How Often Should A Motorcycle Chain Be Replaced? – Pack Up and Ride

How long does a motorcycle chain last? 

If you own a bike, one of the first things that you should learn more about is chain maintenance. The engine’s full power will not transfer to the wheels due to a worn chain. Proper maintenance and lubrication of the chain and sprocket are crucial for their long life. Even after maintenance, the chain, like other parts of a bike, will need to be replaced over time. The question is, how long can a motorcycle chain last? The answer to this question depends on several other factors

Factors Affecting The Life Of A Bike Chain

1.   The bike you ride

The wear and tear of the chain and sprocket depend largely on the bike you ride. Usually, sports bikes, more powerful bikes, etc. will need frequent replacement of chains compared to the normal commuter bikes. The performance differs and so does the chain life.

2. What kind of rider are you? 

Your riding style plays an important factor. Riding in rough conditions will put a lot of stress on the bike. Excess pressure on the chain and sprocket due to racing, off-roading, or driving in water or at constant high speeds can even make cleaning and maintaining the chain quite difficult. Riding a bike gently can prolong its life. Avoid sudden bursts of power that can wear the chain and stretch it.

3. Type of chain

Many older chains allow dirt and moisture to get inside the pins and rollers. However, the new or modern chains are of an O-ring or X-seal style and are not as vulnerable to moisture and dirt. Old-style chains are simpler in construction and cost less but have a shorter lifespan than newer ones.

  •     Unsealed:

these non o ring chains are similar to the old chain that old bicycles had and there are no seals to keep the lubricant inside and the moisture outside. 

  •  O ring chains:

the chains have a rubber or silicone ring that keeps the grease inside tightly right from the factory and then for the life of the chain drive. These seals keep the chain and sprockets cleaner, quieter, and more efficient apart from lengthening the life of the chain. 

  •   X-ring :

there is an X-shaped or an asterisk-shaped cross-section that improves the performance of the chain. It reduces the contact surface between the seal and the link. This helps shave off small amounts of time and is especially useful when racing.     

4. Where do you ride the bike? 

If you mostly ride on smooth and paved roads, the condition of the sprockets and chain will remain good with regular lubrication and cleaning. Even if your riding style is good, but you often ride in bad weather conditions or go through water crossings, you need more intensive maintenance. Water and dirt are the biggest enemies of the chain and may cause even new chains to rust and lead to tight spots.

Riding With A Worn-Out Chain Can Be Dangerous

What happens when you ride on a damaged or old chain and wear a sprocket? The impact on the motorcycle tires is also enormous. Imagine that you are cruising at high speeds, and the chain breaks and tangles in the rear wheel.

Your bike may just lose power and come to a stop, which is alright, but a broken chain may cause an accident, and crashing when you are riding at fast speeds can be fatal. The broken chain may cause injury to you by whipping around your legs and ankles.

You must ensure your safety as well as the safety of other drivers and people on the road. This is why o ring chains or any other better quality chain with inbuilt lubrication is the best.

How Do You Know When Your Motorcycle Chain Is Worn Out?

The good thing is that the chain drive parts are easily visible, and you can inspect them without any problem. However, the bad thing is that it is possible to ride with a worn chain, and you can unknowingly make the problem worse. Here are a few signs that let you know when it is time to replace the bike chain:

Rust 

Check the rear and front sprocket cover apart from the chain. A little surface rust may not be that damaging, but if you allow the rusting to expand, then it will be a problem.

Exposure to moisture, high temperature, and irregular lubrication can cause rust to form rapidly. If the seals are broken or damaged, you will find rust on the pins and rollers. This clearly indicates that you need a new chain and rear & front sprocket. 

Overstretch

When the holes in the links of the chain start widening, at first, it is not a problem. It is natural for the chain to stretch a bit when you pull it away from the sprocket on the rear wheel.

Check the master link. You can see the stretch when the chain sags a bit, even after adjusting it fully. Minor elongation of the chain is alright, but if you notice an overstretch of about an inch, you need to replace it. 

 Noise and kinks

Another good indication of a worn-out chain is the noise it makes. A rattling noise or a clicking sound, even after lubrication, is a clear sign that you need to replace the chain. It is the same with kinked links that can cause problems.

How Often Should You Replace Motorcycle Chain?

If you like your bike and are proud of your riding style, you will look after your motorcycle well. Ideally, you should clean and maintain your motorcycle every week, especially if you regularly use it.

If not every week, then you need to spend time on your bike every fifteen days. A thorough cleaning of the chain and sprockets every 500 to 600 miles is essential. If you don’t do this, you will often have to replace the chains.

Follow the service manual for more thorough cleaning if you find it difficult.

Even with a new bike, you can often upgrade and fix a better chain than the OEM chain and sprocket set that you got originally. The OEM parts are different from the aftermarket parts.

A chain maintenance kit with chain cleaner, brush, a paddock stand, and a good lubricant will help you carry out motorcycle maintenance at home. It is best to apply the lube after riding. When the chain is warm, the lubricant can get into all the crevices.

