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New freewheel is cheaper than a chain

Old 12-03-23, 01:39 PM
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New freewheel is cheaper than a chain

I really don't understand why people post on the internet about replacing your chain regularly to protect your freewheel. For my bike, a brand new Shimano 14-28 tooth 6-speed replacement freewheel is about $18. A replacement Shimano chain is $25. Neither cost is worth writing home about, and in my case, the chain is pricier.

My bike is a 90's era mountain bike, and people also say to replace your whole bike every so often to beat the cost of replacing all the components. Every component on my bike, including, an entire rear wheel, is under $50 brand new. What gives? Am I riding the world's cheapest bike?
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Old 12-03-23, 01:53 PM
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Well if you have a cassette like this, it's worth it to get a new chain when it gets worn. SRAM Red AXS XG-1290 Cassette (Rainbow) (12 Speed) (XDR) (10-33T) - Performance Bicycle (performancebike.com) Makes a difference what type of bike you ride and where you get your info from really.

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Old 12-03-23, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
What gives? Am I riding the world's cheapest bike?
No, but your calculus does not apply to every bike.

For example, a Shimano CS-6800 11-speed cassette runs about $75. Meanwhile, Shimano 11-speed chains are one-third that. Chains are also easier for many people to replace than cassettes.

There's a lot of variation among bicycles, especially over many decades of production, so it is rare -- and maybe impossible -- that any one observation applies universally.
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Old 12-03-23, 02:05 PM
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Most bicycles are equipped with cassettes that are more expensive than chains. Some people with freewheels prefer using higher quality freewheels and want them to last longer.

Also, the more worn your freewheel and chain get, the more wear you’ll put on your chainrings as well.

In addition, some people just prefer nicer components, or just see a bicycle beyond just a basic utility.
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Old 12-03-23, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
I really don't understand why people post on the internet about replacing your chain regularly to protect your freewheel. For my bike, a brand new Shimano 14-28 tooth 6-speed replacement freewheel is about $18. A replacement Shimano chain is $25. Neither cost is worth writing home about, and in my case, the chain is pricier.

My bike is a 90's era mountain bike, and people also say to replace your whole bike every so often to beat the cost of replacing all the components. Every component on my bike, including, an entire rear wheel, is under $50 brand new. What gives? Am I riding the world's cheapest bike?
One of them, yes. 6-speed freewheels go back to the 1980s. Back then they had nicer 6-speed freewheels available which would take some patience cruising eBay to find. But if you're OK with the lowend 6-speeds then you're golden.

You're also over-paying for chains. Should be able to get one that works for less than $15. A couple of years ago I saw some on sale for $8, so bought 5 of them. I usually expect them to be around $15 though.
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Old 12-03-23, 02:21 PM
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I'm pedaling about 6000 miles a year back and forth to work, so low cost per mile means a lot to me. From what you all are saying, I appear to have chanced into one of the world's cheapest bikes to operate. Some riders have a very significant cost per mile.

I don't mind the low-end components, because I feel like I've moved up from the big steel Panasonic road bike I rode as a younger man with the ten speeds and the steel wheels and the friction shifters. I held onto that bike until it spent three days at the bottom of the Rockaway River during a flood in 2010.
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Old 12-03-23, 02:39 PM
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...the cogs on the back, being smaller, are the first to wear significantly. But the Chainwheel teeth will eventually show wear as well, if you are riding significant miles past the chain's due date. Chainwheels start to get expensive, in some instances. And on older classics the correct chainwheel is sometimes hard to find now. I think the KMC 6-8 speed chains I'm running cost about 11 bucks each now. I replace chains because they are the cheapest thing to replace, in my case.
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Old 12-03-23, 02:41 PM
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Some of us use freewheels that haven't been made in 30 or 40 years.
SunTour New Winner ultra 6 for example.

