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How bad is crosschaining?

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How bad is crosschaining?

Old 07-08-13, 01:00 PM
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How bad is crosschaining?

Last night when I was riding with my GF, I realized she just didn't understand how to or why she would even want to avoid crosschaining. My attempts at explaining how to avoid it didn't work either (she's the kind of person who knows she has car trouble when it won't start or move), and she was quite content to ride along in the little little combination. Ordinarily I'd just consider this additional unnecessary wear and tear on something mechanical, but she was riding a mutual friends bike, and may end up buying it. Which leads to the question, how long can you ride like that before causing damage? The chain was clean and lubed if that makes any difference.
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Old 07-08-13, 01:13 PM
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Small-small cross-chaining is fairly benign. You'll probably have the chain rubbing on the front derailleur cage, which is annoying but not damaging. Big-big cross-chaining has a chance of damaging your rear derailleur if your chain is too short.
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Old 07-08-13, 01:14 PM
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She's lucky the bike didn't asplode, killing you, her, and millions of innocent bystanders.

All kidding aside... the main problem caused by crosschaining is noise, most commonly from the front derailleur. If hers was an older bike that didn't have an "indexed" front shifter, she probably could have trimmed the shifter to eliminate that noise.

She'd really have to ride a LONG time for any significant noticeable increase in wear.
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Old 07-08-13, 01:16 PM
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There is no way to quantify in miles, but here are the reasons not to cross chain in the small-small:
  • It involves the smallest number of teeth front and rear, so wears very much quicker.
  • The above effect is worse because the combination is also one of the higher gear ratios, requiring more pedal pressure and therefore stress on the chain. (Side note - some folks ride it even though it actually may be a higher gear than they should be riding at their cruising speed).
  • Because the chain is going from all the way in on the front to all the way out on the rear the chain is stressed sideways as well.
  • The combination tends to be much more noisy due to the extreme angle, and it is more difficult to avoid the chain rubbing on the front derailleur.
  • The ranges of gear ratio covered by the two or three chainwheels overlap, so that she can avoid the above problems while still having about the same gear ratio (or feel/pressure on the pedals) by riding the next largest chainring with a larger cog.
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Old 07-08-13, 01:26 PM
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All of the above advice is good. How you approach her with this information may depend on how badly you want her status to continue as GF and not XGF.
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Old 07-08-13, 01:31 PM
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As stated below, crosschaining will (usually) wear the chain both lengthwise and laterally, and may also put uneven wear on the L. and Sm. chain rings. Small/ small will also wear out the small cassette cog, especially if it's an 11 or 12t since there isn't a whole lot of material to begin with. And, since cassette cogs aren't available separately you're looking at replacing the whole cassette!

Tell your ladyfriend it's like driving a car, but using only 3rd gear; just because you can, doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea.

(I hope she doesn't drive an Automatic!!)
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Old 07-08-13, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by oldskoolwrench View Post
Tell your ladyfriend it's like driving a car, but using only 3rd gear; just because you can, doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea.

(I hope she doesn't drive an Automatic!!)
Yeah, she's got one of each. Fortunately that one with the stick is pretty tough.
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Old 07-08-13, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
All of the above advice is good. How you approach her with this information may depend on how badly you want her status to continue as GF and not XGF.
Yep!
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Old 07-08-13, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
Yep!
If she ends up buying the bike, when she's not looking, give the limit screws a few turns and "lock out" the biggest and smallest cog in the back. Problem solved.
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Old 07-08-13, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by TampaRaleigh View Post
If she ends up buying the bike, when she's not looking, give the limit screws a few turns and "lock out" the biggest and smallest cog in the back. Problem solved.
Funny.
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Old 07-08-13, 02:04 PM
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no motor, I have a friend and she's a very experienced cyclist and she's cross chained for over twenty years. Anytime her husband or I mention it, she corrects for the moment. The only casualties are chains, cassettes and one very knife edged chain ring. The chains are sized a little long to prevent throwing the RD into the spokes as a precaution.

Basically a poor practice, but not the end of the world.

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Old 07-08-13, 02:04 PM
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Nu Vinci 360 CVR.. IGH .. you just turn the grip shifter till it, the ratio, feels right.
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Old 07-08-13, 03:34 PM
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It's like not flossing. Ok now and then, but if you do it a lot expect your next visit to the dentist to be a bit unpleasant.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by MrCjolsen View Post
It's like not flossing. Ok now and then, but if you do it a lot expect your next visit to the dentist to be a bit unpleasant.
Oddly enough, she's a regular flosser who went to the Dentist today and said her visit was fine.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Small-small cross-chaining is fairly benign. You'll probably have the chain rubbing on the front derailleur cage, which is annoying but not damaging. Big-big cross-chaining has a chance of damaging your rear derailleur if your chain is too short.
If your bike is set up with the chain too short to safely loop big/big, your asking for trouble. It's too easy to accidentally shift to that combination, and the consequences include, wrecked RD, bent axle (most common result), damaged chainrings, damaged RD hanger or right dropout, and in an extreme case it's possible to bend a chainstay.

