How to check for chain wear: The easy way, the best way, and why

How to check for chain wear: The easy way, the best way, and why

Checking for chain wear

Your bicycle’s chain is put through hell every time you ride. For every minute of pedaling, approximately 44,000 chain pieces are in motion, originating 320,000 separate instances of sliding surface friction. And all of this is on a component that sets near to the ground and is exposed to the elements.

Just like your tyres and restraint pads, bonds wear with implement. And as a chain wears, friction in the drivetrain increases, your change does sloppier, and worst of all, you’ll promptly start wearing out other drivetrain ingredients. Changing your series at the right time can save you money and attain your drive more enjoyable.

If you’re searching a quick-witted answer for the easy method to check for chain wear, you should only need to read the first few sections of this article. If you want to go deep down the rabbit excavation, well, we can help you with that too.

Fundamental of series wear excused

Over time, the chain’s pins and inner associates will wear, and as a result, the tone( section) of each link will grow. Because the chain’s overall period originates with wear, series wear is commonly called’ chain stretch’- even though the metal is not( measurably) stretch.

bicycle chains

An exploded scene of a single order link.

The standard tone of a new chain connect should sit at half an inch( 12.7 mm ), pin-to-pin. An internal plus an outer( wide and constrict) relate of a bond makes an even inch. Chainrings and cassette cogs are designed with this pitch in mind, such that the series razzes at the base of the cog/ hoop when new. As the order pitch grows, it wheels higher on the tooth, accelerating cog wear until eventually it only bounces over the top. And it’s this dreaded bond skip that you never want to feel when you’ve got all your heavines loaded on a pedal.

Once the order wears, the cassette and chainrings start to wear along with it, becoming’ hooked’ from the high-riding chain. Replacing your chain before it wears too badly will dramatically increase the life of the rest of your drivetrain( cassette and chainrings ). A $40 series every few months could save you hundreds by preserve your drivetrain.

When to supplant a order

There is no exact science to knowing when to change a series. And there’s also spate at the end of the debates about what groups as a dres series. However, the information in this article should get you as close to the answer as is known.

It’s common to hear distance recommendations for how often you are able to replace your chain. But as we covered in our Holy Grail of series lube article, there are simply too many variables for this to be a reliable skill- and in reality, a simple difference of bond lube and maintenance can result in a longevity difference of anywhere between 500 km to 15,000 km. This is why you need to manually check it.

How long a chain will last vary your ride strength, your pick of bond lube, the chain, travelling provisions, changing habits and the field you ride.

Even when penalty isn’t a factor, the likes of the top WorldTour teams regularly change bonds nearly every 1,000 km( a few weeks in a Grand Tour ). Some machinists claim they get up to three full seasons out of cassettes and chainrings this style, but even more importantly, there’s far less risk of a separated bond in the heat of the moment and it’s more efficient, extremely. Additionally, a dres chain will exhibit greater slack that leads to slower and sloppier shifting.


Whether you want to run your drivetrain into the ground is your call, but the trend toward more expensive cassettes and chainrings is clear.

This argument for regular series substitution is rather clear-cut if you’re riding on Shimano Dura-Ace, Campagnolo Super Record and SRAM Red ingredients where the cogs can cost as much as an entry-level bike. However, the quality hypothesi becomes a tougher debate if you go on 105 or below where permutation chainrings and cassettes are much more cheap.

Additionally, you’ll need to consider the installation cost of a brand-new chain if you’re not self-confident in do it yourself. Or the costs of a chain breaker if it’s a task you’re looking to take on. Nevertheless, if you quality crisp altering, an efficient drivetrain, or if you often swap between wheelsets, then regularly supplanting chains before they develop substantial wear is a smart choice regardless of what your factors cost.

For that, you should do a manual check( determine next division) for wear on a regular basis. If you’re a informal road equestrian, I’d propose checking every couple of months, and if you journey most day of the week, then you should check it at more regular delays again. The shirk “youre with” basic chain upkeep, the more you should deter a check on wear. And be sure to increase your checking times during the muck of wintertime, more. With experience you’ll get an understanding of how long things last, and when you should be watching for wear.

