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Am I wearing my chain out too quickly?

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Am I wearing my chain out too quickly?

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Old 07-13-15, 04:17 PM
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interungulate
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Am I wearing my chain out too quickly?

I've had my road bike (11-speed 105, FSA crank) since January, and I'm already on my 3rd chain.

The stock chain broke at the master link, was repaired, and lasted til around mile 1900, at which point I was told by a mechanic I trust that I'd worn out the chain and cassette quite badly. Took it to the shop I'd bought it from, and they replaced the chain and cassette.

Then I started being way more careful about cross-chaining/riding in the wrong gear, and cleaned/lubed it twice a week. Brought it in with 2020 miles on it, was told it had a lot of "shifting wear" and needed replacement, but the cassette was fine.

I mentioned this to a fellow rider in passing, and he said he'd gotten around 5000 miles out of each chain. Am I doing something wrong? Should I be lubing it more or less, maybe? I don't mind having to replace the chain every 2000 miles, if that's normal for this type of chain, it's not like they're $200 each, but if there's an easy way for me to get twice the life out of one, I'd very much appreciate some advice.

(tl;dr: chain wears out around 2000 miles. any advice for longer life?)
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Old 07-13-15, 04:50 PM
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Chain life varies tremendously person to person, with a spectrum that approaches (and maybe exceeds) 10:1 high to low. All things being equal in terms of maintenance, the variation is because of the difference in running loads (tension/speed) person to person. For any gear, chain tension (and wear) is proportional to the square of the speed (on level ground) so you already have a tremendous basis for differences between those who cruise at 10-13mph and those riding 20-25 or more.

There's also the question of power exerted (or needed) in hill climbing, which depend on the grades, rider weight, and of course what the rider can sustain.

Gear selection also plays a part, because wear will be highest when using the smaller sprockets in back, so those animals that can sustain high cruising speeds in those 11 and 12t rear sprockets are going to be tougher on chains than riders using 15-17t sprockets.

Then, of course there's maintenance and the choice of chain lube. Given that I have a stake and obvious bias, I'm going to quit here, except to say that chain care and lube threads have been the source of endless, highly opinionated debate here on BF for years.

BTW- get ready for posts lauding people's 10,000 miles + chain life, and others telling you how you can double yours. But I will say that, if you're getting consistent 2,000 hard miles before reaching the 1/2% stretch mark, you're probably doing OK, and are unlikely to double that. OTOH- if you're not fast, heavy or powerful, better care should make a big difference.
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Old 07-13-15, 04:55 PM
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There are loads of threads on this subject. You are within the normal range for wear and replacement. I have read experts estimate at least 1500-3000 miles on a quality cassette and chain, more if the conditions aren't too harsh. There's lots of factors playing a part; dusty roads, you hard you pedal and shift, up hill, shifting, oiling, cleaning. I strongly suspect cassettes are made to be replaced more often than necessary, I mean, they could make them in a more durable metal if they really wanted to.

Cassette and chain are worn in together, and usually both have to be replaced at the same time. Some replace the chain often before cassette is affected too much, it seems to work too. I doubt you save much money, the cassette isn't too expensive, at least if your replace it your self. I've heard some rotate between three chains, take them off after each ride and clean them very thoroughly. There is a tool to meassure chain wear, and it lets you know when it's time to replace the chain. I think you can expect to replace the chain once and the next time you have to replace the cassette too; in other words, two chains per cassette.

Maybe advanced oils like Finish Line Ceramic lube can reduce wear, but the most important thing is getting dust and rime out of the links. I keep the same cassette and chain until it starts slipping, and adjusting the gear doesn't help anymore. If the chain brakes before I notice signs of wear I repair it with a master chain link, using a chain splitter to get the broken link off.

This is unfortunately the nature of derailleurs, they have to be replaced rather often. It's not too difficult to replace cassette and chain your self, it's worth the cost of the tool. Front chain rings are a bit more work.

I used to have a vintage bike with a 5 speed derailleur, down tube shifters; the cogs were much thicker, chain were thicker, less harsh positioning on the outer gears, but I suspect the metal was harder and more durable. I had that bike for several years before the cassette had to be replaced. These days weight and maximum number of cogs in a cassette is main focus; it's the rules of the game.
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Old 07-13-15, 04:55 PM
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It also depends on how you define wear.

By the time your chain gets to 1/2% elongation, it is easily possible for the rollers to be shot and be wearing out the cogsets. A good 12" ruler is needed to detect elongation, and a digital caliper is needed to measure roller wear (0.200" when new, and 0.240 when shot)

Originally Posted by Mickey2 View Post
There are loads of threads on this subject. You are withing the normal range for wear and replacement. I have read experts estimate at least 1500-3000 miles on a quality cassette and chain, more if the conditions aren't too harsh. There's lots of factors playing a part; dusty roads, you hard you pedal and shift, up hill, shifting, oiling, cleaning. I strongly suspect cassettes are made to be replaced more often than necessary, I mean, they could make them in a more durable metal if they really wanted to.

