Chain Joinery – Fixing stiff links

I’m still working on getting everything working smoothly with my old ’93 Specialized Rockhopper, after replacing the chain, cassette, front cranks and sprockets.  To compensate for larger chainrings, I ended up having to add a couple of links to my chain, and I thought I’d pass on a tip.

I have always found it frustrating trying to put chains back together with a chain tool.  I would always start by pushing the rivet all the way back into the link, and almost invariably, the link would end up so stiff I could barely move it.  I could never figure out how to get it loosened up properly.  My chain tool includes a secondary “ramp” for fixing stiff links, but it never seemed to do me any good.  It would spread the link apart a little bit, but the link would remain stiff.  Working the chain back and forth laterally, as recommended on various web sites, didn’t work for me either.  It was very frustrating, until I came up with the following strategy:

  1. Begin reassembling the chain with the chain tool as you normally would, except instead of pushing the rivet all the way into the link, tighten the chain tool only about 1 full turn or so, just so the rivet goes in far enough to hold the link together.
  2. Remove the chain from the tool, and verify that the link moves freely.
  3. Put the chain back in the tool (regular position, not “stiff link” position) and tighten another ¼ to ½ turn.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3, pushing the rivet in just a tiny bit each time, and testing the link, until you feel the link start to stiffen up.
  5. Put the chain into the “stiff link” position on the chain tool.  Usually, this is the position closest to the crank handle.  Tighten handle around ¼ turn, just enough to slightly spread the link.  Never turn the handle more than ¼ turn in this position, or you may distort the link.
  6. Remove tool from chain.  Check to make sure the link has loosened up.
  7. Continue to push the rivet into the link little by little, checking the link for tightness each time (steps 2-3), and loosening it up as needed (steps 5-6), until the rivet is all the way in the link.  That should do it!

I’ve had great success with this method.  The trick is to keep the link loose by making small, gradual adjustments, rather than trying to free the link up after the rivet has been inserted all the way.  Good luck and happy riding.