If you go mountain bikes, gravel or cyclocross, then beware that your chain replacing delays will likely be far more regular again. It’s not uncommon to hear of riders wearing through a chain in a single poor-conditions endurance event.

Measuring series wear the free and easy way

So how about measuring that chain wear? Well, the easiest( and free) road is as follows 😛 TAGEND

1. Shift gears so that your chain is in the big-hearted peal and smallest gear on the cassette( e.g. 53 -1 1T) 2. Pull the bond at the breast of the chainring as testify. If the series starts to lift off the top and/ or the bottom of where it convenes on the chainring teeth, this means that the order is starting to wear or is worn.

chain wear

If your series elevators off the ring like this, it’s likely worn.

This’ lift’ is possible because the chain’s pitch has increased and so no longer baby-sits properly in the teeth. The photo below indicates a brand new chain. Chances are if your bond heaves off more than our wear sample, you’ll be needing more than a brand-new chain. Nonetheless, do beware that worn chainrings can give a inaccurate read with this method, and a brand-new chain on a worn-out chainring will present similar lifting.


As depicted, a new series will barely filch from the ring.

However, while this method is free, it doesn’t require much indication for how tattered that order is, or whether you’ve worn the chain even further that your existing cogs won’t abode a fresh series. That’s where tools come in.

The easy tool technique

So how threadbare is your chain? Is it so far cooked you’ll need a brand-new cassette? Or is it simply an old chainring telling you lies with the previous technique? You’ll need a tool to know for sure.

There is the ruler method which I consider later, but my suggestion is to use an economical, purpose-built chain checker tool. The simple fixed-length, drop-in style tool is all you need and will abruptly give you a see or no-go gauge on your chain wear.

Uneven chain wear

This digital order wear checker proves that series don’t wear evenly across their whole length. Additionally, grime and grease( as seen here) can greatly bang the measurement.

It’s important be informed that chains rarely wear evenly across their entire length. And so however you choose to measure your chain wear, you should do it across three to five separate sections and use the average amount. Never include the quick link or similar joining join in your estimation.

Using the popular Park Tool CC-3. 2 series wear checker as two examples, the. 5% label is there as a recommended substitution item for 11 and 12 -speed drivetrains, or as a warning for those working on 10 -speed or lower setups. The. 75% learn is the suggested replacing target for 10 -speed and lower. Some tools offer a 1% wear site, very, something best kept for eight-speed bonds or lower.

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The Park Tool CC-3. 2 presents both. 5% and. 75% wear indications.

This. 5% recommended replacing pitch is fairly new and comes from an increased understanding of how the narrower cogs of modern drivetrains give less surface area, and are therefore more prone to material wear. Because of this, many older series wear checkers on world markets are outdated, and will simply show chain wear on newer drivetrains at a point that’s too late.

If a bond is worn, appropriate tools will drop into the link and baby-sit flush along the series. Or if it’s not attire, appropriate tools will sit above the link, as shown in the lead photo. For our own bikes running the good stuff, we’ll replace a bond at the. 5 differentiating. This applies to our 10, 11 and 12 -speed setups.

However, there are important exceptions to this. If you really did want to the simple rebuttals, you can stop here. I do, however, recommend see some related chain articles.

If you require the deep dive, then stick with me — this will get a little geeky.

A deeper dive into the machinists of chain wear

During each saying around a chainring, cassette or pulley motor, the eight patches that make a full chain connection are experiencing an enormous amount of friction. It’s easy is how and why order lubrication can play such a major role in efficiency and durability.

With each expression, the riveted pin remains static, with the same surface frequently seeing friction. Similarly, the roller is held static when in contact with a cog- it doesn’t roll. As a ensue, it’s the internal connection plates that are articulating around the static bolt.

As the internal plates articulated around the pin, the bolt is worn thinner, and the inside endures of the internal relates expand. This wear leads to play between the segments, and when the order is plucked under tension, its segment germinates. This is elongation wear( aka, stretching ).

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It’s the length from roller to roller that the cogs actually experience.