Cassette and chain are worn in together, and usually both have to be replaced at the same time. Some replace the chain often before cassette is affected too much, it seems to work too. I doubt you save much money, the cassette isn't too expensive, at least if your replace it your self. I've heard some rotate between three chains, take them off after each ride and clean them very thoroughly. There is a tool to meassure chain wear, and it lets you know when it's time to replace the chain. I think you can expect to replace the chain once and the next time you have to replace the cassette too; in other words, two chains per cassette.

Maybe advanced oils like Finish Line Ceramic lube can reduce wear, but the most important thing is getting dust and rime out of the links. I keep the same cassette and chain until it starts slipping, and adjusting the gear doesn't help anymore. If the chain brakes before I notice signs of wear I repair it with a master chain link, using a chain splitter to get the broken link off.

This is unfortunately the nature of derailleurs, they have to be replaced rather often. It's not too difficult to replace cassette and chain your self, it's worth the cost of the tool. Front chain rings are a bit more work.

I used to have a vintage bike with a 5 speed derailleur, down tube shifters; the cogs were much thicker, chain were thicker, less harsh positioning on the outer gears, but I suspect the metal was harder and more durable. I had that bike for several years before the cassette had to be replaced. These days weight and maximum number of cogs in a cassette is main focus; it's the rules of the game.
If you need to replace a cassette every time you replace a chain...then you're really doing it wrong. You should be getting at least half a dozen chains per steel cassette (if you're tossing chains, or fewer if you are rotating them). If you're doing it right. For modern 10 or 11 speed.

Last edited by Marcus_Ti; 07-13-15 at 05:04 PM.
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Old 07-13-15, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
If you need to replace a cassette every time you replace a chain...then you're really doing it wrong. You should be getting at least half a dozen chains per steel cassette. If you're doing it right. For modern 10 or 11 speed.
I used to get two chains per cassette, 9 speed hub, I absolutely hated replacing it as often as I did. I stopped bothering and used it until it started slipping. The cost in replacing both wasn't much different. Maybe I did it wrong, or I was misinformed at the bike shop. It's a couple of years since now, for various reasons I have ended up with interal geared hubs.
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Old 07-13-15, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Mickey2 View Post
I used to get two chains per cassette, 9 speed hub, I absolutely hated replacing it as often as I did. I stopped bothering and used it until it started slipping. The cost in replacing both wasn't much different. Maybe I did it wrong, or I was misinformed at the bike shop. It's a couple of years since now.
A Campag Chorus steel 11 speed cassette costs $120USD in US pricing. A Campag Chorus 11s chain costs $40USD in US pricing. Do the math as to whether it is worth it to spend:

A) $120USD+$40+cost-of-crankset-chinrings for say 3,000 miles of riding without replacing any chains
B) or spending $120+3*$40+cost of chainrings for 10,000 miles (rotating chains)
C) or $120+9*40+cost-of-chainrings for 10,000 miles (this assumes replacing chains at specified elongation)

Note that no matter what, your chainrings up front are shot...

A) Spend $160+ for 3,000 miles
B) Spend $240+ for 10,000 miles
C) Spend $480 for 10,000 miles?

Which works out to be the most economical?

It also depends on how much you weigh. If you maintain your gear odds are you'll stretch/wear chains FAR less if you're a 110# female racer, as opposed to a 200# male recreational rider...presuming you do the same routine maintenance schedule.
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Old 07-13-15, 06:00 PM
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I know a master mechanic whom I respect very much that tosses his chains at 2000 miles without fail. He is of the opinion that chains are disposable and cheap. I don't do that. I use a Park Tool go/no go chain wear measure and then a ruler to know when to toss my chains.
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Old 07-13-15, 06:04 PM
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How are you measuring chain wear to determine that the chain is worn out and what are your wear limits?

