I bought my bike late November 2017, and have been riding it with the same chain ever since. I've only done very light riding with the longest rides I've ever done amounting to 60km. Last week, I took my bike to a bike shop to get my bearings repacked ang regreased, while the mechanic was tuning my gears for accurate shifting, he noticed my derailleur was too stretched out when at the largest gear(Shimano SLX 2X11). Long story short, he explained to me why he thought my chain was too short. For the four years I've ridden my bike, I have never had any issues with it, so when the time came to replace my chain because it had 0.75 wear, I purchased a brand new Shimano CGNHG701 11S chain (same model as the previous). It's about to arrive in a few weeks, and I'm worried about my drivetrain (which was used for four years for over 2000km) possibly having any issues with my new chain. Any response is appreciated, cheers!

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    I think after 2000 km you typically need to change the drivetrain as well. (The obvious sign will be that the new chain jumps after installing it.) May 20, 2021 at 23:23
  • I will definitely look out for that, thank you!!
    May 21, 2021 at 3:46

2 Answers 2


The main problem with a chain that is too short, is when you're in a combination of gears where the chain is too short to go around both chainring and cog.

You'd have to be moving the chain from a lower to a higher-tooth count gear, so at some point in that first half-revolution, the chain will bind, the cranks will resist you, and any more force on the pedal will start to snap and bend components.

Since you've already ridden so far on the chain, it might be more a case of possibly a little short for optimal vs the catastrophic "too short" described above. Or you've never ever put the chain into big-big.

Frankly I wouldn't worry, but when the new chain is fitted make it one link longer and see how that rides. Remember to count links, not measured length when comparing it to the current chain.

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    Personally, I wouldn't use the existing chain as a reference point at all. I'd just buy the longest chain available at my local bike shop and then shorten it to fit following Sheldon's advice. You'll have a few extra links, but those can come in handy.
    – jimchristie
    May 20, 2021 at 14:20
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    In my bike's entire lifespan, I think I've never ever had to put it on the largest cog while riding but that could definitely be just because I rarely ride steep climbs. The only time I ever do is on a bike stand, as I inspect the shifting. The mechanic said it was short by one link, which isn't much, but since the chain was already worn, the replacing it would be inevitable. Thank you for the straight-to-the-point and helpful advice.
    May 21, 2021 at 3:52
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    @jimchristie Good thing I got the longest chain from the shop, I initially thought it was a waste of money (it costs a little bit more) but after reading your comment, I now know I made the right choice.
    May 21, 2021 at 3:54

Having a chain that's slightly too long or slightly too short may also worsen the quality of shifting. A chain that's too short will pull the jockey wheels a bit further away from the cog. The drivetrain manufacturer presumably designed their derailleurs with a certain optimal distance.

The issue is how quickly shifting degrades as you move slightly away from optimal. I suspect the answer is not very fast, within certain limits - as noted, if your chain is much too short and you shift to the big chainring-big cog combination, this can damage the derailleur. Presumably this hasn't happened yet. It's possible for experienced riders to instinctively avoid big-big, but it can be difficult to avoid it 100% of the time in the heat of the moment, especially on technical terrain.

Like Criggie, I don't see a reason that running a chain that's slightly too short would cause more wear on the chainring, cassette, and jockey wheels, or to the derailleur itself.

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    Thankfully I have never had to use the big-big combination in the 2000km I've amassed, I've only shifted to those gears on a bike stand when I inspect the shifting. I was worried about the derailleur the most, and while I don't expect there to be significant damage from being stretched out on the rare times I put it on a bike stand, it was still enough to make me worry about it. Since I'd like to spend the least amount of money necessary to resolve this issue. Thank you again for your invaluable input :)
    May 21, 2021 at 3:58

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