Traditionally the general goal of chain-wear-checking is to measure this elongation, omitting the rollers smothering the pin and inner associations. However, the cog and chainring are dumb to this measurement, and actually, it’s the distance between the contracted rollers that the cogs witness. And just as the bolt and inner connects wear together, so too can the inside of the roller and the outside diameter of the inner connects. I’ll come back to this.

Wearing of the inner and outer slabs, known as lateral wear, is also a key factor to consider. This will see the side-to-side play in your bond raise, and with it, you’ll experience slower shifting as the derailleurs and altering ramps work harder to attract the floppier chain onto the desired cog. It won’t lead to the wear of other factors, but it will stop your shifting from working at its best.

A deeper dive in to bond implements

Now back to order tools.

A tool like the Park Tool CC-3. 2 is attempting to measure the length from one rod to another, nonetheless, as it convenes against the figurehead of one roller and the back of another, its predict can be thrown off by the rollers. This shouldn’t be an issue, but not all rollers are created equal, and it’s common to find some orders that have rollers that are looser-fitting, faster-wearing or simply different diameters than others.

Because of this, some chain wear checkers seek to isolate the roller wear from the measurement and do this by measuring from equal, and not opposing, backs of the rollers. Precedents of this include chain tools from Shimano, Pedro’s, and more recently, Park Tool( CC-4 ). They is required to provide a more consistent reading across a greater variety of series, even if they’re still impacted by roller wear and roller deviations( just to a far lesser degree ).

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Most chain wear indicator tools, such as the Park Tool CC-3. 2 drawn at the top, amount from defending roller faces. While others seek to isolate the roller diameter from the equation by appraise backside-to-backside.

” The three-point measurement system spend on the Pedro’s Chain Checker Plus II fulfils this by pushing both rollers in these directions during measurement, instead of in opposite tacks, as is the case with common two-point measurement implements, ” asks Jay Seither, Pedro’s head of product management and engineering. “As a outcome, the Chain Checker Plus achieves a true measure of the pin-to-pin distance.”

For an upcoming exam, Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling measured, on average, 19% earlier wear charges by using a two-point digital chain checker than when measuring the external pin-to-pin elongation of the bond( I’ll soon explain how to measure it ).

The reasons for this discrepancy are down to roller indulgences and roller wear. The reality that some bonds start life with looser rollers than others is not news. Nonetheless, in what’s arguably new information to everyone in the drivetrain space, Kerin found that some bonds had rollers wear at a far higher rate in proportion to the pins and internal ties. And as mentioned before, the cog’s teeth don’t care about these incompatibilities, instead it’s simply the length between the rollers under quantity that really difficulties.

Park Tool’s Project Manager, John Krawczyk, concurs with this.” Whether a chain measures only 0.001% wear or 0.75% “worn” when it is new, this doesn’t change the fact that the cassette and chainrings don’t care how brand-new or how old-time the order is ,” he said.” All they know is that once the series extends well beyond 0.75% wear( or whatever the replacing metric from the series creator might be) those rollers no longer fall cleanly in the depression between the teeth and either the chain needs to be replaced or the teeth begin to be re-shaped.”

Given this, and despite such glaring calculation divergences, both Kerin and I are of the opinion that the drop-in style chain checker implements are still the best and easiest way to keep a check on wear, and that it’s best to change a chain that becoming worn than one that’s overdue.

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For many reasonableness, I’m not a fan of the tools illustrated. They’re either too easily impaired, or specify wear notification at a detail, that in my view, is too late.

When shopping for a order wear checker, look for one that can’t be damaged through desecration( which will then induce premature wear construes ), and one that offers staggered wear deciphers to give you a rough indication as to the point of wear. Avoid implements that exclusively give a single degree of wear appraisal- they’ll only say to you when your chain is toasted, a point that’s too late in my opinion.

I’ve long been partial to the Park Tool CC-3. 2 as a plan option, and in most cases, I continue to find it a reliable option. There are plenty of same choices sold by others, but know had indicated that the cheapest ones can be a little hit-and-miss.

KMC Digital chain wear gauge

The KMC Digital Chain Wear Checker is a personal favourite as it allows easy and finite wear calculation. However, do beware that it is influenced by order roller diameter.

