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Do more expensive chains last longer? What about wider chains?

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Do more expensive chains last longer? What about wider chains?

Old 04-24-16, 04:29 PM
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corrado33
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Do more expensive chains last longer? What about wider chains?

I'm going to go ahead and guess and say the answer is no. In fact I'd guess that they actually last a shorter amount of time. The only thing you gain from more expensive chains is weight?

I'm asking because I've traditionally used the cheap SRAM or KMC chains. The ones that are $15-$20. However, after wondering why my chain was so loose on my IGH commuter, I figured my wheel had moved. Well, I was wrong. The chain had stretched (only 1/16" over 12"). That's only after ~1500 miles. Admittedly, it was ridden all winter, but that still seems very short. The sprockets I have on that bike are made for 3/32" chains, but I can use wider chains if they'd last longer.

What about wider chains? Say I have a 7 speed bike. I could go with the 6,7,8 speed chain, or I could go for a slightly wider 6-7 speed chain. Assuming both work fine, which would last the longest?


If neither price nor width play any part in determining chain longevity, then why buy more expensive chains?

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Old 04-24-16, 04:35 PM
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I have used full bushing 3/32" chains on my IGH bikes ,, for replacement I got 1/8 to not use A Bushingless chain.
Brand: Connex bike chain 108 ? fully nickel-plated - Connex by Wippermann

derailleur chains are Bushingless , for better lateral flexibility , but the wear is more concentrated over a smaller surface..

BITD when Eddy was racing, all chains were Bushing type and 6 speed was enough.

5,6,7,8 now all use the same chain, only with 9+ do they start getting thinner, by necessity.

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Old 04-24-16, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I have used full bushing 3/32" chains on my IGH bikes ,, for replacement I got 1/8 to not use A Bushingless chain.
Brand: Connex bike chain 108 ? fully nickel-plated - Connex by Wippermann

5,6,7,8 now all use the same chain, only with 9+ do they start getting thinner, by necessity.
WOW that chain is beefy. It's also gorgeous.

There are small differences in chain width between "lower speed" chains and "higher speed chains." I've definitely met some old freewheels and cranksets that don't like modern 8 speed chains and will only work with 6-7 speed chains.
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Old 04-24-16, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
If neither price nor width play any part in determining chain longevity, then why buy more expensive chains?
More expensive chains are shinier. Here's an old comparison on Shimano chains. Shimano chains, 2015
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Old 04-24-16, 05:20 PM
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I used a 1/8" chain for the cross-over (synch) chain on our tandem and it lasted much longer (30 kmiles) than the 3/32" drive chain on that bike and on our singles. Haven't seen that much variation in durability between the various 3/32" chains used for different numbers of rear cogs.
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Old 04-24-16, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
I used a 1/8" chain for the cross-over (synch) chain on our tandem and it lasted much longer (30 kmiles) than the 3/32" drive chain on that bike and on our singles. Haven't seen that much variation in durability between the various 3/32" chains used for different numbers of rear cogs.
The sync chain on a tandem doesn't get shifted side-to-side to change gears. It's in perfect alignment all the time. I'd expect it to last a lot longer regardless of width.
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Old 04-24-16, 08:03 PM
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A high quality chain will not last any longer than a standard chain, a plain old Shimano chain works just fine and last just as long.
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Old 04-24-16, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
I'm going to go ahead and guess and say the answer is no. In fact I'd guess that they actually last a shorter amount of time. The only thing you gain from more expensive chains is weight?

I'm asking because I've traditionally used the cheap SRAM or KMC chains. The ones that are $15-$20. However, after wondering why my chain was so loose on my IGH commuter, I figured my wheel had moved. Well, I was wrong. The chain had stretched (only 1/16" over 12"). That's only after ~1500 miles. Admittedly, it was ridden all winter, but that still seems very short. The sprockets I have on that bike are made for 3/32" chains, but I can use wider chains if they'd last longer.

What about wider chains? Say I have a 7 speed bike. I could go with the 6,7,8 speed chain, or I could go for a slightly wider 6-7 speed chain. Assuming both work fine, which would last the longest?


If neither price nor width play any part in determining chain longevity, then why buy more expensive chains?
Campagnolo chains take a long time to elongate, although 10 speed Veloce chains imported from the UK for $25 each aren't especially expensive.

In Wipperman's test the C10 Veloce chain took 4X as long to reach 0.5% as the SRAM 1070 and double the Shimano CN-7801.

While wider chains should last longer, I never noticed a real difference between Campagnolo C8/C9/C10 life. I get to ~5000 miles reaching 1/32" of elongation over 11-12 inches, at which point shifting to the big ring has degraded due to side plate wear so I replace anyways.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 04-25-16 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 04-25-16, 08:34 AM
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KMC in the shop the few 5 speed get the same chain as 6, 7 , though if going C&V a full bushing 3/32 would go with the

NOS .. freewheels that are no longer made .. now the hyperglide cassette's tooth profile
is stamped in multi speed freewheel cogs, too..

