How long do bike chains last? Bike chains can last long if you take proper care. If you want to know the answer, we have put together this comprehensive piece on bike chain longevity and the factors it depends upon
Bike chains are essential components due to which your bike will operate smoothly or not. Bike chains are among the components that are consistently in motion while you are driving a bike. Due to this, your bike chains go through a lot of wear and tear.
Bike chains are not everlasting components, and they have finite mileage. Usually, this mileage is about 2000-3000 miles for mid-level bike chains and can go up to 5000 miles for high-quality chains.
In this article, you will get to know in detail how long bike chains last, along with the factors that influence the lifespan of a bike chain.
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Factors Affecting The Lifespan Of A Bike Chain
Bikers usually don’t pay much attention to the bike chain, but soon as something starts malfunctioning, they start to think about the bike chains.
There are plenty of factors that affect the lifespan of a bike chain, and these factors will be discussed in detail further below.
The climate and the terrain on which you drive your bike play a major role in deciding the lifespan of your bike chain. For instance, driving in hilly areas or areas covered with snow will cause more damage to your bike chain than driving on plain roads.
Rain is one of the worst enemies for bike chains, and rains increase the amount of moisture in the air, due to which there is a high chance of rusting even if your bike chain is covered with a special coating to prevent rusting.
The weight of the rider also affects the lifespan of your bike chain. People that have a higher weight exert more pressure on the bike chain, due to which they wear down easily.
Similarly, if the rider’s weight is light, your bike chain will remain intact for more distance. There is a certain weight limit up to which the chain can hold the weight. If you increase the weight, then there are chances that the chain might break.
The speed you also drive majorly contributes to the wear and tear sustained by your brake chain. Driving at higher speeds will reduce the lifespan, whereas driving at slower speeds will increase the lifespan.
But driving slow at all times is not a practical situation due to which you must drive your bike at moderate speeds to get the average lifespan of a bike chain.
How To Know When You Need To Change Or Replace The Bike Chain
As you keep on driving your bike after some time, you should keep in mind to regularly check the functioning of the bike chain as it might need to be replaced.
You will need to replace the bike chain eventually, as even if you take extreme care, there will be a stage where you will have to replace it.
Some specific methods will help you gauge when to change the bike chain, and we will discuss these methods given below.
This is not the most accurate method, but still, it is an effective method if you don’t want to use any other tools to measure the lifespan of your bike chain.
You’ll have to start by first shifting the bike chain so that the chain is on the largest chain front. To make this easy, the chain should be attached to the shortest clog from the back.
Now, you have to lift the chain upwards from the chainring. If the chain lifts upwards and you can fit more than half of a chain link in the space created, you need to replace the chain.
If you can’t lift the chain enough to fit half a chain link, you don’t need to replace the bike chain immediately.
The Miles Rule
You should start considering changing the bike chain as a general rule of thumb once you have covered 2000-3000 miles with a single bike chain.
After such a distance, rarely any bike chain would operate smoothly without any hindrance.
People who are not frequent riders and avoid riding their bikes in snow, rain, and regularly oil their bike can use a bike chain for 3000 miles.
Whereas the people that drive at high speeds, regularly travel on their bikes, and don’t regularly oil or service their bikes will only be able to use the bike chain for 2000 miles.
This is a simple and standard method for measuring whether your bike chain has worn out or not. For this method, all you need is a standard ruler.
As you ride your bike with time, the internal chain links start to get elongated. Due to this reason, very old bike chains come off the chainrings automatically. You can measure this elongated length and gauge whether you need to change the bike chain or not.
Use a ruler and keep the scale next to the bike chain. Make sure that the starting off the zero mark ruler is next to the starting of a river. Now you have to measure 12 inches on the scale.
If the end of the chain matches the 12 inches mark on the scale, you don’t need to replace your bike chain. If both these things don’t line up, then you are required to replace the bike chain.
Use A Park Tool Or Chain Checker
A chain checker is also commonly known as a chain wear indicator. This tool is specially designed to help you measure chain wear.
You can insert the chain hook end into a link in the chain. Then after this, you need to insert the other end with the 0.75 or the 0.5 stamps in a similar way.
If both ends don’t fit inside the checker, you can continue using this chain, and if both ends are inserted smoothly, you need to change the bike chain immediately.
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What Are The Effects Of Using A Worn Out Chain?
Using a worn-out bike chain is risky if you don’t realize whether your chain has worn out or not. But if you realize that your bike chain needs changing and you still use it regularly, you can get hurt.
