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  1. #1
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Chain logetivity

    Just curious of what I should expect for how long a chain should last as I have relatively little experience with this.

    With my three bikes, totalling over 18,000 miles, I've only had one which I've replaced because I found a link that looked like it was going bad. I've replaced others because of stretch. Generally these seemed to happen mostly 2000 - 3000 miles and sometimes I went ahead and replaced it when having a major tuneup even though it was not necessary.

    On my present bike (Felt F-35 - also my first double crank if that matters instead of a triple), I had to replace the original stretched chain at 2000 miles. However, the replacement has, so far, gone about 5400 miles and had it checked at the shop and it was fine.

    Talking to people, I've gotten all kinds of comments. One recommended replacing the chain every 1000 miles to minimize wear on the cassette. Others have said 2000. But one guy at the LBS said a good chain may be fine for 10,000 miles.

    So, I'm just looking for a lot of views on this issue (I know, some chains are likely better than others) just to give me a better feel for this.

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Mine seem to last me about 5000 kms (3000 miles) or so.

  3. #3
    cyclotourist
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    I have heard of people getting 10 000 km when they lubricated their chain with wax.

    If you leave it too long you are looking at changing your sprockets, too.

    The standard way to measure chain wear is with a ruler or steel tape measure. This can be done without removing the chain from the bicycle. The normal technique is to measure a one-foot length, placing an inch mark of the ruler exactly in the middle of one rivet, then looking at the corresponding rivet 12 complete links away. On a new, unworn chain, this rivet will also line up exactly with an inch mark. With a worn chain, the rivet will be past the inch mark.

    This gives a direct measurement of the wear to the chain, and an indirect measurement of the wear to the sprockets:


    If the rivet is less than 1/16" past the mark, all is well.


    If the rivet is 1/16" past the mark, you should replace the chain, but the sprockets are probably undamaged.


    If the rivet is 1/8" past the mark, you have left it too long, and the sprockets (at least the favorite ones) will be too badly worn. If you replace a chain at the 1/8" point, without replacing the sprockets, it may run OK and not skip, but the worn sprockets will cause the new chain to wear much faster than it should, until it catches up with the wear state of the sprockets.


    If the rivet is past the 1/8" mark, a new chain will almost certainly skip on the worn sprockets, especially the smaller ones
    Of course Sheldon Brown is the authority

  4. #4
    Senior Member trmcgeehan's Avatar
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    I have read somewhere that chains don't stretch. They wear. When you put a 12" ruler along your chain, and the link nearest to the 12th inch is an eighth of an inch beyond the 12 inch mark on the ruler, you should replace the chain. Has anyone heard this?
    "I am a true laborer. I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm." As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 2. Shakespeare.
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    Da Big Kahuna
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    Well, based on the last check - just a few hundred miles ago, but when I was still over 5000 miles, there was no problem with stretch. I just sometimes worry whether there are other problems that can occur just because a chain is old, but neither stretched nor obviously having defects in the links.

    That's why I was curious as to how much use othes got. I'm due for the 1 year tuneup, which is free when I purchased the bike - so I'll probably go ahead and replace the chain anyway.

    Still, it is good to get feedback from others.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Stannian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trmcgeehan
    I have read somewhere that chains don't stretch. They wear. When you put a 12" ruler along your chain, and the link nearest to the 12th inch is an eighth of an inch beyond the 12 inch mark on the ruler, you should replace the chain. Has anyone heard this?
    Yeah, it is called stretch, but in my opinion it is from the pins getting worn down and getting grooves in them. I think I actually might have read it somewhere, but it is actually wear, not stretch. You are right about the 12" thing though.

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    Senior Member shoerhino's Avatar
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    A good explanation of what happens when a chain "stretches".

    http://sheldonbrown.com/chains.html

  8. #8
    Pat
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    The main reason you replace a chain is that an "unstretched" chain will not significantly wear the rear cluster. A chain should be replaced before it is badly worn because a badly worn chain will require your changing the rear cluster and the rear cluster is twice as expensive as the chain (usually). So it is much more cost effective to replace the chain.


    It is my understanding that it is the grit on a chain acting as an abrasive that causes chain wear. A dirty chain will wear very fast and a clean chain will wear very little. I read a post once by one guy who cleans his chains after each and every ride and he measures his chains for wear routinely. He said he got 12,000 per chain doing that. If you let your chain get and stay filthy, you might not get even 2,000 miles out of it before you trash your rear cluster.

