Do I need an expensive electric bike chain or is a normal chain ok?
An electric bike chain is worthwhile if you have a mid-drive motor and if you use your bike regularly.
A good quality electric bike chain is better able to withstand the additional forces applied by a mid-drive motor. This means it will last longer and need replacing less frequently. The same applies if you have a rear mounted motor applying power to your chain.
A standard bicycle chain is fine if your bicycle has a front/rear hub drive or a friction drive.
Currently, the internal (concealed) motor drive systems available are low powered and unlikely to significantly impact the life of your chain.
Replacing your electric bike chain
You can use a chain stretch gauge to see if your chain needs replacing. Replace your chain when the gauge first indicates it is worn.
Riding a bike with a worn chain causes the teeth of your chainrings, gear clusters and motor drive wheel to become misshapen. In addition, shifting performance will suffer.
If you replace your chain as soon as it is worn your gear cluster should only need replacing after you have replaced the chain about five times. Your chainring should last for about 10 chains.
If you leave a worn chain on your bike too long it will deform the teeth on your chainring, motor drive wheel, and gear clusters. As a consequence, you will have to replace your chain, and all the drivetrain components together. This is much more expensive than replacing your chain more frequently.
When should I replace my electric bike chain
The only way to know when your chain should be replaced is to use a chain stretch gauge.
Some electric bike users replace their chain every 1000kms (or less), others report 5,000kms+.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to say a chain should be replaced ‘every x kms’ or ‘every x months’ as it is dependent on multiple factors.
Factors affecting chain life:
Maintenance – how often you clean and lube your chain.
Riding environment – if you ride your bike through water, mud or sand your chain will have a shorter life. Mountain biking is much harder on chains than commuting.
Force applied by the motor – the more powerful your motor, and the more you use it in higher power modes the shorter the life of your chain.
Weight carried – the heavier the combined weight of you, your bike and your load, the shorter the life of the chain.
Your shifting patterns – if you stay in low gears longer your chain will have a shorter life.
Drivetrain components – your chain will not last as well if your gear cluster, chainring or drive wheel are worn.