A broken chain is unusual on the road. It happens more frequently during mountain biking on technical terrain because there’s more temptation to force shifts while stomping on the pedals. Still, road chains can break, most often due to poor shifting technique or improper assembly.
Be especially careful when joining chains with a master link. Make sure the pins and plates are fully engaged.
With the advent of 10- and now 11-speed cassettes, chains have gotten narrower and some would say more fragile. They’re also more complicated. Some models need to be assembled with special tools and links or pins. While you may be tempted to buy a less costly chain tool, some of them simply don’t do as good a job of pushing in a pin to the required point.
Particularly on a tour that’ll take you into remote areas, it’s smart to pack the specific tool your chain requires, as well as special pins that might be necessary. Some mini-tools include a chain tool that weighs little, but you need to be certain it will work on your chain.
If you’re unsure of how well you made the repair, spin lightly home or to the nearest bike shop. Don’t put sudden stress on the chain! Having a chain break while you’re hammering out of the saddle is an almost guaranteed trip to the pavement.
No chain tool? Back in the days of 7-speed freewheels and wide, sturdy chains, I once repaired a broken mountain bike chain with a rock and a nail I found by the side of the trail. I used the nail like a punch to hammer out the chain’s pin and then did the same to reassemble. I don’t recommend this repair with modern chains!
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.