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Chain Life

Old 07-15-13, 06:51 PM
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lawnerd
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Chain Life

Hi. I just started commuting by bike and I have a question regarding how often I will need a new chain.

My commute is 22 miles each way. I have a 13 year old Marin Point Reyes. I never knew that you should check for chain wear and I have driven the bike regularly over the past 13 years (probably about 1 to 2 K miles per year. So, I checked it for wear and found that the chain was worn and that the cassette and chainrings were worn. So, I replaced the entire drive chain. I've done searches on chain life time and have seen some folks claim that you need to replace your chain every 500 miles! If that is true I'll need a new chain every three weeks.

So, commuters, how often do you need to change your chains? What do you think is the average life of a decent Shimano chain?
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Old 07-15-13, 06:59 PM
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Chain life depends on how often you clean, how far you ride, and whether you ride in the rain or offroad. Get a chain checker, clean frequently, and replace when worn out. The particular brand of chain is not important. Get a Connex link to remove for cleaning.
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Old 07-15-13, 07:30 PM
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Chains and chain maintenance are remarkably controversial topics. Assuming normal, non-extreme conditions, and if you keep it properly lubed, you should expect to get at least several thousand miles with the chain. I keep my current chain well-lubed and have a bit over 4300 miles with no noticeable indication of wear (measured with an aluminum rule) so I expect at least another couple thousand at a minimum, but we'll see. Probably about 1/4 - 1/3 of that on super dusty limestone roads/trails so I'm not exactly babying it either.

If you're commuting on normal city-type roads and keep up with a good lubrication regimen you won't need to worry about the chain for quite a while.
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Old 07-15-13, 09:20 PM
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I get about 2000 miles from a chain. I have tried all sorts of things to extend their life. Different lubricants, different cleaning techniques, rotating through several chains, etc. It doesn't seem to matter in my case. They still last 2000 miles.
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Old 07-16-13, 06:38 AM
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I found that with my ride conditions (*) I get about 1800 miles before the chain shows as too worn.

HOWEVER - I found that if I just leave the chain on anyway, the drivetrain continues to work just fine until the whole thing has about 9000 miles on it.

If I change the chain at 1800 miles when the Park tool says to, well, the rest of the drivetrain lasts about 9000 miles before it's worn out, as indicated by the fact that when I put a new chain on, I get skipping.

So, my conclusion is to just leave the chain on and replace the drivetrain every 9000 miles. The alternative is to replace the chain every 1800 and STILL need to replace the entire drivetrain every 9000 miles.

My experience may not be the same as yours but it's the conclusion I've come to.

(*) My route at the time included 8 miles per day of gravel road which really gunks up a chain. I could put a brand new chain on, ride 20 miles in the rain and the next morning the chain would be too gunked up to even bend anymore.
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Old 07-16-13, 06:49 AM
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Chain wear depends on alot of factors. Weather, conditions, dusty or dirty etc. All chains have a 1/2in pitch meaning 1/2 inch between links. Just use a 12in ruler and measure from a chain pin to the 12 in mark and it should line up perfectly with a pin there when the chain is brand new. Use the top section with pressure on the pedals. As time goes on measure it occasionally and when you see 1/16 - 1/8 in of stretch, it is worn. It will continue to run ok but then it starts to ride on top of your chain ring teeth and cassette which causes them to get wear on the leading edge and you will eventually have to replace the entire drivetrain. I generally get about 1500 miles on a chain but I use mine in winter conditions with salt/snow and grime so that wear is on the extreme side of things.
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Old 07-16-13, 06:50 AM
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Put 20 cyclists in a room and you'll get 20 different opinions on chain wear, maintenance, etc. So this thread won't be coming to any sort of definitive conclusion.

I tend to get ~2500 miles out of a chain. I clean it on-the-bike once a week (~150 miles or so), re-lube it, and that's about it. I have one of those Park Tool "chain checkers", but I find that they indicate that the chain is "worn out" long before my trusty ruler indicates that the chain has stretched 1/16". (One link is exactly one inch, so on a brand-new chain, one foot should be exactly 12 links).

To clean it, I just spray some degreaser on a rag and scrub away. Seems to get it reasonably clean. I've used other chain cleaning methods, and no matter what I do, within 50 miles, it's looking like I never touched it.

