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Chain Wear Questions

Old 04-20-12, 12:58 PM
  #1  
Altair 4
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Chain Wear Questions

I have a Novara Forza with about 650 miles on it (with at least 100 miles used in travel on a limestone chip trail in heavy rain with lots of crud saturating the chain and cassette). The chain was cleaned and lubed before the trip, once on that trip at the 50 mile mark and then immediately after the trip. REI's website says that the OEM chain was a SRAM PC-38 (I can't find out anything about). Dang, riding on the Great Allegheny Passage in torrential rain does take some of the fun out of it!

While having my bike looked at for out-of-true wheel, the LBS tech measured the chain and said it needed replacement. I didn't see the measurement. The suggested replacement is a SRAM 870.

So here are my questions:
1) Is 650 miles a realistic wear-out rate for a chain, under the circumstances I describe?.
2) What measurement is an acceptable wear before indicating replacement? Give me a number.
3) Assuming that the chain actually needs replacement, is the SRAM 870 a better chain?
4) Should I be examining the chainrings and cassette for wear as well?
5) What kind of wear do I look for on gears and cogs?

My riding now consists of mostly blacktop trails, but with some limestone trails (maybe 2 miles out of 20 per ride). I expect to ride maybe 600 to 750 miles this year. I'm new at the maintenance side of the whole bike owner thing - point me in the right direction so I can learn!

Future maintenance suggestions are welcome, too. How often should I be cleaning the drivetrain with trail-riding. Thanks!

Last edited by Altair 4; 04-20-12 at 01:00 PM. Reason: Clarity
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Old 04-20-12, 01:03 PM
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Most of what you ask about a chain is just something you have to learn about while you experiment to find your way of taking care of your chains to match your rides and riding style.

Just keep your chain clean and well oiled and all will do well...........
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Old 04-20-12, 01:05 PM
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I get 4,000 to 9,000 miles from my chains.
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Old 04-20-12, 01:20 PM
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I'd be concerned with the wheel. If you have 650 and it's out of true, it needs to be retensioned or it will continue to go out of true. If the guy just trued it, that only straightens the wheel. Proper tension will keep it from going out or even breaking spokes down the road.
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Old 04-20-12, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
I'd be concerned with the wheel. If you have 650 and it's out of true, it needs to be retensioned or it will continue to go out of true. If the guy just trued it, that only straightens the wheel. Proper tension will keep it from going out or even breaking spokes down the road.
Wow - you guys are quick on a reply!

Yes, I'm learning about the whole chain cleaning and lubing thing now, as I'm looking at this episode as "experience."

Mr. Beanz, the wheel true thing is a concern for me, too! I'm having the wheels trued and tensioned to keep me out of trouble in that area. I appreciate your thoughts - I'd like to learn to do this myself, but time and space and not working in my favor at this moment. So I'll end up paying out-of-pocket this time.

The route I like to ride around the city takes me over some limestone, some smooth asphalt, some cracked asphalt, some bumpy railroad crossings, and some cobblestone streets (hate 'em). I could see why the OEM wheel went out of true.
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Old 04-20-12, 02:08 PM
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PC-870 is a fine chain. I'm a little suspicious that your old chain wore out so fast -- perhaps the tech used a tool rather than a ruler? https://pardo.net/bike/pic/fail-004/000.html
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Old 04-20-12, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
PC-870 is a fine chain. I'm a little suspicious that your old chain wore out so fast -- perhaps the tech used a tool rather than a ruler? https://pardo.net/bike/pic/fail-004/000.html
Yes, and it looked like the Park Tool CC-2, although I can't swear it was that color. I haven't read the article, but will do so later. Looks interesting!
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Old 04-20-12, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Altair 4 View Post
I have a Novara Forza with about 650 miles on it (with at least 100 miles used in travel on a limestone chip trail in heavy rain with lots of crud saturating the chain and cassette). The chain was cleaned and lubed before the trip, once on that trip at the 50 mile mark and then immediately after the trip. REI's website says that the OEM chain was a SRAM PC-38 (I can't find out anything about). Dang, riding on the Great Allegheny Passage in torrential rain does take some of the fun out of it!

While having my bike looked at for out-of-true wheel, the LBS tech measured the chain and said it needed replacement. I didn't see the measurement. The suggested replacement is a SRAM 870.

So here are my questions:
1) Is 650 miles a realistic wear-out rate for a chain, under the circumstances I describe?.
2) What measurement is an acceptable wear before indicating replacement? Give me a number.
3) Assuming that the chain actually needs replacement, is the SRAM 870 a better chain?
4) Should I be examining the chainrings and cassette for wear as well?
5) What kind of wear do I look for on gears and cogs?

My riding now consists of mostly blacktop trails, but with some limestone trails (maybe 2 miles out of 20 per ride). I expect to ride maybe 600 to 750 miles this year. I'm new at the maintenance side of the whole bike owner thing - point me in the right direction so I can learn!

Future maintenance suggestions are welcome, too. How often should I be cleaning the drivetrain with trail-riding. Thanks!
I'm lucky if I get 700 miles out of a chainring, chain and rear sprockets (and at 2000 miles a year)! That said, they're not the greatest Shimanos and I use mine in all weather, often submerging it up past the rear derallieur in mucky water (!). I clean, degrease and regrease it all whenever it starts getting noisy, which is typically every 50 miles.

I use this to clean mine and a teflon (I think) type of chain lube.