An old and worn-out bike chain is always at a risk of breaking and snapping. If the chain breaks off suddenly, then you can fall and hurt yourself.
If you are lucky your bike chain might break in a town or populated area, then you can access other means of transport. But if the chain breaks at a secluded location, then you might have to struggle to find a mechanic or other means of transport.
The drivetrain is dependent on the bike chain a lot. An old and worn-out bike chain exerts more pressure on the drivetrain. The teeth of the chainring are also affected negatively by the old bike chain. It puts a lot of pressure on the cassette cogs of your bike.
Due to this reason, the drivetrain starts to degrade at a much faster rate. You will also have some trouble while shifting gears on your bike. Generally, the drive train’s biggest enemy is an old and worn-out bike chain.
Poor Riding Experience
Riding with an old bike chain will degrade your riding experience. Your bike will not run smoothly, and the gears on your bike might also take time to shift properly.
If you are a serious bike rider, you want to have a pleasant riding experience while on your bike.
How Can You Improve The Lifespan Of Your Bike Chain
You can improve the lifespan of your bike chain by regularly lubricating the chain with special oil. The factory lube that is already present on the chain does not last forever. If you lubricate the bike chain properly, it will last longer and operate smoothly.
If you don’t lubricate your bike chain regularly, then it will become brittle and dry. Due to this, the chain will be more vulnerable to breaking off.
The ideal time to apply oil on your bike chain is when you start hearing squeaky sounds from the chain or when the chain starts to appear greasy. Remember not to apply excess oil on the chain as excess oil on the bike is also harmful to the bike rider.
The interval at which you should lubricate the bike chain also depends on the frequency with which you ride the bike. Daily riders should lubricate the bike once a week.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I replace my bike chain?
Generally, the rule accepted worldwide regarding the replacement of the bike chain is that you should replace or change it after every 2000 miles.
However, this number is not fixed for every bike and bike chain as other factors affect the lifespan of a bike chain. Factors such as the quality of the bike chain, the wear and tear, conditions that you drive in, how well you treat your bike, and so on.
Each bike rider has a different approach, so the wear and tear are also different consequentially.
How many miles will a cycle chain last?
Most of the people that ride a bike or a cycle often suggest that you should change the bike chain, chainrings, cassette, and other components every 2000-3000 miles.
The number of miles after which you should change the bike chain also depends massively on your riding style and the conditions you ride. Two bike chains will not deteriorate at the same time because they don’t have a fixed lifespan.
How do I know if my bike chain needs replacing?
You can check after frequent intervals whether your bike chain needs to be replaced or not. One of the methods to know the wear and tear on your bike chain is to measure the chain with a ruler.
Firstly, remove the chain from your bike. Then start by lining the ruler with a rivet. The 0 of the ruler should be perfectly aligned with the starting position of the rivet. Now you have to count or measure 24 such rivets.
The 24th rivet should end up at 12 inches on your ruler. If this does not happen, then your bike chain has stretched and needed replacement.
Do bike chains get old?
Yes, bike chains do get old as you keep on using them. These parts are very crucial in the proper functioning of your bike. In the majority of the bikes, the bike chain is pretty much exposed in the open.
Due to this exposure, your bike chain sustains a good deal of wear and tear. Driving a bike with a worn-out chain is very risky as it can easily break off, leading to an accident. Older bike chains also come off their holders quite frequently, due to which the bike will not move. You will also experience some discomfort while shifting the gears on your bike as well.
The braking system on your bike can also cause problems when the bike chain has a lot of wear and tear. Due to this reason, it is best advised that you replace the bike chain after some time.
How much does it cost to replace a bike chain?
The cost of the bike chain depends on your budget and requirements. If you want a basic entry-level bike chain, then you can easily get one for 15 dollars.
If you want bike chains made from better material and are slightly more durable, you can go for mid-level bike chains. You can get a sturdy mid-level bike chain for about 25 dollars.
For the people that want to purchase a bike chain that is highly durable and made from very quality materials, then you can go for a high-end bike chain. This bike chain will cost you close to 60 dollars and will remain in good shape for a longer time.
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So, How Long Do Bike Chains Last?
In this article, I have given a complete guide on the subject of how long bike chains last. I hope you have learned about the factors and reasons behind this occurrence, along with the consequences of not replacing the bike chain on time.
Typically bike chains can last around 3000 to 5000 miles, depending on how you use the bike and how well you take care of the chain.