Chain wear

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JohnW
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Re: Chain wear

Postby JohnW » 9 Oct 2011, 7:03pm

Chain wear – always a hot chestnut.

Beware of the chain wear indicators – they are sold to you by people who make money from you by selling chains and cassettes/freewheel blocks to you.

I’ll tell you a recent story about a pal of mine who bought a brand new Ti framed bike at huge cost at the same time that I bought my then new Mercian frame. I built my Mercian up myself, with parts that I know from experience are good, workmanlike, good-performing, robust, compatible parts. Sun-Tour 7speed cassette, Shimano Ultegra hubs, KMC chain, Campag triple chain-set. No paranoia about posing or compatibility – or feeling good about paying silly prices. (Just for the record, Simplex down-tube gear levers, Campag rear changer and Ultegra front changer).

My pal’s Ti job was bought fully built up, using a fashionable above-average quality group-set - including chain. 10-speed cassette, triple chain-set.

Both our bikes have been ridden in similar terrain and usually in fair weather (the prices we paid have bought ‘best’ bikes). A few weeks ago, when his bike had done just over 3,000 miles from new, my pal put his chain measuring tool onto the chain, and panicked – ‘worn’ it said. Off he went to the bike shop, and had a new chain fitted. The chain didn’t mesh with the cassette (not surprising) and so back he went for a new cassette. “ Sir” said the bike-shop man “if the cassette is so worn, have you thought about the chain-rings?” The compromise was to replace the inner ring, and see how things went on the other two. As it happened, they were ok. I can’t credit these prices, but the chain and cassette between them – remembering his need to keep within the group-set – cost him £80, the chain-ring £25, and he didn’t talk about the labour costs.

My Mercian has done 3,160 miles as of this morning, and I’ve no need or intention to change the chain. Not entirely relevant, but out of interest, the KMC chain that I’d replace with is advertised at £12 in the Spa advert in the current edition of “Cycle”, and the equivalent Shimano cassette at £15.

The last ten chains that I’ve put on my bikes have given mileages of : 4185, 6433, 4104, 4315, 6104, 4369, 4269 – and the last three are still on at 3160, 4314 and 4220, and not showing signs of needing to be replaced. Yes, call me sad, but I do keep records. The wide disparity between recorded mileages is due to differing weather conditions – tackle on bikes used in bad weather wears quicker than that on ‘best’ bikes, and tackle on work-bikes, which cop for all the weather that’s thrown at us, and get the least TLC, obviously wears quickest of all.

How do I know when my chain needs replacing – if I don’t use the tool? Well, I’ve been riding seriously for over 50 years, and experience helps, but keeping an eye on mileage helps too. But – you can feel the graunching/rumbling/grumbling through your feet, via the pedals, when the chain is coming to the end, and then the rollers start to break up and ping off. If it’s a ‘best’ bike, I watch the mileage, and at about 4,000 miles, before other symptoms set in, I will change the cassette/block and chain – and move them down onto a winter or work bike to get the last thousand miles or so out of them. This keeps the best bike pristine and feeling good. For my ordinary, or touring, bike, as soon as the message starts to come through my feet I know to keep my eye on it, and as soon as the first roller pings off, I change the block/cassette and chain.

There may be a question of “……what damage am I doing if I don’t change the chain as soon as the measuring tool tells me to………?” Personally, I think none, and my suggestion is to ignore the tool – or throw it away. Some bike shops will cause alarm and despondency among the timid. I once called into a – very reputable – bike shop for a replacement part, but I didn’t know the manufacturer of the part. The bike shop man came out to look at the existing part on my bike, to recognise the manufacturer. Automatically, he took his chain-measuring tool out of his smock pocket and put it on my chain. There was a sharp intake of breath, and he said something along the lines of “….you should be doing something about this, sir……!” The block and chain were happy for another couple of thousand miles after that.

In the 1950s, when I was a lad, I remember, the old guys (sobering thought that I’m one of the old guys myself now) telling me that they couldn’t remember when they’d last had a new chain. That was in the days of Renold 1/8’’ chains and single speed freewheels. I also remember one of the same old guys complaining that his ground-breaking 4-speed derailleur set up – still with 1/8’’ chain - wore chains out at an alarming rate – he’d only got 10,000 miles out of his chain and – he complained bitterly – he’d had to replace his 4-speed block!!!