For more finite wear-checking, my preference is the KMC Digital Chain Wear Checker. It’s priced high-pitched and is certainly overkill for most, but it lets me monitor chain wear in minuscule increments. I’ll replace chains formerly they tip over. 4mm on this instrument, which is a hair sooner than the. 5% value on the CC-3. 2.

SRAM series are one clear exception to using these suggested tools. Most chains on the market start with a roller that’s 7.63 -7. 65 mm in outside diameter. SRAM’s orders are larger — for example, rollers from a Red 22 bond are 7.69 -7. 70 mm, while an Eagle 12 -speed chain uses rollers that measure 7.72 mm. And SRAM’s new Flat-Top chain as part of the Road AXS radicals is larger again( 7.90 mm ).

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SRAM series, and their oversized rollers, pitch a spanner in the works. If you’re dealing with SRAM series, then obviously get yourself a implement like the Pedro’s Chain Wear Checker II or Park Tool CC-4. They’ll succeed enormou with all other chains, too.

Of course, that throws off any tool the above measures from defending line-ups of the rollers. This is where Pedros’ Chain Checker Plus II, or Park Tool’s CC-4 come in. These backside-to-backside chain checkers will work across all series, including SRAM.

Because of this, both Pedro’s Chain Wear Checker II and Park Tool’s CC-4 are fast becoming my preferred method, and for not a big increase in cost. The Pedro’s manages to combine other implements into it, while the Park feels a little more rigid in use.

Alternatively, you can use a vernier caliper to step( and record) the distance between 10 links when the bond is new and then monitor it for. 5% wear from there. Use the calipers inside the rollers, just as if it were a order wear tool. The call of a vernier caliper is what Campagnolo recommends, nonetheless, it is a more involved method that involves a more expensive tool.

Regardless of what tool you use, it’s a good idea to learn how it measures to ensure a brand-new chain. If a tool uncovers worrisome wear on a brand-new and decent quality chain, then it’s perhaps not an instrument to trust.

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chainwear tools

Tools, implements, tools. There are many chain wear indicator implements on the market.

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Some chain wear tools offer an adjustable measurement distance to provide you with insight into how worn the order is. As mentioned, the KMC Digital is my favourite, but the pictured Birzman is surprisingly decent more. The Park Tool, in my experience, will have you replacing orders sooner than you need to.

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Park Tool currently offers three bond wear checking tools. The brand-new CC-4 is certainly the best of the knot, but I too like the CC-3. 2( for non-SRAM bonds ).

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Birzman Chain Checker in use.


The Park Tool CC-2 is a common slew in pro shops. It’s also very easy to pressure a speciou decipher from it.

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The new Park Tool CC-4 simulates a number of factors from Pedro’s, but done with a stiffer creation and a longer quantify length.

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The BBB chain wear checker is a simple drop-in tool, but it shows how critical tolerances are in such a tool. As you can see in this photo, the recorded chain wear is higher than with the other tools.

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Birzman’s simpler drop-in gauge offers three assessment degrees. It working well, but again, I’d advocate going a backside-to-backside tool like the Park Tool CC-4 or Pedro’s Chain Wear Checker Plus II.

Using appropriate tools

The amount of tension applied to the chain, and how dirty it is, will affect the learn with any implement exploited. A dirty bond will likely ever read as being less tattered than what it really is, likewise for a bond doused in a thick-witted lubricant. While the more hostility you put on the order, the more threadbare it’ll read. And this is where things can get tricky.

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Tools such as the Pedros’ Chain Wear Checker Plus II and Park Tool CC-4 allow you to apply some chain tension in the process of utilization of the tool.

Chains are never ridden without friction. Given that, Jason Smith, CeramicSpeed’s Chief Technology Officer and the person responsible for much of the newer understanding of chain wear, recommends valuing your chain while it’s under onu. After all, that’s how it boundaries with a cog in use. Pedro’s Chain Checker and Park Tool’s CC-4 allow you to apply a load immediately in using the tool( although it is not in the different regions of the full evaluating distance ), while with other options you will need to create the quantity separately.

