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  1. #1
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    Worn out chain (and rear cog) after 1400 miles

    Hi there--

    So I bought a new bike last September (Fuji Absolute 1.4) and I have been determined to stay on top of maintenance so the bike will last a long time. I always oil my chain after every 100 miles, because that's what was recommended on the bottle of chain oil I use. Once a month I would clean my degrease and oil it, and I would just wipe it down with a rag once a week.

    I thought I was taking such good care of my chain, but I decided right around 1400 miles that I should get a chain wear indicator so I will know when it needs to be replaced, although I figured I'd be good for some time still. Well, I got the Park indicator and checked my chain, only to discover that not only did the .5 side fit easily, but also the .75 side.

    Panicking that I might have damaged my cassette, I searched online and found out that you can check for wear with a 12" ruler. I checked that way and found that wear was an 8th of an inch!

    I ordered a new chain immediately and put it on my bike, hoping for the best, but sure enough the chain was skipping badly on the rear cog I ride in most. All of the other cogs were fine under pedaling pressure, except for the one I ride in most.

    So my question is, what am I doing wrong? Can I expect to burn through chains every 1200 - 1300 miles? Maybe the chain brand and model is just not quality? The chain is a KMC X9.93. Anything obvious I should or should not be doing?

    I'm waiting on a new cassette to arrive now so I can get back to riding.


    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
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    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/chain-care.html
    I remove and clean my chain in an ultrasonic cleaner every 750 miles. I rarely relube the chain between cleaning intervals. My chain on the 7sp tourer is almost worn out at 18600 miles.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herzog1911 View Post
    So my question is, what am I doing wrong?
    Degreasing your chain and not lubricating it enough, pushing too big a gear which increases wear, and/or living someplace with too much rain and road grit.

    Can I expect to burn through chains every 1200 - 1300 miles? Maybe the chain brand and model is just not quality? The chain is a KMC X9.93. Anything obvious I should or should not be doing?
    There are too many variables to generalize. I got 4866 miles out of my last 9 speed chain without reaching 1/32" of wear (I discarded it with the move to 10 cogs). The one which went with me to Seattle was done in 1500-2000 miles.

    I only service my chains when they cease running quietly (that can be 100 miles in wet weather or much of 1000 miles on a new chain with factory grease in a pleasant climate).

    By "service" I mean wipe the gunk off the outside with a paper towel and mineral spirits to limit black drips on my driveway after I add lubricant with solvent, adding White Lightning, wiping off the excess, and letting the solvent evaporate over-night.

    This definitely works in dry climates and isn't the worst thing you can do in wet ones.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 02-10-14 at 02:25 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herzog1911 View Post
    Once a month I would clean my degrease and oil it, and I would just wipe it down with a rag once a week.
    Did you degrease the chain with a water based degreaser? If so, you probably left the chain's interior full of water and the subsequent oiling did no good. Unless you can COMPLETELY dry out a water degreased chain and fully re-oil it you might as well soak it in acid.

    For comparison, I almost never fully clean my chains by soaking them in anything. I wipe the exterior with a dry rag or paper towel, drip on an oil based lube, wipe off the excess and let the solvent evaporate. My chain never looks spotless but it lasts 7000 or more miles with just over 1/16" "stretch" when I replace it.
    Last edited by HillRider; 02-10-14 at 12:57 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member demoncyclist's Avatar
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    No real reason to degrease IMHO. Just clean and relube. Riding in the wet and dirt can greatly reduce chain lifespan. I don't ever trust chain checkers either, not that the ruler gave you good news, but always seems to be a more accurate gauge.
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    You know, with the mention of water causing issues, thinking back to my rides there have been lots of rainy/dense fog rides. My bike has been soaked after so many rides over the past few months, I wonder if I'm just not doing a very good job clearing the water out of my chain.

    Thanks for the input!

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    "Unless you can COMPLETELY dry out a water degreased chain and fully re-oil it you might as well soak it in acid."

    Putting a water-cleaned and rinsed chain in a pan in a 250F oven for an hour will drive off all of the water. If you do not get it above the boiling point the water will stay in the little crevices in the chain basically forever; think of a thin film of water caught between two panes of glass.

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    "...lots of rainy/dense fog rides." It's not primarily the water but the grit that it carries that causes the wear.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
    "...lots of rainy/dense fog rides." It's not primarily the water but the grit that it carries that causes the wear.
    If there is warer sitting inside the chain, it will rust. That will toast a chain quickly. If you use a water-based degreaser, rinse well and either bake it in the oven (as suggested) or hit it with WD-40. That at least uses WD-40 for what it is intended for (dispersing water) and it's pretty darned good at it. Then lube properly, wipe off the excess, and wipe it down.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member RPK79's Avatar
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    So all this time I've been cleaning my chains with water, dishsoap, and a stiff brush and then lubing with Clean Ride has been anti-productive?

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    It could be the riding surface. I ride rail-trails with crushed lime stone surface and it causes my chain to wear down quickly.

