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Old 08-09-10, 05:27 PM   #1
chandltp
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cheap chains wear faster

I replaced my chain this spring, and it only has about 1000 miles on it. My park tool chain checker fits at the .75 mark, but not quite into the 1.0 mark. I checked when I put it on and it didn't fit into either.

It was an SRAM PC 830, which I later discovered that there were better chains. I kept it well oiled and relatively clean, but it seems its almost time to replace it again.

If I do replace it, are there chains that last longer? I was looking at the PC 850 as a heavier chain. I need a 7 speed chain for my trek 7000
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Old 08-09-10, 05:35 PM   #2
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Those Park Tool chain go/no-go gages might not be that accurate. Measure using a good 12" ruler or tape measure, see this site, bottom of the page. http://sheldonbrown.com/chains.html

1000 miles seems way too little miles for a chain replacement.
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Old 08-09-10, 05:45 PM   #3
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how often it's made clean and well lubricated matters.

when the distance of 12" of new chain measures 12.125" it may be worthy of replacing.
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Old 08-09-10, 06:11 PM   #4
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What chainring and sprockets are you using the most? I found my chain life is extended by using gear combos with larger chainrings and sprockets, even at the expense of more angled chain line.

On a mountain triple I was only getting 1000 miles on a chain, until I stopped riding the 32 X 15t and other similar gears and started using the 44 chainring more.
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Old 08-09-10, 07:11 PM   #5
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What chainring and sprockets are you using the most? I found my chain life is extended by using gear combos with larger chainrings and sprockets, even at the expense of more angled chain line.
On my daily commute, I use the middle ring on the front and I'm all over the board on the back gears.. usually gravitating toward the smaller rings between stop lights. On my morning exercise ride, I ride the big ring on the front and the larger to medium rings on the back.

I'll have to get a shop ruler (wife will never go for greasy rulers) and measure since my tape measure didn't seem that accurate, but I'm thinking when the go / no go gauge gets to the 1.0 I'll replace it. Does anyone know what the equivalent measurement would be to that?

I'm just guessing on the miles, but I had to replace the chain and rear freewheel after 3500 miles last time. Maybe riding near the beach gets more grit in the chain than I realize.
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Old 08-09-10, 08:10 PM   #6
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Cheap chains have more space between rollers and side plates and let in more grit, in addition to possibly being made of softer stuff.
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Old 08-09-10, 08:11 PM   #7
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Maybe riding near the beach gets more grit in the chain than I realize.
I ride crushed limestone trails. I have had good luck with applying a thick coat of chain wax as well as a little thin oil or prolink. The wax may not lubricate but it keeps out the grit.
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Old 08-09-10, 08:15 PM   #8
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yea , but they are cheap so you replace them more often, at lower cost,
because they are cheap.

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Old 08-09-10, 08:19 PM   #9
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How many miles did the cassete have on it when you swapped for the new chain? A well worn cassete will wear away at a new chain faster than normal until they fit. If you put the new chain onto a worn cassete that is close to needing its own replacement then that may explain why your chain is going downhill so fast.
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Old 08-09-10, 08:24 PM   #10
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Cheap chains have more space between rollers and side plates and let in more grit, in addition to possibly being made of softer stuff.
How much more space? How much softer?

Please supply measurements and Rockwell ratings as needed.
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Old 08-09-10, 08:37 PM   #11
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A chain should be replaced when any one foot interval has stretched to 12 1/16 inches (12.0625). There is not a direct comparison between a ruler and a chain checker because some of the wear occurs in the rollers instead of the pin/plate interface. My chains reach 12 1/16/foot at about the same time the Park chain checker reads .75. This way I get at least 5000 miles out of a chain and have never worn a cog enough to cause a chain to skip.
Shimano 7700 chain seem to stretch slightly faster than Campy Record chains. The rollers on a Campy UN 5.9 chain seem to wear slightly faster than on a Shimano 7700 chain.

Last edited by Al1943; 08-09-10 at 08:41 PM.
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Old 08-09-10, 08:58 PM   #12
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My rule of thumb is:

Never buy the cheapest chain. Likely too many corners cut.
Never buy the most expensive chain. Too much bump in price for too little gain.
Same with cogs and chainrings, BTW.
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Old 08-09-10, 09:16 PM   #13
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How much more space? How much softer?