A steel rule is recommended, chain checkers are notoriously inaccurate. Perhaps you are replacing chains which have life left in them.
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Old 07-13-15, 10:52 PM
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I get about 1500 miles out of a chain before it's at 1/2% stretch. But I'm big, (relatively) heavy, and ride a lot of hills. A KMC 10-speed chain runs me about $25... that, compared to the $60 a Schwalbe One runs me every 1000 miles, makes replacing the chain something done without a second thought. I think of it as basic preventative maintenance-- replace the cheapest part of the drivetrain often, in the hopes of getting the rest of it to last longer.
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Old 07-14-15, 03:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
A Campag Chorus steel 11 speed cassette costs $120USD in US pricing. A Campag Chorus 11s chain costs $40USD in US pricing. Do the math as to whether it is worth it to spend:
I had a Shimano Deore setup at the time, less costly parts. I followed the advice I got in the bike store, but whether I replaced the chain or not I ended up paying much the same in a 12-18 month intervals. That bike had the fastest wearing chain and cassette I've had, I remember I was more than a bit annoyed at it.
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Old 07-14-15, 09:03 AM
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I picked up a Park CC-3.2 chain checker for about $12. It's a simple go, no-go gauge. I check my 10 speed chains about once a month. When it exceeds 0.5 on the chain checker, in the trash it goes and a new Shimano Ultegra chain goes on. I find I get around 1500 miles per chain, maybe a little more. I tried a 105 chain and got about 1K miles so I stick with the Ultegra.
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Old 07-14-15, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by roccobike View Post
I picked up a Park CC-3.2 chain checker for about $12. It's a simple go, no-go gauge.

It is so simple that it'll show a brand new out of the box chain as 1/2 worn out when it isn't. Maybe they've fixed that design "feature" in newer iterations. I wouldn't hold my breath.

A good digital caliper that is certified accurate and repeatable to 0.005" can be had for only $30USD and a good metal ruler is pretty cheap (The Park caliper is twice that and doesn't have any certifications). And combined both will be more informative and accurate.
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Old 07-14-15, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by roccobike View Post
I picked up a Park CC-3.2 chain checker for about $12. It's a simple go, no-go gauge. I check my 10 speed chains about once a month. When it exceeds 0.5 on the chain checker, in the trash it goes and a new Shimano Ultegra chain goes on. I find I get around 1500 miles per chain, maybe a little more. I tried a 105 chain and got about 1K miles so I stick with the Ultegra.
FWIW 1-1.5k miles on a chain is poor for eastern NC. You might want to review your chain care and lubrication choices and try to improve on that. But then again, consider the source.
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Old 07-14-15, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
FWIW 1-1.5k miles on a chain is poor for eastern NC. You might want to review your chain care and lubrication choices and try to improve on that. But then again, consider the source.
I'm not in eastern NC. I'm in central NC. When I used to ride exclusively in eastern segment of the state, where it's flat, I'd get 2K per chain. maybe better. Central NC, especially Apex, Holly Springs, Durham is the beginning of the Appalachian mountains and have plenty of hills, that's where the chain wear increased.
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Old 07-14-15, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by roccobike View Post
I'm not in eastern NC. I'm in central NC. When I used to ride exclusively in eastern segment of the state, where it's flat, I'd get 2K per chain. maybe better. Central NC, especially Apex, Holly Springs, Durham is the beginning of the Appalachian mountains and have plenty of hills, that's where the chain wear increased.
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Old 07-14-15, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
It is so simple that it'll show a brand new out of the box chain as 1/2 worn out when it isn't. Maybe they've fixed that design "feature" in newer iterations. I wouldn't hold my breath.

A good digital caliper that is certified accurate and repeatable to 0.005" can be had for only $30USD and a good metal ruler is pretty cheap (The Park caliper is twice that and doesn't have any certifications). And combined both will be more informative and accurate.
I recently bought one for a quick check, realizing the limitations it MIGHT have.
On a new chain, it's NO GO, so I'll actually measure the chain when it finally "GOES" at the .5 mark.
In the meantime, it's quick & simple and cleaner.
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Old 07-14-15, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
I recently bought one for a quick check, realizing the limitations it MIGHT have.
On a new chain, it's NO GO, so I'll actually measure the chain when it finally "GOES" at the .5 mark.
In the meantime, it's quick & simple and cleaner.
This is one of the better consumer digital calipers, for measuring roller pitch....which is what that Park feeler gauge tries and fails to measure. It is also quite affordable and Prime (and 1/2 the cost of the Park version)

Amazon.com: iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6" Display Inch/Metric/Fractions Stainless Steel Body: Home Improvement

roller spacing should be 0.200" is brand new, 0.240" is shot...Campag recommends an average across so many lins be 132.7mm IIRC ten replace, but I find that individual rollers tend to wear pretty evenly least on Campag chains. When you have a tool as accurate as that, that tells you what it is doing, it takes the guesswork out.
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Old 07-14-15, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
This is one of the better consumer digital calipers, for measuring roller pitch....which is what that Park feeler gauge tries and fails to measure. It is also quite affordable and Prime (and 1/2 the cost of the Park version)