I've also got a Shimano 14-28 in the drawer.
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Old 12-03-23, 02:52 PM
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You pay too much for chains

​​​​​​https://www.rei.com/product/761159/s...-8-speed-chain

​​​​​​https://www.jensonusa.com/SRAM-PC-85...4aAuIuEALw_wcB
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Old 12-03-23, 04:04 PM
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As a commuter, I'm beginning to realize the extent to which many bikes at certain price points can be more expensive to operate on a per mile basis than a really cheap used car. The vast majority of bikes are still cheaper to operate than the vast majority of cars, but there is some overlap. If the bike is your way to work and you need redundant everything, the car can look even more attractive (until you want a redundant car!).
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Old 12-03-23, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
As a commuter, I'm beginning to realize the extent to which many bikes at certain price points can be more expensive to operate on a per mile basis than a really cheap used car.
Can you give some examples of bikes that are more expensive to operate on a per-mile basis than a really cheap used car? With dollar amounts, please, including insurance, license, registration, etc., where applicable.
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Old 12-03-23, 04:12 PM
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I dunno, if you take into account insurance, fuel, maintenance etc. I think even a very pricey bike seems more affordable than a car. Assuming you have the ability to choose between the two.
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Old 12-03-23, 04:25 PM
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One of my cars (2014 BMW i3) attracts zero tax, £300 a year insurance and fuel is minimal (overnight electricity =2p/mile or free at work or via solar in the summer) and maybe £150 a year in servicing. £600 every 4 years for tyres. Not sure cars get much cheaper to run.

I still think my Madone costs me significantly less per mile. A chain per year at most, a cassette every 2-3 years. Tyres every couple of years. Bit of sealant. Maybe 3 dynaplugs a year. At some point it’ll need a BB but they’re cheap.
edit: forgot the £600 carbon repair & respray when it badly dinged itself with its own derailleur. Hoping that’s a one off!!

Last edited by choddo; 12-03-23 at 04:32 PM.
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Old 12-03-23, 04:32 PM
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I was last driving a Ford Tempo from around 1990. When the fuel pump died, I became a bike commuter. The car cost $1500 and lasted me two years. The insurance for a second (beater) car on our policy was tiny, and no comp and collision. The gas was about $300 or so a year, I don't recall. Registration was under $100 per year. Parts wise, I put in an alternator, a water pump, and a battery - figure each of those was $120.

So two years commuting in a truly crappy car was (ballpark)
$1500 the car
$1000 insurance
$600 gas
$500 parts
$150 registration
$100 Oil and fluids

$3850 for two years, or $1925/year
Again, very ballpark, but you get the idea.
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Old 12-03-23, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
I was last driving a Ford Tempo from around 1990. When the fuel pump died, I became a bike commuter. The car cost $1500 and lasted me two years. The insurance for a second (beater) car on our policy was tiny, and no comp and collision. The gas was about $300 or so a year, I don't recall. Registration was under $100 per year. Parts wise, I put in an alternator, a water pump, and a battery - figure each of those was $120.

So two years commuting in a truly crappy car was (ballpark)
$1500 the car
$1000 insurance
$600 gas
$500 parts
$150 registration
$100 Oil and fluids

$3850 for two years, or $1925/year
Again, very ballpark, but you get the idea.
Clearly, super high end bike and components are priced like Rolexes. But you can purchase a pro level bike from the '90s for $500 and spend less than $200 a year on chains, cassettes and pads.


However, I don't really get your point about freewheels and chains. Are you proposing riding your chains until they are so elongated they destroy the freewheel? What about the chainrings you've also destroyed doing this?
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Old 12-03-23, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Clearly, super high end bike and components are priced like Rolexes. But you can purchase a pro level bike from the '90s for $500 and spend less than $200 a year on chains, cassettes and pads.


