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Chain wear

Old 11-09-19, 09:24 AM
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Alzerbster
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Chain wear

I'm fairly new to bike riding, just recently retired, and five months ago I bought a Cannondale Adventure 1. Now I have exactly 700 mile on it, and decided I'd check for any chain wear, thinking I'd see very little, since I kept the chain clean and lubed pretty often. Using a steel tape the chain is showing a 1/16 wear over 12 inches. So I bought a park tool, and the .75 end drops in with a little room to spare. I was kind of surprised to find that much wear in just 700 miles of a chain that was kept clean and lubed. Probably 98% of those 700 miles have been on crushed limestone trails. So is the accelerated wear due to the grit from the crushed limestone, or is the chain that came on it just a cheap chain? Or do I need to change my chain lube? The lube I have been using is Tri Flow with PTFE in it. I know manufactures will put cheap parts on a bike to make a few extra bucks, but I paid about $800 for this bike, and have kept the drive train maintained, better than I see a majority of riders keep theirs.
Something else that was a POS on this bike were the brake pads they put on it. I did everything to keep the brakes from squealing. Clean the rims, scuff the pads, toe the pads in, toe the pads out. Nothing worked. So I took the bike back to the dealer and he said they just needed adjusted, because its harmonics that causes the squeal. So he adjusted them and didn't have any squeal for about 25 miles, then they started again. All along I thought it was the crap material the pads were made out of. So I purchased pads for $7 a pair. Put them on and haven't had them squeal since. You would think a company like Cannondale could at least put brake pads on their bike that won't squeal, and a chain that would last longer than 700 miles.
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Old 11-09-19, 09:41 AM
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The chain is indeed a puzzle. The ruler method should be as good as any way of checking for chain wear -- just don't trust the end of a measuring tape or ruler that doesn't say Mitutoyo or Starrett on it. Go between marks, such as from 2 to 14 inches or something like that.

A basic KMC or Shimano chain should last for 3000 miles ballpark, so just bite the bullet and install one. If you have both old and new chains off the bike, hang them from a nail and see how their lengths compare.
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Old 11-09-19, 09:51 AM
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well first good on the original poster for caring enough to maintain his bike. I agree with Gresp that the end of a measuring tape is a source of uncertainty.

you can try using the 1" mark as the starting point for your measurement. Or you can get a dedicated chain checker.

PS according to the Rohloff tool in the picture (which has a precision radius) the chain being measured is at the wear limit.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA USA


Last edited by mpetry912; 11-09-19 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 11-09-19, 10:26 AM
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Don't trust the Park tool as is.
Mine reads .25% worse than actual measurement on the .5% mark. I don't have a worn enough chain to check the other end.

Agree about NOT using the end of the tape measure/scale for any kind of "precision" measurement. Fine if you're framing a house etc.
ALSO- IF you remove the chain, you can typically measure a 3-4' section and divide by 3 or 4 and have that much better "resolution". 4' gets a bit "unwieldy" for me, so I typically measure 3'.

And if one thinks about it, 25" of chain =400/16, so 1/16" in 25"= a "true" .25%.
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Old 11-09-19, 10:33 AM
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I did use the 1 inch mark on the tape, as a starting reference. I measured from edge of pin to edge of pin, and also center to center, coming up with 1/16" wear. I also thought the Park tool was a dedicated chain wear indicator. I can fully understand how the Park tool might not be completely accurate, or a Lufkin, or Stanly steel tape measure wouldn't be as accurate as a steel Starrett ruler would be, but I figured the previous two tools mentioned would work well enough to tell me if my chain was needing replaced. I would be willing to bet a steel Starret ruler would also show me 1/16th wear. Most tape measures are accurate over say 12 feet at plus or minus 1/32 So looking at the accuracy over just 12 inches am I going to see a few thousands difference with the naked eye? I did order a new Wipperman chain, so when I get it I will compare the lengths. Since I'm pretty sure my chain is wore, unless it came from the factory with the measurement that it has. I was just wondering if anyone else has had a chain wear out in 700 miles, while performing routine maintenance. In fact I figure I was pretty anal about keeping the chain cleaned and lubed.
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Old 11-09-19, 11:06 AM
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Agreed about the tape measure versus ruler. I was just taking poetic license about Mitutoyo and Starrett.

