I've heard all over that cross-chaining "wears your drivetrain out faster". I must admit I'm not 100% convinced that this is true, because I can't see a scientific basis for it.

Could I get an explination of exactly how and why cross-chaining wears out your chain/cassette/chainrings?

  • 1
    Not crossing chaining because its wears out the chain is not a lot different to not riding because it wears out the bike. Sometime back in turn of the middle of last century cross chaining was though to be bad because of the technology used to build chains was not as good as today and because chains cost a lot of money. Since then things have moved on, chains handle cross chaining better than ever, and cost is not a consideration as they are now thought of as a consumable, but the myth persists. If you want to cross chain, enjoy it without guilt.
    – mattnz
    Dec 21, 2016 at 22:11
  • 3
    @DavidRicherby - The point is that with a modern drive train the added wear due to "cross-chaining" occasionally is not enough to really worry about. You might perhaps get 20% additional wear out of drive train components if you avoid it entirely, vs using all your gear options in a reasonable way, but to most people 20% is not enough to worry about when you're riding a twisty, up-and-down back road. Dec 21, 2016 at 23:18
  • 3
    (In many cases the noise of being extremely cross-chained is enough to motivate you to change gears, rather than ride 20 minutes in a "bad" combo. When noise is minimized, drive train wear is minimized.) Dec 21, 2016 at 23:20
  • 1
    @David: My point comes from a MTB perspective where the choice is often cross chaining for 30 seconds or not making the climb.
    – mattnz
    Dec 21, 2016 at 23:35
  • 2
    "Cross-chain gears make little difference." - Dr. Chester Kyle and Frank Berto, "The mechanical efficiency of bicycle derailleur and hub-gear transmissions", Human Power (Technical Journal of the IHPVA), #52 Summer 2001. is often cited, but I cannot find the article.
    – mattnz
    Dec 21, 2016 at 23:56

1 Answer 1


When the chain is bent sideways, the load at links is concentrated on one end of the pin and single side plate while the link is turned. This is supposed to wear that side of the link faster. Once the link is worn asymmetric, even straight chainline will concentrate load on the less worn side.

No, I don't know if there are any actual measurements on this.

  • 4
    In addition, rather than contacting the cogs almost entirely on the pins, the side plates rub against the cogs, wearing on both the plates and cogs. And in extreme cases the links tend to get caught on the ends of the cog teeth as the chain wraps onto the cog, causing greatly accelerated wear on both. However, with modern narrow chains on an appropriately matched set of cogs, the wear due to "cross-chaining" is not all that great, and need not strike terror in the heart of the rider. Dec 21, 2016 at 23:14
  • For me the chain has always stretched before side plates show any wear.
    – ojs
    Dec 27, 2016 at 16:20
  • The concern for side wear is more with regard to the cogs than the plates. Dec 27, 2016 at 18:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.