How Long Does a Bicycle Chain Last?

So you’ve had your bicycle for quite a while now. You were just riding it and BAM! Your chain breaks out of nowhere. What’s up with that? Isn’t a bike chain supposed to last pretty much until the bike falls to pieces from being so old?

The short answer – no, your chain isn’t immortal, nor does it last as long as the bike itself. If you simply came to find out if a chain lasts forever, you can stop reading now and go on with your daily life. If you plan on prolonging the life of your chain in the future, or you simply want to learn a little more general knowledge about chains so you can whip it out at your next social gathering, thus attaining the nickname “chain guy”, keep on reading.


The Lifespan of a Bicycle Chain

The lifespan of bicycle chains varies depending on a variety of factors including how often you ride, what type of riding you are doing, and how well you look after your chain. If you are someone who doesn’t ride your bike that often but does good maintenance on the chain, it will more than likely last for a good number of years before it finally gives in.

mtb bike chain

In contrast, if you are someone who is a more aggressive and active rider, an avid mountain biker for example, and you don’t look after your chain, it will have a much shorter lifespan.

Generally speaking, with good maintenance, you should only need to replace your chain every 2000-3000 miles. But some riders may find that their riding style causes them to need to change to a new chain every 500 miles.


Prolonging the life of your Bicycle Chain

General Maintenance

When trying to prolong the life of your bicycle chain, it’s not surprising that you would need to do general maintenance. There are two main things that need to be done if you want to do this right – keeping the chain lubricated, and cleaning it regularly.

Keeping your chain lubricated will ensure that it runs smoothly while you ride. If you keep it as lubricated as possible, the chain will not only make riding seem much easier but will keep the chain safe from getting too dry. A dry chain tends to get brittle, making it more susceptible to breakage than that of a well-lubricated one.

Cleaning your chain regularly is something that is recommended to any rider. Do you know that lubricant which we were just talking about? It can tend to become an issue if left for too long. Kinda upsetting, we know, you lubed it up so nicely and now, after a while, you just have to take it off again.

The problem with the lubrication is that it can become a bit thick and sticky after a while, meaning that it is harder to pedal the bike and more pressure is put on your chain. If you want your chain to really last, clean all of the old lubrication off once, or even twice a month. Besides, it’ll look much nicer freshly lubricated anyway.

Riding Style

As mentioned before, the way that you ride has a big part to play in a chain’s lifespan. This not only applies to the type of riding you do (mountain biking vs. road biking), but to the cadence which you ride at. Cadence is basically the number of times the crank (the part of the bike which drives the chain and is connected to the pedals) rotates per minute.

Riding at a high cadence, or in a lower gear, puts less stress on the chain than if you were riding at a low cadence, typically a high gear. Higher gears stretch the chain out and put more stress on it, shortening its lifespan. So next time you think you might want to slack off a little on your ride and pedal-less, think about how cadence and gears affect your chain life.


Chain Type Makes a Difference

As with many things in life, there are a variety of types of chains, which come at different qualities and different prices and also suit different riding styles. Finding the right one for you can be a difficult task, but there are many options out there that will work well.

Vuelta 8 Speed Bicycle Chain

If you are looking for something which works well for a smooth ride and requires a little less maintenance, take a look at something called a belt drive. These are usually made from carbon fiber and nylon and look kind of like the treads on a tank. If you are wanting something more durable for rough riding, your chain drives are better as they are usually made from carbon or alloy steel.


Replacing the Chain Helps the Drivetrain

Replacing your chain every now and then not only helps you to have a smooth ride but can improve the lifespan of your drivetrain. The drivetrain of your bike consists of all the components which are linked to making your bike move and are connected to the chain; so you can probably see why replacing the chain can benefit these parts.

Basically what can happen when you don’t replace your chain is that the slow stretching of it, along with all the collected gunk from old lubricant and dirt that is stuck in hard to reach places, can wear out your chainring and cassette much earlier. This will end up costing you a lot of money to fix, so it’s better to just buy a new chain every once in a while if you want to prolong the life of your drivetrain and save money in the long run.

installing a new chain

While some chains last longer than others, there are a lot of ways to extend the life of your bicycle chain, so that you can get the most out of it whilst still enjoying the time you spend on your bicycle.

Knowing what chain is best for your riding style, whilst looking after that chain correctly, and knowing how gears affect it, are all ways that you can make yourself more knowledgeable on how to improve your chain’s durability and ride for a long time before needing a new one. There is a lot to learn and a lot to consider, just get out there, have fun, and look after your chain.

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How Long Does a Bicycle Chain Last? — Bike Hacks