My bicycle currently has poor chainring/rear sprocket alignment (as in the chain at the front is more than a chain's width from the chain at the rear). I'm wondering what the procedure is to correct this alignment, because currently riding the bike damages the chain. (I have already moved the wheel as far across as i can using washers)

  • 2
    As far a I know, the only way to change the alignment on most bikes is by switching out the bottom bracket for a different spindle length.
    – Kibbee
    Jan 29, 2015 at 12:04
  • Are there spaces on your bottom bracket?
    – Mark W
    Jan 29, 2015 at 12:10

7 Answers 7


To adjust chainline, you can:

At the back

  • use spacers between the hub and cog

At the front

  • use a longer/shorter bb spindle (as Kibbee says)
  • use spacers on the bb cups (as Mark W says)
  • use chainring washers (and likely different bolts) to adjust the position of the chainring on the crank

I'm struggling to think of any more options.

The only other thing I could think of is that if you do end up with an imperfect chainline, despite your every effort, then a 3/32" chain will be more forgiving than a 1/8" chain. 3/32" chains are designed to be able to traverse cassettes so have a little more flexibility in them.

  • 1
    The other thing I would add to this is to make sure that your chain isn't over tightened. Chains typically have a little flex in them over the length of the chainstay.
    – Dan
    Jan 30, 2015 at 20:42
  • 1
    The only thing I would add is that differ chain ring model/manufacturers can have different chainlines as well, which can be used to tweak the final chainline.
    – Rider_X
    Jun 23, 2015 at 16:03
  • Indeed, different cranksets produce a different chainline. In my experience, square taper generic cranksets let the spindle go in a different amount. After that, any chankset (generic or not) may have been built with a different "chainring offset"
    – Jahaziel
    Mar 15, 2021 at 17:00

Rather than eyeballing, ballparking, or relying on tables, I have found that a ruler is the simplest and most accurate tool for this job. Put the ruler with the zero mark in the middle of the seat tube, and measure the distance to the teeth on the chainring. Then measure the inside diameter of the frame at the rear dropouts where the rear axle goes. Divide that by two, and put a piece of tape on the rear hub right at that distance from the inside of the rear drop out. That's the midline. Now measure from that line to the chain on the rear cog. That's how I used the Single Speed Kit to get the rear cog right on the chain line.


If you are trying to use a multi-speed hub for a single-speed application (out of necessity), you will probably need (in order of correcting the problem):

  1. A freewheel spacer for the freewheel/cog to move it out
  2. Adjusting the axel within the rear hub (where best to put the spacers)

As mentioned, track/single hubs generally have different dimensions than 'road' hubs. Track hubs with a track crankset on a track bike, should all line up closely.

It is just when you are trying to mix one or more of these, that you have to deal with it.

Assuming you are using a multi-speed wheel to fit a single-speed bike:

  1. Adjust the rear wheel axle by moving washers/spacers as much as possible
  2. Use a spacer on the fixed bottom bracket side to move the chainring out. Those will typically be 1/16" or 1/8".
  3. Find a different BB axel.



Based on my experience, determining the chainline based on specifications of the components (BB and Crankset) and a simple math calculation is the best approach.

I was having a hard time ballparking the chainline; I then found out that the manufacturer of the crankset I use provides a specification document that describes the recommended spindle length of the BB and the chain line measurement.

To get the spacer adjustment correct, I use a table provided by Surly, The table isn't really specific for Surly spacers but it only works with Shimano hubs. Surly SS kits are expensive, so I recommend purchasing ones from a Taiwanese company that can be found on eBay.


You won't like the price tag on this solution, but to get my single speed bike with a perfect chainline, I used the Surly Single-Speed Kit which has 6 spacers of different widths that let you get things exactly right. The kits run about $40, but you also need a rear hub with the Shimano style cassette mount, such as for a 5-cog cassette on a 10-speed bike.


Slight misalignment is nothing to worry about - bikes with multiple chainrings and sprockets spend a significant part of their lives misaligned, particularly with the modern trend to 1x12 transmissions and we don't worry about it; chains are designed to cope with this. The slight misalignment that you have is more an aesthetic than mechanical issue.

It's not easy to suggest a solution without knowing your current setup - particularly the type of hub you're using. For example, is it a screw-on freewheel or a freehub, what is the current axle spacing, what type of bottom bracket do you have?

  • Hi, welcome to bicycles. You should use a comment if you need to request more information from the poster of the question. As it is, this doesn't actually answer the question that was asked. (I guess "don't worry about it" is kind of an answer, but OP did say they were seeing excessive wear.)
    – DavidW
    Mar 15, 2021 at 3:52
  • Note this question is over 6 years old, and OP never returned, so we're unlikely to see any responses.
    – Criggie
    Mar 15, 2021 at 13:46

You can not. The real problem is the hub being not wide enough. You would need to get a wider hub. Single speed systems have wider hubs.

  • 1
    To quote Arthur Clarke: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." May 17, 2018 at 19:45

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