How Long Does a Bike Chain Last?

Your bike chain will slowly wear with use and will need changing from time to time to enhance your drivetrain’s performance. Worn-out bike chains wear sprockets quickly, shift poorly, and sometimes break.

It’s a great inconvenience to all bikers, especially if you’re far from home and don’t have any tools to replace your broken bike chain. Although a broken bike chain is inevitable, it should not get you by surprise.

So, how long should a bike chain last? This article will explain how long a bike chain should last and the maintenance you should give your bike chain for it to last longer.

How long does a bike chain last?

The lifespan of a bike chain varies depending on various factors, including your riding style, how often you ride, and how well you maintain the chain. If you don’t ride your bike that often but do good maintenance on the chain, it will serve you a good number of years before it gives in.

Generally, a bike chain should last anywhere between 500 to 5,000 miles, depending on the number of miles you expose your bike to and the type of chain you use. If you use your bike daily and expose it to rugged terrains, you may frequently need to replace your bike chain.

If you rarely use your bicycle and take good care of its chain, the bike chain should last for 5-6 years. However, you must do everything right. If you aren’t taking super good care of the bike chain, it should for about -3 years.

Factors that affect the life of a bike chain

Given that a well-maintained bike chain can go for 8,000 miles while an average bike lasts between 2,000-3,000 miles, what makes the difference? Here are some factors that affect the bike chain’s lifespan.

  • Your Weight: You probably don’t know this, but your body weight greatly impacts your bike chain’s life. If you’re overweight, your bike chain will wear out faster than an average-sized person.
  • Conditions you ride in: Your riding condition is another factor that affects your bike chain’s lifespan. If you like riding in the snow and rain, you will need to replace your bike chain frequently. Additionally, if you’re an aggressive rider who loves rugged terrain, your bike chain will wear down faster. Therefore, a mountain bike’s chain has a shorter lifespan compared to a road bike.
  • Frequency of your rides: If you don’t use your bike frequently, your bike chain will likely last for years. Riders who cycle in low gear and avoid harsh weather are likely to enjoy more bike chain life than aggressive riders.
  • Materials used: If you use a high-quality bike chain made with high-end materials, it will promise more life than a cheaply-made chain.

How to Know If Your Bike Chain Needs Replacing?

Eventually, your bike chain will wear out. Obviously, if your chain breaks, you will have to replace it. However, you need to ensure it doesn’t get to this point. No one wants to have a broken bike chain after hitting miles into the trail.

The simplest method to check for wear is to pull the bike chain away from the chainring. If you pull it out and see light between the chainring and chain, it’s time to replace your bike chain.

If you’re keen on details, you can measure accurately using tools. Line up the rivets on a ruler, and confirm whether the chain is 12 inches across the 12 links. If it’s off, you will need to replace the bike chain. Another tool for checking chain wear is CC-4, which allows you to check pin wear. Shimano tools are also great for measuring pin wear.

For a beginner, this might be too much. If you have any doubts, consult your bike mechanic, and have the bike chain checked. Essentially, ensure your bike is serviced regularly to prolong your bike chain life.

How Much Does a New Bike Chain Cost?

If you’ve checked your chain and everything seems to point out that the chain is no longer safe, it’s time to get a brand-new bike chain. Fortunately, bike chains aren’t expensive. A decent bike chain can cost from $15 and can go up to $100. You will have to stretch your budget to get a high-quality chain.

Ensure you get the highest quality chain within your budget because quality is key when choosing a bike chain. Check the coatings, build quality, and durability of the product before making the final decision. Consult your bike mechanic or friend to get the best durable model for your riding style.

What Happens If You Don’t Replace a Worn Chain?

If you fail to replace your bike chain if it’s completely worn out, here are some of the inconveniences you’re likely to face.

Reduces the Lifespan of the Drivetrain

The bike chain is the most important part of your bike’s drivetrain. It can easily damage all the components of the drivetrain. For example, a damaged chain applies a lot of pressure on the bike’s cassette cogs. The chainring teeth are also affected negatively. Additionally, you will have problems shifting gears if you continue using a worn-out bike chain.

Risk of Breaking

Using a damaged bike chain will never give you a good riding experience. Imagine if the chain breaks in the middle of nowhere with no one to help you out? You will have to wait for help all walk your bike all the way home. No one knows when this might happen. The best thing is to ensure your bike chain is in perfect shape.

How to Make Your Chain Last Longer?

Here’s what you can do to make your chain last longer:

  • Lubricate the chain: Lubricating your bike chain ensures that your ride is smooth and boosts its lifespan.
  • Keep it clean: Chain maintenance goes beyond lubrication. Always keep the chain clean to boost its mileage and performance. Wipe off dirt and grease at least twice a month and ensure you do it before lubrication.


So, as you can see, bike chain maintenance will ensure your chain lasts as long as possible. Although a bike doesn’t have several electrical or mechanical parts, it will only guarantee a comfortable riding experience if you take good care of it. So ensure you maintain your bike for the best performance.

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