If the chain on your motorcycle breaks it can cause the following consequences:
- The chain falls off leaving you without engine power (the most common scenario)
- Damage occurs to the motorcycle
- The chain flies away and damages the vehicles behind you
- Your leg or back get injured
- The chain wraps around the rear sprocket and locks up the rear wheel
The possible consequences depend on many factors like your speed, the design of your bike, and where the chain breaks.
If you want to learn more about what can happen when a motorcycle chain breaks while riding, you are in the right place.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled the most common outcomes and their aftermath into this post!
What Happens if Your Motorcycle Chain Breaks?
1. Lost Engine Power
Let’s start with the best-case scenario. If you are lucky when the chain on your motorcycle breaks it simply drops to the ground and leaves you without engine power. It’s safe to say that this is by far the most common outcome of a broken chain.
Although this seems quite harmless it can lead to risky situations, especially if you are riding on a highway or in heavy traffic.
When the chain breaks it can’t deliver engine power towards the rear wheel.
Unless you’re facing downhill the bike will start slowing down. This can be scary especially if you are riding at high speed or there are a lot of vehicles around you!
It can also be a problem if it happens in a lean as the bike has to turn much wider without engine power.
If the chain breaks on your motorcycle it typically generates a noticeable clanking noise.
However, at higher speeds chances are good that you won’t hear or feel anything, just the lost engine power.
Since the engine is still running it revs up when you’re blipping the throttle.
It’s very important to not open the throttle wide in this situation! You can accidentally over-rev the engine and cause damage.
What’s more, in some cases the chain wraps around the front sprocket.
Opening the throttle up all the way may shoot the chain out, which can lead to serious damage or injuries.
Therefore, you have to stay calm if you notice that your chain has broken. Just close the throttle, let the bike slow down, and carefully ride it to the side of the road.
If you are lucky, you can stop your bike without falling or getting into an accident.
Being stranded on the roadside is not funny either, but at least you’re safe!
2. The Chain Flies Away
If a motorcycle chain breaks it usually falls to the ground. But in some cases, the spinning sprockets shoot the chain backwards off the bike. This can be dangerous if there are other riders or a car behind you! A flying chain can damage the vehicles behind you or even cause injuries.
Fortunately, it happens quite rarely.
In most cases the chain simply falls to the ground hurting nobody behind the bike.
3. Types of Damage Caused by a Broken Motorcycle Chain
In an unfortunate case, the broken chain doesn’t fall off immediately and instead acts like a whip. A slapping chain can cause various types of damage to the bike, which could be as follows:
- Broken sprocket teeth
- Damaged rear tire and rim
- Broken fairings, tail, or tail light
- Damaged swingarm/chain guards
- Holes on the saddle
- Bent transmission output shaft
- Destroyed engine (holes on the transmission or other parts of the engine)
This list may scare you, but don’t worry. In most cases, the chain falls off without any major damage.
But even if damage occurs, it typically means some broken teeth on the sprockets or scratches on the swingarm or the rear wheel.
Unfortunately, not all riders are so lucky. Although it rarely happens the chain can hit the fairings, the tail light, or even the engine.
In the worst-case scenario, it can punch a hole in the engine or bend the transmission output shaft. These types of damage typically mean the end of the engine.
If you are wondering what types of damage a broken motorcycle chain can cause, just check out this video:
4. Injuries Caused by a Broken Motorcycle Chain
Let’s face it, it’s still the better case if the chain only damages the bike or other vehicles. This is because you’re sitting very close to the chain, which means you can even get injured! When the chain whips up it can hit your leg, or even your upper body.
The consequences can be even worse if you are riding with a passenger, as he/she would be sitting much closer to the chain.
That’s why you and your passenger should always wear protective clothing.
They not only do a good job in case of an accident but also protect your body from a whipping chain.
To reduce the potential effects of a chain breaking, most modern motorcycles are equipped with a sprocket cover and a chain guard.
They help keep a snapped chain away from the engine, fairings, or even you.
These guards also protect the chain and the sprocket as they can keep foreign objects away from these important parts of your bike.
On top of that, the chain guard can also stop the lubricant from spraying everywhere on the bike. (Or, at least, to a certain extent.)
5. Blocked Rear Wheel
The worst outcome of a broken motorcycle chain is arguably a jam on the rear wheel. If the chain wraps around the rear sprocket or gets caught between the sprocket and the swingarm, it can cause the rear wheel to lock up. This could result in a serious accident, especially at high speeds as you’re unlikely to be able to avoid falling.
Although there is always a chance that such an accident could occur, keep in mind that it happens extremely rarely.
However, it’s not impossible as you can see in this video:
How Often do Motorcycle Chains Break?
Although these outcomes may scare you, you shouldn’t worry as motorcycle chains break very infrequently. What’s more, those cases in which damage or injury occur are even rarer. Motorcycle chains are typically very strong and durable, so they can tolerate a lot of abuse and neglect before they break. But at some point they give out and the weakest link breaks!