Please supply measurements and Rockwell ratings as needed.
Um, I guess you're right. Without hardness testing we can assume the cheap chains are made of stuff which is just as good, and without measuring tolerances we can assume they're fitted as well as expensive chains.

Last edited by garage sale GT; 08-09-10 at 09:19 PM.
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Old 08-09-10, 09:58 PM   #14
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Um, I guess you're right. Without hardness testing we can assume the cheap chains are made of stuff which is just as good, and without measuring tolerances we can assume they're fitted as well as expensive chains.
Should we also assume that "lesser" chains made in the same factory are punched out on old, sloppy equipment and made with intentionally inferior materials? I'm just saying that your statement had no merit unless you're experienced in the chain manufacturing industry. AFAIK there's more cost difference in the peening procedures and plating than in the raw materials. It would hardly be worth a manufacturer's time to produce a "sloppy" chain that measured as worn right out of the box. Ever measured a $6 singlespeed chain? They're amazingly precise.
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Old 08-09-10, 10:34 PM   #15
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Rockwell? got test equipment , then the cost of bike chains is nothin ..

got 2 Whipperman Bushing type 3/32 chains for my IG hub bikes , the right application ,

bushing rollerchain production started in 1880
.. all there was back in the 5 speed era was Bushing chains ..

Bushingless chains, the inner side plates, are punched thru, more flexible, better derailleur shifting,
but wear is concentrated on the edges of surfaces.
Chain, a drawing, of a simple one, is in Leonardo da Vinci's sketch book :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_sketch_(drawing)_of_roller_chain,_Leonardo_da_Vinci.jpg

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Old 08-09-10, 10:42 PM   #16
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I'll have to get a shop ruler (wife will never go for greasy rulers)
I like these metal rules - goes down to 1/64 on the ends.
http://www.amazon.com/Westcott-Bevel...1415139&sr=8-7

Sorry, no bike computer, so have no idea of the mileage I get, but I find pc 850s to be worth the couple extra bucks over the 830. They seem to ride quieter and perhaps even shift better out of the box.
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Old 08-10-10, 05:45 AM   #17
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How many miles did the cassete have on it when you swapped for the new chain? A well worn cassete will wear away at a new chain faster than normal until they fit. If you put the new chain onto a worn cassete that is close to needing its own replacement then that may explain why your chain is going downhill so fast.
I only put about 20 miles on the new chain while it was skipping on the old freewheel before I replaced it. It had about 3500 miles on it, but it was skipping on the smaller gears.
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Old 08-10-10, 05:46 AM   #18
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I guess I'll order the 850 and put it on when I get back, unless anyone has any other recommendations. Oh, and a steel ruler to get good measurements.
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Old 08-10-10, 07:02 AM   #19
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I have been running a KMC X9SL gold for about 5,000 miles now, still going strong. They are light, titanium coated (to prevent rust) and they are quiet. I have been happy with mine, I'm hoping to see 10,000 with it, I ride in all conditions, since I commute every day. They are not cheap, at about 50 per, but I HATE HATE HATE seeing ANY rust on my chain, and riding in all weather, you'll see rust even if you dry your chain right after riding. I just can't stand that (OCD a little maybe? ).

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Old 08-10-10, 07:07 AM   #20
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Oh, and I agree about top of the line vs one level down, the line between Dura Ace and Ultegra is a fine one, as is the MTN bike line between XT and XTR. Weight is the main savings at the top end, not that it's not worth saving some weight, but at some point, the cost benefit for the average rider isn't worth it.

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Old 08-10-10, 07:22 AM   #21
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I've always used a 12" precision rule, or my own gage that measures the chain over the full length, to measure elongation. I've put 6,000 miles on a Campy 10 chain and measured about .2% elongation. That does not mean the chain is in good shape. The roller were shot and the side clearance nearly twice the original amount. A Shimano or KMC will elongate many times faster.

For those asking about chain dimensions, here are some facts. The side clearance is easily measured with feeler gages. A new chain will have a clearance in the range of .004-.008 inch, when new. KMC chains tend to be the loosest, when new. The roller diameter and clearances are not the same between brands. Campy chains will have a space between the rollers of about .200 inch when new, while Shimano and KMC may measure .210-.215. That's why a chain checker will show those chains to have about .25% wear when new, but they are not worn. It's also why chain checkers are so worthless. Even if you subtract the initial false wear, there's more roller wear added as the chain elongates and the roller wear can be as large as the true elongation. The result is a reading that can be twice the actual elongation.