The change to five-speed blocks and 3/32’’ chains reduced mileages, and then the onset of the wonderfully effective but quick wearing ‘Sedisport’ chain reduced mileages even further. I didn’t keep records so far back, but I do remember being surprised at the short life of blocks and chains. I also remember seeing an article in the CTC ‘Gazette’ – or it could have been ‘Cycletouring’ by that time – suggesting that, in order to extend the life of a freewheel block, it may be advantageous to buy two chains with every block, and change the chain every 1,000 miles or so, and clean, re-lube and reverse it before putting it back on when the second chain had done it’s 1,000 miles – when the process started again. I tried it once, and I can’t say whether it saved cost or prolonged life of the ensemble, but it was a pain in the neck.

I now employ the following regime :
Keep the chain as clean as practicable and keep adequately lubed. Currently I use WELDTITE TF2 PLUS+ dry lubricant with Teflon surface protector – it comes in 75ml squeezy bottles at, I think, £6.95p. I don’t know for certain whether it actually lubricates better than simple cycle oil, but I find that it doesn’t need applying as frequently and it doesn’t gunge-up.

I run the chain – block/cassette ensemble until it is worn out in my estimation, and always change block/cassette and chain at the same time – they wear in together, I don’t care what anyone tells you.

I keep an eye on chain-rings. I find that the most used ring (usually the middle in my case) will last for about the life of three cassettes/blocks, and then I change it when I change the chain. At chain/block/cassette replacements, I turn the two most used chain-rings – small and middle ones in my case – a fifth of a turn, so that the heaviest wear on the rings is spread out a bit.

I’ve not used the 10/11/12 speed cassette/chain ensembles, but I’m told that mileage on them is much reduced from the earlier 7/8 speed cassette/chain ensembles. And for what real benefit? All this high-tech super cool fashion – and super expensive – stuff may very well be of advantage to the racing and time trialling fraternity, but I submit that it’s of no benefit whatever to the utility, touring, leisure – even Audax – cyclist.

That was long-winded, wasn’t it? – but I hope not boring, I hope helpful, and – you did ask.

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Mick F
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Re: Chain wear

Postby Mick F » 9 Oct 2011, 8:05pm

JohnW wrote:Chain wear – always a hot chestnut........
.........That was long-winded, wasn’t it? – but I hope not boring, I hope helpful, and – you did ask.
Helpful as always, and informative too. You and I are singing off the same hymn sheet, though I had great and long service from my Sedisport chains!

Dan wrote:Mick F, you write
I use two Campag chains and swap them over every 1,000miles or so. Both chains have done over 4,000miles so far with zero stretch on either of them. I expect to get a further 4,000miles yet but I may change them before that.
How do you measure the stretch?
I have a 39" steel rule and put one end of the chain at the zero end, then look carefully at the 39" end. Pull the chain tight, and study the "progression" of the links as they align with the inch marks.

I have THREE chains now: A= 5,044miles and B = 4,072miles - these two show about a sixteenth of an inch out at the 39" mark. The third chain C has done 1,657miles, and when I cleaned it last was as good as new. Chain C will remain in use until it has done 5,000miles, then I'll swap to Chain B for a while.
Mick F. Cornwall

snibgo
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Re: Chain wear

Postby snibgo » 9 Oct 2011, 8:07pm

You [JohnW] may have a point about the number of sprockets. I have 6 and have just changed my chain, after about 11,000 miles. I can't measure any wear.

I suppose chain wear also depends how hard the bike is ridden: I'm not a strong cyclist, and I suppose affects the wear rate.

niggle
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Re: Chain wear

Postby niggle » 9 Oct 2011, 8:40pm

Trigger wrote:It seems like you'd be best looking at changing the chain rings if you're spending a lot of time in the 11t cog :?