Here’s my technique. With the rear pedal held in place( easiest if it’s on the ground ), I pull on the crank until any readily palpable slack in the order is taken up. With the order wear tool in the top-span of the series( above the chainstay ), I then check whether the tool plummets into its wear observe. It’s far away from technical, but it’s fast and relatively repeatable.

Most tools will simply drop into place if the bond is worn, and so only ever apply a sunlight quantity to the tool, and never action it. If you’re having to push down on the tool with any level of endeavor, the chain is not worn.

This advice is something that Krawczyk of Park Tool reiterates.” Chain and implement tension can significantly affect the efficacy of any series wear show ,” he says.” As prudent machinists say,’ No question how good appropriate tools is it is only as good as the mechanic using it .’ With that said we do find that by quantify roller back to roller back( like on the CC-4) this does help reduce the dependence of a situate tension.[ However] if you push hard enough the tool can and will flex, effectively forcing appropriate tools into an otherwise brand-new or not-yet-worn chain.”

It doesn’t make a whole lot of appreciation to scavenge a order prior to replacing it, but just know that the grittier, greasier and grosser your bond searches, the likelier it’s more threadbare than what the tool tells.

And remember my earlier quality involving uneven chain wear? Be sure to measure multiple spots along the chain’s length, and make the average.

Chain wear is not linear

When keeping a check on chain wear, it’s critical to know that the wear does not happen in a linear fashion. If you get 3,000 km of journeying to. 25% wear, you’ll unlikely get another 3,000 km by the time the chain reaches. 5% wear. This is because most aspect orders have a number of surface thickening medications and low resistance veneers which will whittle away with utilize- accelerating fabric wear. Additionally, the contamination inside the chain’s ties-in will be enhanced with use.

Don’t get caught out. Be sure to check at regular time-based intervals, and don’t rely on distance as a measure.

Measuring the series elongation

It’s often recommended that the most accurate and best nature to measure your chain is with a ruler. The presumption is that by evaluate pin-to-pin you can accurately guess how much wear has occurred in the components of the series and it removes any question over roller indulgences and wear, instead focusing only on the actual pitch of the bond.

However, in my opinion, this process is fraught with the likelihood of user-error. Lining up a ruler from the centre of one bolt to another 10 or 12 connections away, all while remaining within less than half a millimetre of accuracy, isn’t something that numerous can do commonly. Additionally, you won’t be able to easily computed tension to that bond, and so dirt and lube will have a huge impact on the measurement.

If you disagree( you’re mistaken !), then the process is as follows:

With your bond still on the bicycle, situate a ruler’s zero inch mark directly above the centres of one of your chain rods. Now counting 12 terminated connections. A terminated connect equals one internal and one outer. A stud on a brand-new bond should line up exactly to 12 inches( 304.8 mm) on the ruler.

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Using a ruler is the aged tried-and-trued method. However, I’m not a fan of the method when you consider earlier( shorter) permutation objects, chain tension and general human error.

As a general rule for 9-speed or lower drivetrains, if the rivet are more than 1/16 ”( 1.59 mm) past the mark, your bond is ok. If it’s between 1/16 ” and 1/8 ”( 3.18 mm) past the mark you’ll likely need a brand-new order, but your sprockets should be ok. If it’s more than 1/8 ” past the mark, you’ll probably have to replace both the series and cassette. For 10, 11 and 12 -speed, you’ll want to replace the chain as soon as it contacts 1/16 ”, or in other words,. 5 %.

As mentioned, I don’t rate the ruler method. The following, more-involved method displays more accurate arises but involves tracking order wear over the entire span of the order, starting from when it’s brand new. This is because while all chains should set an inch per a whole link, it’s rarely the subject. Jason Smith previously perceived a difference in elongation between unused bonds of the same brand. There are certainly differences!

For this, once the brand-new chain has been chipped to the right duration, hang it off a nail or similar hanging space that’ll remain consistent. Measure the total length of the new bond, of the center of one cease to the centre of the other end. If it’s an option, you can mark on the wall( use strip) where the chain reaches.

