How to Break a Bike Chain in 5 Different Ways?

Every time you change your bike’s cassette or freewheel, you’ll need to change your chain as well. Sometimes chains wear down and some links become stiff, these stiff links make pedalling and propelling the bike harder and can cause damage to the bike as well. For these reasons sometimes we need to break or unlink our bike chains.

How to break a bike chain using a chain removal tool?Here are the tools you’ll need to break a bike chain:

  • Chain removal tool
  • A rag

This is the easiest way to remove your bike chain without causing damage to the rest of your chain.

Follow these steps to disconnect a link from your chain:

  • Step-1: Turn the handle of your tool counter-clockwise to unwind it.
  • Step-2: Place the chain link you want to remove in the outermost slot of the tool, furthest from the handle.
  • Step-3: Turn the handle in clockwise direction to wind the tool back up. Keep turning until you feel slight resistance from the chain rivet.
  • Step-4: Grab the chain link and twist it gently so that the link comes off. The rivet connecting both links should still be connected to the chain.
  • Step-5: Take a new chain with an open link and place the rivet of the previously disconnected link in its joint.
  • Step-6: Place the newly joined links in the tool once again. Make sure the protruding end of the rivet is placed towards the tool’s rivet so it can be pressed into the link.
  • Step-7: Turn the tool’s handle once again until the rivet is inserted into the link and faces resistance on the opposite side.

Once you remove the chain from the tool, the rivet should be protruding equally from both sides of the link.

For a clearer understanding you can refer to this video.

How to break a bike chain without using a chain tool?

Sometimes you may not have the chain remover tool with you. Maybe you misplaced it, or you can’t buy one. No matter what the case, let’s just assume you don’t have one on you in your time of need.

What shall we do in this case? Well, we’ll just have to look at some alternate ways of breaking a bike chain.

How to break a bike chain with pliers?

If you don’t have the chain removal tool, you can use a pair of pliers which should be easy enough to find in some corner of your house or any nearby automobile shop.
If your chain has a quick release link, use this method with pliers to cut it:

Step-1: Remove the chain from the crankset

The tension on the chain link may cause damage to the chain or the other bike parts if it is not removed. Carefully remove the chain from the crankset and hold it separately.

First pull the chain taut so you can observe all the links. Here’s how to identify the quick
release link:

The link may have different coloured unique side plates on both sides.
The quick release link may be embossed with an arrow which points towards the chain loop.

Step-3: Position the pliers

Position the pliers’ teeth on each side of the quick release link and make sure the grip is secure before pushing the pliers. Keep pushing till the link is squeezed and broken. Remove the broken chain link. The original rivet can be used unless it is too damaged.
Breaking the master link using wires:

If you have any old wire or cable lying around, you can use it to break the chain easily without causing too much damage to the nearby chains.

Tools you’ll need

  • A piece of wire or old cable
  • A pair of regular pliers

Follow these steps to break a bike chain master link:

  • Remove the chain from the crankset and pull it tight so all the links are visible clearly.
  • Find the master link or quick release link on the chain. It should be of a different colour from the other links or may have an arrow on it.
  • Thread the wire or cable through the gaps between both chain links on both sides and twist the ends together using a pair of pliers.
  • Keep twisting the wire with the pliers until the rivet is displaced and the link comes off.

In case you don’t have a pair of pliers around, there is another way to get your chain links disconnected. This method will work even if your bike chain doesn’t have a quick release link.
Grab a pair of bolt cutters, you may have one in your garage or in any corner of your house. You can also borrow one from a hardware shop nearby or an automobile store.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Bolt cutters.
  • A pair of safety gloves
  • A marking pen
  • A bolt adjusting wrench (optional)

Here’s how you break a chain link using a bolt cutter:

Step-1: Readjust the Bolt Cutters’ Grip

Many bolt cutters come with adjustable bolts which can be used to control their strength. Use a wrench or the bolt to screw it to the right tightness. The weakest strength may work best.

Step-2: Secure the Chain

It is better to secure the chain or clamp it tight using any extra tools to avoid shifting when cutting. You’re less likely to miss your mark this way.

Use a sharpie or pen to mark the chain link you want to cut to make sure you don’t take off the wrong link.

Step-4: Position the Bolt Cutters

Open up the bolt cutters as wide as possible and position it on the marked link. Push the bolt cutters closed and apply force until the link is broken. Remove the broken link and rivet.
This method may not be as clean as the others and may cause damage to other parts.

How to break a chain using a hammer?

Tools you’ll need

i) A regular use hammer
ii) A pointed tool (nails, pins etc.)
iii) Any bolt socket with a hole in the middle
iv) A pair of gloves for safety.

  • Follow these steps to break the chain using a hammer:
  • Position the chain link on the socket cavity and hold it securely in place.
  • Grab the pointed tool and place it carefully on the link you want to dislodge. Make sure the tip of the tool is properly touching only the rivet of the chain link.
  • Grab the hammer and tap the top of the pointed tool until the rivet comes out of the other end. (Make sure you’re wearing the safety gloves before operating with a hammer. We wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself!

Using a hammer to break your chain link may be a little risky as you can damage the other parts of the chain or the bike parts. You may even get hurt.

Now all these different methods should suffice if you want to break your chain, be it to get it replaced, changed, or coloured. And you also know how to break a bike chain without a chain breaker!


All this talk on how to break your chain links has probably gotten your bike chain quivering in fear. Make sure to take care of your chain as well so it doesn’t need to be replaced too often or doesn’t break unceremoniously. Clean your chains regularly, use grease to make sure all the parts are running well. Check on the cassette/freewheel as well as they are also linked to your chain’s wellbeing.

All your bike parts need proper attention and maintenance for them to work properly. Take some time to check on all your bike parts regularly and see if everything is running smoothly!

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