My chain broke and in a moment of silliness (I was cold wet and slightly annoyed) I threw the broken one away before thinking about measuring the new one.

Is there a guide to getting the chain length/tension correct ?

It's an 8 speed road bike (Shimano Sora back, double ring front)

  • Note for people who may have found this question while trying to figure out what length chain they need. Most of you won't have thrown away the old chain, so the usual answer is to buy a new chain (they're a standard length) and use a chain tool to reduce its length to match the one you're replacing. (Or just get your local bike shop to do the whole thing for you.) Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


Put the chain around the big-big gears without threading it through the derailleur. Have the chain overlap by one link. Now with that length thread it through the derailleur.


  • How did I miss that - I checked the great prophet sheldon's site. My Zinn book talked about the one extra link - but implied that a link was half of the link-pair that the sheldon picture shows.
    – mgb
    Commented Dec 14, 2010 at 16:50
  • Most people consider that 2 links, including Shimano.
    – zenbike
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 14:38
  • @zenbike So the correct overlap is two half-links or one full-link (depending on which definition of link you use), right?
    – amcnabb
    Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 19:11
  • One outer and one inner link. If you consider a single inner or outer to be 'one link' you cannot connect the chain. you'd have to use a special 'half link' to do so. Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 21:51
  • Yes, that's correct.
    – zenbike
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 16:46

Starting from a new split chain:

Thread chain onto largest chain ring and largest cassette sprocket. Either thread through front derailleur or move it out of the way. Do not thread chain through rear derailleur.

On the chainring, find the links that will join to form the shortest possible chain that can be connected. Add 1 inch of chain to that (two rivets or 1 inner link and 1 outer plate link).

If using a quick-link, remember that takes the place of one outer plate link.

See video from Park Tool below.

Bonus content: why this is the correct chain length:

Modern derailleurs can accommodate the chain running from the chainring to sprockets in almost a straight line. The shortest chain that fits over the largest chainring and sprocket and that can run through the derailleur is desired.

This is because:

  • Eliminates rick of breaking chain or derailleur if largest ring and sprocket are selected.
  • Maximizes chain tension and the slack that the derailleur can take up, enabling the largest spread of gear ratios.

The two extra links added provide enough slack for the chain to run through the rear derailleur.

If one had a system where the derailleurs could be prevented from selecting the largest chainring and n largest cassette sprockets at the same time - which could be programmed into Di2 or eTap systems - then the chain could be sized for the large chainring and n-1th largest sprocket.

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