However, I don't really get your point about freewheels and chains. Are you proposing riding your chains until they are so elongated they destroy the freewheel? What about the chainrings you've also destroyed doing this?
Based on the responses, I think that the advice to keep a good chain on a bike is solid because for not a lot of money, it protects expensive and/or hard to find or replace gearing. My case is just a bit out of the mainstream because the freewheel can be replaced for under $20 on Amazon or anyplace else. For what its worth, I do keep a good chain on my bike and I am due to replace my freewheel.
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Old 12-03-23, 04:57 PM
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You don't have to replace the chain till you have issues. But that might leave you with having to replace both the freewheel and the chain and perhaps the rings on the crankset. Not a big deal for most freewheel equipped bicycles. However many bikes today have free hubs with a cassette. Some of those cassettes that have 9, 10, 11 or 12 cogs and are made with lightweight materials can be quite pricey. So usually those will be the ones that the owners need to pay more attention to replacing their chains regularly so as to lessen the wear on the more expensive cassette.
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Old 12-03-23, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
What gives?
Well, some want to protect their old Suntour freewheel, as it's more difficult to replace than a new Shimano cluster.

Also, don't worry about it. The SRAM chains I buy are $13. My Sunrace 7-speed freewheels are $24.
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Old 12-03-23, 07:17 PM
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My experience has been to source chains as frugally as I can (salvaged off dead bikes, bought NIB at bike swaps, dug out of co-op bins, etc.) and replace prior to 3/32" wear per 12". So even if my freewheel was literally "free" off a deceased bike, there's no reason for it to wear out due to letting the chain run too long before replacement.

Some of the saddest bikes I encounter are ones where I could see it was an expensive high-quality bike in its time, and that it's seen lots of miles and hopefully good adventures, but someone left the original drivetrain on until the chain is showing 1/4" or more wear per 12", and the entire drivetrain is chewed up, including the derailleur pulleys. In a lot of cases, the nonprofit will just trash the entire bike, as it would cost more than the bike is worth to replace everything needed for proper operation. I like to take these bikes home and in my so-called spare time slowly replace the drivetrain so the bike can see new life.
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Old 12-03-23, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa
Well, some want to protect their old Suntour freewheel, as it's more difficult to replace than a new Shimano cluster.
If that old rugged Suntour freewheel wasn't excessively worn in its youth, one can keep them running for literally tens of thousands of miles (as I have) by just watching chain wear and replacing the chain before it gets too worn, such as before 3/32"/12". Conversely, I have a Suntour Accushift freehub with cassette hanging in the shed which looks good but skips under load on several cogs because a prior owner chose not to keep an eye on their chain until it was too late for both the chain and cassette.
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Old 12-04-23, 03:27 AM
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Originally Posted by RCMoeur
My experience has been to source chains as frugally as I can (salvaged off dead bikes, bought NIB at bike swaps, dug out of co-op bins, etc.) and replace prior to 3/32" wear per 12". So even if my freewheel was literally "free" off a deceased bike, there's no reason for it to wear out due to letting the chain run too long before replacement.

Some of the saddest bikes I encounter are ones where I could see it was an expensive high-quality bike in its time, and that it's seen lots of miles and hopefully good adventures, but someone left the original drivetrain on until the chain is showing 1/4" or more wear per 12", and the entire drivetrain is chewed up, including the derailleur pulleys. In a lot of cases, the nonprofit will just trash the entire bike, as it would cost more than the bike is worth to replace everything needed for proper operation. I like to take these bikes home and in my so-called spare time slowly replace the drivetrain so the bike can see new life.
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Old 12-04-23, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
Based on the responses, I think that the advice to keep a good chain on a bike is solid because for not a lot of money, it protects expensive and/or hard to find or replace gearing. My case is just a bit out of the mainstream because the freewheel can be replaced for under $20 on Amazon or anyplace else. For what its worth, I do keep a good chain on my bike and I am due to replace my freewheel.
A lot of cassettes can be replaced for <$20

​​​​​​https://www.performancebike.com/shim...BoCIHIQAvD_BwE
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Old 12-04-23, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by dedhed
A lot of cassettes can be replaced for <$20

​​​​​​https://www.performancebike.com/shim...BoCIHIQAvD_BwE
True. Last Sram 850 11-32 I got was $16. I have an eBay saved search for XT 8-sp cassettes that'll notify me when they show up, so I've gotten a couple of those. I'm getting too old for the 12-26 and 11-28s I used to run, so I've bought a couple 11-32 and 11-34 recently.
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