The great chain wear conspiracy

Well it Isn’t really as the conspiracy def: a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful, is pushing it a bit far to describe the mountain of chains thrown away unnecessarily. But I’m bored, and not much adventuring is going on so lets talk chain crap.

What kind of chain maintenance group do you fall into

  1. Keep riding until it starts slipping or dragging on the ground and then fit a whole new groupset
  2. Rotate two or three chains in super organised fashion and increase the life of your gears
  3. Take your bike for a service and when the chainwear gauge strikes 1mm wear it’s new chain time, closely followed by “you’ll need a new cassette and rings there mate”.
  4. Take one off the mountainbike when it starts to chain-suck and switch it to the commute/pub hack until it falls apart.

This might depend on how many bikes you use, which for many of us can be several, but asking around it seems a ton of perfectly usable chains are going to landfill. Well how many of us actually recycle metal bits, and just imagine how many chains a busy bike shop throws away each week, or even all the pro racing teams out there.

I was a type 2 chain guy, I’ve got one of those simple park chain checkers, but the recommendations which determine a worn chain are many and complex (good article) It seemed to me from friends with more and more high end bikes and group-sets, and more reliance on bike shops for the routine tune up rather than home spannering, that many chains were being junked early, so I collected a few. My chain wall shown would be about £200 worth if they were £10 each, but they obviously cost considerably more.

Yes a worn chain is inefficient, but then so is having lots of un aerodynamic luggage, or sitting more upright but when the bottom line is cost I was keen to see how just how far a good chain could be pushed.

Initially hanging up chains with weights and counting links while measuring was confusing, so I made a chain stretch measuring jig from a piece of laminate flooring. Securing one end from a knitting needle, I added pins every 10 links to aid with counting, a sliding pin at the other end against a simple scale allows a stretch and check. I then started by measuring a few brand new 9 and 10 speed chains to establish a baseline zero point.

Using a simple mm scale rather than a percentage based on length I now can compare every chain direct over a standard length; I chose 109 links for my standard. Now all my chains are hanging up marked with a simple wear index number marked on them with tape. As a comparison my 10 mm is roughly 1 mm wear on the Park tool.

Measuring over this full length I think I’m get a more accurate feel for just how worn a chain is and can swop them out depending on what’s planned and how the rings look. This year I finally threw my first chain away at 23mm wear that was used on a single ring winter set up, it was replaced with a 15mm wear one, all working perfectly on the same cassette. I can’t imagine I will buy another new chain for while, and as this bizarre year draws to a close I’ve still clocked up 10,000 miles plus, swapping two chains over.

Ask around if you have high end bike owning friends or know a mechanic, whats a worn chain to them could power you across a country.

** throw the chain away! Behave it made a nice tube clamp down vice, it’s life goes on.

Is this all tosh? Sure is if you race or speed is your only goal, but hopefully I might have made you think. Now about that inner tube mountain you have 😉

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