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Old 10-30-09, 08:07 AM   #1
dannwilliams 
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Chain strength on touring bike

I have a friend who is contemplating a LHT, but his concern is the 9 speed chain. He owns and rides older treks, 2 - 520's and a 620 and has never had chain failure. I had a chain break on a 9 speed on my first tour. He is thinking of building his up with older 7 or 8 speed gears. ANy thought, or experience, on this would be appreciated.
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Old 10-30-09, 08:11 AM   #2
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I've never had a 9-speed chain break (knock on wood), and a 9-speed chain is at least stronger than a 10-speed chain. If you carry a couple of master links and a chain tool and some spare links, dealing with chain breakage isn't that big of a deal. I'd go with the 9-speed as spare parts are so much easier to come by.
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Old 10-30-09, 08:44 AM   #3
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I finished a 4400 mile tour this summer on a 9-speed LHT with no problems. I replaced the chain about halfway through because it was stretched, but other than that had no problems.
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Old 10-30-09, 09:06 AM   #4
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It would be technically possible to build up from the LHT frameset using 7-speed components. Or to do the opposite and buy the LHT complete and sell/trade the 9 speed drivetrain / shifters for a 7-speed. If he has a 7-speed bike which has the components he likes, he can switch them over to a LHT and sell what he takes off.

All this of course would take some technical knowledge.
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Old 10-30-09, 09:10 AM   #5
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My 9 speed chains typically last 10,000 miles or more if properly cared for. To me proper care means applying some Boeshield T-9 and wiping it off every few days of riding. I am not a fan of cleaning with detergents or solvents if it can be avoided. I think it shortens chain life by helping grit penetrate deeper into the chain and ruining the lube that is in there.

I change chains when 12 complete links measure 12-1/8" or a bit less. After a TransAmerica it measured like new and still does several thousand miles later.
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Old 10-30-09, 09:25 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by dannwilliams View Post
I have a friend who ... has never had chain failure. I had a chain break on a 9 speed on my first tour. He is thinking of building his up with older 7 or 8 speed gears. ANy thought, or experience, on this would be appreciated.
I think you had a defective chain, and I wouldn't worry about it. How did your chain fail? If a side plate got bent when the chain was being assembled, then it was destined tol fail sooner or later.
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Old 10-30-09, 09:31 AM   #7
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I had a fairly new 8 speed chain break during my last century. I had a nine speed chain break twice last year (in two different places). I've had lots of chains from 7-10speed not break. You never know - any chain can be made with a faulty link or two - and you know the old adage about the weakest link.

I wouldn't sweat it - use a 9 speed chain since all the related items are easier to come by.
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Old 10-30-09, 10:14 AM   #8
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I think you had a defective chain, and I wouldn't worry about it. How did your chain fail?
Mine failed because something lodged in one of the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur, I was going uphill loaded, and I forced the pedals when it locked up. If I had stopped, and checked for the problem, I would not have broken the chain. But I did not, and broke the chain. I repaired roadside with no difficulty. Now I carry a spare chain, not much weight penalty in the total perspective: rider 195, bike 30+, gear 40+, spare chain a few ounces.
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Old 10-30-09, 11:21 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by dannwilliams View Post
Mine failed because something lodged in one of the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur, I was going uphill loaded, and I forced the pedals when it locked up. If I had stopped, and checked for the problem, I would not have broken the chain. But I did not, and broke the chain. I repaired roadside with no difficulty. Now I carry a spare chain, not much weight penalty in the total perspective: rider 195, bike 30+, gear 40+, spare chain a few ounces.
Why not carry just a couple links and a chain tool? Most 9 speed chains weigh between 10 and 11 ounces. That isn't exactly insignificant. A few links and my chain tool weigh less than half of that.

I have never seen a chain suddenly fail in a way the just replacing or just eliminating the damaged link would not suffice to get you going again.
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Old 10-30-09, 05:19 PM   #10
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I had a 7-8spd chain for the last ten yrs until my first experience with a nine spd chain two years ago on a folding bike, my nephew made a bad shift and the chain wrapped and twisted on the chainrings. I wasn't familiar with 9spd chains and thought it was noticably flexible compared to the older ones. When I got a LHT last year I converted it to 8spd under the reasoning that it would last longer but I wonder if I'm splitting hairs. Shop folks must have some good experience on the topic to contribute.
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Old 10-30-09, 05:31 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by dannwilliams View Post
Mine failed because something lodged in one of the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur, I was going uphill loaded, and I forced the pedals when it locked up. If I had stopped, and checked for the problem, I would not have broken the chain. But I did not, and broke the chain. I repaired roadside with no difficulty. Now I carry a spare chain, not much weight penalty in the total perspective: rider 195, bike 30+, gear 40+, spare chain a few ounces.
Instead of carrying a whole chain, most chains are made at least 2-3 links longer then needed, so when installing a new chain, get a 35mm film can or a zippered plastic bag, pop the extra links in. and stuff it into your tool bag. If you break a link, you remove the broken link and put one of the spares in and your good to go. If your chain requires replacement pins toss a few of those in with the links.

Chains break for 1 of 3 reasons:

1) Defective chain
2) Poorly maintained chain.
3) Damaged chain.

The only real difference between a 6 speed chain and a 10 speed chain, is that the 10 speed chain is much narrower and likely to wear faster.
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Old 10-30-09, 05:43 PM   #12
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I have been riding bikes for 40 plus years and have never had a chain break.
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Old 10-30-09, 06:22 PM   #13
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Seven and eight speed chains can also fail, and they may have failed too if subjected to the same forces and conditions that broke the nine speed chain.

Brand and quality level also count for something.

A quality nine speed chain is quite strong.
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