If the RD lacks capacity for your gear range, set it up long enough for big/big, and let the chain droop when on small/small.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:24 PM
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IMO, the ill effects of cross-chaining are exaggerated. A properly set up drive train can use all combinations safely.

That said the more off line a chain is the less efficient it is, and the faster the eat. But it isn't a digital kind of thing where some combinations are perfectly OK, and others deadly. If it's OK to ride with the outer chainring and middle rear sprocket (we do this all the time), then it's slightly worse if you shift the rear in one position, worse yet with the next shift, and so on with the extreme crossed over combination being the worst. The same is true as you move toward small/small.

Actually, pros ride the outer with all the cassette sprockets, but don't ride the inner ring with outer cassette sprockets because the chain coming from the outside often brushes against the outer ring on the way to the inner ring, in a way comparable to how a tall building casts it's shadow over a smaller one nearby.
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Old 07-08-13, 06:46 PM
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It's going to depend partly on the length of the chainstays. With longer chainstays, the angle of deviation from the ideal chainline is less acute and the potential damage/wear to the drivetrain less serious. At the extreme -- i.e. long wheelbase recumbents -- cross-chaining really isn't an issue.
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Old 07-08-13, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by strock View Post
It's going to depend partly on the length of the chainstays. With longer chainstays, the angle of deviation from the ideal chainline is less acute and the potential damage/wear to the drivetrain less serious. At the extreme -- i.e. long wheelbase recumbents -- cross-chaining really isn't an issue.
Absolutely correct, and then some, with most recumbent bike drivetrains. Distance from crankset to cassette is about 48 inches on both my short and long wheelbase 'bents. Versus 17 inches on my Novara hybrid.
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Old 07-08-13, 09:01 PM
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'Bad' is relative. Can't think of any repairs I see regularly that relate DIRECTLY to crosschaining. On the other hand I see lots caused directly by improper tire pressure, lots caused by running a drivetrain without any lube at all for extended periods, and lots caused by simply leaving a bike outside for the winter without any protection.

Chainlines used to be selectable when square taper BB's were the norm - now they're pretty much predefined and the trim functionalities on triple FD's usually give unrestricted use of all rear cogs. Less so with lower end road groups and compacts, as mentioned, can have interference issues anyway.

But if the young lady in question is already good at looking after tire pressure, lubes the drive train regularly and looks after the rest of the bike - I'd say - just go riding.

Last edited by Burton; 07-08-13 at 10:42 PM.
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Old 07-09-13, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Burton View Post
'Bad' is relative. Can't think of any repairs I see regularly that relate DIRECTLY to crosschaining. On the other hand I see lots caused directly by improper tire pressure, lots caused by running a drivetrain without any lube at all for extended periods, and lots caused by simply leaving a bike outside for the winter without any protection.

Chainlines used to be selectable when square taper BB's were the norm - now they're pretty much predefined and the trim functionalities on triple FD's usually give unrestricted use of all rear cogs. Less so with lower end road groups and compacts, as mentioned, can have interference issues anyway.

But if the young lady in question is already good at looking after tire pressure, lubes the drive train regularly and looks after the rest of the bike - I'd say - just go riding.
i agree.
if the chain is properly lubed,the tire pressures are kept up, derailuers and cables adjusted properly the extra wear really doesn't matter that much.
yes you wear out the cassette, chain and crank rings a little faster. but it's not like blowing up a engine on your car and having to fork over thousands of dollars. drivetrain components in 105 or lower will set you back about $200 take off or good shape used.
that is a reasonable expense if the rider enjoys themselves while riding there bike.
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Old 07-09-13, 06:24 AM
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On a double ring crank, you have maybe 2 cogs that are not cross chaining and on a triple crank you have maybe 3 cogs that don't cross chain.

On my triple, I have been running the middle ring and all the way across the rear cog. I only have an 8 speed rear and if I trim the front derailer then I don't hear any extra noise and everything appears to be working fine after a couple of thousand miles. Maybe a 10 or 11 speed would not take this kind of use but so far so good for me. Just put some chain L on the chain and ride.
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Old 07-09-13, 06:38 AM
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My wife is the opposite. If she cross chains for a couple minutes and realizes it, she wants to take the bike in and get the chain checked.
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Old 07-09-13, 10:22 AM
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The Berto-Kyle drivetrain efficiency tests found no measurable inefficiency due to 'cross chaining' with modern chains. It was probably different back in the day.
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Old 07-09-13, 10:45 AM
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Crosschaining is worst on bikes with a triple (obviously) and eight cogs.

Why eight? Because it uses the widest chain that is used on a 8/9/10 cassette body.
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Old 07-09-13, 10:54 AM
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Nope. It's worse with more gears: The angle is more extreme and the chain and gears are made of thinner material and can withstand less wear before they break/start to skip.
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