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Thread: Chain life

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    Chain life

    Last night I happened to check chain wear on my bike and to my surprise, it was considerably worn. That chain went on new in April of this year and has 3000 miles on it. I had never kept track of previous chains amount of time in service so my sense that this particular chain has been short lived could be wrong. I put on a shiny new chain from the bike shop first thing this morning which seems so far to be shifting correctly. How many miles are people getting out of a new chain?

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    Senior Member curdog's Avatar
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    I typically get 1000-1500 miles per change. I usually change the cassette whenever I get a new chain. My new bike with Di2 is wearing much slower. I have about 2000 miles with no significant wear.
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    I get around 2,500 to 3,000 miles from a chain.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    It varies. On a singlespeed I'll get many thousands of miles. On a five/six speed chain, several thousand. On a 10-speed, usually 2000-3000 if I keep it clean. And if I change the chain before it is excessively worn, I'll get three or four chains-worth of wear from a 10-speed cassette.

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    Ok dumb question: How do I know when the chain is wore?
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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ctg492 View Post
    Ok dumb question: How do I know when the chain is wore?
    Each chain link is exactly one half of an inch long, so using a twelve-inch rule and measuring from the centre of one pin you can see when it has begun to "stretch". If 24 links are more than 12 and 1/16 inches long it needs replacing. Once they are 12 and 1/8 inches long you will be damaging your cassette and probably have to replace that, too.

    Or you can buy the park tools chain measuring device and follow the instructions.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ctg492 View Post
    Ok dumb question: How do I know when the chain is wore?
    As it wears, it appears to stretch, on a new chain, the links are all exactly 1/2" long, so if you take a ruler which is exactly 12" long, and align the end of one link with the 0, the end of another link will fall exactly at 12". As the chain wears, the place where the end of the link falls moves further and further away from the 12" mark. Usual rule of thumb is to replace the chain when the measurement across 12" stretches by 1/16" of it goes much further then it will result in wear to the cassette and you will have to replace that too. The cleaner and better lubed you keep the chain, the longer it will last. There are special tools to make the chain wear easier to measure if you do it a lot.

  8. #8
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    Normally get around 1500 miles on the road. Depending on how clean I keep- it the MTB will get 1,000 miles or less.

    It's that keeping clean that will get more mileage from chains. I have a chain cleaning tool and as soon as I see the rear cassette getting stained with black oil from the chain- I clean the chain. Can be after each ride in wet weather or 3 to 400 miles if the conditions are right. Just as important is chain lube. In Dry summer I use a dry lube. Doesn't attract dust from the road but will get washed off if it is shown any moisture.
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    Out to garage measure now, thank you. I have 3,000 miles on the new chain alone since the bike was new this year. I can only guess how many miles on the other bikes. I am feeling dumb now. And here I thought I was getting good at doing my own bike maintenance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ctg492 View Post
    Out to garage measure now, thank you. I have 3,000 miles on the new chain alone since the bike was new this year. I can only guess how many miles on the other bikes. I am feeling dumb now. And here I thought I was getting good at doing my own bike maintenance.
    Nobody is born knowing this stuff. No need to feel stupid.

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    Humm, I clean mine pretty regularly but I still only get 800 to 1000 miles, yes I make sure it'a lubed, use a "all conditions" dry, teflon based lube from the LBS. I change out the cassette at 1600-2000 miles, ie: every two chains. Haven't figured out a "particular mileage" to change out chainwheels??
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    I just got a new chain on my bike (~1500 miles), and it does seem to be running (a lot) smoother. Cassette was judged (by LBS guy) to be 'in good shape'. I've been lubing it fairly religiously and I was thinking it should have lasted longer - till I read this thread.
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    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    I'm on my 7th chain this year, but I'm on a fixie. I think a road fixed gear, particularly if ridden in the rain and up lots of hills, puts far more demands on a chain than a geared bike, particularly a geared bike that sees little rain. Because you can't shift down, you're torquing a fixed gear out of the saddle at much higher forces than you'd be sitting and spinning. And in the rain, you get grit off the wet pavement grinding away the gear teeth.