Unless he is habitually using the 11T with the inner/middle ring as well, in which case he should try to use the big ring only with the 11T sprocket. Or maybe he needs to learn to pedal at a cadence that is bigger than his shoe size...

niggle
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Re: Chain wear

Postby niggle » 9 Oct 2011, 9:43pm

My road bike chain is the OEM Shimano HG73 9 speed and has done about 5000 miles. The stretch measured taught against a steel rule over 12" is about 1/32" now, so theoretically half way through its life. I have been mainly using White Lightning or similar in dry weather, cleaned monthly the Mick F way, and I use Finishline Wet Ride or similar in bad weather, but then clean it weekly. Average weekly mileage is about 100 miles on that bike. It appears that a chain will last me two years/10000 miles, in which case if JohnW is correct I will need a new cassette every six years/30000miles, and new chain rings every eighteen years/90000 miles. I have to admt I am a bit skeptical about that...

The 9-speed triple running gear has now been transferred from the Specialized Allez aluminium frame to a Genesis Equilibrium frame in Reynolds 725 steel tubing. I had to change the front mech as the steel seat tube is not as wide, so I upgraded the mech from Sora to Tiagra (could not go higher as its all 10speed above that) and when the new mech came I compared it against the old one. The only difference seems to be that both halves of the clamp band are alloy on the Tiagra, where one is steel on the Sora, and the Tiagra is polished alloy with a clear lacquer where the Sora is finished with silver paint. The price was £25 for the Tiagra and a new Sora would have been £15, so I have the distinct feeling I have wasted a tenner, but never mind.

*The Sora triple chainset may last longer still as both inner and middle rings are steel (so consequently a bit heavy).

JohnW
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Re: Chain wear

Postby JohnW » 9 Oct 2011, 10:17pm

There are mileages here that I have not dreamed of. The original post recorded 1600 miles and thinking about replacing a chain, and now we have 11,000 miles. I'd love to know the maker of current tackle that gives such mileages. I do live in a very hilly part of the copuntry, and that affects chain/cassette life for sure, but my bigger mileages is on bikes that only go out in the best of weather. Tell me more snibgo.

I think that niggle has misunderstood me. I said that I find that cassettes/blocks last the life of one chain - they wear in together and need replacing together. The life of the most used chain-ring is about three chain/cassette ensembles.

There is a lot of sophisticated talk about stretch, measuring wear etc, but to me, a chain is knackered when it's knackered and you know that without measuring. I've ridden a work bike through winter that has sheared off teeth on the sprockets but still been rideable until spring, and I found Sedisports to ping-off rollers disappointingly early. But I've never measured stretch in a chain - why would I? The cassette/block will need replacing with the chain anyway.

Compared with the original poster, and the pal I referred to in my post, I thought I wasn't getting bad mileages, but I don't think I am doing too well now.

What sort of annual mileages do you chaps do? What sort of weather? I try to be a fair weather cyclist now, being retired and not actually needing to set off at 07.00hrs and ride to work through 10 miles of a Yorkshire winter anymore, but if one waits for dry days, sometimes one won't get out for weeks - I have to go out in the rain and winter salt - and sometimes I get caught out in the rain 70 miles from home. And weather affects chain life. But I could tell some tales about foul weather cycling.............

I'm interested in MickF's better experiences with Sedisport chains, particularly as he comes from a hilly area also.

niggle
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Re: Chain wear

Postby niggle » 10 Oct 2011, 12:27am

JohnW wrote:There are mileages here that I have not dreamed of. The original post recorded 1600 miles and thinking about replacing a chain, and now we have 11,000 miles. I'd love to know the maker of current tackle that gives such mileages. I do live in a very hilly part of the copuntry, and that affects chain/cassette life for sure, but my bigger mileages is on bikes that only go out in the best of weather. Tell me more snibgo.

I think that niggle has misunderstood me. I said that I find that cassettes/blocks last the life of one chain - they wear in together and need replacing together. The life of the most used chain-ring is about three chain/cassette ensembles.

There is a lot of sophisticated talk about stretch, measuring wear etc, but to me, a chain is knackered when it's knackered and you know that without measuring. I've ridden a work bike through winter that has sheared off teeth on the sprockets but still been rideable until spring, and I found Sedisports to ping-off rollers disappointingly early. But I've never measured stretch in a chain - why would I? The cassette/block will need replacing with the chain anyway.

Compared with the original poster, and the pal I referred to in my post, I thought I wasn't getting bad mileages, but I don't think I am doing too well now.