  9. #9
    Name's Ash ...housewares Doctor Morbius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRCF
    Just curious of what I should expect for how long a chain should last as I have relatively little experience with this.
    There are no set formulas for when a chain needs to be replaced. Replacing a cassette for every 3 chains and replacing chainrings for every 3 cassettes is rubbish. And if a bike shop ever tells you to purchase a new chain and cassette at the same time (unless both are actually hosed) find a new bike shop without incompetent employees.

    Best to just buy an inexpensive chain checker and check it yourself for wear. To be on the safe side toss them a little early rather than a little late. If you wait a little late you risk doing damage to the rest of the drivetrain. If you toss them a little early, say 0.75% of recommended wear, you can keep your rings and cogs running smooth virtually forever.

    Park Tools has a couple of different models. I bought the cheapest one (PT-CC3). A good 12" ruler will do the job but this one by Park is easier to use.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by trmcgeehan
    I have read somewhere that chains don't stretch. They wear. When you put a 12" ruler along your chain, and the link nearest to the 12th inch is an eighth of an inch beyond the 12 inch mark on the ruler, you should replace the chain. Has anyone heard this?
    A 1/8th" stretch is too much. Try to catch it by 1/16" max. The chain needs to be pulled tight when measuring, and measure various parts of the chain, they don't always wear evenly.

    Al

  11. #11
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Chain wear depends on how hard you mash(or how smooth you spin), the quality of the chain, the enviroment you ride in, and how well it is maintained.

    Chain strech is caused by the wear. The pins will get a bit of play in each one. Since there are so many pins, just 1/100 of an inch, or less, wear in each pin can cause it appear as if it had streched like a rubber belt.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    Most shops have chain checkers, park makes one that will tell you when it's time.. I put new chains on at least twice a year on my primary bike and once a year on my backup bikes..

  13. #13
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    I agree with others about terrain and environment. If you ride in mostly flat, clean areas, your chain should last at least 4000 miles, provided you keep it lubed. If you read in hilly and/or dirty environments, you probably should replace it every 2000-3000 miles or so. If you ride lots of steep hills, this obviously stresses the chain much more.

    Seattle is very hilly and wet, so I try to replace my chain about every 2000 miles or so.

  14. #14
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanK
    I agree with others about terrain and environment. If you ride in mostly flat, clean areas, your chain should last at least 4000 miles, provided you keep it lubed. If you read in hilly and/or dirty environments, you probably should replace it every 2000-3000 miles or so. If you ride lots of steep hills, this obviously stresses the chain much more.

    Seattle is very hilly and wet, so I try to replace my chain about every 2000 miles or so.
    Well, things are cleaner now then they were (lots of construction is done). I have hills, but I guess the ones I mostly ride probably aren't that big a deal. Still, I'm well over 5500 miles on this chain. I had a tune-up done and had the shop specifically examine the chain to be sure it was fine and if there was any question about it, to change it. They said it was fine.

    One comment made was that I must not do jackrabbit starts. I gather that would stress the chain much more. Well, I don't do those so maybe that is a factor.

  15. #15
    Toyota Racing Dev. PWRDbyTRD's Avatar
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    500 miles for me...I'm a masher and a big guy
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  16. #16
    cab horn
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    What...???? You guys must change your chain a lot...!

    Say 300km a week that's not including weekend riding and you'd be changing chains every two weeks..!

  17. #17
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator
    What...???? You guys must change your chain a lot...!

    Say 300km a week that's not including weekend riding and you'd be changing chains every two weeks..!
    We're talking miles, not kilometers. There is 1.4 kms in every mile.
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  18. #18
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    Mileage is the wrong measure. If a chain is clean and lubricated it essentially won't wear, and for practical purposes it lasts forever. The problem is in the real world it's hard to keep your chain clean and lubricated, and that it doesn't take long for the chain to wear if you don't. It seems that in 2,000 miles most people will ride enough with their chain dirty or dry to wear it out.

    If you're fastidious a chain will last a real long time, but how much effort do you want to put into a $20 part?

  19. #19
    Da Big Kahuna
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter
    Mileage is the wrong measure. If a chain is clean and lubricated it essentially won't wear, and for practical purposes it lasts forever. The problem is in the real world it's hard to keep your chain clean and lubricated, and that it doesn't take long for the chain to wear if you don't. It seems that in 2,000 miles most people will ride enough with their chain dirty or dry to wear it out.

    If you're fastidious a chain will last a real long time, but how much effort do you want to put into a $20 part?
    Well, I never felt I wiped the chain all that much, but maybe I am doing it more than other people do. I do oil it from time to time, though I don't follow a specific schedule.

    Maybe it is enough.

  20. #20
    cab horn
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    Quote Originally Posted by DieselDan
    We're talking miles, not kilometers. There is 1.4 kms in every mile.
    Yes I know.
    There's 1.60 kms in every mile.

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