Amazon.com: iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6" Display Inch/Metric/Fractions Stainless Steel Body: Home Improvement

roller spacing should be 0.200" is brand new, 0.240" is shot...Campag recommends an average across so many lins be 132.7mm IIRC ten replace, but I find that individual rollers tend to wear pretty evenly least on Campag chains. When you have a tool as accurate as that, that tells you what it is doing, it takes the guesswork out.
I could use my 45 year old dial caliper if I wanted to mess with a greasy chain.
For a $20 chain, I'm not worried about jumping through too many hoops.
I've got 2-3 new ones sitting in their factory packaging, just waiting to be used whenever I choose to use them.
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Old 07-14-15, 11:28 AM
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IMO chain and sprocket wear boils down to what lube you use. Also IMO wax and all the hugely expensive "chain lubes" are a waste of money. A chain is a mechanical device and depends upon the lube to keep from having metal to metal contact. I use Mobil 1 oil, and am getting 8 to 10,000 miles out of each chain. This is on a Rans Stratus. I have yet to replace any sprockets, and the bike is comming up on 17,000 miles. BTW I do not ride when wet, and alway ride on streets, or bike trails that are hard surfaced. Never on rock or limestone.
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Old 07-14-15, 01:07 PM
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11 speed chains dont wear as long as 8 (or less) speeds, all things being equal
because they concentrate the wear in less chain width.

the sufaces that wear are smaller .
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Old 07-15-15, 05:15 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
IMO chain and sprocket wear boils down to what lube you use. Also IMO wax and all the hugely expensive "chain lubes" are a waste of money. A chain is a mechanical device and depends upon the lube to keep from having metal to metal contact. I use Mobil 1 oil, and am getting 8 to 10,000 miles out of each chain. This is on a Rans Stratus. I have yet to replace any sprockets, and the bike is comming up on 17,000 miles. BTW I do not ride when wet, and alway ride on streets, or bike trails that are hard surfaced. Never on rock or limestone.
LOL.. the ball is now in play. Chain lubes... c'mon.

"IMO chain and sprocket wear boils down to what lube you use".. wrong... by miles.. many.

Some clean chains like a religion.. hence the large numbers per wear. Some of us ride ALL conditions and hence wear the cheep chain more rapidly. But I do find those who brag at the drop of a hat at how LONG their chains last can seldom if ever substantiate those claims.
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Old 07-15-15, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
IMO chain and sprocket wear boils down to what lube you use. Also IMO wax and all the hugely expensive "chain lubes" are a waste of money. A chain is a mechanical device and depends upon the lube to keep from having metal to metal contact. I use Mobil 1 oil, and am getting 8 to 10,000 miles out of each chain. This is on a Rans Stratus. I have yet to replace any sprockets, and the bike is comming up on 17,000 miles. BTW I do not ride when wet, and alway ride on streets, or bike trails that are hard surfaced. Never on rock or limestone.
Riding in the rain is unavoidable for some (long-distance trekkers? car-less commuters?). OTOH, recreational riders can choose to leave their bikes indoors on wet days. I've been doing that since 1980, when I ruined a freewheel by riding in the rain and having road grit splash into it. Other negatives of rain-riding: rust, and lubes washed away. If I had to ride in the wet, I would own a beater reserved for that purpose.
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Old 07-15-15, 06:41 AM
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Get some Chain-L, and follow the directions for lubrication.
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Old 07-15-15, 07:42 AM
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rydabent
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Originally Posted by Aladin View Post
LOL.. the ball is now in play. Chain lubes... c'mon.

"IMO chain and sprocket wear boils down to what lube you use".. wrong... by miles.. many.

Some clean chains like a religion.. hence the large numbers per wear. Some of us ride ALL conditions and hence wear the cheep chain more rapidly. But I do find those who brag at the drop of a hat at how LONG their chains last can seldom if ever substantiate those claims.
Yes I do clean my chain by wiping it down before every ride. However as I stated wear is prevented by good lubrication. Wax is NOT a lubricant nor in WD40. Some obscenely high price "special chain lubes" may work well but why waste your money. Just because a chain looks clean like when it is waxed, it does not mean that it is properly lubed and not wearing.
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Old 07-15-15, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
IMO chain and sprocket wear boils down to what lube you use. Also IMO wax and all the hugely expensive "chain lubes" are a waste of money. A chain is a mechanical device and depends upon the lube to keep from having metal to metal contact. I use Mobil 1 oil, and am getting 8 to 10,000 miles out of each chain. This is on a Rans Stratus. I have yet to replace any sprockets, and the bike is comming up on 17,000 miles. BTW I do not ride when wet, and alway ride on streets, or bike trails that are hard surfaced. Never on rock or limestone.
Of course on a recumbent you're using a much longer chain than on a DF bike, so 8-10,000 miles isn't bad, but nothing to write home about either.
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