Bike Chains

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by fusionfirefblae, May 26, 2015.

  1. fusionfirefblae

    fusionfirefblae New Member

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    I do my best to take care of my bike. Normally, anything that breaks is usually due to some accident, not miscare. But I remember the last time I biked, the chain just broke. It wasn't rusted or old. And it was properly lubricated. So should we simply just expect the chains to suddenly break at some point?
     
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  2. mpre53

    mpre53 Well-Known Member

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    How old was the chain? They don't last forever, and they don't break very easily unless they're worn out. Normally, they just elongate and tend to come off the rings when they're worn.

    I've never had a chain break on a ride, myself.
     
  3. Totalarmordestine

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    I've never managed to snap a chain in my life. However,much of that time I was on a 5 ring cassette with asturdier chain. These days I keep a multitool and a couple of power links along with the puncture repair stuff with me whenever I go further than walking distance. Just in case.
     
  4. BobCochran

    BobCochran Well-Known Member

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    I can't recall having a chain snap on me either. I used to bike around on really cheap bikes as a teenager -- the kind of bikes with Suntour shifters and derailleurs -- and the chains always held up under the stress I put on them. Today, I'm a lot older and I have a feeling my bike's chain might outlast my left knee.

    I do replace my bike chain when my local bike shop suggests it.

    Reading CampyBob's posts about chain care makes me a lot more concerned for taking good care of my own bike's chain. I wonder what he will say about this thread.

    Bob
     
  5. Tryner

    Tryner New Member

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    How often should I replace the chain? I've had mine for nearly 5 years now, and it's still working great. Slightly rusty, though, making me think it's time for a new one.
     
  6. tarverten

    tarverten New Member

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    In over fifty years I've only ever had one chain break and that was my own fault. The day before I'd added an extra link using a crap chain tool and rushing the job, damaging the plate in the process. That was the one that went as I'd fitted it next to the quick link.
     
  7. BobCochran

    BobCochran Well-Known Member

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    @Tryner, my Zinn book says you need to replace chains probably every 1,500 miles if you don't take care of them properly. The presence of rust on the chain means it has not been lubed properly over it's lifetime. Zinn also states that chains become longer as they wear out, which yours surely has in 5 years. A worn chain damages the chainrings and the cogset. Replacing the chain alone will not work, because the damaged chainring and cogset will cause the new chain to skip. You'll need to replace the chainrings and cogset as well. I'm not asserting this as something "I" know because I just learned this information. I'm quoting from the last two editions of Zinn's Road Bike repair guide. Zinn also notes that cyclocross bikes need very frequent chain replacement because they are exposed to mud so often.

    Bob
     
  8. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    It's easy to measure the amount of chain wear (stretch) using a ruler or vernier calipers. The standard wear limit is considered 1%, which would amount to about 1/8 inch over a 12 inch ruler. Hold the end of the ruler at the edge of a link or center of a pin, whichever you prefer, and look at the other end of the ruler to see where the corresponding edge or pin is. If you have a steel rule with tenths of an inch, just use 10 inches and look for less than a tenth stretch.

    Or, you can buy a simple chain gauge and just use that. The Park CC-3 gauge is a "drop-in" type, and has two sides. One drops in when the chain is 0.75% worn, the other side is for 1%. I monitor the chain with the gauge, then double check with a steel rule before replacing. Measuring the pin-to-pin distance is technically better than measuring between the rollers, which is what the Park gauge does.

    My 9 speed chains usually go 5000 miles or more before hitting that 0.75% wear point. Someone could just replace the chain every 1500 miles, but I'd say that's throwing away chains with a lot of unused life.
     
  9. BobCochran

    BobCochran Well-Known Member

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    The Zinn book mentions that if a worn chain breaks on you there is a good chance that you will go down hard on the bike. I'd rather pay for a new chain than for emergency room and doctor bills. I've had one bad bike crash, although not from a broken chain. My left thumb will never work right again. I think my plan is conservatism: replace the chain either at 1500 mile intervals or when advised to.
     
  10. JoanMcWench

    JoanMcWench Member

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    I use White Lightning & a brush to clean (& keep clean) my bike chain. I've also not had a situation where a chain broke on me. I've had bikes brought to me with rust you wouldn't believe but a little love, elbow grease, & awesome product can restore a lot of chains to almost new. Then again there are those lost causes...
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    I too never had a chain break on a ride either in over 40 years of riding including 10 years of racing in S, Calif mountains where you would think if a chain was going to break there it would.

    1500 miles for a chain is nothing! If you properly and regularly clean and lube your chain there is no reason not to get at least 4,000 miles, think about it, a chain should outlast a tire! If not you're using either schity chains and or not properly maintaining them. I have about 6,000 miles on a mid level Shimano 10 speed chain and it's still good.

    Some people like to take their chains apart to clean them, I don't do that, I think every time you take a chain apart you weaken it at that point.
     
  12. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Keep your chain (relatively) clean, lubricated and gauged. At every cleaning, inspect it for cracked links, excessive plate spread, tight links, etc.