A chain lifetime of 700 miles does seem pretty short. Expectations for chain lifespan vary, but 3000 miles is probably a good ballpark, and that's even for chains that don't receive continuous care. I don't keep track of mileage, and I own more than one bike, so for a chain on any given bike I expect years of life. And I lube a chain maybe a couple times a year.
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Old 11-09-19, 11:15 AM
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The only accurate chain gauges are made by shimano and Pedros, other wise use a ruler as you did. The proper way to maintain a chain is to remove it and clean it off the bike.

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/chain-care.html
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Old 11-09-19, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Alzerbster View Post
.... I also thought the Park tool was a dedicated chain wear indicator.......
It is. It's just that the general trend of posters here that use them have found you'll be replacing chains before their time if you trust them.
That was the case for me. I had my tool for 3-4 years before I actually ran across a chain that the .5% mark "engaged". (friends bike)
Measuring the SAME CHAIN with the "good part" of the tape measure indicated the chain was only worn .25%. (3/32" in 36")
I now know if my tool barely fits the .5%, that it's really only .25% wear and I don't need to go further.

Measuring the new chain is good practice because you know exactly what it should be.
You can use that to verify your technique so you KNOW you're doing it right.

Last edited by Bill Kapaun; 11-09-19 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 11-09-19, 11:31 AM
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To the OP (Alzer) - don't feel too bad, OEM manufacturers are notorious for cutting corners on small parts. One of the nice things about a bike is that you can really feel the benefit of the detailed maintenance work you do. you've seen this with the brake pads you installed. By all means swap another chain in, and get a "connex" type link so that you can easily take the chain off for cleaning.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA USA
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Old 11-09-19, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Agreed about the tape measure versus ruler. I was just taking poetic license about Mitutoyo and Starrett.

A chain lifetime of 700 miles does seem pretty short. Expectations for chain lifespan vary, but 3000 miles is probably a good ballpark, and that's even for chains that don't receive continuous care. I don't keep track of mileage, and I own more than one bike, so for a chain on any given bike I expect years of life. And I lube a chain maybe a couple times a year.
Okay got ya. I know every thing I have read is that bike owners chains last 3K to 5K miles. Makes me wonder what the heck happened to mine. Many times I have ridden with a group, and got comments like, how do you keep your bike so clean? , and haven't you ridden your bike much? Meanwhile their bike chains are covered in grit, and grease, and wonder how they shift. I was always one that thought a car ran better clean, and likewise with a bike. So I am anxious to see what the new chain measures compared to my chain.
I'm not boasting, but I should have mentioned I was a senior engine mechanic for the industry I worked in, which involved critical bearing, cylinder, and bushing measurements with inside and outside micrometers. So I do understand the questions of how I measured, and what I measured with. I also understand that a few thousands variance in my tape measurement is not going to amount to a hill of beans when it comes to replacing my chain. I too have come across many people that really don't know how to use a tape measure. So yes I understand any questions about how I came up with a 1/16 wear. I would question the same thing. I guess I was a little naive about the Park tool being a good gauge to tell me if I needed a chain. Just seemed like a popular tool everyone was buying. Guess I should have asked here first. Now I do think it may be a worthless piece of scrap. Anyone know what a chain, the .75 end slips into should measure over 12 inches? Per what the makers of the Park tool claim. I couldn't really find anything to answer that on their website.
I have no problem spending 30 or 40 bucks on a new chain after the enjoyment I got from the 700 miles I have ridden with this chain. I just hope the next one lasts a little further down the trail
Thanks for all the reply's. I am learning bike mechanics on the fly, and find comments from people very helpful that have been doing this for years.
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Old 11-09-19, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Alzerbster View Post
.....Anyone know what a chain, the .75 end slips into should measure over 12 inches? ........
I wouldn't trust my Park tool to measure the same as YOUR Park tool. It's a stamped part.
CALIBRATE your own so you know what THAT tool measures.
I'm not going to assume the "long end" measures .25% more than the "short" end.
IF & WHEN I run across a chain that allows the long end to be used, I'll measure the chain with a ruler THEN. Until THEN, all I know is that it's "some amount" longer.
At that time, I'll know what both ends ACTUALLY measure.
It's NOT a worthless tool. You just have to know what the measurements really mean.
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Old 11-09-19, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by davidad View Post
The only accurate chain gauges are made by shimano and Pedros, other wise use a ruler as you did. The proper way to maintain a chain is to remove it and clean it off the bike.

