With my previous bike I followed the general recommandation for maintainance of drivetrain.

This usually goes like the following: replace chain every 3K Kms, replace rear cassette every 6K Kms and after 22K Kms I replaced the chainring as it started to show shark fin teeth.

I am asking what is the most effective method to maintain the drivetrain, does the above procedure which involes quite a bit of money and labor ( not to mention that I have to get my hands dirty with grease in the process ) or simply use the drivetrain until starts malfunction at which point simply replace all the parts: chain, cassette and chainrings?

Supposing that first sign of malfunction would appear after 11K kms ( half of what I got with previous method ), I could replace the wholedrive train and get another 11Kms at lower cost, not to mention that I don't have to get my hands dirty and I do the procedure only once compared to seven times.

Would the approach work? If so, why do get other recommandations in media, books, etc?


I feel that one can answer the question if we could somehow look at a chart that plots the performance of the drivetrain compared to the distance used. As some suggested performance would include power transfer efficiency, probability of hazards, noise, shifting, etc.

As I see it chain skipping has a high probability of hazards as it could fall of and cause the rider to crash, so that would score something like 9 out of 10 for probability of hazards while a new chain would still score something like 1 out of 10 ( there are chains that brake brand new ).

  • It all depends on the brand and quality of the drive train. Those sound very Shi*mano numbers.
    – andy256
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 11:51
  • Andy, its ture, those are Shimano numbers, and even middle of the range parts ( 105 series or lower ), but the question still holds, I guess, regardless of the components quality. Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 12:21
  • You are currently keeping you drive train in good shape. Are you sure you could stand the degrading performance of the approach you are asking about? The time and money you are spending now give you much better performance than the lazier approach. Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 12:28
  • The first thing to think about is cleaning your chain regularly. You don't need to go overboard, but keeping the chain reasonably clean probably adds 20-30% to the life of your components. And running a chain beyond its reasonable lifetime not only causes wear on other components, it also leads to poorer performance, including chain jams at very inconvenient times. Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 13:07
  • The duplicate hasn't really been answered, at least the owner of the question hasn't accepted any answer. I think the open part is how much would you be able to ride the chain/cassette without big downsides( which are subjective ). Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 7:38

3 Answers 3


Make the small investment in a chain checker ( I like park tools CC-3.2). I would generally recommend one of them that measures the chain based on length rather than lateral deflection. Each manufacturer will probably have it's own recommendation, but a safe bet is to always replace your chain before '.75' (75% wear). This will maximize the life of your cassette and chainrings as they will not be ridden on a stretched chain. It also eliminates individual variation, as some people will stretch a chain more or less over a given distance ridden ( some people like to mash and others like to spin).

It is also a good idea to keep your chain clean, as a dirty chain acts like sandpaper as it is cranked over the teeth of the chainring and cassette.

By simply replacing the chain at the proper intervals I have made cassettes and chainrings last years of frequent use. I don't know exact numbers but they would be pretty meaningless as they vary with rider and conditions. Certainly more than 2 chains per cassette.

  • Thanks for the answer, I do have a tool like this. For the current drivetrain with 6000km on it it the part with wear 1.0 drops in totally, so it is worn out, probablly a new chain on the old cassette would skip, the chainrings should be fine. Changing the chain is 20e while cassette is 45e ( 65e total ). Changing the chain once 3K yields the same result, I still have to change the cassette at 6K, so its 85E. Changing the chain every 1.5K would be more expensive, and a lot more labor. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 7:53
  • .... Current performance is acceptable IMO, there is some noise on some gears that I could only heard while riding on the rollers( outside you wouldn't hear it ), probably the rear derallier needs adjustment? Would have to take a look. Until we have some quantitative data I think we can only base our judgement on feel and current feeling tells me its riding fine( yet! ). How long would it work? That is what I would like to find out. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 7:55
  • @BogdanPetrica it is somewhat surprising your chain wears out after only 1500km, that's not a lot. You mentioned above that you ride a 105, does that mean you mostly go on surface bound roads, ie not much dust? In that case you might re-view your chain cleaning, lubrication, and weather protection procedures.
    – gschenk
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 20:37
  • that sounds mostly like derailleur adjustment. at some point your chain is going to start skipping teeth. or you'll snap it. there's not really any way to tell how long it will be until that happens. As before it will depend on your riding style and conditions. It will also depend on the quality of the chain and cassette that you use as well as how many speeds (an 11 speed chain is much narrower and lighter than an 8sp one)
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 22:37

The approach would work, in the sense that it would maximise the kilometers per dollar. On the other hand, you will be riding a noisy and poorly shifting drivetrain for the most of time.

You also need to check the numbers. I think it is very improbable that a chain that needs replacing at 3K would somehow be usable after 11K.

  • 1
    I would agree with that last point,at least. A chain that is 80% stretched at 3K will be completely worn out and function very poorly at 6K. Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 13:09
  • @DanielRHicks, mine is 6K and seems fine, what should I observed in chain performance to tell is performing badly? Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 7:57
  • @BogdanPetrica - You should get an inexpensive chain stretch gauge. Chains wear at different rates. I'm guessing I get about 5k km on a chain. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 12:57

Even if we ignore the decreased performance by not maintaining the drivetrain, it is largely false economy to assume avoiding maintenance and changing everything at once will reduce costs (see Why bother changing a chain?).

You may also face safety issues as the drivetrain may be more likely to experience gear skipping or chain breakage - both of which can cause an accident if they occur at an inopportune time.

The inconvenient truth is that over the long run (e.g., eight + years) maintenance costs can far exceed the original sticker cost of the bike (see How much cheaper is cycling than driving?)

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