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Old 08-10-10, 08:13 AM   #22
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Wow, I guess I wasted my money on that chain checker. It seemed like it would be an easy tool to use quickly.

I'll just have to get a good ruler I can use accurately and measure.
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Old 08-10-10, 08:44 AM   #23
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I've alwasy used a 12" precision rule, or my own gage that measures the chain over the full length, to measure elongation. I've put 6,000 miles on a Campy 10 chain and measured about .2% elongation. That does not mean the chain is in good shape. The roller were shot and the side clearance nearly twice the original amount. A Shimano or KMC will elongate many times faster.

For those asking about chain dimensions, here are some facts. The side clearance is easily measured with feeler gages. A new chain will have a clearance in the range of .004-.008 inch, when new. KMC chains tend to be the loosest, when new. The roller diameter and clearances are not the same between brands. Campy chains will have a space between the rollers of about .200 inch when new, while Shimano and KMC may measure .210-.215. That's why a chain checker will show those chains to have about .25% wear when new, but they are not worn. It's also why chain checkers are so worthless. Even if you subtract the initial false wear, there's more roller wear added as the chain elongates and the roller wear can be as large as the true elongation. The result is a reading that can be twice the actual elongation.
?? Why would a campy chain elongate at a slower rate? Especially since you just lumped a Dura Ace, and A KMC 9sl gold ti, in with a 105/Tiagra level chain, and a KMC 8 speed.
Does the name stamped on the box make it magic?
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Old 08-10-10, 11:58 AM   #24
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?? Why would a campy chain elongate at a slower rate? Especially since you just lumped a Dura Ace, and A KMC 9sl gold ti, in with a 105/Tiagra level chain, and a KMC 8 speed.
Does the name stamped on the box make it magic?

FWIW, I'm a mechanical engineer. I've been wrenching on bikes for 25 years and riding Campy for the last 15.

I mentioned Shimano and KMC chains. I did not mention the speed or the model. I've tested the Campy 10 speed chain against a DA 7800 10 speed chain and a KMC DX10SC.

The reason that Campy chains elongate at a much lower rate is due to the hardness of the pins and inner plates. Elongation occurs from the wear on the pin and the bushing formed into the inner plates. I've used many Campy chains over 15 years and never got one to elongate more than .2%. I had to use a precision gage that measured the whole 53 inch chain length to come up with that figure. The elongation was so small that the chain looked almost new over only 12 inches.

The fact that the chains don't elongate very much does not mean they don't wear out. The rollers wear over 6,000 miles was many times greater than the wear on the pin and so was the side wear. I'd never use another chain for quite that long again, unless is was one of the chains in a 3-chain rotation. If a single chain is left in use for that long, you may encounter chain skip when a second new chain is installed (I did). The way to avoid that is to rotate among 3 chains and never let any one of them become more than half worn before changing to another. The idea is for all the chains to be similarly worn. Then you will not get new-chain skip.
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Old 08-10-10, 12:07 PM   #25
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I only put about 20 miles on the new chain while it was skipping on the old freewheel before I replaced it. It had about 3500 miles on it, but it was skipping on the smaller gears.
So this latest issue is occuring with a new cassete and a 20 mile chain? That is odd since the chain would not "wear in" to the old cassete that quickly. What you have now SHOULD be good. So I can only assume that the cheap chain is softer or the plates are not formed as well so there's less bearing area and the plates are thus wearing faster.


It occurse to me that what DaveSSS found with the Campy chain wearing out mostly at the rollers is a good reason why the Park style tool is actually not a bad option in some ways. It may not measure the pin to bushing wear like a ruler on the outside does but it DOES take into account the total wear of the pin to bushing and roller. So the question then is how important is wear in the rollers? Roller wear does not change the pitch distance but it does affect how deep the chain attempts to seat..... Hmmmmm... I just answered my own question. Roller wear is equally as important since when the rollers wear the chain pin centerlines will attempt to seat deeper in the sprocket teeth gullets. That will put the pins lower on the sprockets than the designed pitch line and excess pressure will thus be put on the teeth causing rapid wear. So we come back to the Park Tools checker. Yes it measures between the rollers but the rollers are as much a factor in correct chain fit as the pin spacing. So in a way using the Park checker is just as, if not more valid as using a ruler to check the pitch wear.

Last edited by BCRider; 08-10-10 at 12:12 PM.
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