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Old 08-22-10, 08:26 PM   #1
episodic
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Is my fear founded?

I'm a clyde, and recently, I've felt powerful enough to start standing and pedaling up hills in a higher gear. I'm always scared that the chain will snap and cause what I would forsee to be a catastrophic crash. . . concern warranted?
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Old 08-22-10, 08:30 PM   #2
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Usually that isn't a problem unless you have a cheap chain or a worn chain or you're trying to climb a mountain in a REALLY BIG gear. If you're not sure about your chain, stop by your LBS and ask them to check the chain (its a free service).
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Old 08-22-10, 08:33 PM   #3
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umd did it today. He weighs about 140 lbs:

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Yeah, San Ardo. That was me.

Here is the long report that I sent out to my team email:

With no teammates and nobody to work for, I wanted to race aggressively and make the race happen. About 18 miles into the first lap (of 3) I attacked and bridged up to another rider (San Jose) who had just rolled off the front a minute earlier and was just dangling there. We worked together and by town had maybe a 20-30 second lead. When we turned the right corner at the top "climb", we saw two riders bridging up and the pack fairly far back, so we eased a tiny bit. The reinforcements were welcome for the rolling descent where it is especially difficult for a small guy like me to keep ahead of a pack. We rallied strong and kept the power on and grew the lead, but dropped on of the new guys.

About halfway into the second lap, on the turn onto Cattleman, 3 more were trying to bridge up, 2 close and 1 farther away. We eased up a bit again and when the 2 were on we hit it hard up one of the bigger rollers, and dropped one of them again. For those of you trying to do the math, that makes 4. We were going really hard and I was getting fried so I sat out a rotation which helped for a little while, but then I was struggling again. One of the guys (Becher+) reminder me to eat so I scarfed down a Clif bar while I skipped a fee more rotations. After I finished I got back in the rotation just in time to get swallowed by a group a few miles out of town.

But I quickly realized it was a small group, maybe 8 more. So now were 12, which was kind of big, but still much better odds than the whole field. One really strong guy was the driving motor for that group. Now in a much larger group and still trashed from my earlier effort, I sat at the back for a few miles until we got to town. Up the climb we lost a few and down the rolling descent one guy hit a pothole and blew out his tire. Another guy, the big motor got a flat a few minutes later. Down to 7.*

If we stayed away I was in the points, if I out-sprinted one guy, I would be in the money. I liked those odds. But I didn't want to be the guy that wheel-sucked in a break and then sprinted at the end; I was feeling better after eating so I got back in the rotation. I skipped a few pulls here and there but was mostly sharing the work. Somewhere along the way we lost one more, I think due to a flat (there were tons of flats!). Down to 6.

Back on Cattleman road, we passed a women's field and was bearing down on one of the masters cat 4 fields. Our moto cleared a lane for us and we blew by, then caught a solo rider off the front of their field. He jumped back ahead of us but couldn't stay in front. About 3 miles from the finish,*the masters field chased him down and re-passed us, then pretty much stopped right in front of us.*

Frustrated, we attacked up their left side and they made a lane for us along the centerline. One of the other guys in the break was my left, he hesitated them jumped after them. I jumped to follow and it all went pear-shaped. Standing and essentially sprinting, my chain came off. With no resistance, my bike lifted and I went over the bars and landed on my face.*My fork snapped and my wheel is shredded, but with my skillful gluing job, the tire was still securely attached to the rim. It was, in fact, the only thing holding the wheel even remotely together. I got up quickly and surveyed the damage. A guy who had flatted from the P12 race stopped and helped me out, then a few minutes later the field passed and I flagged down the follow vehicle for a ride.

Nothing is broken except my bike. My face is all banged up but it us mostly on the surface. I did go to urgent care later and got steristrips to hold a cut together. I feel surprisingly good the day after, and thanks to a temporary replacement fork from Smitty, I'm still going to do University
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Old 08-22-10, 08:34 PM   #4
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Learn to maintain your bike yourself. Then you'll have a better idea of its condition on any given day. Buy and install a good quality chain every winter or every 2500 miles, whichever occurs first. This rule of thumb may be bypassed if actual observation of chain condition dictates replacing it sooner. bk
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Old 08-22-10, 10:13 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
umd did it today. He weighs about 140 lbs:
Interesting accident, but it does not sound like he "broke" the chain as the OP fears. It could have been one of those mystery SRAM jams... but with a broken fork and wheel it's tough to pinpoint the failure.

