Can You Add Links To A Dirt Bike Chain?

Chains and sprockets on a dirt bike are probably one of the components that you will come to know quite intimately as you progress with off-road riding. Sprockets and chains take quite a hammering on a dirt bike due to the harsh conditions they operate on and the low-end torque that the two-stroke motors supply to the drive chain. The sprockets and chain need maintenance, care, and replacement, and this is quite easily a DIY operation for a dirt bike rider.

In some cases, during the maintenance or adjustment or fitting of a chain to your dirt bike, you may need to adjust the length of the chain.

Should the situation arise, you can add links to a dirt bike chain. Adding links to the chain is not only possible but also both easy and safe to do with the correct tool. The proper tool to use is a chain breaker that is purpose-built for the task.

If you are a new dirt bike rider, you may have some questions, such as why you would want to add links to a dirt bike chain and how to do it safely. We cover these topics on dirt bike chains and include some useful information on chain care and how to know when to replace the chain.

Why Would You Want To Add Links To A Dirt Bike Chain?

Several scenarios may arise during your dirt bike riding adventures that may require adding links to the drive chain of your bike.

Some of these may include the following.

  • Increasing the size of your back sprocket. Many dirt bike riders, particularly the pros, will have different sprocket sizes they prefer to use on different terrain types. Putting a larger sprocket on the back will give you faster acceleration from the start line and coming out of corners, or n deep dirt. Putting a smaller sprocket on the back will give your slower acceleration, but a faster top end range of speed. This is more useful on straighter, more level tracks. Increasing the sprocket size on the back will require a longer chain, or require you to add links to your existing chain.
  • Damage. If a link or series of links have been damaged on rocks or other off-road obstacles, you may opt to remove the damaged links and replace them rather than buying a completely new chain.
  • You made a mistake and removed too many links from your chain. Many of the questions we get regarding adding links to a dirt bike chain are usually because someone has made a mistake when shortening the chain. Just like adding a larger sprocket requires lengthening the chain, adding a smaller sprocket at the back requires shortening the chain. In this process, many people get the link count wrong and remove too many links.

How To Add Links To Your Dirt Bike Chain

Many people, particularly newbies, may take one look at the chain and be intimidated by the task, not knowing where to begin! Be encouraged. However, the problem is neither as daunting nor as tricky as you may think.

The secret to taking the intimidation factor out of adding links to the chain is to use the right tool specifically designed to make the job easy and frustration-free!

The tool I am talking about is a chain-breaker tool, which is available from most dirt bike accessory and tool shops. While there are a few variations in the design of the chain-breaker tool, they all essentially work on the same principle.

Most chain-breakers have a slot to secure the segment of chain you are working on, and an adjustable section that you crank down on to either insert or press out the pins that hold the chain links in place. The process of pressing out the pins to break the chain and pressing in new links and re-joining the chain, with a little practice, can be accomplished in under 10 minutes.

A chain-breaker is a small tool that does not take up a lot of space and should be considered an essential tool that you make part of your standard dirt bike gear! The price of this tool is usually under $20, so the expense is not an excuse not to have one in your toolbox!

A chain-breaker is not only useful to add links to your chain, but also to remove links. Most people are unaware that manufacturers always add additional links to their chains. They do this because it is better to supply a chain that is slightly longer than needed as opposed to one that is too short!

This means that when you buy a new chain for your dirt bike, chances are it will be too long for your bike! If you have a chain-breaker in your toolbox, it is a simple matter to remove the excess links and fit your chain to the bike! And then you have a few spare chain links in your toolbox in the event you need to do running repairs!

How To Maintain Your Dirt Bike Chain

Taking care of your dirt bike chain is an essential part of the maintenance regime for your dirt bike. Taking good care of the chain will help to extend the life of the chain, prevent catastrophic failures, and the regular inspection will let you know when to change the chain.

Care of your dirt bike chain is fairly basic, but can significantly increase the life of the chain.

  1. Clean the chain after every ride. Riding through mud, water, and dust, all this damaging debris gets caked onto the chain. The joints and seals on each link can be damaged by the abrasive properties of this dirt and diminish the quality and function of the chain. Spraying the chain off with water from a pressure hose is effective in dislodging all the dirt between the links.
  2. Lubricate the chain regularly and definitely after every time you wash the chain. Metal parts wear when they rub against each other. Hence, it is essential to have a can of good quality chain lube that you can spray onto the chain. A good lube will coat the links and joints, allowing them to work smoothly and, to some extent, act as a water repellant barrier, helping the chain to shed moisture.
  3. Make sure the chain is tension adjustment is correct according to specifications. A chain that is too loose on your bike will bounce around, causing unnecessary wear on the links. A chain that is tensioned too tight will have enormous strain across all the links, causing them to wear and, potentially, snap. Adjustment bolts adjust the chain on most dirt bikes on either side of the axle of the back wheel. These adjustment nodes either move the back wheel close to the bike or further away from it, thereby adjusting the tension on the chain.

How To Know When You Need A New Chain On Your Dirt Bike

Knowing when you need a new chain on your dirt bike is query new riders often have. A bad chain not only affects the performance of your bike but has the potential to be dangerous should the chain snap.

Since the chain runs on the sprockets, they often experience the same level of wear, so many riders will replace the sprockets with the chain as a standard practice. The reason for this is that a worn sprocket will wear a new chain faster than if you replace both components together!

There are several indicators you can check that will tell you if your chain needs to be replaced.

At the back of the rear sprocket, grip the chain between thumb and index finger and pull the chain away from the sprocket. If the chain moves back to the extent that you can see a gap between the sprocket and chain, you should consider a new chain.

At the top of the chain, move the chain from side to side to check for sloppiness in the links. Some slight movement is acceptable, but you will know when the movement looks to be too much, or too loose. If there is excessive sideways movement, replace the chain.

Check to see that there is no forward and backward movement between the individual links of the chain. If there is movement, it is an indicator you need to replace the chain.


Now that we’ve taken you through the steps of how to add links to your dirt bike’s chain, it’s time to get your bike to the track!

Happy dirt biking!

Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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