It's too looooong!

Yes it is. It's supposed to be too long.

It's actually a common gripe we get after a customer, usually new to dirt biking, attempts to install their new dirt bike chain and discovers it doesn't fit. So, we're here to dispel the notion that the wrong size was ordered, because... all chain manufacturers provide more links than necessary (usually 120 links).

Imagine the complaints we'd get if chains were sent too short!

Since manufacturers don't know what size sprockets you're using, or the make and model of your ride, they package chains longer than what's needed so you can chop it down to size. This is likely where some of the rider's frustration comes into play because now they need to clip it, or break it, and a lot of new riders don't know how to do this.

So, when buying a new chain it is imperative you also get a chain breaker. The chain breaker is in every rider's must-have tools in their garage and should be just a one-time expense. The most common style is this BikeMaster which also comes with a replacement tip - because those do break over time but don't cost nearly as much as a brand new breaker.

Next, we suggest acquiring a press and rivet tool. If you're crafty with pliers you can probably get away with using a standard set at home but the press and rivet tool (only applicable for rivet style links) makes it soooo much easier. But if you like blowing up, dropping F bombs and throwing things across the garage then by all means use some pliers. Seriously, the press clamps your newly broken chain back together in a snap. This Motion Pro is an all-in-one breaker, press and rivet tool.

So we don't lose you at this point in the article we won't explain how to use the breaker and press tools since both are rather self-explanatory but if all else fails read the directions.

Installing a New Dirt Bike Chain

Another reason to get the chain breaker is bike manufacturers tend to rivet the OEM chain on. This situation requires a chain breaker so if it's the first chain change since you bought the bike (assuming off the factory floor), it's likely you'll need the breaker just to get the chain removed.

Remember, if you're changing the chain, we recommend regardless of wear that you switch out the sprockets at the same time. (Please read The Ultimate Dirt Bike Sprocket & Gearing Guide.)

If anyone tells you to size the new chain alongside the old chain ignore this advice and find new friends if that's who is telling you. The old chain is stretched out and likely reached the furthest adjustment point using the axle blocks at this stage. Plus if you're changing sprocket sizes you risk cutting the chain too short before ever getting it on the bike.

Before cutting to size, move the chain adjusters (axle blocks) in (towards the front of the bike) so you have room to adjust the chain as it stretches over time (now you know why not to size the new chain against the old chain). We suggest moving the axle blocks near the center (in the slot on the swing arm) rather than all the way forward so you have some leeway if the chain is cut a bit short.

Now, route the new chain through the rollers, slides, guides and (new) sprockets and bring both ends together at the rear sprocket. Figure out how many links to cut and mark it.

Mechanic's Note: Both ends of the chain are inner links (female to female). Break the chain leaving the inner links exposed because the master link is an outer link.

Once cut, install the chain which should now sit on the rear sprocket end-to-end. Because you centered the axle blocks you have some wiggle room either way but it shouldn't be much. If it makes sense, cut another link out otherwise install the master link and if your chain comes with an O-ring install that as well. You'll find the chain press very beneficial at this stage otherwise use a pair of channel lock pliers.

Once the master link is attached, adjust the chain to specs. Read Dirt Bike Chain Tension - Changing and Adjusting for more information.

Check out the rest of our catalog of written material on chains: