Nothing ends a perfect day of riding faster than a broken chain.

Of all the things that can go wrong a broken chain is probably the least of your problems but when it pops, it quickly turns into a hassle especially if you're out trail riding. Besides, when you're cruising along and having a blast, the interruption is maddening.

When a chain breaks you'll know right away. It's not loud but you'll probably hear it. Regardless, the dead giveaway is the sudden loss of power. You'll just coast to a stop wondering what the heck happened until you look down and see nothing strapped around the sprockets.

However, if the chain gets caught in the engine case, while remaining attached to the rear sprocket, expect an abrupt stop. Actually, don't expect it since you won't know what's going on until you get off. Oh, you also might have a get-off since the sudden brake is unexpected.

Photo: Kato

Fear not! In most instances, the chain just falls off and neither rider nor dirt bike is worse for the wear. On the rare occasion a broken chain can whip a rider but if any damage occurs it's to the engine case when it cracks. If this happens, your day is done. So is your bike. Go get it fixed.

The best preventative measure for a broken chain is the pre-ride check. Do you complete a pre-ride check? Every time? It's not that hard. You should be lubing your chain regularly anyway. If not, then don't be surprised if someday you're up a trailhead without a chain. If the chain looks rusty or corroded, exhibits a flat wear pattern on the top and bottom and/or demonstrates easy side to side play - replace the chain. And the sprockets. The drivetrain should wear together.

Of course, sometimes a chain within its service limits, breaks. This happens for several reasons including:

  • Master link clip falls off
  • A rock or other debris gets stuck in the chain stretching it
  • It just happens
  • It's actually old and you didn't do the pre-ride check (see how important the pre-ride check is?)

In any case, the law of averages dictates that sooner or later you'll encounter a busted chain. Just like preparing for the eventual flat tire, for every ride prepare for the eventual broken chain. If you're riding track - racing or practicing - you're much better off encountering a broken chain than when riding trails, unless of course it happens off a jump. In either case, you can either add a Band-Aid or do the job right.

The Band-Aid approach simply adds a master link to the broken chain. It's inexpensive and allows you to keep riding. You'll also need a chain breaker to remove the broken link. So bring both with you. This temporary patch is most effective and appropriate while trail riding since carrying an extra chain is not convenient and ideally you'd want a bike stand since a new chain needs adjusting. You know the old chain fits, therefore, add a new master link at the break, which keeps you riding and gets you home.

However, if you're at the track then you've probably brought a garage full of tools and supplies allowing you to replace the chain and sprockets in the pits. You'll want a fresh drivetrain if you're riding Moto anyway. Having a patchwork chain launching you over a double is the last thing you want in this mentally tough racing world. But if the master link route is the only option go with it and change the chain and sprockets for the next ride day.

For your additional reading pleasure on dirt bike chains: