Author Topic: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?  (Read 784 times)

chipbury

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Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« on: March 05, 2024, 04:40:52 pm »
Afternoon All,

I know you like a discussion on here so...

My setup is Rohloff with 45T chainring /19T sprocket.

Today I've adjusted the eccentric bottom bracket as the chain was getting very loose, when I rotated the bracket there was enough slack in the chain for the bottom bracket to rotate through fully tight back to slack.
As the chain needs a certain amount of slack i'm not at the end of travel yet.  Using a 2 point Park chain gauge I am at about 0.75% wear on the chain.
So maybe I only have one more re-tighten left before I need a new chain?

As such what are peoples thoughts on buying the cheapest 1/2" x 3/32" chain as opposed to a high end expensive one?

My current chain/chainring/sprocket is the original since new all at @ 4250miles.  On previous derailleur bikes I got an average of about 2000miles on a chain (due in part to towpath conditions and my lazyness on cleaning the bike) regardless of chain quality.

Cheers,

Chris

JohnR

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2024, 06:12:35 pm »
KMC Z1 narrow chains are very affordable (eg https://www.cyclestore.co.uk/kmc_z1_narrow_brown_122l_single_speed_chain-ID_87470) so currently I replace the chain at the end of each winter (when it is most filthy) irrespective of miles. More expensive chains tend to be either lighter or have anti-rust coatings. A chain for a hub gear bike with a good chainline isn't subjected to the lateral bending inflicted by a derailleur system and is thus less prone to wear so more miles can be expected.

If you want more miles and a cleaner chain then fit a Hebie Chainglider https://www.sjscycles.co.uk/chainsets/38t-hebie-chainglider-chainguard-front-black/ + https://www.sjscycles.co.uk/chainsets/hebie-chainglider-chainguard-for-rohloff-1517t-rear-black/. However, you would need to change the chainring and sprocket to suit Hebie's standard sizes (40/17 would give similar gearing to 45/19 and also note you would need a chainring no thicker than 3mm). I'll leave it to others to report the miles per chain that they have achieved with the help of a Chainglider.

mickeg

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2024, 10:09:39 pm »
I am quite happy with the cheaper chains.  I have mostly used the KMC Z series chains.  But, I read somewhere that the KMC X series chains should last longer.  I have no idea if they do, but I bought some X series chains that I have not used yet.  At the time I bought the X series chains, I could get them for very little extra cost.

The Z and the X use different quick links, I think the pins have different lengths.  So, if you switch, be careful that you use the right links.

I run my Rohloff chains well beyond the 1 percent elongation point on a Rohloff bike.  It wears my sprocket more, but it is not like a cassette where the chain starts skipping over the teeth.

Derailleur bikes, there I change the chains at 0.75 percent, the cassettes last longer that way.

Since you have a really big chainring and sprocket, you should get less wear than if they were smaller.  I think the chain experts refer to that as less articulation angle, also there is less tension on your chain as you pedal when your chainring has a larger radius.  So, if you get unusually good chain life, that might have something to do with it.

I no longer use the cheap chain checkers, I got the Pedros one that Zinn described.
https://velo.outsideonline.com/gear/measuring-chain-wear-accurately/

Park makes a similar checker, they describe how to use it here, at 1:00 in the video he shows that he is squeezing the chain between two hooks, that is the key to why this does a better measurement.  That video also describes how the Pedros one works, they are the same concept.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOaFF_4CqJg

But the Pedros and Park ones do not measure at 1.0 percent, so I guess for my Rohloff chain.


chipbury

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2024, 06:50:31 am »
Thanks for the above replies.

I will definitely go down the route of a cheaper chain (as I used to on derailleur bikes).

As for the wear limit, I think I'll run out of adjustment on the bottom bracket when I get towards 1.0%, so that will be a natural time to change when it starts getting slack.

Cheers,

Chris

Andre Jute

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2024, 07:40:23 pm »
Generally speaking it is difficult to tell anecdotally whether expensive chains give higher mileages than cheap chains. There are too many variables. For a start, you used to get twice the mileage from chains on a derailleur bike than I used to get, so I assume you aren't a masher like me. You can probably enumerate all the other factors yourself.

The biggest influence is chain cleanliness. Grinding paste is just oil and dirt. That's why the Chainglider gives most people a big step up in chain mileage -- the Chainglider just about tripled my mileage in an experiment on never cleaning the chain and adding no lube for its entire life. Others reported similar experiences with the Chainglider.

Experiments with KMC's most expensive chains haven't had results nearly that clearcut.

I use the KMC X8 derailleur chain on my Rohloff, mainly because it is cheaper than the equivalent single speed KMC Z-whatever when bought a half-dozen at a time from the late lamented Belfast internet dealer who gave me free carriage to where I live in West Cork.

KMC is a good recommendation because they have excellent R&D, the more expensive the chain, the greater the number of special processes on it. Their factory lube is also widely considered the best.

I were you, I'd spend the money for a Chainglider and a midrange KMC chain, and run the combo on the factory lube for the entire life of the chain. Even if it takes a long time to recover the investment because you'll need a new sprocket and chainring  to suit the Chainglider, it'll be worth it in zero bother with cleaning and adjustment.

PH

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2024, 08:15:04 pm »
There are in my opinion, and this subject is mostly just that, opinion, two ways to approach drivetrain wear. 
Either:
Change the chain before it wears the sprocket, which means that you'll go through a lot of chains but the sprocket and chainring theoretically last forever.
Or:
Ignore chain wear, run the three components, chain, sprocket and chainring, till one or more can't take it any more, then change the chain and flip/replace the other two. 

I do the latter, the expensive KMC E-1 on my Mercury is getting close to 20,000 km and I might leave it a while before replacing.  I don't know if a cheaper chain would have done as well, but at 0.1p per mile I'm really not bothered.

I have no issue with someone choosing the first method, though for it to make economical sense they would have to be using very cheap chains.

What I do not understand is those who do neither one or the other, that is to part wear the sprocket and chainring, then not continue and wear it out.

mickeg

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2024, 01:00:23 pm »
There are in my opinion, and this subject is mostly just that, opinion, two ways to approach drivetrain wear. 
Either:
Change the chain before it wears the sprocket, which means that you'll go through a lot of chains but the sprocket and chainring theoretically last forever.
Or:
Ignore chain wear, run the three components, chain, sprocket and chainring, till one or more can't take it any more, then change the chain and flip/replace the other two. 

I do the latter, the expensive KMC E-1 on my Mercury is getting close to 20,000 km and I might leave it a while before replacing.  I don't know if a cheaper chain would have done as well, but at 0.1p per mile I'm really not bothered.

I have no issue with someone choosing the first method, though for it to make economical sense they would have to be using very cheap chains.

What I do not understand is those who do neither one or the other, that is to part wear the sprocket and chainring, then not continue and wear it out.

That does make a lot of sense, but I am in the neither camp.  I will replace the chain before the sprocket and chainring are worn out and need flipping, but I am often putting chains on that already have some wear from my derailleur bikes.  In other words I am using chains that are in the 0.75 percent to a bit over 1.0 percent elongation on my Rohloff bike.

Most of my riding is on derailleur bikes, thus I have plenty of worn chains from that.  If my memory is correct, at this time I have three chains with 0.75 percent elongation waiting to go on my Rohloff bike.  So, I should ride the Rohloff bike more often.  That is a narrow range of elongation, the worn cog and chainring are content to work with such chains.

That said, the cog was quite worn four years ago, flipped it at that time.

chipbury

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2024, 05:32:56 pm »
Thanks for all the information above, some interesting reading.

My plan is to replace the chain when it's too slack with the eccentric bottom bracket fully adjusted.

I'll flip the chainring/sprocket when necessary and get a good life out of them as well.

Right time to go shopping!

Cheers,

Chris

martinf

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2024, 04:28:13 pm »
I do something similar to George, but a bit more complicated to explain.

With the Chainglider equipped bikes (most of the family bikes).

After using up most of the part-worn components from pre-Chainglider days I now try and start with a new chain, new sprocket and new chainring.