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/chain-care.html
This is the only real way to clean a chain: https://www.sheldonbrown.com/chainclean.html
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Old 11-09-19, 01:44 PM
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I have huge respect for the legacy of Sheldon Brown, and there are other ways to clean a chain. There are other good chain gauges too. A properly maintained chain should go 2000 miles absolute minimum, and sometimes you can hear a change in the sound as it starts to wear. There's the old saw about being able to lift it off the big ring - but by that time it's probably worn far enough that you're causing wear on the rear cogs.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA USA
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Old 11-09-19, 01:51 PM
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The Sheldon Brown link was a joke.
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Old 11-09-19, 02:37 PM
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Try using a precision 12 inch machinist's rule. Place one end on the edge of a pin and then look at the other end. The pin at the opposite end will be covered when the chain is new. When that pin is nearly half exposed, you've reached .5% wear.

Bikes with lower level parts will have chains and cassettes that wear out quickly. Buy a higher level product when replacements are needed, if they exist. Really low level bikes might be 8 or 9 speed and a high level cassette may not be available.

In 700 miles , a chain should have been lubed several times and removed for cleaning at least once.
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Old 11-09-19, 03:08 PM
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Kool Stop salmon, orange, brake pads.
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Old 11-09-19, 04:41 PM
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The Park cc3.2 slightly overstates chain wear because it adds roller wear to the measurement. I go ahead and replace the chain when it reads 0.5% because I want my chain rings and cassette to last as long as possible.

700 miles is really quick for a chain to wear that much. I recently replaced a chain on our tandem at 1400 miles and it caused me to end a lubricant experiment I was running because I would normally get 3500 with my standard lube, and that’s on a tandem run in hilly terrain.

Chains can wear faster if run on worn gears, or in a harsh environment, or if they are allowed to rust. A lot of cross chaining could also accelerate wear.
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Old 11-09-19, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
I wouldn't trust my Park tool to measure the same as YOUR Park tool. It's a stamped part.
CALIBRATE your own so you know what THAT tool measures.
I'm not going to assume the "long end" measures .25% more than the "short" end.
IF & WHEN I run across a chain that allows the long end to be used, I'll measure the chain with a ruler THEN. Until THEN, all I know is that it's "some amount" longer.
At that time, I'll know what both ends ACTUALLY measure.
It's NOT a worthless tool. You just have to know what the measurements really mean.
I get what you mean, and it makes sense.
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Old 11-09-19, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
The Sheldon Brown link was a joke.
Ha ha Yes cleaning a chain like that would give you no time for riding.

Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
Try using a precision 12 inch machinist's rule. Place one end on the edge of a pin and then look at the other end. The pin at the opposite end will be covered when the chain is new. When that pin is nearly half exposed, you've reached .5% wear.

Bikes with lower level parts will have chains and cassettes that wear out quickly. Buy a higher level product when replacements are needed, if they exist. Really low level bikes might be 8 or 9 speed and a high level cassette may not be available.

In 700 miles , a chain should have been lubed several times and removed for cleaning at least once.
No doubt the machinist rule would make the measuring easier. My bike has an 8 speed cassette, and it cost $800. How much would one have to spend on a bike to get a higher level product? The chain I would guess was cleaned, and lubed half a dozen times. It was never taken off to clean, but was cleaned with a Cyclone Park tool. First with de-greaser. then with dawn dish soap and water, then rinsed, then dryed.

Originally Posted by delbiker1 View Post
Kool Stop salmon, orange, brake pads.
The pads I put on were Avid brand, and I'm happy they don't screech. Again how does a reputable bike manufacturer like Cannondale put crap brake pads on that screech?

Originally Posted by reburns View Post
The Park cc3.2 slightly overstates chain wear because it adds roller wear to the measurement. I go ahead and replace the chain when it reads 0.5% because I want my chain rings and cassette to last as long as possible.

700 miles is really quick for a chain to wear that much. I recently replaced a chain on our tandem at 1400 miles and it caused me to end a lubricant experiment I was running because I would normally get 3500 with my standard lube, and that’s on a tandem run in hilly terrain.

Chains can wear faster if run on worn gears, or in a harsh environment, or if they are allowed to rust. A lot of cross chaining could also accelerate wear.
The gears were not worn. Don't know if dry crushed limestone trails are considered a harsh environment or not. I got caught in the rain once during those 700 miles, and it was for about 3 miles. Not a speck of rust anywhere, and as for cross chaining I probably ran on the middle chain ring, and the forth to sixth gear on the cassette 90% of those 700 miles. Not many steep hills to climb on rail trails.
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Old 11-09-19, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by davidad View Post
The only accurate chain gauges are made by shimano and Pedros, other wise use a ruler as you did.
This is true. Those 2 tools measure on the same side of the rollers in order to eliminate roller wear from your measurement. Other tools measure on opposite sides of rollers, so roller wear is included in the measurement. However, one problem with the Shimano tool is that it's a pass/fail tool. It doesn't give you an estimate of the current chain life.

