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How long will my chain last?

Here is the scene! 

       Customer enters the shop with bike in tow and says; “It has been forever since I had my bike tuned up, but I didn’t figure it needed anything." Wrong! Through a standard seven-point check we quickly determine, that the chain is not only past the point of normal wear, but it is twice the normal life span. In my mind I think What could possibly be holding it together? I turn to the customer and calmly proclaim. Well, your chain is worn out, and you are going to need a cassette and most likely chainring or crank, depending on type of drive train. Customer gasps in confusion and asks; how much is all that cost? My next statement will do one of three things depending on the health, forethought and fortitude of the customer. 

They are in a state of confusion and need help understanding in more details on the how’s, why’s and the where for art thou’s.

They quickly accept what I am saying because, they kind of expected it since it has been such a long time.

They collapse of the floor and I suddenly find myself administering CPR. Just kidding its not likely but it is possible.

Weather it is expressed verbally, or in the mind of the customer, it is guaranteed to cause the question. Is it worth fixing? 

Here is the skinny!

       Your chain has a life span. It is under constant pressure, friction and stress. The pins that hold the chain together ware. The life span may vary depending on multiple factors like; regular chain maintenance, type of riding, type of drive train and so on. As the chain wares it also wares on the parts it touches, cogs and chainrings. Freebie alert, cogs and chainrings ware out too but not as fast, I will cover in future article. As the chain wares out, it becomes out of sync with other parts, causing excess ware on those parts. So, at this point if all I do is replace the chain, it will not sync up with the other components and the customer will be back in a few days complaining that the bike keeps jumping out of gear. Keep all those costly visits to the bike shop at a minimum by doing these three things.


  1. Clean and lubricate you chain regularly. NOTE! IMPORTANT! DONT MISS THIS! I did not say, drowned your chain and your whole drive train with bar oil from your chain saw. Yes, that really did happen. Use approved, bicycle specific lubricant and cleaners. Wipe off the excess lube from the chain. Leaving lube dripping chain only makes a mess and adds to the amount of soap you will need to wash your bike.
  2. Measure your chain ware. This can be quickly done at any good bike shop. But if you don’t want to bike it to a shop or want to handle your own maintenance. A Park Tool chain checker, part #CC-3.2, is about $10 and easy to use.
  3. Change it before it dies. When the chain is at .5% on the gage, change it. Most bike techs say a chain is good until .75%, but why risk it. A chain will be between $10-$50 depending on the type of drive train, or chain quality. In the long run, it is way more beneficial to replace the chain now than to replace the whole shooting match later.

When in doubt. Take your bike to your local bike shop and ask. A bike check,  repair estimate, advice or a story is free.

Ride Safe.