Mountain Bike Chain Removal Without A Tool: (New Guide For 2023)

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Taking your mountain bike to a bike shop whenever you want to remove its chain could be daunting.

But is mountain bike chain removal without a tool or professional help really possible?

Yes, it is!

Read on to find the different ways of removing the mountain bike chains without the use of any specialized tool.

How To Remove Mountain Bike Chain With Master Links (Without Any Tool)

Mountain Bike Chain Master Link
Mountain Bike Chain Master Link

Today, most mountain bike chains come with a master link, in which case, removing the chain is an easy affair.

For newbies here, let me explain!

A chain’s master link is a link that can be easily disconnected to remove the bike’s chain.

The master link can be easily distinguished from the rest of the links in the chain.

However, if your bike chain has too much dirt accumulated on it, it could get challenging to find the master link.

In this case, you may have to properly clean the chain of your mountain bike.

On the other hand, it would be easy to spot the master link on a clean chain, as it would appear shinier than the other links.

Once you have identified the master link, use a pair of thin pliers to push and twist the pins, which will pop out and make it easier for you to open the chain.

Types of Master Link

Master links are mainly of three types: Shimano, SRAM, and C-style master links.

Each are explained below:

Shimano Master Link

Opening a Shimano master link can get really confusing for a novice biker however, it is a very simple process.

Once you have identified the quick link or the master link, press the pins on the either side of the link using a thin plier.

The chain should break, and you will be able to remove it from the bike.

If you do not have a pair of pliers, you could use a spare spoke or a piece of a cloth hanger and press the pins down to open it.

However, without a plier, it could get difficult, and you may need a helping hand.

SRAM Master Link

Identifying an SRAM master link could be pretty tricky, as it may look blended in among the other links of your bike’s chain.

You have to look for a rivet that has a gap, unlike the other links. The gap will be present on both the sides.

You can thread in a shoelace through either side of the master link, cross the two ends, and pull it down with all force.

Repeat this step until you get it right.

This should open the link and help you remove the chain from your mountain bike.

However, if you have a pair of pliers, you can use it too to squeeze open the links from the chain.

If you want to go complete tool free, try the bare-hand method with absolutely nothing to help you.

C-Style Master Link

C-style master links are less common.

All you need is a flathead screwdriver to remove the C-style master links.

With the help of a flathead screwdriver, you can push and slide the C clip off and then pull the second plate off.

Finally, you will be able to use the pins to pull out the piece.

Removing MTB Chain Without A Tool (In Absence of Master Link)

Why Does The Chain Keep Slipping Featured Image
MTB Chain Removal Without Master Link

Not all MTB chains have master links.

And if yours don’t have one, be prepared to get a bit annoyed with the whole process.

You would need a small hammer, a nut, and a thin nail to break your chain.

For mountain bike chain removal without a tool (chain tool) first, keep the side of the chain on a block of soft wood.

Now place the nail on the center of the pin and tap using the hammer in a way that it does not impact the pin.

Keep tapping till the pin pops out of the top layer of the link.

When you begin to move the pin, place a tiny nut underneath the chain with the pin and the hole in the middle.

Gently tap away, ensuring that the pin pulls away from the centerpiece but not the bottom layer.

At this time, the links should have moved apart.

FAQs About Mountain Bike Chain Removal Without A Tool

1. Where should the chain be on a mountain bike?

When you place your Shimano chain on the mountain bike, make sure that the logo is facing upwards and upright.

With most other brands, you don’t have to worry about this.

To thread the chain, place one end of the chain in the first cog of the front derailleur.

Next, pull the chain towards the back derailleur, give enough slack, and securely place it on the smallest cog.

Now pull the same end of the chain down through the small piece and then through the last tiny piece of the cog that hangs down on the derailleur.

This last threading should form an “S” shape.

2. Do all mountain bike chains have master links?

No, all mountain bike chains do not have master links.

However, famous brands like Shimano, SRAM, and KMC now have master links, which makes the removal and reconnecting of chains easier.

Master links are also known as quick-release links.

3. How do you open the master link on a bike chain?

There are many ways to open the master link on a mountain bike chain.

You can easily open it using a chain removal tool which is readily available online, or you can use DIY tools if you don’t have one exclusively made for the purpose.

For instance, an aluminum cloth hanger, which is cut to form a thong-like shape, can be used to simultaneously press both links to open.

However, once open, you may not be able to reuse the master pin.

In fact, some brands offer reusable master link pins, while some don’t.

4. Can you reuse a Shimano quick link?

Shimano suggests not to reuse its quick link, which means it has to be replaced with a fresh one once you open it.

This is to make sure that the link does not malfunction, causing the chain to snap while you are on the trail.

However, riders typically use their gut feeling, looking at the condition of the quick link, to decide whether to reuse it or not.

If you decide to reuse the quick link, make sure that there isn’t much resistance while opening or closing the link.

It is also recommended to stop reusing the quick link after 2-3 uses.

5. How many times can I use a quick link?

Typically, quick links are meant for one-time use.

However, most riders use it for 2-3 times.

Depending on the condition of the quick link and your confidence level, you have to arrive at a conclusion of using or reusing the quick link.

6. How do I know if my mountain bike chain is directional?

It is easy to find out whether your mountain bike chain is directional.

Simply look for any logo that is embossed on only one side of your mountain bike chain.

The side with the logo should be facing away from the bike.

It is essential to read the instruction manual that comes along with the new chain.

7. Does the direction of the chain matter for your mountain bike?

Some popular mountain bike chain brands are directional, while some others are not.

So, for example, if there is a logo embossed on one side, it would typically be directional, and you have to make sure that it faces out towards you when placed on your bike.

8. Can I use a hammer to break open the Shimano master link?

Suppose you don’t have a pair of pliers or any other materials, such as a cloth hanger or a shoestring.

In that case, you can consider using a hammer to break open your mountain bike’s master link.

9. Can I have more than one master link on my mountain bike chain?

There is no harm in having more than one master link on your mountain bike chain.

Just make sure that both the chain and the master links are unworn.

In addition, it is recommended that the master links are placed at a distance of at least 10 links from each other to ensure the smooth functioning of the chain.

When placed nearby, they could cause a ripple effect, leading to difficulty in shifting or chain twisting, all of which could hamper the flow of the chain.

10. What is a chain tool? Is it worth it?

A chain tool is used to break and mend back a mountain bike chain.

Using a tool makes the process of breaking a chain without a master link easier.

However, if you do not have a chain tool in hand, you can resort to other ways of removing the chain, as mentioned in the article.

That’s A Wrap!

I hope you now have a thorough understanding of mountain bike chain removal without a tool.

Be careful not to bend your plates while removing the chain using household tools like hammers and pliers.

P.S. Hopefully you found this content resourceful if so, please consider reviewing our in-depth guide to how to remove MTB chain with tools.

Moreover, also check our deep dives on short and long mountain bike chains as well as how to oil your MTB chain like a pro.

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Team Biking KnowHow

Rohan runs Biking KnowHow along with his team. Rohan has been a mountain biker since 2005. His mission is to simplify mountain biking for everyone. All Biking KnowHow content piece is thoroughly fact-checked. Our content is backed up with leading research and inputs from expert cyclists.