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How to Untangle a Bike Chain? – 2 Simplest Methods

Written by Gary Johnson / Fact checked by Henry Speciale

how to untangle a bike chain

You could encounter many bicycle problems, but seeing knotted bike chains inexplicably stuck together is a strange sight that may leave you confused. Along with many other questions, you’ll ask yourself how to untangle a bike chain.

We’ll take a look at how to fix a tangled bike chain using two methods and go through each process step by step. The chain may look like a mess, but rest assured that it is far from unfixable. Let’s get started.

What You’ll Need

1st Method – Untangle by hand

We can consider this method the best way to deal with tangled chains because we won’t need specialized tools for it.

Step 1: Bike Preparation


First, take the back wheel off the drivetrain. Removing the rear wheel should be a rather straightforward process:

Switch to the hardest gear (or the smallest cog).

  • Flip the lever on your rear brakes to give the wheel more clearance.
  • Use the quick release to free the wheel.
  • Raise the frame with one hand and move the derailleur with the other in the opposite direction, and the wheel is off.

This will be much easier if you have a quick-release rear wheel; however, you can still unscrew the skewer on the back wheel to remove it. A road bike is more likely to have quick releases, but mountain bikes can also have them.

Turn the bike upside down with it resting on the saddle and handlebars. This allows us to work on the chain and untangle it. Bikes with hydraulic disc brakes might get squishy brakes if left upside-down for too long, so flip it right side up immediately after you’re done.

Step 2: Roll the tangled sections

A proven way to unkink a bike chain is to work on widening the loops; while the entanglement may look complicated, working on them in this way will be effective. This works whether it is for untangling chainsaw chain or a BMX bike chain.

Use your hand to roll and widen the tangled loop until it reaches the side. If there are two knots, for instance, then roll one toward the chainring and another toward the rear derailleur.

Step 3: Loop over the derailleur and chainring

Bring the widened loop over the chainring or derailleur to straighten it out. You may have to further widen the loop, especially for the chainring, due to its size.

Another thing to look out for is the position of the pedal and crank arm, which you will need to turn and adjust to allow the chain to go over the largest gear and set it properly.

You will notice that by bringing what seems to be the bottom side of the chain to the top of the chainring or derailleur, the entanglement will have been corrected. Bring the bicycle back to a standing position, put the rear wheel back on, and you’re done.

2nd Method – Disconnect the Chain

Another way to untangle the chain is by disconnecting and taking it off the bike. But while it seems easier to work with an open bicycle chain, a tool may be necessary.

Step 1: Separate a bike chain


Look for a quick link (master link) on your chain; you will recognize it due to its different appearance – an elongated slot for pins instead of the usual round one. Unlock this by gently pressing the pliers to apply pressure onto the pins.

If you don’t have pliers, use a chain tool instead. Take one link and place it between the tool slot with the chain pin aligned to the tool’s pin. Slowly twist the knob until the chain pin is almost all the way out. Disconnect the chain, and remove it from the bike.

Step 2: Straighten and Reconnect

Once undone, you are free to straighten the links and properly set them but remember to mind the correct bike chain direction. The side with the logo needs to face out.

Reconnecting the chain with quick links is done by putting the roll onto the slot by hand. Press on the rear brakes, then turn the crank arm to apply pressure and lock the chain tightly in.

For the chain tool, reconnect the separated links by hand; you may need to wiggle it back into place. Put the link on the tool, positioning the protruding pin against the tool pin. Turn the knob slowly until the link is locked in, and that’s all to put a chain on a bike.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the bike chain get tangled up?

The most common cause of a bike chain tangled up is the chain coming off and the top section falling and creating a loop with the bottom. This is prone to happen when the bicycle is turned upside down, such as when it is stored or transported with the rear wheel off.

Another possible reason is that you shift the gear too carelessly. For instance, constantly shifting back and forth from one gear to another can result in a tangled chain, especially for thinner ones.

How do you free up a seized chain?

A seized chain will be stuck because of rust, which you’ll need to remove to free the chain.

Use a degreaser to remove the rust; better yet, remove the chain entirely and soak it in a cleaning solution to try to get it as rust-free as possible. If the rust is too extensive, you won’t have a choice but to take it off to fix it up.

Unfortunately, rusted links will have stretched out, so be sure to check the wear level with a CC-3.2, If necessary, get a replacement. Be sure to apply grease as well before reconnecting it, or you will be facing a seized chain again in no time.

How do you straighten a twisted chain?

Twisted chains are the result of bad shifts and tension , and even a mountain bike chain that is made to withstand more strain can suffer this problem. You can untwist a bike chain section by hand.

  • Identify the twisted link.
  • Slacken the chain so that you can fold it.
  • Bend the chain with the twisted link on top.
  • Push the two sides in opposite directions to correct the twist.

What happens if I keep using a rusted chain?

The most obvious problem with rusty chains is that they can get stiff, making it difficult to use the bike. In the worst case scenario, the chain might even break apart while you’re riding, which can easily result in road accidents. 

In addition, the rusted it becomes, the more it can affect other parts of the bicycle. The damage can be harsh on derailleur and other parts of the drivetrain.


Untangling a bike chain is not too complex; it’s all a matter of knowing a good method of working on it. Now that you know how to untangle a bike chain, don’t let such a sight faze you.

If you’re still having a bit of trouble imagining the process, check out the Youtube video we linked below.

Are you familiar with any bike chain loop fix aside from the two we covered? Tell us about it in the comments section below so that we can all learn more.

Always ride safely.

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