You must have been pretty mean to that wheel to make it out of true that quick! 2000 miles and still not out, and I'm mean to mine!
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Old 04-21-12, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Buggington View Post
You must have been pretty mean to that wheel to make it out of true that quick! 2000 miles and still not out, and I'm mean to mine!
I've been thinking about this. Honestly, I don't think I'm that mean to it. But it is the OEM wheel set, machine-built no doubt, so I'm thinking it just wasn't that well tensioned to begin with. Really, who knows? Did the cobblestone street do it? There are some segments that I ride that have some cracked concrete, but I've never blasted into a pothole.
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Old 04-21-12, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Altair 4 View Post
I've been thinking about this. Honestly, I don't think I'm that mean to it. But it is the OEM wheel set, machine-built no doubt, so I'm thinking it just wasn't that well tensioned to begin with. Really, who knows? Did the cobblestone street do it? There are some segments that I ride that have some cracked concrete, but I've never blasted into a pothole.
Interesting. I've never done anything to mine and I ride on potholed roads and take trails at 30mph. (single rims).

Bizarre. Maybe yours were just ill adjusted to start with.
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Old 04-21-12, 01:36 PM
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Chain is probably the cheapest component of the whole drive line and the easiest to service/replace . If in doubt toss it out and go new.
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Old 04-21-12, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by bobn View Post
Chain is probably the cheapest component of the whole drive line and the easiest to service/replace . If in doubt toss it out and go new.
Depending on the condition of sprockets and the 'rings...
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Old 04-21-12, 02:06 PM
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That's true. The thing is, not to let it get that far along.
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Old 04-21-12, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Buggington View Post
Bizarre. Maybe yours were just ill adjusted to start with.
I think maybe you are correct. Well, I'm getting the wheels addressed as well as the chain, so I should be good to go within a week or so.
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Old 04-21-12, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by bobn View Post
Chain is probably the cheapest component of the whole drive line and the easiest to service/replace. If in doubt toss it out and go new.
This.
In my situation, they last about 1,800 miles - about a year and a half for my commute. Regardless of whether or not I clean/lube them religiously, or totally ignore them. So I ignore them and replace every 1,800 miles "whether they need it or not". I've replaced the chain enough times that the replacement after next will be "free", leftover lengths from all the others!
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Old 04-21-12, 05:32 PM
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At 650 miles I'd guess that it's more likely the chain checker the mechanic was using is in need of replacement than your chain. I'd ask him to use it to check a brand new chain and see what it indicates.

I use a steel ruler to check 12" of chain. On a new chain there will be 2 rivets exactly 12" apart. When 2 rivets measure 12 1/16" apart, I replace my chain.
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Old 04-22-12, 05:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Altair 4 View Post
... with about 650 miles on it (with at least 100 miles used in travel on a limestone chip trail in heavy rain with lots of crud saturating the chain and cassette). The chain was cleaned and lubed before the trip, once on that trip at the 50 mile mark and then immediately after the trip.

While having my bike looked at for out-of-true wheel,

So here are my questions:
1) Is 650 miles a realistic wear-out rate for a chain, under the circumstances I describe?.

I expect to ride maybe 600 to 750 miles this year.
My chains last a lot longer than 650 miles. If my chains wore out at 650 miles, I'd have to replace a chain on a 1200K randonnee!! That would be a pain. My chains last in the thousands of miles even though I ride in all sorts of conditions.

My wheels also last a lot longer than 650 miles ... but then Rowan (my husband) builds them.

And why are you limiting yourself to 750 miles this year?
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Old 04-22-12, 05:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
My chains last a lot longer than 650 miles. If my chains wore out at 650 miles, I'd have to replace a chain on a 1200K randonnee!! That would be a pain. My chains last in the thousands of miles even though I ride in all sorts of conditions.

My wheels also last a lot longer than 650 miles ... but then Rowan (my husband) builds them.

And why are you limiting yourself to 750 miles this year?
Do you have high end stuff then? I have to replace mine about as often and mine's pretty low end. (out of interest)
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Old 04-22-12, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Buggington View Post
Do you have high end stuff then? I have to replace mine about as often and mine's pretty low end. (out of interest)
I use durable 9-speed chains.
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Old 04-22-12, 06:11 AM
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between 1000-2000miles

it helps to use 7speed stuff, cassettes and chains are cheaper to replace,
the wider chain is more durable
and the number of gears is not as important as the range of gearing...7
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Old 04-22-12, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
And why are you limiting yourself to 750 miles this year?
Let's not go there. Being the prime healthy parent and spouse has a way of severely limiting one's time to ride. I consider myself extremely blessed to get in as much riding as I do.
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Old 04-22-12, 08:33 AM
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I'm utterly flabbergasted that nobody else has questioned the mechanic's measurement after only 650 miles. If it doesn't make sense (and it doesn't) get a second opinion.
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Old 04-22-12, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I'm utterly flabbergasted that nobody else has questioned the mechanic's measurement after only 650 miles. If it doesn't make sense (and it doesn't) get a second opinion.
My SRAM PC-830 was toast after 1000 miles, so I'm not surprised. I put on a PC-850 because I read it has harder pins and might be more durable. My first drive-train only lasted 6000 miles because I pushed the chains to 3000 miles. I had to replace the cassette with the first chain at 3000 miles, so it doesn't surprise me that a cheap chain has crappy wear.
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Old 04-22-12, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I'm utterly flabbergasted that nobody else has questioned the mechanic's measurement after only 650 miles. If it doesn't make sense (and it doesn't) get a second opinion.
RG, I measured the chain myself with a steel ruler - it's definitely worn, slightly more than 1/16" when measuring over the standard 12" length.
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Old 04-22-12, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I'm utterly flabbergasted that nobody else has questioned the mechanic's measurement after only 650 miles. If it doesn't make sense (and it doesn't) get a second opinion.
I did in post #6.
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