Can a motorcycle chain break?

How can you know if your motorcycle chain is about to break? Does motorcycle chain have a defined life span and should be serviced other than tensioning?

It can be dangerous to break a chain while riding. Yes, motorcycle chains break frequently. Breaking a chain while riding can lead to two things.

First, they fly into traffic from behind and cause a hazard, or they wrap around the rear sprocket, causing the rear wheel to lock and send you into a skid.

Why would a motorcycle chain break?

There are a few main reasons chains break. 

Chains have a life span of approximately 15,000 miles; if you exceed the lifespan of this serviceable item, then you are running the gauntlet every time you ride.

Lack of maintenance is a significant factor for motorcycle chain breaking. If your chain is not tensioned correctly, it will break. If it’s not been lubricated, it will break over time.

Rust on chains is unavoidable regardless of how often you lubricate the chain, a small amount of rust on a motorcycle chain is not ideal, but it is permissible and should not be an issue.

Heavy rust and corrosion on a motorcycle chain will only end in one way. The chain will break. If you have a bike with a rusted chain, change it.

Incorrect tension, either loose or tight, will only fatigue the sprockets. A tight chain will palace so much tension on the sprockets that a sprocket may break.

If the chain is loose, it’s easy to imagine the consequences. Chain tension is essential; it’s worth mentioning that chain drives are still the primary way of powering your back wheel for a good reason.

Take care of your chain. Out of the three drive options, chain, belt and driveshaft, the chain still has the best performance for losing power. Only 1 or 2% of the motorcycle power is lost through a chain compared to 20% with a drive shaft.

What happens when a chain breaks on a motorcycle?

You will lose power to your rear wheel.

If you are lucky, the chain will break in a position where it is thrown from the motorcycle’s drive train.

In this case, you will need to pull over safely to prevent a collision. The sudden loss of power may not be evident to a car driver approaching from the rear so take great care.

If your chain has been thrown clear of the motorcycle, it is possible you may not realise what has happened until you are possibly 100 metres further on and then have the sudden realisation you have no power, but your engine is still running.

If this happens, you should pull over immediately regardless of the problem.

A motorcycle chain thrown into traffic at your rear is a hazard to all road users.

A less appealing scenario is the chain wraps around the rear sprocket and stops the rear wheel from turning. In this nightmare scenario, your motorcycle will skid, and you may have to fight to keep control of the rear end.

If there has ever been a case for wearing leathers or good trousers and motorcycle boots, it’s the thought of the chain breaking and hitting the back of your leg.

At speed, the whip of the chain could cause significant tissue wounds if you are not wearing the correct gear.

How long does a motorcycle chain usually last?

Motorcycle chains usually should be changed every 15.000 miles. However, it depends on your riding style. If you ride in the city commuting every day and maintain your chain, you can expect your chain to last its intended lifespan.

If you ride hard, your chain will be taken more punishment with constant hard acceleration, which will reduce the life span of the chain.

How do you know if your motorcycle chain is bad?

If the chain tension is loose or too tight is a bad sign. If your chain is rusty, you can assume your chain is bad.

If you need to tension your motorcycle chain more often than usual, your chain needs to be replaced.

The teeth on the sprocket are a good indicator of the chain’s condition. If the teeth profile is very different, then your chain needs replacing.

You may lose rollers from the chain and have excessive noise generated from your drive chain.

You may hear a clang as the slack is taken up when you open the throttle. This is a bad sign.

If you have teeth missing from your sprockets, this indicates something is a miss, and you should replace it all as a kit.

It is vital to change the front and rear sprocket with the chain.

Is it safe to ride a motorcycle with a loose chain?

No, a loose chain can jump the teeth on the sprocket and lock the rear wheel.

At the rear of the swing arms, there are bolts. These bolts on either side of the wheel are to tension your chain. If your chain is loose, it’s an easy job to tension the chain.

If you have a tyre replaced, it’s worth checking the chain’s tension and not leaving it to the mechanic. You know your motorcycle better than anyone else and where the tension is correct.

Can a broken bike chain be fixed?

If it’s not worn beyond repair, the chain can be fixed, but it’s recommended to replace the chain for your safety.

If you are going to replace the chain, find the master link, it will be secured with a “C” clip. Remove the ‘c” clip with a screwdriver, which may take a lot of pressure.

There will be a link that needs replacing. Grind down the rivets and remove the link with pliers.

To secure the chain again, the reverse procedure will be needed. It’s a simple job.

If your chain is worn or corroded, a replacement chain and sprockets are the best safety and performance options.