How Long Do Bike Chains Last? Find Out Here!

Last Updated on November 21 2021 by Sam

What Is The Lifespan Of A Bicycle Chain?


Bicycle chains are a classic yet important tool that has been used for centuries. They allow you to pedal a bicycle by converting the energy from the pedals into rotational movement.

Without a chain, your bicycle would move in a straight line, much like a vehicle without a motor. In short, chains are a necessary part of a bicycle.

Bike chains and their length of life depend on the quality of the chain, rider’s style of riding and the type of terrain, conditions the bike is used in, and the rider’s maintenance skills.

The lifespan of a bicycle chain depends on the amount of use it receives. Chains should be replaced every 500 to 1,000 miles depending on your day of riding style.

It is recommended to replace chain and rear sprocket nuts every thousand miles, but the chain should last much longer.

What causes bike chain wear?

Chain wear is directly linked to the quality of the chain of life and sprocket cover that are on the bike. Cheap chains and rear sprockets will wear out quickly because of their low-grade materials.

A chain is only worn out when the rollers are not in true alignment with the pins, when the pins are worn out, or when the plates that hold the rollers have worn excessively.

Using the incorrect chain for the drive system, not always cleaning the chain properly, and not always lubing the chain correctly are all potential causes of bike chain wear.

Common chain wear causes include:

  • Improper change
  • Dirt buildup under the pivot points
  • Rusting pin holes which allow water to get into them, causing corrosion.
  • Extreme heat can cause chain links to warp.
  • Excessive pressure from heavy loads, such as panniers.
  • Incorrect lubrication technique
  • Inadequate cleaning
  • And storage.

How much should a bike chain cost?

When purchasing a new bicycle chain, make sure you purchase one that matches both the size and number of gears on your existing gear lever set.

If you do not match the two together well enough, they may slip off each other during pedalling. This could cause damage to the rear wheel rim and/or spokes.

It also might reduce efficiency, since there will be less engagement between the teeth of the front chain ring and the middle chain ring.

It’s hard to say without knowing the specifics of the chain you want to buy. The cost of a bicycle chain depends on the brand and the length of the chain.

How Dangerous is a Worn Out Chain?

A well cared for bike can last many years before needing replacement. However, like any other component on your bicycle, your chain needs to be inspected periodically to ensure proper function.

If neglected, your chain will fail, causing damage to surrounding components.

It will reduce performance of your electric bike, potentially taking hours off your range. The more you pedal, the more you wear down your chain.

If the chain breaks, the rider will come to an abrupt halt, potentially losing control of the bicycle and potentially injuring the rider.

Signs that Your Chain needs Replacing

Difficult to determine how long a bike chain will last, but you can tell if it needs to be replaced. If the chain squeaks or is stiff when you turn the pedals, it’s lubricant time or replace it.

You can identify if your chain needs replacing by looking out for the following signs:

1. Your chain gets stuck in the cluster of sprocket wear.

2. Stretched chain.

3. Crank set chain ring worn out.

4. Chain ring worn out.

5. Chain wheel worn.

6. When the chain is replaced, the chain wheel must also be replaced.

7. You hear a lot of scraping sound.

8. You go through a lot of lubricant.

9. Your chain wears faster than usual.

Types of Bicycle Chains

Bicycle chains come in a variety of types and materials and can be oiled, greased, and lubricated for different purposes.

There are three types of bicycle chains available today:

1. Roller

2. Open gear

3. And indexed gears.

Each has advantages and disadvantages, and one type is more suitable than another for certain applications.

The most important factors to consider when choosing a chain are how frequently it’s used and whether it requires frequent bike maintenance professional.

Below we’ll explain what each kind does, why people choose them, and how often they’re needed.

Roller Chain

Roller chain technology was invented by Charles Hanger. The roller chain comprises multiple steel balls interlinked together by links made of hardened steel wire.

Each ball carries two parallel rows of teeth designed to mesh with corresponding rows on adjacent balls. Using roller bearings makes the chain much smoother and quieter than traditional spur-gear systems.

Advantages of roller chain

  • Smoothness – Since each pair of rollers contacts only half of its tooth pitch, the chain rolls smoothly along both sides of the drive sprocket life rather than bouncing back and forth.

Rolled joints also reduce noise levels significantly compared to other designs.

  • Quiet operation – Because the chain doesn’t have to work against resistance while meshing with the driving worn sprocket teeth, quiet performance is achieved without having to sacrifice speed.

Disadvantage of Roller Chain

  • Lubrication – While roller chains require less maintenance because they do not wear out as quickly as open worn gear chains, they must still be regularly maintained.
  • You should always check the condition of all parts that may degrade during extended periods of nonuse.
  • If these surfaces become worn beyond acceptable limits, replace the parts immediately.

Open gear chain

Open gear chains comprise a single row of teeth mounted directly above the axis of rotation. They are heavier than roller or indexed gear options models, but provide better traction because of their design.

Owing to this advantage, open gear chains are favoured among riders who prefer a rough riding experience.

Open gear chain Advantages

  • Better traction than roller or indexed range of gear model
  • Less prone to overheating due to direct contact between moving parts
  • Lighter weight
  • Can be repaired easily using hand tools
  • No need for grease/lube

Indexing Gear

An indexing mechanism allows the rear wheel axle to move up and down relative to the front hub. This movement occurs at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the longitudinal shaft axis.

Indexing mechanisms allow for smooth forward motion even if there isn’t enough clearance around the drivetrain to accommodate full engagement.

Some bicycles come equipped with an automatic transmission system, which uses an internal spring to return the derailleur to neutral after shifting from large to minor cogs.

Here, it required no extra effort on your part.

Best Practice for Preventive Maintenance

1) Clean all surfaces using a clean rag dampened with warm soapy water. Wipe off excess moisture.

This will remove dirt, grime, rust and oxidation, all of which may prevent proper adhesion of grease. If you do not remove these contaminants, they could lead to premature failure of parts.

2) Apply a thin layer of high-quality oil or lube onto each link. Use enough to cover the entire surface area of contact between the rolling elements and the bearing cage.

You don’t need very thick layers; just apply enough for good coverage. Don’t forget any areas where there might be gaps between the mountain bike component.

This includes inside the dropouts, around the axle hole, and over the pivots. You want to make sure everything gets covered.

3) Allow at least 20 minutes for the oil/lube before cycling the chain. Wait an additional 15 minutes after cycling before washing and drying the chain again, since it takes a couple of time for the lubricant to dry.

4) Reapply once per week if possible. Once applied, the grease needs to stay put until next application.

Reapply immediately following washings. This helps ensure even distribution of the product throughout the chain.

5) Never store greasy items like clothing and tools near the bicycle! Keep oily objects away from your bike and its components. Store them in separate containers.

The importance of bicycle chain

A bicycle chain is a single-tooth chain that connects the crank-set to the rear wheel. It is the main drive force behind the movement of the wheels.

Bicycle chains are the most essential part of your bike. If you have a bike that does not have a chain, then parts of the bike are not functioning. 

Choosing the right bicycle chain can be a confusing process sometimes, even for experienced bike mechanics. There are some basic standards that can help you make the right decision.

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