How to fix a broken chain

Don't let a snapped or damaged link ruin your day

If you've snapped a chain or your chain is jumping, follow our steps below for replacing the affected chain link.

You'll need (depending on chain):

  • Chain hanger/bent spoke
  • Chain tool
  • New chain link

Step 1

Step 1. Identify the issue
Step 1. Identify the issue

If your chain has snapped, it’ll be pretty obvious where the broken link is. If it’s just skipping, you’ll need to identify the damaged link.

Back-pedal the cranks and when the offending link passes over the rear mech’s jockey wheels the chain will jump.

Step 2

Step 2. Remove chain tension
Step 2. Remove chain tension

Modern SRAM mechs have a ‘Cage Lock’ to take the tension out of the chain. On other mechs, you’ll need to use a chain hanger/bent spoke to hold the chain ends together, with some overlap (switch the clutch off first on Shimano Shadow Plus mechs).

Step 3a

Step 3a: Remove the broken link
Step 3a: Remove the broken link

If you have a master link (or quick link), ensure that the broken link is on the upper section of chain (above the chainstay). Then use a chain tool to push out the pin holding the broken outer link to the next inner link (turning it clockwise).

Remove the chain tool and the broken link.

Step 3b

Step 3b: Retension the chain
Step 3b: Retension the chain

Attach a master link plate to each end of the chain, ensuring that they face in opposite directions. Push them together until they lock.

Put weight on the forward pedal while holding the rear wheel still. This should tension the chain and snap the master link into place.

Step 4a

Step 4a: Remove the broken link if the chain doesn't have a master link
Step 4a: Remove the broken link if the chain doesn't have a master link

If you don’t have a master link, you’ll need to remove the broken link and rejoin the chain.

Ensure that the broken link is on the lower section of chain (below the chainstay). Use the Cage Lock or a chain hanger to de-tension the chain, so that the ends hang down.

Step 4b

Step 4b: find the next undamaged outer link
Step 4b: find the next undamaged outer link

On the end with the broken link, find the next undamaged outer link and use a chain tool to push the nearest pin just far enough (clockwise) so the inner link can be removed. (On a skipping chain, first break it by pushing one pin of the damaged link fully out.)

Step 4c

Step 4c: align the link
Step 4c: align the link

Align the inner link at the other end of the broken chain with the pin you’ve just pushed through the outer link.

Use the chain tool to push the pin back through the new link until it’s almost flush. If the link is stiff, wiggle it from side to side until it moves freely.

Note that reusing an existing pin is fine to get you home but is not recommended as a permanent fix with modern, high performance chains. If in doubt, always adhere to manufacturer guidelines as chain failure can lead to injury.

What's a master link?

Master link
Master link

Chains consist of pairs of inner and outer plates, joined with pins. A master link takes the place of a pair of outer plates and can be fitted easily by hand, which is great for fast trailside fixes.

Check out our video on changing chain links on Shimano, SRAM and KMC chains below.

Don't let a snapped chain end your ride
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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