How Long Do Motorcycle Chains Last? Know When To Replace

chain motorcycle close up

Chain maintenance is a crucial step that should always be a part of your motorcycle maintenance routine. This connects the motorcycle engine to the wheels so it’s subjected to wear and tear over time. A faulty chain is the main difference between riding safely and getting into a motorcycle accident.

There are so many factors that influence the longevity of your motorcycle chain. It can last for as long as 20,000 to 30,000 miles if properly maintained and used regularly. Some chains can last for as short as 5,000 to 10,000 miles. It all depends on factors like proper maintenance, chain quality, and your motorcycle riding habits.

Chain Maintenance

It’s already a given that anything you take poor care of will deteriorate at a much faster rate. Making an effort to maintain your motorcycle chain will make it last longer because it will be more resistant to corrosives like rusting and staining. Clean your chain regularly by washing it with a rag and some soap.

Lubricate it so that the hooks will not snag and it will remain perfectly functional. It’s advisable to add lubrication every 300 to 600 miles. Add the lubricant after riding to give time for the solvents to evaporate and it will penetrate the rings of the chain better.

Chain Quality

Another factor that will affect the longevity of your motorcycle chain is its quality. There are three types of motorcycle chains: O-ring, X-ring, and Y-ring. Their names pertain to the shape of the locking pins and rings of the chain.

tire engine motorcycle new

The most advisable types to use are the O-ring and X-ring chains. These are designed to retain lubrication for a smooth riding experience. You can also go for more modern types of chains that have sealings to prevent the retention of moisture and dirt. Those two combined can cause corrosion and will make it challenging for you to maintain your motorcycle chain.

Motorcycle Riding Habits

The motorcycle chain connects the engine to the wheels. As such, it absorbs any bounce or pressure that the wheels will face as you ride over different types of terrain. For example, frequently riding over rocky and muddy trails will expose your chain to a lot of shock and dirt, respectively. If you drove over wet or muddy surfaces, make sure to clean your motorcycle chain afterward so that the dirt will not cake between the locking pins and rings and cause corrosion.

You should also avoid using your motorcycle for extreme motorcycle sports especially if it’s incompatible for it. An ordinary motorcycle wouldn’t be able to handle track racing or motocross. You should also be mindful of the way you ride your bike. Going at extreme speeds all the time is bound to take a toll on your motorcycle chain.

Signs That You Should Replace The Chain

Motorcycle chain inspection should be performed every 500 miles. This allows you to spot the signs of replacement way before they worsen into serious problems that can compromise your safety.


Rusting happens on metal surfaces. It will occur on your motorcycle chain if it’s always getting wet and exposed to dirt. Rust is dangerous because it eats away at the metal. Even if your chain still appears intact, you cannot discount the fact that the rust has compromised its strength and functionality.

The presence of rust also indicates that your chain of choice has poor sealings. Take it as a sign to upgrade to a more modern chain with better sealing capacity.


Kinks are caused by elements that get the links stuck at weird angles. This means that the chain won’t be as smooth in bending or rotating, which can mess with how comfortably you ride your motorcycle. The random bends will make it difficult for the spikes to engage with the chain so it won’t be as effective in making your motorcycle wheels rotate. The presence of kinks may also indicate that the chain is about to break.

motorbike engine close

Creates Sounds

A normal and functional chain will be silent or have minimal clanking sounds as you ride your motorcycle. Conversely, a faulty motorcycle chain will create noises when being used. The sounds are usually squeaking or rattling noises that are caused by the incompatibility of the chain to the spokes of the sprockets.

Some noises go away after applying lubrication and cleaning the chain. If the sound persists, take it as a sign to replace the motorcycle chain.

Lack Of Tension

The motorcycle chain is expected to be a snug fit with the proper amount of tension for it to be safe. A loose chain will cause a delay in the transmission of force from the engine to the wheels so it’s much more dangerous to ride.

You can expect your motorcycle chain to get looser over time. It doesn’t necessarily stretch but the rings on the chain may get bigger from being used all the time. There’ll come a point where adjusting the tension will be insufficient because the chain itself is faulty.

Dangers Of Old Motorcycle Chains

A worn-out chain is very likely to break while being used. If you’re lucky enough and it breaks while you are going at a slow speed, then you can just recover and pull yourself to the side of the road and then call for mechanical assistance.

But such isn’t the case for everyone. It’s very dangerous to have a motorcycle chain break while you are going at a high speed. You can lose control of the motorcycle wheels and crash. The chain itself poses harm to your legs. A snapped cord of heavy metal can pull your legs back and injure you.

A motorcycle chain breakage is very likely to be lethal. You will harm your motorcycle, yourself, and the other riders on the road. Make it a point to regularly maintain and replace your chain, and that starts by knowing the signs that you should do it.