The more accurate way to measure chain wear is with calipers. To do this while eliminating roller wear from the measurement:
1) open the caliper as wide as it can go and measure the length of the maximum number of links that will fit OUTSIDE the caliper jaw on the rollers of the chain (in between the chain plates), for example 10 links.
2) measure the length of 1 link also on the OUTSIDE the caliper jaw, also in the same way on the rollers (in between the chain plates).
3) subtract the 2 measurements. That is the length of 10 - 1 = 9 links, measured from the same side of the roller.
4) 9 links should equal 4.5" inches. If you are using 0.50% stretch as your limit, that would be 4.5" x 1.005 = 4.5225".

However, I don't know if when people say 0.50% is the limit, if they mean actual center to center pin stretch or if they include roller wear. If you want to be on the safe side, you could use 0.40% if you measure the center to center using the method above to remove any roller wear from your measurement.
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Old 11-09-19, 06:40 PM
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I read a study years ago where it was found that different chains had different amounts of roller "wear". Some came with roller play on a brand new chain. The rate the play increased with use also varied. Net conclusion - that any chain wear tool that incorporates roller wear was suspect and would give quite different wear numbers for two different chains that measured the same wear with a tape measure. Roller wear being (usually) the same roller to roller within a chain, cogs and chainrings don't see it and roller wear does not increase tooth wear. It just means the entire chain sits a little further back relative to the teeth. Increased distance between roller contact point (as measured by the tape measure) is what wears teeth.

Ben
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Old 11-09-19, 06:46 PM
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Here, I made a graphic to show how to measure accurate center to center pin lengths with calipers, while eliminating roller wear from the measurement.
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Old 11-09-19, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Alzerbster View Post
It was never taken off to clean, but was cleaned with a Cyclone Park tool. First with de-greaser. then with dawn dish soap and water, then rinsed, then dryed.
How did you dry your chain? When I used a water-based cleaner I put the chain on a cookie sheet in a 250F oven for 20 minutes or so, which heats the chain above boiling, enough to vaporize the water. Air-drying even for long periods or even blowing it dry with compressed air will tend to leave water in the tiny spaces in the chain, which interferes with lubrication; think how hard it is to get water from between two sheets of glass. I wonder if the residual water was damaging your chain.
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Old 11-09-19, 07:31 PM
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In the past I once tried to wash my chain in an utrasonic cleaner with degreaser and water. I then tried to dry it with a hot air blower inside a box (because I don't want to do it in the oven that I cook food with). But it still rusted very quickly. So I never bothered again with washing chains with water. I now simply wipe it with a dry rag and relubricate. If it's very dirty, I wet the rag with citrus degreaser, let it evaporate a little, and then relubricate. If it's very gritty, I have old interdental tooth brushes to brush in between each pair of chain plates.

If it's still very dirty, I lubricate once, wipe off the excess, and then lubricate it a second time and wipe the excess again. That's what most of the instruction manuals for chain lubricants tell you to do, since the oil acts like a solvent and will help push out a little bit of the dirt.

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Old 11-09-19, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
How did you dry your chain? When I used a water-based cleaner I put the chain on a cookie sheet in a 250F oven for 20 minutes or so, which heats the chain above boiling, enough to vaporize the water. Air-drying even for long periods or even blowing it dry with compressed air will tend to leave water in the tiny spaces in the chain, which interferes with lubrication; think how hard it is to get water from between two sheets of glass. I wonder if the residual water was damaging your chain.
I did just use compressed air, and did wonder how much water stayed inside the rollers. That is a good point. I could see how the water staying inside the rollers could keep the lubricant from getting in to where it needs to get. What happens to bike chains that get ridden in rain? What about when a bike is washed? Should an attempt be made to not get any water at all on your chain. What about when you have your bike on a carrier, and are hauling it to where you are going to ride, and its raining? Just seems like it would be a major undertaking to keep water off your bike chain. I will maybe not use water and dawn dish soap when cleaning the next chain. I had read somewhere to use dawn and water to remove all the degreaser. Which brings up another point. Would the degreaser remaining in the chain stop lube from getting to where it needs to get?
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