    Replace your chain at the recommended wear point. As dhk2 pointed out, 1% is specified and recommended by several sources. Personally, I toss my 11-speed Campy chains at 0.75%. That's right around 1,500-2,500 miles and I usually get 3 chains per cassette replacement. As a rule, it's my most used flat road ratio and my two steep hill climbing cassette gear teeth that show the most wear...no surprise there. High pressure use and high percentage of use gears.

    The last 53 tooth Record chain ring I wore to the point of replacing went somewhere between 25,000-30,000 miles, thanks to keeping clean, lubricated and in-spec chains on the bike.

    Another advantage of keeping your drive line well maintained is solid, fast and accurate shifting in addition to Watt-saving, smooth running, quiet power transmission from the pedals to the wheel.

    Most importantly, a broken chain can lead to instantaneous loss of control of the bike. On a deserted road that might mean 'only' a hard crash and some cuts and bruises. If it happens with traffic around it can mean death or serious injuries from flying into traffic.

    When 9 and 10-speed drives first hit the market there seemed to be an epidemic of broken and snapped chains and recalls of those 'quick links' or 'power links' used as master links. Improperly sized chain tools and low quality chain tools contributed to the problem as did little or no training / education of those using the tools on the new gearing systems.

    Between faulty manufacturing and user error everyone from bike store employees to Pro-Tour mechanics to home maintenance users were screwing up chain replacements and installs and result was broken chains all over the place. It seemed every televised pro race showed a picture of some pissed off racer standing by the road side with a broken chain dangling from his bike.

    For probably a number of reasons...more experience with the critical nature of the products and improved designs in product and tooling foremost...the number of chains that 'explode' apart appears to have been significantly reduced. Maybe it's just my observation, but I just don't see or hear about the issue nearly as much as I did say...10 years ago.

    A bicycle's driveline integrity is absolutely critical to maintaining control over the machine when you need that control the most...when pedaling under high pedal pressure such as climbing, accelerating the bike or powering along at high speeds. These are especially poor times to find yourself suddenly NOT in control of your direction of travel due to the dreaded 'air pedal'.
     
  13. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    10 years ago is not a long time ago unless you're only 20 something. The wide chains back in the days of 5, 6, and 7 speed clusters I've never seen fail nor heard of anyone who chain did fail, and we use to take our chains apart to clean, and the constant taking apart and resembling still didn't cause a chain to fail. Not saying they never failed, I just never seen it or heard of it and I was involved in amateur racing in Southern California where rides into the mountains were common. I would say this chain failure business is something that started to happen when the chains got thinner. Also those wider older chains would last 13 to 15 thousand miles before it was time to replace. So product improvement I think actually went down hill with the thinner chains, probably more accurately is the width of the metal is thinner and more prone to wear and breakage. I think the court is still out on the 11 speed chains since they were only introduced in mid 2013, so a year and a half of use is still way to premature to say that they're more reliable than the 9 and 10 speed chains.
     
  14. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

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    I had a friend that popped an outer link on the old 5-speed chains...way out in the middle of BFE. He borrowed a screwdriver, used a rock as a hammer and put it back together in just a few minutes.

    Those old Sedis and Regina chains lasted a couple of hard seasons.

    I will say this about Campy 11-speed chains after 3 seasons of use...they are lasting LONGER than the Campy 10-speed chains I rode from 2006-2012. I've had zero reliability problems or breakage with both. So far.

    With the elimination of chain bushings, less surface contact area and harder chainring coatings and cassette gears, chains do wear much faster than in the 'good old days'.
     
  15. superbobby

    superbobby New Member

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    Wear and tear eventually creeps up. Lubricating it regularly will prolong the life of your chain so all you need to do is replace your broken chains and make sure you lubricate the new ones regularly.
     
  16. DancingLady

    DancingLady Member

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    Chains rarely break without rust, but sometimes things do break. It could have had a slight defect you couldn't see that became weak with wear and broke. I wouldn't worry about it happening a lot, just have a mechanic look at everything when you get a new one and make sure there aren't any other problems.
     
  17. namestakensuck

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    Only chain I've had break was on a cheap bike. Never since then. I will say that sand will kill chains extremely quickly. Stay out of it and don't trust google maps. Google despises cyclists.

    Also. From what I gather you should replace chains at .5%. At .75% you have to replace the cassette. And if you can pull forward, toward the front wheel, a new chain on the front chain rings until a tooth is completely exposed then you need a new chain ring.
     
  18. mpre53

    mpre53 Well-Known Member

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    And if you have FSA chain rings, you should replace them on general principle when you replace the chain.

    Seriously, a set of Praxis replacement rings run for less than $200. Best improvement you can make to a FSA crank.
     
  19. namestakensuck

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    What's wrong with the FSA rings?
     
  20. mpre53

    mpre53 Well-Known Member

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    They wear too fast, and even when they're not worn, they shift like shit.
     
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