Episodic: yes, this is possible. However, I've broken my chain exactly once in past 30 years of riding, and it didn't cause a crash. I used a lot of words I don't normally use, but I didn't crash.
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Old 08-22-10, 10:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by episodic View Post
I'm a clyde, and recently, I've felt powerful enough to start standing and pedaling up hills in a higher gear. I'm always scared that the chain will snap and cause what I would forsee to be a catastrophic crash. . . concern warranted?
Honestly at 300 lbs, I'd think you should be doing long hills at a high cadence for conditioning. Why the need to stand and power up hills at this point?
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Old 08-23-10, 01:10 AM   #7
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I'm not sure if the weight of the rider really influences the strain of the chain at all.
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Old 08-23-10, 01:57 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by episodic View Post
I'm a clyde, and recently, I've felt powerful enough to start standing and pedaling up hills in a higher gear. I'm always scared that the chain will snap and cause what I would forsee to be a catastrophic crash. . . concern warranted?
No.
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Old 08-23-10, 04:38 AM   #9
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Honestly at 300 lbs, I'd think you should be doing long hills at a high cadence for conditioning. Why the need to stand and power up hills at this point?

At 340 - I felt this way. I could barely stand, etc. Just other day, I hit a hill and decided to stand, and the stamina and power were there now - and I just rocked right up it. . .I guess I can now and couldn't before so. . . .that is the reason I ask. . .
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Old 08-25-10, 02:00 PM   #10
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I have broken a chain this way, but it was badly worn and well past what I now consider reasonable life expectancy for a chain. I've also recently had a fairly new chain come apart under almost no strain. If the chain is in good condition, you're probably safe. Or maybe you're not.
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Old 08-25-10, 02:22 PM   #11
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I have watched some friends on their co-motion quad climb some really impresive hills, We once figured the bike to be in excess of 500 pounds with the bike the 4 riders and water bottles, and in the 5 years I have ridden with them i have only seen them break one chain and that was not due to force but to a bad shift at a bad time.
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Old 08-25-10, 03:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by episodic View Post
I'm a clyde, and recently, I've felt powerful enough to start standing and pedaling up hills in a higher gear. I'm always scared that the chain will snap and cause what I would forsee to be a catastrophic crash. . . concern warranted?
You can reduce the likelihood of chain failures when climbing by being smooth when you apply power. And, if you do have a break while climbing, you should be going fairly slow. If you don't panic, there's a fairly good chance you would be able to stop safely.

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Quote:
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I'm not sure if the weight of the rider really influences the strain of the chain at all.
It can. Going up hills especially. Part of what happens when standing is letting your weight to help turn the cranks. More weight means more strain on the chain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
umd did it today. He weighs about 140 lbs:
Sounds like umd's chain jammed. He was also going faster than the OP is talking about.

Last edited by njkayaker; 08-25-10 at 04:06 PM.
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Old 08-25-10, 05:31 PM   #13
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+1 to all the advice about maintenance, but while driveline failure does happen, it's pretty rare. My weight has varied between 220 and 270 over the 40 years I've been cycling, and even in my strong-and-fit periods, I haven't broken anything major. I've seen a 210-pounder snap a Campy crankarm in a sprint (major surgery, months of therapy), and once saw a tandem team break a chain. But I've been riding since the early '70s, and I do a lot of group rides. Decent equipment properly maintained shouldn't let you down.
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Old 09-07-10, 09:50 AM   #14
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If you shift (in the front or rear) while standing ont he pedals you are quite likely to break the chain, and that will probably hurt plenty.

Shift under light load, before you start a climb, if possible, and the odds of breaking a chain are slim.

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Old 09-07-10, 06:49 PM   #15
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If you shift (in the front or rear) while standing ont he pedals you are quite likely to break the chain, and that will probably hurt plenty.
Throw the chain, sure. But break it? How often does that happen, unless the chain has been compromised by being broken and reassembled with a chain tool by someone who doesn't know what they're doing?
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Old 09-07-10, 07:03 PM   #16
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I broke a chain once. It was ten years ago, and I think I might not have put the pin in quite right when I'd broken the chain shortly before.
It was no big deal. (I was a few hundred yards from home.) The chances of breaking a chain are small, and the chances of crashing if you do break a chain are very small.
So don't worry.

Last edited by storckm; 09-07-10 at 07:05 PM. Reason: New thought.
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Old 09-07-10, 07:30 PM   #17
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episodic, I've broken two chains in the last four years -- both SRAM, in the first month of service. Re-connected them with a chain tool, and got 2 more years out of them, flawlessly. So I'm guessing they each had a bad link.
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Old 09-07-10, 07:58 PM   #18
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At your size you're much more likely to break a spoke on your rear wheel before you break a chain. And that probably won't cause you to go down but it will throw your wheel out of true, possibly to the point of making it unrideable for any distance.

I've been riding for 35 years and have never broken a chain.
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Old 09-08-10, 07:26 AM   #19
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Throw the chain, sure. But break it? How often does that happen, unless the chain has been compromised by being broken and reassembled with a chain tool by someone who doesn't know what they're doing?
not throw, but break... If you are standing on the pedals applying maximum power and you shift you put a massive amount of strain on the chain. I have personally broken more than one chain like this (intentionally, believe it or not). Just shifting or shifting under a normal amount of power should not be sufficient to break a chain, and riding without shifting is never sufficient to break an undamaged, properly assembled chain.
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