What sort of annual mileages do you chaps do? What sort of weather? I try to be a fair weather cyclist now, being retired and not actually needing to set off at 07.00hrs and ride to work through 10 miles of a Yorkshire winter anymore, but if one waits for dry days, sometimes one won't get out for weeks - I have to go out in the rain and winter salt - and sometimes I get caught out in the rain 70 miles from home. And weather affects chain life. But I could tell some tales about foul weather cycling.............

I'm interested in MickF's better experiences with Sedisport chains, particularly as he comes from a hilly area also.

Its fairly hilly down my way as well, small stuff but steep and frequent. I ride in all weathers and have to take it as it comes as I work Monday-Friday, so the Sunday ride with friends goes ahead unless we have a gale, snow or fog. A typical Sunday ride for me is about 70 miles. I quite often ride a hubgear bike to work in bad weather or when carrying stuff at the start or end of the week.

I had an original Sedisport chain on the 531 touring bike I bought two years ago and that chain was lasting well when I sold it after adding about 5000 miles to it, this was a six speed triple 1980s bike that had been virtually unused for 25 years. On my 8-speed double equipped folder the OEM low end Shimano chain only lasted 3000 miles until it reached maximum stretch (see below), then I replaced it with a Wipperman 808 nickle plated job which is proving much more durable, it runs fine on the original cassette but it never shifts quite as smoothly as the Shimano chain did.

As for measuring chains the point is to catch the chain before the pitch increases beyond a certain point, and if you do catch it in time you can fit a new chain and keep the old cassette, up to three chains to a cassette in most people's estimation. Once the chain gets worn and thereby stretches beyond a certain point the elongated pitch will damage the cassette sprocket tooth profiles so much they will not mesh with a new chain. Sheldon Brown was an advocate of this approach to chain and cassette replacement and recommended to change a chain once it has 1/16" stretch over 12" of chain.

JohnW
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Re: Chain wear

Postby JohnW » 10 Oct 2011, 3:22am

Hmmmm - there are some totally different philosophies from mine here, which seemed to be experience based. My 'best' bike is just above 3,000 miles on it's current cassette/chain ensemble and it seems worth while to give another chain, and thereby another philosophy, a chance - along the lines of niggle's approach.

Ayesha
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Re: Chain wear

Postby Ayesha » 10 Oct 2011, 7:23am

Chain wear is chain wear.

No two bikes are gonna wear the chain the same. There are so many variables.

The best you can do is protect and lubricate it to give you the optimum efficiency for the task you ask of it.

Check it every couple of weeks and replace when it gets to 1%.

My tourer's chain is well waxed & lubed and lasts quite a while. No good giving milages and time spans. After a few chains and a selection of preparations and lube technique experiments, the best chain maintenance for that bike's use will be found.

My race bike's chain is very sparsley lubricated, near dry. It gives little 'sticktion' and is very floppy when held up in the air to inspect. It would be no good at all for touring, like my touring bike's chain would be no good for racing.

My shopping bike's chain is splattered with grease. I don't expect to replace it before I pass the bike on in my will. Then it will be my son's responsibility.

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Mick F
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Re: Chain wear

Postby Mick F » 10 Oct 2011, 7:49am

Ayesha wrote:Chain wear is chain wear.

No two bikes are gonna wear the chain the same. There are so many variables.

The best you can do is protect and lubricate it to give you the optimum efficiency for the task you ask of it.
Yes. Agree.

Keep an eye on your chain. Keep it clean and lubed, it will love you for it. If you do keep your chain clean and lubed, you'll be surprised how long it will last, I expect that when all three of my chains have done 6,000miles, I'll buy another three and the cassette will still be going strong when they've done 6,000miles each - that will be many years hence as I do about 4,000miles a year.

Sedisport chains were the ubiquitous chains on decent bikes in the 1980s. I had a Raleigh Clubman (6sp double) with Suntour freewheel block and chain and Campag 980 mechs from new. I commuted in those days, up to 34miles a day in all weathers, I cut my teeth on chain maintenance back then. I was alarmed about how few miles I got on the sprockets - good job I could buy them individually. In those days, I wasn't aware of chain "stretch" so perhaps I was doing damage to the new sprockets using a worn chain.

