Tools Needed To Remove MTB Chain (Updated 2023 Guide)

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I decided to write this article on the tools needed to remove the MTB chain.

I realize that there is a need for an in-depth guide to introduce specialized as well as common household tools which can be used to remove your mountain bike chain.

I’ve tried to make this list as comprehensive as possible. So read on to pick your favorite tool.

Lets dive in to the details!

Specialized Chain Breaker Tool For Mountain Bike

Tools Needed To Remove MTB Chain
MTB Chain Removal Tool

A chain breaker is a special tool needed to remove the MTB chain.

Even though it is a simple tool, sometimes it could fail badly, and you may end up with something that just doesn’t work well.

Here are the things to look for in an efficient chain breaker:

  • It should offer the easiest chain removal solution.
  • A chain breaker should be comfortable to use. 
  • It should be durable. Of course, because you shouldn’t be taking your bike to the mechanic the next time you want to break the chain. 
  • A chain breaker tool should be compatible with your mountain bike chain.
  • The number of sprockets is typically the factor that determines the kind of chain breaker you would need.

How To Use A Chain Tool To Remove MTB Chain

How To use Tools Needed To Remove MTB Chain
How To use Chain Breaker Tool

Follow the four steps below to use the chain breaker tools needed to remove MTB chain.

Step1: Keep it taut

First of all, make sure that the chain on your bike is taut.

Any slack in the MTB chain is not preferred while you break the chain.

Set the chain on the largest cassettes on the front and the rear, and then shift it to the smallest cog on each side to keep it taut.

When you wrap the chain to the derailleur pulley, make sure that the chain is not making any contact with itself.

Step 2: Away from the connecting link:

When you use a chain tool, it is recommended to break the chain away from the location of the connecting rivet.

It is easier to identify connecting rivets of MTB chain, as they appear quite different from the other links.

Step 3: Chain Placement:

Locate the chain tool on the link that you have decided to break.

Place the driving pin in the middle of the rivet head.

Step 4: Breaking/Removing of Chain:

Apply force to turn the handle, and push the rivet out of the front plate and halfway through the rear plate.

Do not remove the rivet altogether. Instead, withdraw the chain tool pin and use your hands to break the chain.

The rivet is partially forced out to enable easy reconnection of the link.

If your chain is worn out and you are planning to replace it with a new MTB chain, you do not have to follow this method; you can quickly force the rivet entirely out of the link.

Household Tools Needed To Remove The MTB Chain

Household Tools Needed To Remove MTB Chain
Household Tools Needed To Remove MTB Chain

Sometimes you might not have a specialized chain breaking tool in hand for the job.

In such case you would have to look for other ways to break/remove your MTB chain.

Below are some household tools that you can resort to:

Hammer And Nails:

A hammer and two nails would be sufficient to break open the chain, provided you use these tools with caution.

Make sure you do not hit your MTB chain too hard.


Thin pliers can help you break a mountain bike chain with a quick link or master link.

Shoe String (For Chains With Master Link):

To remove your master link using shoe string, thread it through two links, keep the end of the strings crossed and pull them down together.

In most cases, this will easily cause the pin to pop up, allowing you to disconnect the chain from the master link.

Bolt Cutters:

In case all you’ve got is a pair of bolt cutters and no other tool in hand, you can use it to cut your chain off.

When To Remove Your Mountain Bike Chain

It is vital to know in what circumstances you will have to remove your MTB chain.

This will help you be ready with the tools needed to remove MTB chain any time you would need to.

Below are some common occasions when you may want to remove your MTB chain:

Deep Cleaning Your Mountain Bike:

There is no question about keeping your mountain bike’s chain clean at all times.

However, if it’s time for deep cleaning, you may want to remove your chain and put your chain in a cleaning solution.

Waxing And Lubing Your Mountain Bike:

Waxing and lubing is a long process that involves cleaning and degreasing the chain, following which the chain is immersed in paraffin wax until it is fully coated and left to dry.

Even though you can use wet lube while the chain is still on the MTB, this process cannot be carried out without removing the chain.

Wearing of Your Mountain Bike:

Mountain bike chains are prone to wear after prolonged use.

When you discover that your bike chain has started wearing off, you must consider removing it and replacing it with a new MTB chain.

Riding your MTB with a worn-out chain may further cause damage to the derailleur and cassette.

Hence, do not delay removing your MTB chain, and you could either use a chain tool or a hammer to break it open.

Common FAQs on MTB Chain Removal With Tools

1. Can you cut a mountain bike chain?

Yes, it is possible to cut your mountain bike chain using bolt cutters.

Follow the steps below:

  • Adjust the cutters in a way that matches the chain’s strength. Typically, bike chains would require the weakest setting.
  • Mark the position where you want to make the cutting.
  • Now, position the cutters over the mark and open the blade to the maximum extent possible.
  • Get the marked part of the chain in between the cutter head.
  • Apply force to break the chain.

2. Do all bike chains have a removable link?

Not all bike chains have a removable link.

Master links or quick links are available only in certain mountain bike chains made by Shimano and SRAM.

3. Why is it essential to replace a worn-out bike chain?

Using a worn-out bike chain leads to chain stretch, leading to gear-shifting issues.

Check for chain slack of up to 1% to decide whether your bike chain needs to be replaced.

The elongation in the chain occurs due to a phenomenon called chain stretch– wherein the chain loosens up as the links and the pins start wearing out.

For a safe and comfortable bike ride, it is essential for you to check wear and tear of your MTB chain and replace it if needed.

4. How do you open a chain loop from your bike?

A chain loop typically happens when you turn your bike upside down, which could be pretty annoying.

To avoid chain loop from happening on your mountain bike, follow the steps below:

  • You must remove the back tire to rectify the chain loop in the upside-down position.
  • Move the loops as far as possible from each other.
  • Lift the loop and even it out on top of the rear derailleur.
  • Take the bike chain around the pedal and leave it on the cogs on the front derailleur.

If this method is too confusing, you can snap a link using your chain tool or thin pliers and reconnect once the loops are evened out. 

Follow this video for an easy guidance.

5. How do you free up a stiff chain link from your mountain bike?

You will know if your mountain bike chain has a stiff link when the chain skips and clicks every 3 to 4 crank revolutions. The rear mech would also flip back and forth.

To free up a stiff chain link from your bike, you must first to identify the stiff link. Once you have identified the rigid chain link, you could either use your hand or a chain tool.

With your hand, you can try twisting it up-down and sideways. If this doesn’t work for you, place the stiff link on the slots that are in close proximity to the turning handle of your chain tool.

The chain tool pin should be threaded against the chain pin about an eighth of a turn.

6. Does a dirty MTB chain slow you down?

When your mountain bike chain gets dirty, there are high chances that it may slow your down.

This happens due to an increased friction as well as loss of power output.

7. How long should a chain be on a mountain bike?

A newly bought mountain bike chain link will have 116 links.

You can get your chain’s optimal length by cutting off the unwanted links from it.

That Is All!

I hope this deep-dive article on the tools needed to remove the MTB chain has helped you understand the different tools and other important aspects related to mountain bike chains.

P.S. If you liked this article, consider checking out our similar resource on how to remove MTB chain without tools.

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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.