Arrow direction of master link

Measuring for wear off the motorcycle should only be done if your order has a quick link, and even then, it’s important to consider if wishes to destroy them.

From now on, you’ll need to measure your chain wear with the series off the bicycle, and replace it when the total length has grown by. 5% from the original. This is just showed for bonds consuming a quick link, and you’ll need to do the measurement after the order has been scavenged and with a heavines drawing down on it( Smith hints a 50 lb/ 22 kg heavines at most ).

And just when you’re imagine this all sounds like too much work, also remember that orders don’t wear evenly, so it’s quite possible that there are areas of the chain that are far more worn than what the total length measurement recommends.

Yep, series wear checker tools aren’t perfect, but they’re better than the alternative!

Worn chainrings and cassette

Remember those. 5% and. 75% proposed substitution items? Well, regrettably, order elongation is not the only compel of cog wear — pure metal-on-metal abrasion is a major cause, very.

Myself and countless others have suffered it where a bond may only be slightly tattered, but due to a poor choice of lube and a lack of basic maintenance the order has abraded through a cassette. There is plenty of truth to the aged saying that a clean-living motorcycle is a happy one.

In Kerin’s chain lube testing, he discovered huge differences in cog wear as the direct result of chain lube preference. Some of the poorer-performing chain lubes, such as White Lightning Epic Ride, would ascertain the cogs abraded beyond re-use by the time a order assessed. 5% wear. Meanwhile, good wax-based lubes would motive almost no measurable wear to the cogs with the same chain elongation.

Generally speaking, for 10 -, 11 – and 12 -speed drivetrain users, change your series when it assesses. 5 %, and you’ll be fine with re-using the existing cassette and chainrings. And you should get three orders to that one cassette, and perhaps as many as six chains to the chainrings. Wait till the chain measures. 75% and you’ll likely need at least a new cassette, extremely.


There are many reasons why chainrings last longer and handle chain wear better than cassettes.

The discrepancy between chainrings and cassettes is because the onetime are typically larger and with more teeth, hence spreading the loading across a greater number of teeth at any one point. On this part, yes, smaller chainrings do normally wear out faster than large echoes. Additionally, a chain will wrap itself around more than half a chainring, while the buttock derailleur dictates that there will be less fold on the cassette.

Severely worn cassettes and chainrings are easy to spot as they’ll start looking thin and like shark teeth. The teeth will likely be burred, extremely. Plus, the chain coming off them is likely to be wrecked.

There are no perfect implements or measurements for determining cog and chainring wear, though fitting a brand-new order is the surest way to disclose significant wear as it will bounce and rumble on the tattered teeth. Time be careful to test this in a saw medium before ability into a cluster sprint.

Shimano constituents are the easiest to measure for wear, with brand-new components measuring 9.5 mm from gratuity to tip on the square-edge teeth. Harmonizing to Kerin, low-pitched to medium capability riders should be able to use worn cassettes and chainrings that show up to a 10 mm distance from gratuity to tip-off, but potent riders may suffer bouncing. And by 10.2 mm it’s too late for everyone.

According to Kerin, if you keep up on your chain maintenance, use a good lubricant, and supersede your series before it presents significant wear, then you have been able get as much as 50,000 km from your chainrings.


Well done for compile it this far.

This is now the second time I’ve taken a depth nose-dive on the subject of chain wear, trying to answer the questions that aren’t queried fairly. Unfortunately, like last period, I’m left with some questions that simply can’t be answered. That’s the problem when there are far too many variables for something to be an exact science.

Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling summarises it well: “As a general rule I opt a quality drop-in chain wear checker. For those playing at home, checking wear via quantifying elongation with calipers, a ruler, or hanging the entire order is fraught with some challenges, and order wear checking needs to be something simple and speedy so that users stay on top of, and oust chains before they become too worn and to eat into expensive cassettes and chainrings.”

So, get yourself a trusted chain checker tool, use it often, and don’t be afraid to replace your chain when you think it’s time. Your drivetrain will thank you.

The post How to check for chain wear: The easy practice, the most efficient way, and why materialized first on CyclingTips.

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