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How Long Does MTB Chain/ Cassette Last? (3-Minute Read)

After some fun rides on the trails comes the time when you need to show some love to your mountain bike and do some maintenance on the chain or the cassette, at first you may not be sure if you need to do it and you may wonder how long does an MTB chain/ cassette last?

A properly maintain MTB chain will last 2000 miles and more and you will need to change your cassette on average one out of 3 to 5 chain changes but there are many factors that can influence this, like proper cleaning, maintenance, and riding style.

In this article, we will take a more in-depth look at how long does an MTB chain and cassette last and I will tell you everything you need to know to increase their lifespan so you will not waste your money on a new cassette or chain too often.

How Long Does MTB Chain Last?

MTB chain and cassette

A properly maintained MTB chain will last more than 2000 miles while a poorly maintained chain can last less than 1000 miles. Chains for 11+ speed cassettes tend to have a shorter lifespan than chains for 10 and < 10-speed cassettes because they need to be changed after less wear.

You need to constantly check your chain wear because if you don’t change it in time your cassette’s life will be drastically reduced.

Nr of speeds on cassetteChain wearAction needed
11%The chain needs to be changed
10 or less0.75%The chain needs to be changed
11 or 120.5%The chain needs to be changed
Percentages of wear on which MTB chains need to be changed

As you can see in the table above MTB chains need to be replaced after a certain percentage of wear that is measured with a special tool, not after a number of mileages or a certain amount of time.

This is especially important if you ride your mountain bike uphill a lot and you change gears under load. Yes, I know that completely avoiding changing gears under load is impossible but would benefit your chain and cassette if you do it less often.

How Long Does MTB Cassette Last?

Usually, an MTB cassette lasts between 3 to 5 chain changes if it’s properly maintained and the chain is changed in time but if you change the chain long after the recommended percentage you may need to change the cassette after the second time you change the chain.

MTB chain and cassette change intervals
Illustration of MTB chain and cassette change intervals

The quality of the cassette is a determinant factor on its lifespan, Shimano cassettes tend to last longer than SRAM ones but this is also reflected in the price.

Regardless of how many times you have changed the chain if you put a new chain and you experience slippings or skipping gears, the cassette needs to be changed.

Of course, a very important factor for determining the lifespan of an MTB cassette is your riding style, this is why are so many stories about riders that needed to change their cassette more often. Enduro riders and trail riders will need to change their cassettes more often than downhill riders because long and stiff uphill rides will wear the cassette much faster than long descents.

Tips for Prolonging the Lifespan of Your Mtb Chain and Cassette

Now if you feel that your cassette or chain has warned out too quickly don’t worry because I will tell you what to do to prolong their lifespan.

Change Your Chain at the Correct Time

You need to always check the wear of your chain and change it if you need to, if you ride more than 3 times a week check the wear of your chain once per month, it isn’t very time consuming and it can save you a lot of money on the long term because you prolonge the life of your cassette.

Don’t Use a New Chain on a Worn Cassette

If you changed the chain and you experience slippings or skipping gears then your cassette is probably worn out and needs to be replaced. Riding in these conditions will put a lot of stress on the new chain and it wears much more quickly.

Change Your Chain When You Change Your Cassette

When you change your cassette don’t make the mistake of using the old chain to save some money, this will end up in yore cassette being were quicker by the old chain and you will lose more money than you save.

Clean Your Chain Regularly

You need to clean your chain after each long ride or if you ride in wet weather conditions like after a rain and the trails are muddy. Cleaning your chain after 3 or maybe 4 shorter rides would be fine if you visually inspected and it doesn’t look dirty.

Clean a new chain after you take it out of the shipping package because it is very sticky and it will end up very dirty after the first ride.

Properly Lube Your Chain

Every time you clean your chain and before longer rides, you need to lubricate your MTB chain, use wet lube for winter riding, and dry lube for summertime. Be aware that if you use too much lube your chain will become a dust magnet and will need cleaning.

Use The Correct Gear For Climbing

If you need to pedal harder to overcome the climbing sections (because you aren’t in the right gear) of your rides you will put extra stress on your entire drivetrain and so you will end up wearing your chain and cassette quicker.

Try to Not Change Gears Under Load

I know that this is easier said than done but if you don’t learn the correct times to change your gears you will always be finding yourself in the situation where you change gears when climbing.

Even if you reduce these situations by 30% it will still have a very positive effect on the lifespan of your MTB chain and cassette. Always have this in mind and with time it will become second nature.

Adjust Your Rear Derailleur

Always check if your derailleur is correctly aligned, wrong alignment of the derailleur can lead to chain jumping and hard shifting and this will put extra stress on your cassette and chain.

Don’t Mix Brands for 11 an 12 Speed Trnsmisions

Many people will say that you can use a Shimano chain on an SRAM transmission but when it comes to 11 and 12-speed cassettes the 2 brands have developed their own solutions and aren’t interchangeable.

Some say that this is just marketing but it’s not, on 11 and 12-speed cassettes the cogs are very close together and the Shimano chains will differ a bit by SRAM ones and will wear out faster if they are mixed. Don’t be fooled!

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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.