Moreover, the excess fluid evaporates before your next ride. Check to ensure that the chain is not loose, or it may break mid-ride. At the same time, if the chain is too tight, there will be a lot of stress on the seals and transmission bearings.

Look for signs of rust, frozen links, or kinks in the chain and rear & front sprocket that can cause snaps. If you are regular in chain maintenance, there is no reason it cannot last for a long time.

Follow The Steps To Take Care Of Your Bike Chain

 Replacing your own chain and sprockets is not very difficult but if you are doing it for the first time, ask an experienced friend to be around. You will need to remove the rear axle and wheel, so you may need a paddock stand or make it stand on its center stand.

  • Keep your motorcycle on its stand and remove the rear wheel. Keep it carefully in a place where its brake disk will not bend. 
  • Check the chain. Is it too loose or has kinks? Then you are better off replacing it. 
  • Check the rear and front sprockets. Ideally, it should be even on both sides of the tooth. If the leading edge wears off more than the back edge, you will see a fin-like shark formation. 
  • Now, check the master link and test if it is secure. Also, check the chain guard.
  • If required, you will have to remove the front sprocket cover and maybe even the gear lever.
  • First, use a chain cleaner to spray on the chain and then scrub with a chain brush.
  • Repeat the spraying and scrubbing until it is fully clean.
  • Dry the chain with a rag.
  • Apply chain wax or a special lubricant of your choice and make sure that it reaches all the pins and only then tighten the spindle nut.

Do not break the old chain before fixing the new chain. Once you finish, then detach the old chain, and with a riveting tool, join the ends of the new chain.

How Long Do Street Bike Chains Last?

A motorcycle chain can last between 30000 to 60000 in ideal conditions. The manufacturers and mechanics insist that regular maintenance is essential for a chain’s long life.

The lifespan of a motorcycle’s chain and sprockets depends on the type of engine and its power. When you ride hard and neglect regular maintenance, the lifespan of the chain can come down to 10000 to 20000 km or less, even if you are using an o ring chain or X-seal chain.

The numbers will go down further if you use the old chain type. Another important factor is the type of chain. Aftermarket parts from a good brand will help in prolonging the chain life.

One more thing to keep in mind is that chain wear and sprocket wear happen at different speeds, but they affect each other. Sometimes there will be life left in either of the two but if you are replacing the chain, then replace the sprocket as well. The newer O rings are the best option.

Should You Replace The Sprocket Along With The Chain?

The usual practice is to replace the chain and both front and rear sprocket simultaneously. If your chain lasts its full life, it is good to follow this rule.

However, sometimes the chain breaks or shows damage prematurely, then you don’t need to change the sprocket while replacing the chain. Check the chain tension around the rear sprocket to see any loose spots. Sometimes only the front sprocket needs replacement and vice versa.

 You can mostly change them in pairs on a street motorcycle, but off-road motorcycles are different. Usually, the chains on them are not O-ring style, so they wear off much faster.

At the same time, if you replace your chain but leave the old worn rear or front sprocket, then you will wear the new chain faster. So, if you are spending money on buying a good chain, then go ahead and get new sprockets as well.

How To Check For Damage In The Sprockets? 

How can you tell if you need to replace the sprockets? The sprocket nut should not be loose. Check how the rear sprocket joins the chain all around. Remove the front sprocket nut and open it to check properly.

 Here are some clear signs that the sprockets need replacement:

  • You find the sprocket bent and warped
  • The tips of the teeth look sharp. There should be a flat spot at the tip 
  • If some teeth are broken
  • You notice that the teeth curve towards one side, forming a shark-like shape

How Much Does A Chain Replacement Cost?

The cost of a motorcycle’s chain replacement will vary depending on several factors. 

  • Are you replacing both sprockets along with the chain? Though it is a good rule to follow, it may not happen every time. 
  • The brand & quality of the drive chain
  • What kind of motorcycle do you have? 
  • What is your budget? 

 The price for a new chain can range from an old-style, plain chain for smaller, lighter motorcycles for about $ 25 to $ 200 and more for superior quality, O ring chains meant for bigger and powerful bikes. The O ring chains cost more, but they also last longer. 

The front and rear sprockets can cost between $ 50 and $ 250 again, depending on the material, size, and quality. The mechanic who replaces the chain will also charge you some money, and if you are good with your hands, you can do the job at home and not pay the mechanic. You can buy a chain breaker tool costing between $ 50 and $ 100 that can be very useful. 

Conclusion

Your motorcycle is a wonderful marvel of modern engineering, and you must do everything that you can to keep it going in good condition. Regular maintenance and chain inspection are the keys.

Chain and sprockets need to be a part of this routine. The right chain, sprocket, and good maintenance will keep you riding happily for a long-long time.

Liam

Hi, I'm the initiator and writer of this blog. Cars were and will be my first love, and my favorite hobby, that's why I decided to start this blog and write about my discoveries and techniques to improve my cars or repair them.