A bike shop can diagnose and solve most 10-speed chain issues.

How to Fix a 10-Speed Bike Chain

by Max Roman Dilthey

Cycling with your kids is a great way to combine family time and your daily exercise. Don't let a broken chain keep you from having a great ride. When your 10-speed chain locks up or stops working, it's usually caused by one of two things. The most common problem is rust, which usually occurs when a bike is left sitting for too long. A bicycle chain can also stop working if the derailleur is misaligned. Luckily, both problems are easily fixed with a little bit of knowledge and some chain lubricant. In addition, taking your drivetrain apart for maintenance can be a great way to familiarize yourself with your 10-speed chain so you can diagnose and solve issues on the road.

Cleaning the Chain

Remove your 10-speed chain. Modern bicycle chains feature a single quick link, which has an oval-shaped hole around the pin that allows you to remove the chain. Find the quick link, and push the adjacent links towards one another to remove it the chain from the drivetrain. If your bike chain doesn't have a quick link, use the chain tool to push one pin out of the chain instead.

Check the pins in the chain for excess wear. Bicycle chains undergo "chain stretch," which is when abrasion wears a rut into one side of the pin. This abrasion can indicate the end of the chain's life. Measure 12 links with a ruler. if the final link doesn't fall directly on an inch mark, it's time to replace your chain.

Place the chain in a bowl or bottle of citrus degreaser. Shake the chain vigorously for several minutes to remove all rust and debris. If the chain still isn't clean, allow it to sit for a few hours before shaking again. Rinse the chain off thoroughly, then allow it to dry completely.

Replace the chain and lubricate it. Place one drop of lubricant on each bump in the chain, then run the chain through a complete cycle to distribute the lubricant.

Adjusting the Derailleur

Use the Philips head screwdriver to adjust the low gear limit stop screw, marked with an "L." Adjust this screw until the derailleur arm can move the chain to the largest cog on your cassette without throwing the chain into the wheel.

Use the Philips head screwdriver to adjust the high gear limit stop screw, marked with an "H." Give the arm enough travel to move the chain to the smallest cog on the cassette without wedging the chain between the cassette and the dropout.

Locate a small knob where the cable meets the derailleur; this is the index adjuster. start adjusting when the bike is in it's highest gear, and slowly adjust it until the chain makes a complete, even jump between all 10 gears. Click the shifter once, and if the chain doesn't make a movement to the next smallest gear while the cranks are turning, use half-turns of the adjustment knob until it completes the step.

Items you will need

  • Bicycle chain lubricant
  • Citrus degreaser
  • Allen wrench set
  • Chain tool
  • Philips-head screwdriver


  • A stiff brush and a little citrus degreaser can be used to clean rust from the cassette. if the cassette is extremely rusty, use a chain whip to remove it and soak it in degreaser for a few hours before brushing it vigorously.


  • Don't over lubricate your chain. This can cause dust and dirt to stick to the chain, causing long-term abrasion. If your chain is snapped or it's showing excess abrasion, it's time to replace it.

About the Author

Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.

Photo Credits

  • Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images