    I'm at just about 17,500 km for the year on the fixed gear bike, so I've been replacing the chain when I start hearing it make funny noises, or feels like it's "catching" under pressure, due primarily by its failure to mesh properly with the rear cog. This works out to between 2,000 and 3,000 km, depending on time of year. I even switch out cogs: a new or relatively unworn cog with a new chain, then a switch to a medium-worn cog at about 1,200 to 1,500 km, then to a worn cog once over 2,000 km (which I often throw out with the chain) when the chain is definitely stretched, always trying to match chain stretch with cog wear so that I avoid the "grinding" noise when I'm pedaling under pressure. But then, part of the problem could be that I use cheap cogs made of "soft" steel that deforms into "shark fins" after only 6,000 km or so. But I can't see spending more than $10 or $15 for a cog, and some of them run for $35!

    Now contrast this with my track bike, used on a level surface (unless I'm going up the banking), indoors, where the chain will last for years!

    With the road bike (and on the tandem), I try to avoid riding in the rain (that's what the fixie is for), and I replace the chain at about 3,000 km before it's had a chance to wear out the cassette. If there's any skipping with a new chain, I try to just replace the skipping cog, rather than replace the entire cassette, which I think is wasteful. Another reason to ride a fixed gear.

    Luis

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    Your replies put me to shame. I clean and lubricate everything regularly and only change a chain or cassette when I notice problems with running or shifting. But I ride mtbs and not with the latest top-end derailleurs so perhaps I'd do differently then.

    At the UK Bike Show recently they showed the bike that Kulhavy won the cross-country at the Olympics on. The chain and cassette were absolutely knackered after just one race of about 35km which goes to show that it depends totally on the type of riding.

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    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Oh, and by the way, I've said this before but I will say it again:

    Before you get carried away with the almost effortless performance of a prospective new bike (n+1), first try replacing the chain (and cogs if required) on your current ride, just so you'll have a good basis for comparison. You may even be so amazed at the vastly enhanced performance of you current bike with only a new chain that you will forget about blowing money on a new bike! I think most people have too many bikes anyway. But you can never have too many wheels.

    Luis

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    Just like I do with tires, I buy ten chains at a time to last me most of the year (all nine-speed). On the touring bike I get anywhere from 1500-2500 miles before it is a goner. The tandems tend to be much more variable in terms of chain life, but that may have to do with how many hills we climb with a given chain and how steep they are.

    Does anyone remember the days of the SediSport chains? Those things lasted tens of thousands of miles.

  17. #17
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    The life of the chain depends on the rider - weight , riding style . Also , its cheaper to replace the chain than the cassette .

  18. #18
    Over forty victim of Fate Cougrrcj's Avatar
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    In the past, I've always subscribed to the 'arc' method of chain wear. When the chain, when off the bike when held sideways, exceeds a 8-10" arc over it's length, it is time for replacement. The chain is held somewhere near the middle and the 'droop' is measured... I have well over 40k miles on my vintage Fuji...

    That said, I've worn cheap chains out in a few thousand miles of riding in nasty wet weather, and yet others have lasted 5k miles or more. FWIW, my current chain has over 8k miles on it, and is probably due for replacement, but I'm not looking forward to replacing the 'dinosaur' (20+-yr-old) 6-spd Shimano Ultraglide chain... because I'm an old fossil myself!

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I check our chains every time I lube them, and we typically get 3500 miles on out 9 speed touring bikes, slightly more on our road bikes.

    I keep them clean and replace them when needed. My wife's new touring bike is approaching 8,000 miles and the cassette still is looking good. Usually there is no need to change the cassette with every new chain. One of my road bikes, my all weather commuter, has more than 15,000 miles on the cassette, and it is still OK.

    IMO-Chain/cassette/chainring longevity depend a lot on keeping them clean; the type of riding conditions, e.g., rain, sanded roads; loaded touring vs bare bike; etc.

    PowerPoint slides from my presentations on bike maintenance at a wellness conference:

    A clean drive train is essential to a well performing bike. This is the cassette that I mentioned above which was used most working day for 7 years. 15,000 + miles


    This is one of the reasons it looks so good.


    Measuring chain stretch.


    Distance between links should be 1/2 inch.


    Use a good machinist rule ( I use Park tool, it is easier to use) to measure one foot of chain. 1/16 inch stretch in 1 foot is OK, but time to think about changing chain. One eighth of an inch is definitely maximum stretch. When the chain stretch is between 1/16 and 1/8 inch, it is time to change chains.
    Last edited by Doug64; 11-08-12 at 10:59 PM.

