The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What do you mean my chain "stretched"?

Bicycle mechanics often refer to a worn out chain as "stretched". It sounds a little weird to think of a metal chain stretching so I don't blame you if you're a bit skeptical of this statement. When we say a chain is stretched out we aren't saying that it is like a rubber band that has been stretched out too long and won't return to it's original shape. It would be more accurate to say the chain is elongated. What is happening is that the distance from pin to pin has increased.

Here is a picture of a chain wear indicator on a new chain. Note that it reads 0.04mm. That would be a happy chain.

Here is a stretched or elongated chain. The tool reads 1.73mm. That would be a sad chain.

As you can see from this picture there are two grooves in the chain pin that correspond to the inner plates of this chain.

That wear occurs only on the side of the pin that experiences load.

The grooves can get quite deep.

A worn chain will wear out the teeth on the cassette and chain-ring(s).

Worn teeth can lead to things like chain suck, slipping under load and poor shifting. A worn chain is also more prone to break. If you replace your chain before it is worn out you can almost always avoid these problems and actually save money.

Be the first to correctly answer the following trivia question and win the Park Tool CC-3. E-mail answers to
If using a ruler to measure chain wear, how much can a chain stretch (in inches) before it is considered worn out?

Edit: We have a winner. The answer is 1/16". Thanks for playing.
Here are a few links if learn more about measuring chain wear with a ruler;