Is it time to change the chain?
The chain is one of the vital parts of any bike, so it is important to make sure that we keep it in good condition for its proper functioning. In this article we will explain what factors influence its attrition and how to know when we should change the chain.
Why is the chain wearing out?
Although some manufacturers stipulate chain life based on kilometers, a well-maintained chain can last much longer. The attrition on a bicycle chain is not always the same and there is no time or mileage of use after which the chain needs to be changed. This depends on many factors.
Among the main factors of attrition there are some that are very evident and that you may not have noticed.
- Conditions of use: the main reason that accelerates the change of chain is usually that it has not been kept properly lubricated or has been exposed to conditions of moisture and dust constantly and without maintenance.
- Adjustment and handling of the derailleur: It is not the same to have a well-tuned derailleur and use it delicately as one that gets stuck or jumps and is used incorrectly. In the second case you will have to change the chain early.
- Chain tension and crossing: If you use very extreme chainring and sprocket combinations, such as large sprocket and large chainring, you will make the chain cross and suffer greater torsion and tension.
How do you know when to change the chain?
Now that we have seen some of the factors that influence chain deterioration, you will understand that the most recommendable thing to do is to pay attention to objective means to decide the ideal moment to change the chain for our bike.
We propose three methods, although we prefer the third one:
- Malfunctioning: if the chain is often broken, it may be a sign that it is time to change it, although other causes may also play a role. So if the chain comes off often it can be a strong indication but we recommend that you check with one of the other two methods.
- Measuring the new chain: the first method is to measure the chain when it is new in 10-pin sections. Then we will have to make the same measurement regularly, depending on the use, (once a month or every 2 months) and check that its use has not caused it to lengthen more than 1 millimetre for every 10 pins of link. Do this considering that you will have to measure the chain in several different sections, since only a part of it could have deteriorated.
- Use a chain meter: This tool is very cheap (around 3 EUR) and is the ultimate test that will tell you whether you need to change your chain or not. In our opinion this tool should not be missing from your toolbox. This tool allows you to easily measure if the chain has been stretched to 75% of its limit, if so you will have to change it as soon as possible, otherwise your chain is fine and you can continue with it. But, in addition, this same tool also allows you to find out if the chain has been stretched to 100% of its limit, if so the news is much worse since not only will you have to change the chain but you will also have to change chainrings and sprockets. This video explains how to use it.
Whether you do it one way or another, or simply leave it to a professional workshop to check the complete condition of your bike, you will always benefit from checking whether or not you should change the chain. A damaged chain, if it is not replaced in time, will end up forcing us to use new chainrings and sprockets: the action on them of a chain in bad condition will end up deteriorating them in the same way.