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    If your riding in rain, I would say every time your out in rain, wipe the chain down and re-oil when you get home. You should wipe the rest of the bike down, anyway...And use an oil based lube. Something meant to be used in the rain. If your using a "dry" lube, your not doing yourself any favor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrtuttle04 View Post
    It could be the riding surface. I ride rail-trails with crushed lime stone surface and it causes my chain to wear down quickly.
    Limestone is mostly calcite and has a hardness of 3. It should not wear a bike chain unless there are lots of impurities. Most silt will have hardnesses in the 6 - 7 range and are of a size that can enter the chain between plates and between plates and rollers. Most sand is quartz with a hardness of 7. A steel bike chain has a hardness of about 5. Silt and sand are the chain killers as far as abrasives are concerned.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by RPK79 View Post
    So all this time I've been cleaning my chains with water, dishsoap, and a stiff brush and then lubing with Clean Ride has been anti-productive?
    Not at all. It makes chain manufacturers very happy.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    The FIRST thing that I'd recommend would be to calibrate your Park chain checker. Try it out on a brand spanking new chain and see what it says. I think that some of those are better at selling chains than they are at accurately measuring wear.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    For comparison, I almost never fully clean my chains by soaking them in anything. I wipe the exterior with a dry rag or paper towel, drip on an oil based lube, wipe off the excess and let the solvent evaporate. My chain never looks spotless but it lasts 7000 or more miles with just over 1/16" "stretch" when I replace it.
    This is going to be a dumb question, but how do you go about wiping it with a paper towel without it shredding all over the place? Do you wipe it while the chain is in motion (i.e. spinning the cranks), or keep the chain stationary while wiping and then scoot it forward a foot at a time to to access the next section?

    I hear others talking about the paper towel method and I don't get how they avoid the shred-o-rama.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Turtle Speed View Post
    This is going to be a dumb question, but how do you go about wiping it with a paper towel without it shredding all over the place? Do you wipe it while the chain is in motion (i.e. spinning the cranks), or keep the chain stationary while wiping and then scoot it forward a foot at a time to to access the next section?

    I hear others talking about the paper towel method and I don't get how they avoid the shred-o-rama.
    Buy paper shop towels instead of the kitchen type. I buy paper shop towels at Wal-Mart in the automotive department, they're blue and are sold in two roll packs. I mounted a cheap plastic dispenser on the wall of my garage and use these towels for multiple purposes. I can clean a bike Chain with one towel if it's not too dirty.

  18. #18
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    The one thing the OP has not specified is what cog it is that is being ridden most of the time, and with what front chainwheel. That alone could have a huge impact. I went on a 3 month 10,000 mile trip in 1976. I built a freewheel with the largest small cog I could for smaller jumps with my double chainwheel, so my high gear was only 81 inches. I rode in all sorts of weather, through a couple deserts, by the Pacific, and over 3 mountain ranges on one Sedisport chain.
    Last edited by cny-bikeman; 02-11-14 at 05:36 AM.
    There's no such thing as a routine repair.

    Don't tell me what "should" be - either it is, it isn't, or do something about it.

    If you think I'm being blunt take it as a compliment - if I thought you were too weak to handle the truth or a strong opinion I would not bother.

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  19. #19
    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    No offense to anyone.... I know chain care is one of those subjects that cyclist disagree greatly on. But the idea that cleaning metal with soap and water has been accepted almost universally in industry for a couple decades now. I have a hard time believing that the Air Force can scrub down jet engine parts with old fashion soap and water.... yet my bicycle chain is too fragile for water exposure?

    I was really under the impression that both my car and my bicycle could handle a little rain, snow, fog, dirt, and even mud puddles.

    I think the problem here is metrics. How does a cyclist monitor chain wear? Obliviously (as the OP mentioned) both "the Park indicator" and the "ruler method" detected wear. The problem was they weren't used until the wear had already occurred and the damage done. However a chain is lubricated and/or cleaned.... it needs to be regularly inspected and checked for wear. Even listening to the chain is a form of inspection. I wouldn't discard chain noise as nothing.... just because I had already applied oil.

    IMHO... the entire bicycle (as well as its parts) needs regular inspection. The best way I've found to do this is by washing. Drying and re-lubricating is just a part of regular bicycle care.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    The FIRST thing that I'd recommend would be to calibrate your Park chain checker. Try it out on a brand spanking new chain and see what it says. I think that some of those are better at selling chains than they are at accurately measuring wear.
    The OP did mention that he checked the chain with a ruler too...

    I don't let soap touch my chains and the only water it sees is when it is raining. When I come home from a rainy ride the chain goes right into a bath of mineral spirits after towel-drying and a hosing down with WD-40 to save my spirit bath from too much water contamination. I also take this opportunity to check in multiple locations with a chain-checker. If it fails that I double-check with a ruler in case of false negative test with Go/NoGo gauge. The quick chain-checkers might have a false negative but never have false positive.

    When I wash my bike the chain comes off first and goes into that same spirits bath. The bike doesn't get washed wearing the chain -ever.

