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Revealing Bicycle Chain Wear Mystery

Revealing Bicycle Chain Wear Mystery

Why do i need to replace my chain? How come my chain is worn already? If you own a bike you will probably asked these questions yourself or your local bike mechanic. The answer is not straight forward. Some chains wear quicker, another can be used for many miles. And it’s not all about the miles.

Imagine, at your next visit in your local bike shop you hear from the mechanic “your chain needs to be replaced”. Hold on, you only used this bike for 4 months and the chain on your partner’s bike that was bought at this same time is still fine! WHY’S THAT?

Firstly let me explain to you what chain wear means?

Chain wear is referred to as chain stretch. To be more specific, bushings that are integrated in the inner plate of the chain, are wearing with the chain pins. After a while the inner diameter of these bushings increase and the pins groove out. That causes the chain to stretch. When the gap between the chain links increases, the chain begins to sit higher and higher on the cogs. This causes cogs to wear. The chain will stretch and wear the teeth to the point where it will not be able to sit deeply enough and start skipping. At this point you know it is too late to save your drivetrain and that’s where expensive work begins. The cost could be enormous, especially if you have a high spec bike. Your worn chain will also shift the gears poorly and in the worst case scenario will suddenly snap.

When i measure our customers chain in our workshop i use a specially designed chain wear tool. This tool is really simple to use, it accurately indicates when a chain reaches 0.5% and 0.75% wear. These are the points at which most chain manufacturers suggest replacement.

Time to reveal the Bicycle Chain Wear Mystery

So, why some chains wear quicker than others?

It’s not all about the amount of miles you make. You might hear that you should replace your chain every 800 to 1000 miles. That’s fine however there are many factors to that. It’s all about how you cycle and how well you maintain your chain. Your chain might wear below these figures or might last for many more miles.

  • Taking care of your chain. The chain will wear much quicker if it’s not been cleaned regularly. So make sure you clean your chain as often as you can. Oh, and don’t forget to lubricate it as well. It is important that your chain runs smoothly and without annoying squeak.




  • Use your gears correctly.  When cycling, you put a lot of pressure on your chain. The rule for the gears on a bike is similar to the ones in a car. Did you ever started driving your car from forth or fifth gear? However, we tend to do that on a bike. Very often i see people putting all their body weight to put a bike in a motion when their gear ratio is set to the highest. It is recommended to use lower gears when we set off. So, if you can, use your lower gears when you start riding and going uphill.




  • The quality of chains. This is another Bicycle Chain Wear Mystery. It might sound unbelievable but modern, lightweight, more expensive chains on top quality bikes will wear quicker than a cheap heavy steal one on budget bikes. The reason is that lighter chains are made from softer materials than their cheaper version. That is why your chain and cassette will more likely wear much quicker than the one on your friend’s 1970s bike.

Revealing Bicycle Chain Wear Mystery – SUMMARY:

It is important that you take care of your chain and that you check it’s wear regularly. If you do that you will save yourself a lot of money in the long run by saving on replacing the cassette, chain rings and jockey wheels. Your gears will work better and you will minimise the chance of snapping it. You can check your chain wear  by using a chain wear indicator.


It is very important that you do not fit the new chain on to worn cogs. If your chain snaps and you go to your local bike shop to replace it, ask them first if they can check your old chain for wear. If the chain is worn beyond the limit of 1% replace the chain together with the cogs.

I hope this article helped you to understand why your chain needs to be replaced (sometimes sooner than you expected. If you have any questions or if you would like to share your opinion please use the comment box below.

Happy Cycling:)





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