Bike Chain Wear


chain wear occurs every time a bike is ridden. This has to be measured and managed.

Pro Tip

The bearings in a bike chain are simple metal-on-metal journal bearings. They have to be lubricated. The lubrication is sticky – it has to be to stay in place – so it attracts dirt. The combination of oil and lubricant wears the bearings when the chain moves.

Pro Tip

As metal wears out of each connection in the chain, the chain is elongated. This is sometimes called ‘chain stretch’ even though the metal has not stretched it’s worn away. The elongated chain wears the cog wheels on which the chain runs. If the chain extends too much the cogs will become so worn that a new chain won’t run on the old cogs. If the chain is too worn the cogs have to be scrapped along with the old chain. Changing the chain at the right time means the cogs last much longer, through the life of many chains.

Step 1

Measure Chain Wear - Bike Chain Wear

Measure Chain Wear

If the chain is on the bike hold the chain in tension by gently loading the pedals with the back brake locked ‘on’ with a toe strap. If the chain is off the bike hang it up. Hold a ruler or metal tape-measure with the ’0′ against a pin. One foot will measure 12 full links of new chain. When the chain is worn the 24th pin will be more than 12 inches away. If the extension is less than 1/16 of an inch the chain is OK. If it’s between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch then the chain needs to be replaced but the cogs are OK. If the extension is more than 1/8 of an inch the chain and the cogs need to be replaced. The cogs are too worn and a new chain will skip if it runs on them.

Step 2

Gauge Is Easier - Bike Chain Wear

Gauge Is Easier

You can buy special gauges that measure chain wear easily and have clear indicators of the significant chain wear thresholds.