    Why wash a chain with soap and/or water when mineral spirits do a much better job of it?

    After a good soak and swish in the spirit bath the chain gets wiped down and immediately dunked into the lube bath for a good long soaking in there. My lube bath is another plastic coffee can just like the spirit bath. It's a hodge-podge of oils and stuff I whip up myself. I dump my flushing oil from my freehubs in there to "recycle" it and throw in a bit of motor oil, ATF, Marvel Mystery Oil and a enough mineral spirits end up migrating from the first dunk with the chain to keep it thin. I filter this oil every once in a while.

    After a good soak I pull the chain and towel-dry it to hang. After air-drying for a day or two it tacks up nicely and looks and feels just like a brand new chain does right out of the plastic inner wrap inside the retail box.

    This sounds like a lot of work but it really is not. It's only a couple of minutes of actual time between soakings. Of course I have two chains for each bike I have so I always have a clean/oiled spare ready to go. It goes on right after I'm finished washing the bike or after drying it off at the end of a rainy ride.

    All my chains use KMC chains with "missing link" master connectors. It's a snap.

    This all takes longer to explain than to actually DO. The two coffee cans live right on the end of my work bench and get used often.

    It's nice to always have a "like new" chain to swap onto the bike sitting in a marked ziplock bag (so they don't get mixed up) all ready to go.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
    . . . I have a hard time believing that the Air Force can scrub down jet engine parts with old fashion soap and water....
    So do I.

  22. #22
    Cottered Crank Amesja's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Dave Cutter
    . . . I have a hard time believing that the Air Force can scrub down jet engine parts with old fashion soap and water....





    Quote Originally Posted by AnkleWork View Post
    So do I.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member loimpact's Avatar
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    FWIW, I'm trying an experiment on my own. Since I have 2 identical bikes about 2 weeks apart in age w/ similar miles on them, I'm washing, drying & lubing bike #1 . And bike #2 is not going to see water. It will get wiped & waterless care w/ just a wipe of the chain & lube only.

    I'll be curious to see my results after a few thousand miles, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see almost the exact same result either.

  24. #24
    Senior Member migrantwing's Avatar
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    There's something called 'The Mickle Method' and, for me, and many, many others, it has worked wonders. I used to use an ultrasonic cleaner on my chain when it got really dirty. I no longer do this. I only use the ultrasonic cleaner to clean cassettes and other components when they need to be cleaned thoroughly, after a very muddy ride or my bike has been sprayed with road dirt/oil from wet weather.

    ** Wipe the chain. Use the bike’s freewheel mechanism to your advantage by grabbing the lower run of chain with the rag and dragging it backwards, slide your hand forward and the chain will feed backwards through the rag presenting a new section to wipe. Wipe, wipe wipe etc, Rotate the rag to get a clean section every so often. Eventually, depending on the mankyness of the chain, you wont be able to get any more off.
    Now, lube the chain. With one hand slowly rotate the pedals backwards whilst dropping lube onto the lower run of chain in front of the rear mech (or wherever). When you are happy that every link has a drop of lube spin the pedals backwards a few times to allow the lube to seep in.

    Go back to **

    The last thing you do is wipe, remember you don’t need any lube on the outside of the chain (aside from a very thin smear to discourage corrosion). You spend much much more time wiping than lubing. When the rag stops picking up black crud the job is done. Except just one thing, ride the bike a few miles and wipe it again.
    The more often you do it the cleaner your chain will be and the cleaner your chain is the quicker the job. So little and often is better. Once a week when it’s dry is more than enough, more often if you do lots of miles in the rain. The less crud you have on the chain the less can get on the other transmission parts too. Lube + grit = makes a really effective grinding compound when it comes into contact with aluminum rings.
    The alternative, removing all the crud with solvents, removes all the lube from inside the chain. You then need to remove the solvent because putting lube on a chain full of solvent will destroy the lube. So you wash the solvent off with something? Then you have to remove whatever you washed the solvent off with. Oh, and then have to safely dispose of the now contaminated solvent hoping that none of it has permeated you skin because whatever it says on the bottle solvents aren’t good for you or for anything else in the environment.
    So. Wipe – lube – wipe – wipe – wipe. Ride it a few miles and wipe it again. Once your chain has become accustomed to the new regime it should take no more than a couple of minutes each time.
    Last edited by migrantwing; 02-11-14 at 07:44 AM.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
    Limestone is mostly calcite and has a hardness of 3. It should not wear a bike chain unless there are lots of impurities. Most silt will have hardnesses in the 6 - 7 range and are of a size that can enter the chain between plates and between plates and rollers. Most sand is quartz with a hardness of 7. A steel bike chain has a hardness of about 5. Silt and sand are the chain killers as far as abrasives are concerned.
    My post is based on what my LBS told me. We have a lot of limestone trails around here so I am sure the bike shop works on a lot of bikes that spend time on the trails. It may not be all the limestone itself that causes the wear but rather the dirt that collects in the cracks between the limestone.

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