How to tighten a single speed bike chain in 8 easy steps

Wondering how to tighten a bike chain on a single speed bike? Confused as to whether you’ve got the tension right?

Then scroll down to find out everything you need to know.

 Bike Crankset of Steed Bike Woodland Green Single Speed Bike

What is the correct tension for a single speed bike chain?

When you tighten the bike chain on a single speed or fixie bike, you’re looking for a sweet spot. Not too tight. And not too slack.

Loose chains can slip off mid-ride. They also make your pedalling less efficient. You’ll be putting in the same amount of effort but you won’t be travelling as far.

A chain that is too tight also causes problems. It creates unnecessary friction, which means wasted energy and excessive wear and tear on bike parts.

So how do you know when the chain tension on your fixie is just right?

You should be able to move the chain up and down by about half an inch (just over a centimetre). This is the perfect chain tension for any single speed bike.

close up of three Single speed bike front wheels

When should you tighten the bike chain on a single speed bike?  

If your chain regularly slips off when you’re riding your bike, it’s definitely time to tighten things up.

It’s also worth remembering that, in new bikes, components give a little once they’re in use.

That’s why it’s a good idea to tighten the chain on a single speed bike after you’ve been riding it for around six weeks.

What tools do you need to tighten the chain on a single speed bike?

You don’t need any complicated equipment to tighten the chain on a single speed bike. You probably already have everything you need in your bike tool kit.

A spanner is essential.

You may also like to use gloves to keep your hands clean. And some chain lubricant to ensure everything is moving smoothly once you’re done.

A bike stand will also come in handy. But it’s not a must-have.

Yellow single speed bike Steed Bike

How to tighten a bike chain on a single speed

Tightening a bike chain on a single speed bike is one of the easiest maintenance jobs you can do. Just follow these simple steps.

1. Flip your bike

Turn your bike upside down and place it on a bike stand (if you have one). If not, rest your bike on its seat and handlebars, with wheels in the air. This gives you access to the rear tyre.  

2. Loosen the axle nuts

Using the right-sized spanner, loosen the axle nuts that hold your rear bike tyre in place. Remember to turn anti-clockwise.

You don’t need to remove the axle nuts completely. You just need to loosen them enough so that you can adjust your rear tyre.

3. Adjust the rear wheel

Stand at the back of the bike. Pull the wheel towards you to increase tension in the chain. Do this slowly and carefully to prevent any damage to the chain or tyre.

4. Tighten the axle nuts

When you feel that your chain is tight enough, use the spanner to tighten the axle nuts a little.

Keep an eye on your wheel during this step. You need to make sure that your tyre stays straight and centred as you tighten the nuts.

5. Test chain tension

Now you need to check whether you’ve achieved the correct tension. Remember, you should be able to move the chain about half an inch up and down.  

6. Spin the wheels

The chainring and the back sprocket don’t tend to be perfect circles. This means that chain tension will vary as the cranks spin.

As another tension test, spin your wheels to check that the chain doesn’t become too tight or too slack at any point in its rotation.

7. Tighten everything back up

If you’re not happy with the tension, loosen the axle nuts again and adjust. But if you’re confident you’ve hit the chain tension sweet spot, then tighten axle nuts fully. 

8. Test your bike

Before you head out on a long ride, it makes sense to test your bike and its chain tension. So flip your bike the right way up and take your fixie for a quick spin around the block.

You should find that your ride is much better than it was before.

Want more single speed bike maintenance tips? Head to the Steed Bikes blog to get your fill.

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