Why do I need to replace my bicycle chain?

Why do I need to replace my bicycle chain?

Does your bicycle mechanic recommend replacing your bicycle chain every service? Are they taking you for a ride? Or have you got a dirty little secret that’s costing you money?

Bicycle chains: gunky, greasy, pant leg-ruining, hunks of metal right? Well, they shouldn’t be. Not if you want to save money and make them last as long as they should.

A clean bicycle chain is faster, quieter and will last longer.

So, long story short, clean your chain. Short story long - read our next post on how to clean your chain.

If you’re dying to know the nitty gritty of why chains wear, read on.

How come chains wear out? A bicycle chain comprises inner and outer links, held together by pins and rollers. These are all made of metal and they spend their lives grinding against each other, the cassette cogs, and the chainrings of your bike.

This grind-athon leads to microns of metal shaving off the pins and rollers which widens the gaps of each link of the chain.

Anatomy of a bicycle chain

It takes two to tango, and the same goes for bicycle chains. When new, those gaps between links fit snugly around the cassette and chain ring teeth. The chain shifts crisply, dancing between gears, precisely navigating the highly engineered gaps and ramps in teeth of your cogs and chainrings. When worn and widened, all that nice engineering goes out the window and gear changes get sloppy.

How to check for bike chain wear

When dealing with a worn chain and or worn drivechain teeth, no amount of playing with gear cable tension or high and low limit derailleur limits will save you. It is new chain time and if you’ve really left it too late a new cassette and maybe even chain ring(s) time.

How can you stave off this expensive fate? By keeping your chain clean.

Chain gunk is an abrasive paste of metal shavings (the grind-athon, remember) and dirt from the environment. Keyword here being abrasive. Like the gritty plastic beads in the face wash you’re not supposed to use anymore (get the coffee grounds one for gods sake) the gunk adds abrades your poor little chain and speeds up that wear.

Dirty bicycle drive chain worn out

Finally, if you’d like to monitor your chain wear for yourself and preempt your smug bicycle mechanic declaring your chain deceased read our post on chain checker tools.

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