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  1. #1
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    Stainless chain and bearings

    Are they worth it ?
    Although regular maintenance, those components get rusted quite easily during winter commuting, so i was wondering if going stainless was worth the shot. Except for the price, is there any drawbacks to stainless ?

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    I've read that stainless steel is softer than bearing-grade chrome steel, so probably won't last as long assuming both types of bearings are run in a rust-free environment. Once you add rust into the equation though, you may get overall better life with stainless, but I don't know where the crossover point is.

    Also, I don't know how stainless compares to whatever steel they use in chains.

  3. #3
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    Most stainless steels are less strong than high strength carbon steels.

    Same reason (along with cost) is why stainless is not used i suppose you want to finnish your sentence. only finish has one n - not two. This is lardass' wife, and indeed, his ass is made of lard. Canadian lard.

    Edit: Sorry, my wife hijacked the computer. Anyhoo, most stainless steels are not as strong as high strength non-stainless.
    There have been various attempts at making chains out of non-standard material (Ti comes to mind) but they are unreliable.

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    It's not possible to make quality or hardness generalizations between stainless, carbon or alloy chains, because each class comes in a number of grades and can be heat treated to a broad spectrum of hardness. In any case chains aren't hardened to the extent that bearings are because they need to retain a certain amount of toughness to avoid fracture.

    A stainless chain will last just about the same length as the comparable quality non-stainless chain, but cost quite a bit more. The economics to consider are the rate of stretch vs the rate of rust, or stated another way whether your chains tend to wear out before they rust out, or vice versa. For high mileage use you're probably better off staying with the less expensive non-stainless chains, but for a bike that sees lots of weather and not so many mikes, like a beach resort bike, or a 10 mile/day all weather commuter, stainless might pay for itself.
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  5. #5
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    I wanna see a 6Al4V Ti chain plated in titanium nitride.

    IIRC, someone tried a Ti chain years ago but it shifted poorly cause its shape wasn't refined enough...

    I still reckon it'd be the ultimate material for chains, if we can figure out how to make a nice one out of the stuff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post

    I still reckon <6-4Ti> be the ultimate material for chains, if we can figure out how to make a nice one out of the stuff.
    Aye. There's the rub. There are plenty of materials that could be used to make superior... well, anything... if we could only figure out how.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
    IIRC, someone tried a Ti chain years ago but it shifted poorly cause its shape wasn't refined enough....
    I believe it was Wippermann and the last time I saw them offered was several years ago in a Performance catalog and they were asking $400! If the lack of durability didn't kill them off, the price certainly did.

    FBinNY is quite right that there are grades of "stainless steel" equally as strong as good carbon steel alloys. However their high price is a major drawback and, as he further noted, chains mostly wear out well before they rust out.

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    Stainless has a tendency to gall when it rubs against itself. It will also work harden and might become brittle.
    Stainless bearings are not an improvement over grade 25C chrome balls.

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    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Simple answer: NO.

    Regular chains are cheap and last a long time. No reason to go stainless.

  10. #10
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    Stainless chains are not *much* more expensive. Consider bottom of the barrel Sram PC-1, regular and nickel plated about $15/$20. Stainless KMC chain = $25. They resist rust MUCH better in winter weather, especially if the roads are salted. This is messenger use proven. This price is with LBS standard markup. With mail order parts the difference becomes even smaller.

    Another example campy record chain = $69.95, wipperman stainless (both 10s) $79.95, that's $10 difference.

    For ****s sake people what the ****. **** this forum.
    Last edited by operator; 03-12-10 at 07:50 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidad View Post
    Stainless has a tendency to gall when it rubs against itself. It will also work harden and might become brittle.
    Stainless bearings are not an improvement over grade 25C chrome balls.
    I believe you are referring to the 300-series stainless steels than are not used in bicycle applications except for spokes. Almost all other stainless steel components are 400-series which are can be heat treated to much higher strength and hardness and don't have the galling tencdncy the 300-series alloys do. They sacrifice extreme corrosion resistance for greatly improved mechanical properties.

    Some bearing balls are made of 300-series stainless when extreme corrosion resistance trumps all other machanical considerations. However, higher strength, harder, more durable stainless steel balls are all 400-series with 440C being the top-of-the-line.

    And, yes, I agree that stainless steel balls, even 440C, offer no worthwhile performance improvement over Grade 25 chrome steel balls.

  12. #12
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    Are we talking cartridge bearings or loose balls? Cartride bearings I see no point. Loose balls I see no point. Cartridge bearings you just replace with another cartridge bearing if they wear out/get rough. Loose ball you can easily take out, clean and re-pack every so often to avoid corrosion. Grease is a pretty good corrosion inhibitor.

    Stainless chains? Now they might be worth it. There is also a lot said for routine chain maintanence.

    Basically, if you are going to commute in winter/wet conditions, You OWE it to your bike to do a lot more upkeep than a bike ridden only in dry, clean conditions. Buying stainless just so you can skimp on upkeep on parts that should be kept covered in oil or grease, is kind of a backwards approach. But if you want to spend the money, then spend the money. I will just keep my chain oiled and bearings in fresh grease. But I dont ride much on salted roads, either.

  13. #13
    Senior Member 4evrplan's Avatar
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    Wish I could remember where I read this, but there was an article about research a company did comparing frictional losses of a chain using different types of lubrication and none at all. What surprised me was it made very little difference at all, and the point of lubricating a chain isn't for efficiency, it's to keep out dirt and water.

    The point is, you should keep your chain lubed well enough to keep out dirt anyway, which will also keep it from rusting, so you might as well not bother getting one in stainless.
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  14. #14
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    I reckon the salted roads caveat is a good one...

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    Senior Member vredstein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    For ****s sake people what the ****. **** this forum.
    You having a bad Friday? Is the Canadian winter worn out it's welcome?
    "See, it's not that getting wet is a big deal. Really, it's what you're getting wet with.
    Fenders....because it's probably urine."
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  16. #16
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    I believe it was Wippermann and the last time I saw them offered was several years ago in a Performance catalog and they were asking $400! If the lack of durability didn't kill them off, the price certainly did.
    Regina marketed a titanium chain back in the 1970s, but it was far too expensive for general use.

  17. #17
    Senior member Dan Burkhart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vredstein View Post
    You having a bad Friday? Is the Canadian winter worn out it's welcome?
    What winter? Winter didn't come to Toronto this year.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    Regina marketed a titanium chain back in the 1970s, but it was far too expensive for general use.
    That's not the one I was thinking of since the Wippermann I saw in the Performance catalog dates from the late '90's. I was unaware there were earlier attempts at Ti chains.

    I do like the comment about the Regina; "Best-wearing and one of the smoothest-shifting chains I've ever ridden." I think that says more about the deficiencies of the regular chains available at the time than it does about the merits of the Regina.

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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    They resist rust MUCH better in winter weather, especially if the roads are salted. This is messenger use proven. This price is with LBS standard markup.
    That was the kind of testimony i was looking for, thanks Operator.
    For those who don't understand what "regular maintenance" mean, I take VERY good care of my bike, especially during winter since they put a lot of salt on the roads in Montreal. This includes rinsing it every day, lubricating on the chain at least once a week and repacking my hubs (loose balls) once a month. BUT this didn't avoid some rust points on my chain, or the bearing balls to be pretty rusted and the cones pitted.
    I am aware of the price (25$ for a chain, 10$ for 100 bearing balls) which IMHO is low enough to consider it as an option.

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