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Signs It’s Time to Change Your Road Bike Chainring

Any bike rider out there knows how frustrating it can be to deal with bike chains. You see them being mentioned all the time, and you always know the wear and tear, and the replacement game is always ongoing. But how exactly can you know it is time to change the chain?

You will know that your bike chain needs replacing when the measurement between the chain links has been elongated for more than 1 percent of the original length. You can measure this change with a specialized tool or a ruler to be sure.

While having to replace bike chains can be quite chaotic and painstaking, it is a necessary part of regular bike maintenance. However, with the right knowledge of what kind of damage a chain can go through, how to know it is there, and how long one can last, you can manage your chainring even better! Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating biking component.

Image of a chain ring on a bike.

What Is Chainring Wear And Tear?

Chainrings can go through a lot as you ride around on your bike. Think about it – the chain is constantly exposed to the elements as you navigate the world. Whether it’s bright, glaring sunshine, rain, and mud, or the after-effects of a snowstorm, your bike chain has probably seen it all.

Because of this, it can go through a specific form of wear and tear known as the ‘chain stretch.’ The name is self-explanatory – as a result of damage, the chain’s pitch grows longer. This type of chain damage doesn’t just affect the chain but also the bushings and the pins.

When there is sustained damage for too long, the diameter of the bushings grows, and the chain ring stretches out. When exactly has chain ring damage set in completely? Well, the answer lies in how much the chain has grown from its original pitch. While the original chainring pitch should be 0.5 inches in length, a damaged chainring can be anything that is more than 1% the length of that.

There are other types of damage that your bike can experience, though. Another notable example is known as slop or slack – a type of damage that impacts the chain’s ability to shift from side to side. 

Image of a chain ring and crank on a bike

The problem with a bike chain slacking too much is that it happens slowly over time, so you notice a slow change to less efficient shifting, and it can set in a lot earlier than other types of chainring damage.

You may be wondering – why does this even matter? The answer must be obvious if you have had to replace a chainring before, but it really comes down to the cost. A damaged chain can set you back a lot, especially when you need to fully replace it and you are on a budget.

The worst part is that using a worn-out chainring does not just harm the chain itself. Even if you have a brand new bike, the use of a damaged chain can also hurt the efficiency and durability of your bike if you don’t replace it as soon as possible, as it can damage the cassette.

At the same time, you may have also heard of people knocking years of use out of the very same bike chain. This may be because of regular maintenance, cleaning, and efficient use of pedaling and biking techniques. While it is difficult, it is certainly not impossible.

How To Know Your Chainring Is Worn Out

Now that you are aware of what the main types of chainring damage are, it is time to understand what you need to do to know if your bike chain needs a replacement. To get this done, you can use a tool known as the chain-checking tool, specifically created for this purpose.

Alternatively, some people debate that you can get the same result from just a ruler or tape that you know is accurate. This is because you need to be sure everything is right, down to the decimal points! These can make a major difference in the decision you make about the chain.

The debate comes from the fact that holding a ruler up straight can be difficult, and therefore chain-checking tools are far more accurate as the methodology for this process. It is hard to say for sure which is the best choice – go for whatever suits you best.

No matter what method of measurement you use, know that a brand-new chain that you use for your bike should have the exact measurement of 12 inches across all of the 12 links. Measure this from the middle of one pin to another. 

However, if you notice more than a percentage of elongation on the same measure, you may be looking at some bike chainring wear and tear. Here is a video explaining how this can be done:

However, keep in mind, the replacement shouldn’t wait until this point. Most experts would argue that you should replace the chain well before that – at even 0.5 inches between the links. At the one percent mark, the chain may have already caused extended damage to parts like the cassette.

How Many Miles Does A Bike Chainring Last?

Okay, now that you have read this far into the article, you will know that a bike chainring can sustain damage, and there is a method to know if this is the case. However, you may be wondering if there is a standardized measurement as to how long a bike chainring can last.

The answer can depend on the bike you use; on a mountain bike, this can be in the range of 1500-10,000 miles, whereas road bikes will last upwards of 50,000 miles, as they encounter less dirt and debris on the roads than the average mountain bike does on uneven terrain.

However, these numbers are not always reliable – distance is not always the best way to keep an eye on the level of damage, as there are far too many factors that can impact the durability of your chainring or the general riding system of your bike.

According to the experts, the best way to gauge how well your bike chain is doing is to focus on maintenance and to also keep measuring it so you know its current status. Cleaning after every ride can go a long way in keeping the chain in top shape!

Final Thoughts

Knowing when to replace a chainring can be difficult. However, what we do know is that the right maintenance techniques can help elongate the life of your chain, and help you avoid replacement. So what are you waiting for? Start caring for your bike chain from today and save yourself money for the future!