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    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    About 2000 miles on average.

    I like the Park chain-checker tool...it's so quick and easy I am able to just grab it out of the toolbox for a quick check on a regular basis.

    Cassettes last a lot longer, thousands and thousands of miles longer, if you are diligent about replacing your chain when it's worn.

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    I used to replace my chains a couple of times per year.
    I decided to see what would happen if I did not do this.
    My cassette is a Campy Chorus 9speed and I put it on my bike in 1999. The Chain is a Campy Record which I put on nearly 10 years ago...that's right 10 years. It reached a certain stretch point and has not stretched further in years. It is still quite and works perfectly. The cassette looks fine.
    I clean and lube my chain every two weeks...immediately after any ride when I get caught in the rain. This is standard cleaning practice for me and has been for decades.

    I average a bit over 3000 miles per year which is a bit lower than my mileage...around 5000 miles per year...when I was racing. I'd guess I have over 35000 miles on this chain and over 50000 on the cassette.

    This test was on a whim and thus far it has paid off in spades. I do have a new Chorus cassette and Record chain ready to go when needed but I'll keep the chain and cassette until one or the other fails.

  22. #22
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    With average drive parts, 3000 miles seems to be a fairly common range for chain life on a derailleur geared bicycle while a good cassette will last through 2 and perhaps 3 chains.

    My 3 speed bicycles enjoy some of the best chain life of any of my bikes, my winter bike sees some extremely harsh use and after 3500 miles there is no measurable wear and have had 3 speed chains run in excess of 10,000 miles under similarly brutal conditions.

    The fixed drives are much the same as the 3 speeds as I use brakes and one of the factors to extending a chain's life is cleaning and if you ride in wet or snowy conditions, really good fenders will do more than cleaning to extend your chain life. A little moisture will not hurt a well lubed chain but the crud that your wheels throw into the drive is full of grit and will drastically shorten chain life.

    Chains and cassettes are designed to be consumables, it is sad but true.

  23. #23
    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerryattrick View Post
    Your replies put me to shame. I clean and lubricate everything regularly and only change a chain or cassette when I notice problems with running or shifting. .... .
    It's all relative: to the homeless guy on the rusty, squeaky old thing -- as long as it gets him where he's going, the chain is in good shape.
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    Senior Member GeorgeBMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post
    Oh, and by the way, I've said this before but I will say it again:

    Before you get carried away with the almost effortless performance of a prospective new bike (n+1), first try replacing the chain (and cogs if required) on your current ride, just so you'll have a good basis for comparison. You may even be so amazed at the vastly enhanced performance of you current bike with only a new chain that you will forget about blowing money on a new bike! I think most people have too many bikes anyway. But you can never have too many wheels.

    Luis
    +1

    But I would add: AND adjust the derailer and brakes so they are working efficiently and effectively. That can do more than a new chain or sprockets -- or a new bike.
    ... My 2012 trek DS has less than a 1,000 miles on it -- but last night I checked it out on the bike stand and found that the derailer was out-of asjustment and the pads in the rear hydraulic disk caliper were spragging on the rotor... All that had happened slowly since the bike was new so really hadn't noticed the less crisp shifting or increased effort to pedal the thing.
    --------------------------------------
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  25. #25
    Garlic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    With average drive parts, 3000 miles seems to be a fairly common range for chain life on a derailleur geared bicycle while a good cassette will last through 2 and perhaps 3 chains.
    This is my experience as well.

    Also, your local bike shop will gladly use their tool to check your chain for you for free if you're not comfortable with the ruler method and don't want to buy your own tool. That's what I did on my recent 4500 mile tour. I got it checked whenever I stopped at a shop to chat or find local info, at least every week or so. I started with a high-quality chain and had to replace it once near the end of the trip.

    I usually buy stuff on sale, so I get varying quality. The more expensive stuff tends to last longer.

    To the question of chain rings wearing out, I finally wore one out on that last trip on a bike that has many tens of thousands of miles on it. It's a wide steel gear (old seven speed) and lasted forever. The newer 10-speed aluminum rings won't last as long.

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