All kinds of good info is here: http://sheldonbrown.com/chains.html
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Old 07-16-13, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post


So, my conclusion is to just leave the chain on and replace the drivetrain every 9000 miles.
Pretty much the the system that I use. I replace the entire drivetrain every spring
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Old 07-16-13, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by xtrajack View Post
Pretty much the the system that I use. I replace the entire drivetrain every spring
Including the crank? If so, it gets a little expensive.
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Old 07-16-13, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
I found that with my ride conditions (*) I get about 1800 miles before the chain shows as too worn.

HOWEVER - I found that if I just leave the chain on anyway, the drivetrain continues to work just fine until the whole thing has about 9000 miles on it.

If I change the chain at 1800 miles when the Park tool says to, well, the rest of the drivetrain lasts about 9000 miles before it's worn out, as indicated by the fact that when I put a new chain on, I get skipping.

So, my conclusion is to just leave the chain on and replace the drivetrain every 9000 miles. The alternative is to replace the chain every 1800 and STILL need to replace the entire drivetrain every 9000 miles.

My experience may not be the same as yours but it's the conclusion I've come to.

(*) My route at the time included 8 miles per day of gravel road which really gunks up a chain. I could put a brand new chain on, ride 20 miles in the rain and the next morning the chain would be too gunked up to even bend anymore.
Yep. My experience mirrors this. If I do nothing but regularly clean and lube my chain, the whole drive train lasts about 5 years before the thing won't shift smoothly anymore. That's maybe 12,000 miles, give or take. If I get anal, meaning go by what the gage tells me, I'll be replacing chains every year.

I am currently running on a chain and drive from 2009 that is today a full 1/4 mm over the max (replacement recommended about 1/2 mm ago). But, she still runs well. The chain and drive will probably be OK through winter. I expect to replace it or the entire bike in the spring--bike is a 2004.
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Old 07-16-13, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
Put 20 cyclists in a room and you'll get 20 different opinions on chain wear, maintenance, etc. So this thread won't be coming to any sort of definitive conclusion.

I tend to get ~2500 miles out of a chain. I clean it on-the-bike once a week (~150 miles or so), re-lube it, and that's about it. I have one of those Park Tool "chain checkers", but I find that they indicate that the chain is "worn out" long before my trusty ruler indicates that the chain has stretched 1/16". (One link is exactly one inch, so on a brand-new chain, one foot should be exactly 12 links).

To clean it, I just spray some degreaser on a rag and scrub away. Seems to get it reasonably clean. I've used other chain cleaning methods, and no matter what I do, within 50 miles, it's looking like I never touched it.

All kinds of good info is here: http://sheldonbrown.com/chains.html
The ruler shows only stretch, not wear. The gage thingy shows actual wear. If that matters to ya.
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Old 07-16-13, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Including the crank? If so, it gets a little expensive.
Probably just one chain ring.
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Old 07-16-13, 09:35 PM
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If you're riding in wet/crummy conditions it can wear out in 500 miles easily. Otherwise, I'd expect to get at 1000 before worrying about it.
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Old 07-17-13, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Including the crank? If so, it gets a little expensive.
Not if you buy cheap cranksets on sale. I think I paid $15 for the crankset that's hanging new in the box in the garage right now. Normally $50 I think.

But no, I normally do not replace the crankset, just the chain and cassette.

On some cranksets it might be possible to flip the chainring and get double the life out of them. Not always though, depends on whether the chainring is offset from the crank.

I could replace just the chainring with the most wear, but given the price of entire cranksets that I buy (I got one on clearance from Nashbar for $8 once, for a triple), it's actually cheaper to just replace the whole thing.
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Old 07-17-13, 04:26 PM
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how often do you need to change your chains?
chain wear can be measured, you change the chain when it exceeds the chosen limit..

More often and the other stuff the chain contacts, lasts longer,

let it go and replace everything else, is the other plan. guess that one chose you.
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Old 07-17-13, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by baron von trail View Post
The ruler shows only stretch, not wear. The gage thingy shows actual wear. If that matters to ya.
What's the difference between a stretch and wear ??.
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Old 07-17-13, 05:11 PM
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"Stretch" is just the sum of the play introduced in the links due to wear. The chain isn't being plastically deformed. The plates and rollers are being worn abrasively through usage.
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