How to fix a stiff chain link

Quick tips for making your chain run smoothly

The main symptom of a stiff link is that your chain will skip and click every three or four crank revolutions, and the rear mech may flick back and forth too.

This is because the stiff link can’t bend around the chainring(s) and jockey wheels properly. So here are our quick tips for sorting out a stiff link in your chain.

1. Lube your chain

1. Do you need to lubricate your chain?
1. Do you need to lubricate your chain?

First, make sure the problem isn’t due to lack of lubrication.

Hold a rag around the chain and back-pedal the cranks to remove any dirt or water.

Still back-pedalling, apply chain lube liberally to the inner and outer surfaces of the chain. Wipe off any excess.

2. Locate the stiff link

2. Find the stiff link in the chain
2. Find the stiff link in the chain

If there’s still a stiff link, it’s time to find out which one it is.

Back-pedal the cranks while watching the rear mech.

Look for a link that jumps and clicks as it passes over the lower jockey wheel.

3. Fix with a chain tool

3. Loosen with a chain tool
3. Loosen with a chain tool

Once you’ve found the stiff link, there are two ways to loosen it.

If you have a chain tool with two ‘cradles’, place the stiff link over the one closest to the handle.

Turn the handle until the tool’s pin contacts the chain pin and then give it another eighth of a turn.

4. Or loosen by hand

4. Work the stiff link loose by hand if you don't have a chain tool
4. Work the stiff link loose by hand if you don't have a chain tool

If you don’t have a chain tool, hold the chain so that the stiff link is between your hands and at 90 degrees to the next link.

Gently twist the chain back and forth (in the direction it’s not supposed to twist) until the link works loose.

5. Check the link is loosened

5. The link should now run smoothly, but if not, repeat the steps above
5. The link should now run smoothly, but if not, repeat the steps above

Once you’ve loosened the link, move it up and down through its range of motion to check it feels as free as its neighbours.

Repeat the loosening process if necessary.

6. You may need a new chain…

6. If you're unable to fix stiff links a new chain may be in order
6. If you're unable to fix stiff links a new chain may be in order

Back-pedal the chain again to make sure it runs smoothly — you may find there are multiple stiff links to fix.

If you can’t get the chain to stop skipping, it may be time for a new chain. Get advice from your local bike shop if you’re not sure.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Seb Stott

Technical Writer, UK
Seb is a geeky technical writer for BikeRadar, as well as MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines. Seb's background in experimental physics allows him to pick apart what's really going on with mountain bike components. Years of racing downhill, cross-country and enduro have honed a fast and aggressive riding style, so he can really put gear to the test on the trails, too.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep!
  • Current Bikes: Focus Sam 3.0, Kona Process 111, Specialized Enduro 29 Elite
  • Dream Bike: Mondraker Crafty with Boost 29" wheels, a 160mm fork and offset bushings for maximum slackness.
  • Beer of Choice: Buckfast ('Bucky' for short)
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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