back of the derailleur. By using the Allen tool, you will need to increase the chain’s tension by rotating the screw in a clockwise position. Please take note that you can decrease the tension if the chain shifting is too hard.

Third Step:

The next step is to access the rear wheel. You will need to lift the release lever on the brakes of your bike. Doing this action will disconnect the hydraulic cable. Then, raise the quick-release lever slowly to let you adjust the rear wheel and make it tight enough for the chain to stretch correctly.

Fourth Step:

In this step, you will need to adjust the rear wheel to improve the chain’s tension so that it stays in place when riding on rocky trails. You can also make some slight adjustments by turning it counterclockwise. But, beware of not overdoing it to prevent the chain from being stressed. A small adjustment is enough then you can shift the gears to check for its tightness. After that, you can now check on your bike chain and see if it has already the right tightness. If not, you can repeat the process again until you achieved your preferred tightness.

Fifth Step:

After doing all the steps above, you can now put everything back. Make sure to return it properly and correctly. Or else, you might accidentally drop your chain or lost your wheel during the right. But honestly, just make sure to rechecked if all the parts are returned properly. Make sure that the quick-release lever is in a downward position while also attaching the shifter cables. The wheels should also be properly aligned that they should not rub the chain or the bike frame while running.


As a biker, it is essential for you to know how tight should a bike chain be. When the bike chain is in the right tension, it works smoothly and will rob off to the other parts of the bike. If it is too loose, the bike chain might fall off, and you might get into an accident. If it is too tight, then it might create some adverse effects on the other components of your bike. For these reasons, you need to learn how to adjust the tightness of your bike chain according to the standard.

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