What Happens If MTB Chain Is Too Long? (Descriptive Guide For 2023)

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If you’ve ever ridden your mountain bike with an excessively long chain, you may already know what happens if MTB chain is too long and that it is not at all a pleasant experience.

But, if you’ve just found out that your MTB chain is too long and wonder what it means to your riding experience, I will explain it to you.

In this article, we will also discuss the reasons why your chain may be long and other things that can be helpful in dealing with the wrong chain length.

So, What Happens When MTB Chain Is Too Long? (3 Things)

Long MTB Chains
Too Long Mountain Bike Chain

Below mentioned are three things that are impacted by the mountain bike chains being too long.

1. Less riding efficiency:

A longer chain is less efficient than one which is of appropriate length.

Riding your mountain bike with a longer chain results in wasting pedaling and power.

2. Interruption in shifting gear:

Shifting gears with a longer MTB chain could be cumbersome.

The chances of the chain getting caught between the spokes of the wheel and your bike are higher.

When this happens while changing gears, it could be detrimental to your bike.

3. Causes discomfort and danger while riding:

Having a long chain hit your feet or legs while you go into the trails, does not at all give you a comfortable experience.

This could also be dangerous sometimes.

Hence, always make sure that the chain length is not too long- causing it to flap around.

4 Reasons Why MTB Chains Can Be Long

What happens if MTB chain is very long
Too Long MTB Chain

Now you know what happens if the MTB chain is too long. But what are the causes for an excessively long MTB chain?

Let’s find out.

1. Wrong size:

So you have bought a new chain, and unfortunately, it’s the wrong size?

Do not worry.

Just keep it next to your old chain and remove the unwanted links from the new chain to get the desired length.

2. Worn crank teeth:

Sometimes, the chain may seem to be loose when it slips off due to a worn-out crank tooth.

First, inspect whether your mountain bike’s crank teeth are showing signs of wear.

If they do, replace them immediately for better performance.

3. Misaligned derailleurs:

Is the gear shifting noisily? Do your chains fall off the cogs while riding?

Chances are, the front and rear derailleurs are misaligned, and your chain has gotten too long.

Make necessary adjustments to the derailleurs and check if you still find the chain to be too long.

4. Damaged or worn derailleur, chainring & cassette:

If you have had a major fall from your mountain bike, it is possible that your drivetrain components are damaged.

This causes your Mountain bike chain to hang loose.

Check for any symptoms of damage or wear on chainring, derailleur & cassette. Make any necessary replacements if needed to the damaged parts.

The shall help you solve the problem.

How To Delay MTB Chains From Wearing

Excess Mountain Bike Chain Lubrication
Take Care of MTB Chain

Bike chains typically start wearing out after some time of use.

Along with understanding what happens if the MTB chain is too long, it is also essential to gain insight into how to delay the wearing of your MTB chain.

Here are some tips:

  • Regularly check if there is dirt and grime accumulated on the chain. In short, the chain should always be kept clean.
  • Treat your chain with good quality lube as and when the lube starts drying off.
  • Pay close attention to the front and rear derailleur for misalignment.
  • Replace any parts of the drivetrain that shows signs of wear or damage.

Why & How Do You Shorten A Long MTB Chain

Determining The Internal Width of MTB Chains
Shorten MTB Chain

It is vital to shorten an MTB chain that is too long for comfortable, safe riding.

An MTB Chain slips when the length is longer than required, which is not desirable when you are out on the trails.

You can shorten the chain length with or without the help of a tool.

Following are the steps that can be followed:

1. Check if the chain needs shortening or replacement:

Count 12 links, and check the distance from the first pin to the last. Ideally, the measurement should be 12 inches.

You can consider replacing the chain if the measurement is more than 12 1/8 inches. This phenomenon is called “chain stretch”.

It is the lengthening of the chain as a sign of wear. In this case, shortening should not be an option.

On the other hand, if the distance is correct, and if your bike is an oldie, loosen up the back wheel and pull it back.

This should help fix the extra length.

2. Get your tools ready:

If the problem persists and you want to get rid of the extra length, you need to first get your universal chain tool ready.

In addition, some chains like Shimano and Campagnolo require a tool to reassemble as well. So, check whether your chain requires a reassembling tool and keep it handy before you remove any link.

3. Mount the bike on a stand & clean the chain:

It is always good to keep your mountain bike on a stand to make the process easier.

Use biodegradable chain cleaner or isopropyl alcohol on a rag to clean the chain. When the dirt or grease is removed, you will be able to find the master links easily.

