Easy Way to Tension Your Fixed Gear Chain

Easy Way to Tension Your Fixed Gear Chain

Maintaining proper chain tension is crucial for fixed gear riders. If the chain is too loose, it can be a safety hazard and can also shorten the life of the drivetrain. On the other hand, a chain that is too tight can be less efficient and put unnecessary stress on the drivetrain. In this article, we will provide an easy method for correctly tensioning your fixed gear chain.

Why is Chain Tension Important for Fixed Gear Bikes?

Before we dive into the steps for tensioning your chain, let's take a moment to understand why chain tension is so important for fixed gear bikes.

First and foremost, having a chain that is too loose can be a safety hazard. If the chain falls off while you are riding, it can cause you to lose control of the bike and potentially crash. This is especially risky on a fixed gear bike, as you do not have the option to coast or pedal backwards to slow down or stop.

chain extension adjustment

In addition to being a safety issue, having a loose chain can also shorten the life of your drivetrain. When the chain is not properly tensioned, it can cause the chainring and cog to wear down more quickly. These components are not cheap to replace, so it is in your best interest to keep your chain properly tensioned in order to extend the life of your drivetrain.

On the other hand, having a chain that is too tight can also be problematic. A tight chain can be less efficient, as it requires more force to pedal. This can make riding more difficult and can also put unnecessary stress on the drivetrain components.

With these considerations in mind, it is important to maintain the proper chain tension on your fixed gear bike. Now, let's discuss how to do so.

Step 1: Check the Chain Tension

The first step in tensioning your chain is to check the tension itself. You want about one inch of slack in the chain when you lift it up and down. This rule of thumb has worked well for many riders, but you may prefer a little more or less slack depending on your preference.

To measure the slack in your chain, lift the chain up and down with your hand. You can use a ruler or a tape measure to measure the distance between the highest and lowest points of the chain. Aim for about one inch of slack in both directions.

If you find that your chain is too loose, you will need to tighten it. If it is too tight, you will need to loosen it. In the next step, we will discuss how to make these adjustments.

Step 2: Check the Wheel Alignment

Next, make sure that the wheel is centered in the frame. You can use the chainstay as a reference point to ensure that the wheel is not skewed to one side or the other.

To check the wheel alignment, stand the bike up and look at it from the side. The wheel should be centered between the chainstays and should not be tilted to one side or the other. If the wheel is not centered, you will need to adjust it.

To adjust the wheel alignment, loosen the nuts that hold the wheel in place. Then, using your hands, gently push or pull the wheel into the desired position. Once the wheel is centered, tighten the nuts to hold it in place.

Step 3: Tighten the Wheel Nuts

Once you have the chain tension and wheel alignment adjusted to your liking, it is important to make sure that the nuts holding 

the wheel in place are tightened enough. This will prevent the wheel from slipping when you are riding, which can be especially problematic when climbing hills or sprinting.

To tighten the wheel nuts, use a wrench to turn them clockwise. You will need to apply enough force to secure the wheel in place, but be careful not to overtighten the nuts, as this can strip the threads or cause other damage.

Step 4: Make Adjustments as Necessary

Once you have checked all three of these points, take the bike for a test ride to see how it feels. If the chain is still too loose or too tight, make the necessary adjustments and test ride again until you achieve the desired level of tension.

It is also a good idea to check and adjust the chain tension regularly to ensure that it stays in good condition. This can be done as part of your regular bike maintenance routine, or whenever you notice that the chain feels loose or too tight.

Tips for Maintaining Proper Chain Tension

In addition to following the steps outlined above, there are a few tips that you can follow to help maintain proper chain tension on your fixed gear bike:

  • Use a chain tensioner: Some fixed gear bikes come equipped with a chain tensioner, which is a small device that allows you to adjust the chain tension without moving the wheel. If your bike has a chain tensioner, be sure to use it to maintain the proper tension.

  • Use a chain whip: A chain whip is a tool that allows you to hold the cog in place while you loosen or tighten the lockring. This can be especially useful when making adjustments to the chain tension, as it will prevent the cog from turning and making it more difficult to loosen or tighten the lockring.

  • Lubricate the chain regularly: Keeping the chain lubricated can help to reduce friction and wear, which can in turn help to maintain proper chain tension. Be sure to use a high-quality chain lubricant and follow the manufacturer's instructions for application.


Maintaining proper chain tension is crucial for fixed gear riders. Not only is it important for safety and efficiency, but it can also help to extend the life of your drivetrain. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily tension your fixed gear chain and ensure that you have a smooth and efficient ride.


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