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How Long Do Motorcycle Chains Last?

If maintained regularly a decent quality motorcycle chain should give you 15,000 to 20,000 miles (24,000 – 32,000 km) of hassle free riding while high end Gold X or O-ring chains will last 20,000 to 30,000 miles (32,000 – 48,000 km).

While a well maintained motorcycle chain should give you up to 20,000 miles of riding pleasure, its final lifespan will be dependent on the type of motorcycle you own and how you ride it.

Looking for the signs that mean your chain needs replacing should be part of your bike maintenance routine.

Read on to discover how to know when it’s time to change your motorcycle chain and whether you need to replace your sprockets at the same time.

Signs That Your Chain Needs Changing

how long do chains last on motorcycles?
Before carrying out chain cleaning and maintenance give it a good pull and see if there’s any play
  • Grab the chain on the rear sprocket and try to pull it off the sprocket toward the back of the bike. If it comes away slightly and you can see daylight between the chain and sprocket then it needs replacing.
  • A noisy chain is a sign it needs replacing.
  • If it looks rusty it is time for a new chain.
  • If any links are kinked and not sat down on the sprocket properly its time for a new chain.
  • If you have taken the wheel back as far as it will go to take up chain slack then its time for a new chain.

How Dangerous is a Worn Out Motorcycle Chain?

A worn motorcycle chain is at risk of snapping when under stress which can lead to various scenarios, some worse than others.

  • The chain breaks and falls off so you lose all power to the back wheel. Kill the throttle and pull in to the side of the road with hopefully no damage done.
  • The chain could fly out causing damage to any following vehicle, to your legs or back or to your motorcycle.
  • The broken chain wraps around your rear sprocket causing a rear wheel lock up and potential slide down the tarmac. This is a rare occurance but it does happen, especially if on a bend.
  • The chain comes off and wraps around the front sprocket causing damage to the cover or leg if it doesn’t have a sprocket cover.

As well as the above snapping scenarios, chain wear can lead to stretching which in turn can cause the chain to come off causing a lock up or damage to your wheel, swing arm or front sprocket cover.

A worn chain will also cause your sprockets to deteriorate quicker too.

Examining and cleaning your motorcycle chain saves you money and ensures your chain continues to work optimally so you should never have to experience any of the above.

Ignoring your motorcycle chain means it will wear out up to 4 times faster than a maintained one. It will also need constant adjustments due to stretching and wear out your sprockets much quicker leading to even more expense.

Should You Replace Sprockets Whenever You Change your Chain?

Your drive chain, front and rear sprockets work in tandem. A worn chain will quickly cause wear to your sprockets and visa versa.

Just changing the chain without replacing a slightly worn sprocket means that sprocket will now wear even quicker as well as shortening the life of the new chain you just fitted.

For the above reasons if you decide your chain needs replacing due to wear it’s a good idea to change your sprockets at the same time or at least seek a second opinion.

An important point to note is that the front sprocket is always the first to wear out. Once it is worn it will quickly wear the chain and rear sprocket as well. All the components work together and affect each other. 

A worn front sprocket is very hard wearing on the chain and will wear it out much earlier than a good sprocket will. As a matter of course I always change the front sprocket when I do a chain replacement, even if it’s only a periodic or visual change rather than due to wear.

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