Anyhow my Used Rohloff hub bike I got in 08, still had the OEM chain on it, put on at the NL factory in 04

Bush-less chain made by R'off too .. Ive gotten several years out of the black NOS Bushed 3/32, since..

though it is not my only one so 7 years of riding is not on 1 bike..

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Old 04-25-16, 10:04 AM
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[QUOTE=fietsbob;18716430]
NOS .. freewheels that are no longer made .. now the hyperglide cassette's tooth profile
is stamped in multi speed freewheel cogs, too..

[quote]

Not sure what you mean, but both Shimano and Sunrace make 5, 6 and 7 speed freewheels.
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Old 04-25-16, 10:10 AM
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FWIW I use the 6-7-8 speed chains and I have noticed no difference in how long they lasted with respect to price or brand. None of them were more than around $15 though.
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Old 04-25-16, 10:10 AM
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New Freewheel Cogs each have ramps stamped in the sides and shorter teeth Now , Like the cassette cogs do.

... When compared with old Multi speed freewheels from the 70's that were paired with Friction shifting.
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Old 04-25-16, 10:15 AM
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But is the more expensive chain cost effective? The Wippermann 10 speed stainless steel chains run around $50-60 with shipping on eBay. The KMC X10.93 chain that was OEM on my Catrike recumbent trike costs $19 with shipping. The trike takes 2+ chains so it would cost me $57 for a new chain versus a minimum of $150 for the Wippermann chains. I already get around 10-12,000 miles between replacing the chains. I doubt the Wippermann chain shifts substantially better than the KMC which works just fine and it probably wouldn't last 30 - 36k miles.

As a side thought. Do you maintain your chain? Lubricate it and clean it occasionally? If you deep clean and then re-lubricate the chain it will last a lot longer than one which is run with grit embedded in the chain. It will also cut the wear on the cassette and chainrings.
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Old 04-25-16, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by GP View Post
More expensive chains are shinier.
I admit that I buy chains based on looks. I'd buy a nickle/silver chain over a black one; I'd never buy a brown chain.
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Old 04-25-16, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
I'm going to go ahead and guess and say the answer is no. In fact I'd guess that they actually last a shorter amount of time. The only thing you gain from more expensive chains is weight?

I'm asking because I've traditionally used the cheap SRAM or KMC chains. The ones that are $15-$20. However, after wondering why my chain was so loose on my IGH commuter, I figured my wheel had moved. Well, I was wrong. The chain had stretched (only 1/16" over 12"). That's only after ~1500 miles. Admittedly, it was ridden all winter, but that still seems very short. The sprockets I have on that bike are made for 3/32" chains, but I can use wider chains if they'd last longer.

What about wider chains? Say I have a 7 speed bike. I could go with the 6,7,8 speed chain, or I could go for a slightly wider 6-7 speed chain. Assuming both work fine, which would last the longest?


If neither price nor width play any part in determining chain longevity, then why buy more expensive chains?
In my experience, there's a "sweet spot" in the middle of a company's chain lineup. The very cheapest ones may wear out quicker because they lack hardening, but the most expensive ones don't last appreciably longer than the mid-range ones, they are just shinier or lighter.

More specifically, the SRAM PC830 I used wore out in roughly 1500 miles. The PC850's (cosmetically the same, but with hardened pins) I've used since have lasted at least 2500 miles, and I'm still putting miles on them. Only $5 more each, so I'd say the 830's are a pretty poor value unless you don't ride much. The PC870 and 890 look cooler with the nickel plating, but cost more and don't last any longer.

SRAM's 1/8" chains are a similar deal -- the PC-7X had hardened pins and could be expected to last a decent while, but they don't seem to be in production anymore, so their only offering for single speed is the cheaper PC-1. I managed to find a PC-7X for sale and will be using it next on my fixed-gear. Once it wears out, I'm somewhat tempted to use a PC850 since I'm using 3/32" sprockets on that bike, anyway.
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Old 04-25-16, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
The sync chain on a tandem doesn't get shifted side-to-side to change gears. It's in perfect alignment all the time. I'd expect it to last a lot longer regardless of width.
Sure, and the 1/8" wide chain that I use is not designed with the lateral flexibility for shifting. But I frequently see comparisons made touting the supposed durability advantages of drive belts by comparing them to narrow 3/32" chains designed for multi-cog shifting. Since the belt can't be used for that application it should be compared instead to the more durable chains available for single-speed or IGH drive trains. Discussions with other tandem riders has indicated that they don't get nearly as much mileage from their 3/32" cross-over chains as I have with the 1/8".
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Old 04-25-16, 11:01 AM
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IMO you're overthinking this --- big time.

Better chains do last longer, but not much longer. The differences in life of various chains from the same maker are usually in two brackets, because they may use different material or heat treat specs in the better vs cheaper chains, with the other differences among the models being more cosmetic.

Wider chains can also be expected to last longer, but again, not by a great amount.