4. Spot the master link:

Not all chains have a master link. Check if yours do.

The master link is typically darker than the other links, so spotting them should not be a problem.

It may also consist of the special plate on which protruding pins are inserted.

It may also have one or two oval holes that are oversized when compared to the other pin holes.

Rotate the pedal to get the master link between the front and back gears.

5. Open the master link:

In case your MTB chain has a master link, open it.

While most master links can be removed without a tool, some disposable master links would need a tool.

If your chain does not have a master link at all, you may have to break the chain with the help of a chain tool.

Tip: If you are not sure how to handle your bike’s master link, check its side for the manufacturer’s name and do some research online.

6. Remove links:

Decide the number of links that you need to get rid of.

It is better not to remove too many pins immediately, as reassembling them could get cumbersome.

Instead, remove the links that you have assessed to be extra.

Make sure that the pins are not removed entirely from the plate.

The pins should stay on the outer plate.

7. Reassemble & lube:

With the help of a chain tool, reassemble the chain. Once the process is complete, apply the required amount of superior quality lubricant.

What Is The Standard Chain Length For MTB

When you buy a mountain bike chain, you will notice that there are 116 links on it.

This length would be typically sufficient to connect between the largest cog on the front and the largest on the rear.

Depending on the length needed for your bike, your chain link can be shortened from 116 links by removing the extra links.

In some unique cases, a bike may require more than 116 links.

In such case, an additional chain will have to be our base, and the links from that chain will have to be added to the first one to get the desired length.

How To Determine Chain Length On Full Suspension MTBs

Determine Chain Length On Full Suspension MTBs
Full Suspension MTB Cain

Chain growth is the term used to denote the distance between the rear axle lengthening and the bottom bracket as the bike performs its travel.

This is important for a full suspension bike in order to determine the length required for the chain.

However, the right length measurement can only be achieved when the bike is completely compressed, and the chain is in the large-large cog-chain ring combination.

Large-Large Chain Length Setup

Even though it is not recommended for most bikes to ride in a large cog- large ring combination, the length of the chain is determined in this setup. Many find this confusing.

In fact, this setup for chain length determination is followed as a precaution against accidental gear changes into large- large combinations.

Some riders do not opt for this chain setup as they find it unnecessary and to get more chain tension with a shorter length.

However, from a safety point of view, this is not at all recommended.

8 Common FAQs About Long MTB Chains

1. What is a Factory Chain Length of an MTB?

A factory chain length refers to the length of your new mountain bike chain that is freshly shipped by the manufacturer.

It may not always be the right length for your bike. Since in most cases, they are much longer than the required length.

Hence, it is required to double-check before you start riding with the chain with its default length.

2. Does derailleur affect chain length?

The chain length for every derailleur could be different, even if you have upgraded to a different model of the same brand.

So, always check the chain length if you have a new derailleur.

3. Can you shorten an MTB chain?

An MTB chain that is too long to the extent that it drops while riding, or flaps around, can be shortened with the help of a chain tool.

However, you have to first remove the extra links and then reassemble the chain.

While removing the links, one must be cautious not to pull out the pin completely from its outer plate,

Since, it could get difficult to reassemble the links when removed completely from the mountain bike chain.

4. Is a longer MTB chain stronger?

The recommended length of the chain is just sufficient to ride a mountain bike comfortably.

A longer MTB chain would not make it stronger; instead, it may cause problems while riding on the trail.

6. Do I need a longer chain for a bigger cassette?

Yes, a bigger cassette would require a longer mountain bike chain.

7. Does MTB chain stretch as they wear?

Mountain bike chains do not stretch as they wear, but the length increases.

However, this elongation is referred to as a “chain stretch.”

Technically, this happens when the pins holding the links start to wear out, loosening the links.

The loosened links that are no longer snugged onto the pins cause the entire chain length to increase.

Chain stretch is the reason why chain slips happen most of the time.

8. What is the best practice for checking for MTB wear?

It is best to check your chain’s wear using a chain wear checking tool.

This will help you understand precisely whether it is time to replace your chain or not.

Final Words

I hope this article on what happens if MTB chain is too long, has given you the information you were looking for regarding all aspects of oversized MTB chains.

P.S. If you found this guide to be resources, check out our detailed guides on how to choose a right chain, how to remove & lube them like a pro and prevent their slippage. Ensure you have a comfortable bike ride.

Also check out our similar guide about short MTB chains.

Happy Riding 🙂

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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.