As I said, I cut my teeth on chain maintenance in those days, and finally the penny dropped. I could have saved a fortune had the penny dropped sooner! :oops:

I don't care how dirty your riding is. Your chain needs cleaning when it needs cleaning. Mileage will vary, but at the worst case, you'll be cleaning a chain daily.

Sedisport chains were the best ones I found. Strong and reliable, and once I sorted out the cleaning regime, long lasting too. I now run Campag 10sp chains - I have three. One on, and two in standby and they get rotated as and when I feel like it, plus I keep records. I bought the third chain recently because the mileage was mounting on the other two.
Mick F. Cornwall

Dan
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Re: Chain wear

Postby Dan » 15 Jan 2012, 4:29pm

Since my last post my replacement KMC 10 Speed chain (X10.93, £15 at Merlin) has done 1830kms and my indexing has started to deteriorate. Taken the chain off and it has stretched 3.5mm against a new chain. This chain has been cleaned every 200km and dry lubed. Indexing now appears fine. So it is not just wear on the sprockets that is a limiting factor but indexing too, echoing Meic's point. Pity because I had been planning to recycle my stretched chains, but wont be doing this if the indexing suffers.
So I am going to accept that this is part of the price for having 10s Campag ergopower, and riding it in all weathers.

My other bike is a Thorn with a Rohloff. I don't put anything like to same milage in, but £10 1/8 track chains seem to last for ever - and are serviceable, it is a pleasure to use a chain tool on non-peened rivets, which slide in and out without tearing the peening and outer plates.

Trigger I have done as you suggested and changed my 50/34 compact for a standard 53/39.

Brucey
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Re: Chain wear

Postby Brucey » 15 Jan 2012, 4:58pm

I would echo the comments of several others here;

-frequent and thorough cleaning (up to daily)

-several chains per block, on rotation.

-measure chain stretch regularly.

A stretched chain will wear everything out at double speed or more; the reason is simple- the full load is seen 'one tooth at a time and sliding' on the chain and sprocket once the chain is stretched. A worn chain on good cogs won't jump badly either, it'll just see off the cogs in double-quick time, break rollers etc etc.

You can buy chain stretch measuring gizmos but these are inaccurate if there is wear on the inside of the rollers (and there always is). Better than nothing, yes... but not as good as using a steel 12" (or longer if the chain is off the bike) rule IMHO.

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BigG
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Re: Chain wear

Postby BigG » 16 Jan 2012, 9:17am

Dan wrote:Since my last post my replacement KMC 10 Speed chain (X10.93, £15 at Merlin) has done 1830kms and my indexing has started to deteriorate. Taken the chain off and it has stretched 3.5mm against a new chain. This chain has been cleaned every 200km and dry lubed. Indexing now appears fine. So it is not just wear on the sprockets that is a limiting factor but indexing too, echoing Meic's point. Pity because I had been planning to recycle my stretched chains, but wont be doing this if the indexing suffers.

If I understand you correctly, the 3.5 mm stretch (actually wear) you report is only 0.24% of the length of a 114 link chain. Wear of up to 1% (14.5 mm) is normally considered acceptable, although I normally change chains at about a 10 mm total increase. This takes about 2000 miles (3000 km) with a much less active cleaning regime - actually just oiling!

Ayesha
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Re: Chain wear

Postby Ayesha » 16 Jan 2012, 10:14am

The chain is the 'sacrifice' part of the system, as it is easy to change and one can buy three chains for the total price of one chain, one ring and one cassette.

I buy cheapo chains which I change annually.

I'm the type who changes cassettes to suit the ride I'm going on, but on my commuter, its the original cassette from three years ago and is still OK. Ring also OK. Two new chains in those three years.

My philosophy is to budget some cash aside each week to purchase spares. £5 per week, and 3 weeks worth = 1 chain.

JohnW
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Re: Chain wear

Postby JohnW » 16 Jan 2012, 11:47am

Golly this does get complicated.

I just ride a chain/block (or cassette) ensemble until they get knackered - I've posted above on how I judge that, and about the mileages I get. I do think 2to3k miles is a bit low.

I find that the chainrings which get the most wear will last the life of 3 chain/block ensembles.

Don't worry about it.