Chain wear varies tremendously person to person, and bike to bike. There are many factors involved, and these factors account for much more difference than chain quality or width would.

BTW- the replacement point for single speed chains is very different than for derailleur chains. In industry they run chains to 3% stretch, though they'll usually replace the sprockets also at that time. So I don't suggest taking it to the limit, but certainly you can run the chain to 1 or 1.5% stretch without issues. The new chain will not skip on the slightly worn sprocket because it's a closed loop and has no slack to climb up on the teeth.
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Old 04-25-16, 11:08 AM
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The chain is only half the issue. Chainline is the other half. Chains last far longer is you do not force them to take poor chainlines.

I ride the two extremes. Two fix gears. Perfect chainline all the time. Expensive (!) $20 Izumi chains, fully velodrome quality last a large percentage of 10,000 miles staying compatible with new cogs (less that 1/16" stretch) and that again with older cogs.

And I ride 7 and 9-speed triples paying not too much attention to chain line. Consider chains to be disposable. (And I purposely stay one or two cogs behind the newest and greatest because then I can pick up chains on sale for cheap.)

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Old 04-25-16, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
BTW- the replacement point for single speed chains is very different than for derailleur chains. In industry they run chains to 3% stretch, though they'll usually replace the sprockets also at that time. So I don't suggest taking it to the limit, but certainly you can run the chain to 1 or 1.5% stretch without issues. The new chain will not skip on the slightly worn sprocket because it's a closed loop and has no slack to climb up on the teeth.
Good info. Thanks! I didn't know (but it makes sense) that you can run SS chains longer. However, I'd prefer not to wear my chainrings and cogs. Easier just to replace the chain at .75-1%. They're cheap enough anyway.
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Old 04-25-16, 11:24 AM
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FB, I get a kick out of how often we pass the same message in very different words, often minutes apart!

It's only been in recent years that I have had a fix gear with a long enough dropout to make frequent cog changing fun. So, for the first time, I have had all the 1/8" cogs, 12 to 23. Got this bike 4 years ago and immediately got all the cogs. (Well, the 22 and 23 took longer because I had to find them. I still want that 24. 24s are like 41 tooth 144 BCD Campy rings and bigfoot, They exist but no one's actually seen them.) I've replaced the 16 and 17 tooth cogs a couple of times through the first 14,000 miles and all the rest run just fine. I put new chains on when I buy new cogs. When new chains start running rough over the other older cogs, I'll start reusing the 1/16" chains like I do now for new ones. I should be pretty well set with these cogs for the rest of my life.

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Old 04-25-16, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by techsensei View Post
I admit that I buy chains based on looks. I'd buy a nickle/silver chain over a black one; I'd never buy a brown chain.
There are a variety of benefits to nickel plating.

1) It's a harder coating and makes the chain last longer.
2) It's more corrosion resistant which is also going to make the chain last longer.
3) You can tell when your chain is dirty more easily, so you clean and lube it, which then makes it last longer.
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Old 04-25-16, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by andr0id View Post
There are a variety of benefits to nickel plating.

1) It's a harder coating and makes the chain last longer.
2) It's more corrosion resistant which is also going to make the chain last longer.
3) You can tell when your chain is dirty more easily, so you clean and lube it, which then makes it last longer.
The first two are debatable, though. Nickel plating on the outer plates has no effect where chains actually wear. If a chain of any kind actually rusts through a plate, the user has done something very wrong.

If the nickel plating is harder than the underlying steel, perhaps chains with nickel inner plates might last a little longer, though. Would be interested to hear if anyone has noticed this.
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Old 04-25-16, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by andr0id View Post
There are a variety of benefits to nickel plating.
Still, it's only about the aesthetics for me.
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Old 04-25-16, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
....

If the nickel plating is harder than the underlying steel, perhaps chains with nickel inner plates might last a little longer, though. Would be interested to hear if anyone has noticed this.
The effect is marginal at best. Plating is measured in 10ths of thousandths of inches, and we run chains until the journals are word about 2 thousandths, an order of 10 over what plating does. So, even if the plating slowed the initial wear 90% of the wear would b happening after it's gone.

Also note that typical plating process deposit little or any material inside holes or deep recesses.

So, IMO, the plating of chains will have minimal impact on wear life, though it will improve cosmetics.

Also note that chains are made of 3 different materials, (or sometimes 4) and the pin, inner plate (journal) and roller will wear at different rates. The specifics of the materials and tempers will determine where the greatest wear occurs, and this varies greatly between brands. Because chain wear has so many variables any attempt to involve precision in measuring it is meaningless. The commonly accepted 1/2% replacement guideline is just that --- a guideline -- and not a precise line with marked differences on either side.
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Old 04-25-16, 01:33 PM
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One difference They use the metal Punched out to make the hole and that flange supports the roller edges

and it's Inside rides on the Pin, the steel may be a softer temper & alloy, for making current Derailleur chains,

than the little tube made separately that was pressed in the inner link plate

that supports the full width of the roller on one side and the Pin on the inside
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