If you are very afraid of the chain breaking, you should consider investing in a shaft or belt-driven bike.
Since the final drive of these machines features a rubber belt or an enclosed drive shaft, they don’t carry the above-mentioned risks.
If you are stuck on chain-driven motorcycles, you may want to install a sprocket cover and a chain guard on your bike.
What Causes a Motorcycle Chain to Break?
Many things can cause a motorcycle chain to break, but the leading reasons are as follows:
- Lack of chain maintenance
- Worn out or rusted chain
- Wrong chain tension/alignment
- Worn or damaged sprockets
- Manufacturing defects/poor quality chain
- Master link clip issue
As you can see, most of these problems are completely avoidable with proper maintenance.
A loosened motorcycle chain is much more likely to break, just like chain that is too tight!
Consequently, it’s safe to say that the leading reasons for chains breaking on motorcycles are poor maintenance and adjustment.
Besides maintenance issues, there’s always a possibility that a broken chain suffered from a manufacturing defect.
How Do You Prevent a Motorcycle Chain from Breaking?
If you want to prevent a motorcycle chain from breaking, all you have to do is maintain your chain at the highest level. This means you should clean, lubricate, and adjust it in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Besides proper maintenance you can minimize the risks and dangers of a chain-breaking by considering these options:
- Replace the chain and the sprockets in time.
- Invest in a high-quality chain.
- Install a sprocket cover and a chain guard on your bike.
- Replace the sprockets and the chain at the same time if possible.
- Ride your bike reasonably (avoid frequent aggressive accelerations and stunts like wheelies or burnouts).
- Always ride in protective clothes.
If you are a beginner rider, best practice is to leave the chain maintenance to a professional. These tasks are usually pretty inexpensive as they don’t take too much time.
But if you want to maintain your chain, by all means make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Due to safety reasons, some owners replace their chains periodically after a certain mileage, regardless of its condition.
As they say, prevention is better than the cure!
Chains and sprockets are considered disposable items, so gambling with these parts is simply not worth the risk.
So, if you’re afraid of a broken chain, you should replace your chain sooner rather than later!
Can a Broken Motorcycle Chain Be Fixed?
Yes, in most cases a broken motorcycle chain can be fixed, but it always depends on the condition of the chain. However, fixing a worn-out chain is definitely not recommended! A broken chain link or other chain damage is an obvious sign that the chain has reached its life expectancy and needs to be replaced. The only legit reason to fix a broken motorcycle chain is if you are in the middle of nowhere and there’s no chance of getting a new chain.
How do You Fix a Broken Motorcycle Chain?
You can fix a broken motorcycle chain with some basic tools and a “chain repair kit.” The latter typically includes some spare links to your chain, a master link, and a special tool known as chain mender or chain link removal tool. With this device, you can remove the broken link and replace it with a new one.
Surprisingly, a broken motorcycle chain can even be fixed on the side of the road.
That’s why it’s handy to have a chain mender (or chain breaker), a basic tool kit, as well as a short donor chain with a master link with you especially on the long rides.
If you have room for it, you can consider carrying a complete spare chain.
Again, fixing a broken motorcycle chain is recommended only in an emergency!
Even if you can fix your chain, you should replace it with a new one as soon as possible.
If you’re considering a longer ride and are concerned about the condition of your sprockets and chain, it would be wise to replace them before the trip.
Here’s a great video on how to fix a broken motorcycle chain:
As a takeaway, we’ve compiled the most common questions about broken motorcycle chains, with the shortest possible answers!
What happens if your motorcycle chain breaks?
- The chain drops to the ground and you lose engine power (the most common scenario)
- The motorcycle gets damaged by the whipping chain (sprockets, gearbox, fairings, rear wheel, etc.)
- The chain shoots backward, damaging the vehicles behind you
- Injuries caused by the chain
- The chain wraps around the rear sprocket and locks up the rear wheel (rarest but worst-case scenario)
How often do motorcycle chains break?
Fortunately, motorcycle chains break very rarely.
What causes a motorcycle chain to break?
The leading reason why motorcycle chains break is arguably a lack of maintenance. It’s safe to say that the chains that break are typically very neglected or far beyond their life expectancy.
How do you prevent a motorcycle chain from breaking?
To prevent a motorcycle chain from breaking make sure to maintain your chain at the highest level. Proper chain maintenance involves cleaning, lubricating, and adjusting the tension/alignment. Make sure that you take care of your chain in accordance with the owner’s manual. Keeping safety in mind, you may want to periodically replace the chain.
Can a broken motorcycle chain be fixed?
Yes, a broken motorcycle chain can be fixed, but it’s recommended only in emergencies. In all other cases you should invest in a new chain immediately.
How do you fix a broken motorcycle chain?
A broken motorcycle chain can be fixed with a chain repair kit as well as a basic tool kit.
Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. Always refer to the owner’s manual and shut off the engine before you do any maintenance on your bike!