I was just bought a new fine ultegra chain for 10 speed road race bike. This is actually the first new chain for this not so old bike. I am a fan of statistics, measuring power with a power unit on my time trial bike, and so on.

Let's focus on this worn chain.

It ran for about 1000km, so worn you nearly can do a 270-360 degree bow with it. How much effect are you losing between a completely new chain and a worn but (which is the point of comparison) accurately cleaned and re-oiled chain?

I mean, look at a cleaned oiled chain, fitting well with the current sprockets and not skipping cogs. Where is the power going away against a new firm, chain?

How do I measure?
Can I proof any other important winnings?

And (which I may have to point out) together with which kind of use.. I mean, the differences in a low-efficient 200km tour may be negligible compared to a 30km Time Trial where one may average 350 watt in 40 minutes.

  • 3
    I've corrected your English a little, hopefully keeping the same meaning.
    – lantius
    Jul 15, 2011 at 22:50
  • 1
    This is quite the esoteric question. Looking forward to the answers. Also hoping that my modification of the title did not distract from the original idea. (If so, change it back)
    – user313
    Jul 16, 2011 at 4:51
  • @wdypdx22 You know at this time, your help are welcome :) Jul 16, 2011 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


This extensive IHPVA article about chain drive efficiency shows a model of how you might empirically test the losses, and describes the efficiencies of a new chain. Their test suggests that lubrication and chainline matter very little, while chain tension is of significant importance.

  • Thanks. My own idea, without knowledge of how to calculate effects of a material under a movement, is that there Have to be an important factor. But as I told, i really dont know why, but it appears to be so. A worn chain have a stabilization per each link that passes a rotation/cog. When shifting. It have a longer "climb time" which mrans there can be several more links involved before the shift is actually complete - and can deliver full effect again. I can also see that a chain under stress, give away vibrations vertically.. Jul 16, 2011 at 10:52
  • .. Effect that a new chain will put horizontal. Which mean direction of the movement it maded for.. Jul 16, 2011 at 10:52
  • Im also sort of aware with a fact that I cant feel or find this difference myself.. so.. hard to describe. I will read through your document. Regarding oil, grease aso.. yeah.. i think it really significant.. just estetic.. Jul 16, 2011 at 10:59

From a practical standpoint I suspect you're losing very little efficiency with a moderately worn chain. However, a more severly worn chain (usually at 2-3 times the distance you have on yours) will begin to cause abnormal wear on the sprockets, ultimately damaging them to the point where sprocket replacement is required. And of course, beyond a certain point the chain will skip and shift poorly.

However, if you were to measure very carefully you probably could detect some slight additional friction due to the increasingly poor fit between chain and cog tooth. The teeth are very carefully designed to engage the chain evenly, and a worn chain will cause additional friction as the chain slides onto the drive sprocket or off the driven sprocket.

  • +1 Good answer. From a practical standpoint the only loss of efficiency before the chain is at the point of skipping, is financial.
    – zenbike
    Jul 16, 2011 at 7:18

The only significant loss of efficiency comes at the point wear the wear causes the chain to skip, in terms of power efficiency.

In addition, efficiency(time) lost to poor shifts and delays of that sort are a risk. But until the point where damage is affecting your ride is beyond the point where the chain has begun damaging the cassette and chain rings, and so your loss of financial efficiency comes much earlier.

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