I run Chain no. 1 on the factory lube till it gets a bit dirty inside the Chainglider, this depends on the weather and where I ride (tarmac roads or on sandy or muddy tracks), so far between 1,000 kms minimum and 5,000 kms max.

Then I take the chain off, wipe the chainring and sprocket clean, and fit Chain no. 2.

When I feel like it (ideally when I have several dirty chains from various bikes) I clean and relube Chain no. 1 so that it is ready to go back on the bike when Chain no. 2 gets dirty. The idea is to alternate the chains to reduce sprocket chainring wear and keep alternating until wear makes it necessary to flip the sprocket and chainring.

On derailleur bikes I would often have Chain no. 3, and Chain no. 4 as well, so as to get the best mileage out of the cassettes and multiple chainrings.

But with Chaingliders, so far I only use 2 chains by bike and haven't yet had any significant chain wear.

As the chains last much longer with Chaingliders, I now buy the expensive KMC chains that are supposed to give high mileage, as the price of the chain won't make much difference in the long run.

Matt2matt2002

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2024, 05:56:10 pm »
As the chains last much longer with Chaingliders, I now buy the expensive KMC chains that are supposed to give high mileage, as the price of the chain won't make much difference in the long run.

Snap!
I noticed you didn't refer to measuring chain link wear.
Any comments on that?

Thanks for your opinion.

Matt
Never drink and drive. You may hit a bump  and spill your drink

martinf

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2024, 08:03:21 pm »
I noticed you didn't refer to measuring chain link wear. Any comments on that?

I measure chain wear with the (less than ideal) Rohloff tool.

Measuring is mainly useful on the family Bromptons, a Chainglider is not possible on these, and with small wheels the chain picks up more muck and wears faster than on other bikes. So I replace the chain, together with the very cheap rear sprocket, between 0.75% and 1% measured wear to try and save wear on the chainring.

The same applied to derailleur geared bikes when I had them, except that I tried to replace chains at 0,75% measured wear to save the relatively expensive freewheel or cassette. These generally lasted for about 4 chains.

Measuring might also be marginally useful on my one remaining large-wheel bike that can't be fitted with a Chainglider, but this has a roller brake on the rear, which eliminates the muck and water sprayed onto the chain by calliper brakes.

Since I used up my stock of part-worn derailleur chains, I haven't (yet) found any noticeable wear on the chains under Chaingliders. I'll probably keep on measuring when I change chains, but I don't think it serves any real purpose other than curiosity.

With hub gears, chains can be run with much more wear than with derailleurs, basically until the rear sprocket and/or chainring gets too worn (or until the chain breaks). At which point I intend to scrap the two chains, flip sprocket and chainring and start again with two new chains.

So even without a Chainglider, hub gear chains lastest significantly longer on my bikes than derailleur chains, despite the fact that I tended to favour my hub gear bikes in bad weather and for off-road use.

Adding the protection of the Chainglider, which keeps a lot of the muck (most?) from getting on the chain, increases chain life even more.

So it is quite possible that I will "wear out" before my "two chains for each hub gear/chainglider bike" do, especially as my cycling is spread out over several different bikes.

The exceptions being my two Bromptons, where I reckon a set of 2 chains should last between 2 and 4 years if I continue my current (fairly low) level of Brompton use. When I was using Bromptons intensively for survey contracts I averaged 1,800 to 2,000 kms (about 4 to 5 weeks) of use for a chain before scrapping it.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2024, 08:16:22 am by martinf »

PH

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2024, 11:09:24 am »
I run Chain no. 1 on the factory lube till it gets a bit dirty inside the Chainglider, this depends on the weather and where I ride (tarmac roads or on sandy or muddy tracks), so far between 1,000 kms minimum and 5,000 kms max.

Then I take the chain off, wipe the chainring and sprocket clean, and fit Chain no. 2.
I had completely forgotten about the multiple chain method, I did the same when running a bike with expensive campag components, but that was many years ago.  It certainly works, potentially doubling or tripling the life of components (Depending on number of chains used).  Get it right and it has to be the most cost effective regime, but get it wrong, which I found easy to do, and you end up with part worn chains that don't mesh with either the part worn cassette or a new one.

I haven't gone into the idea of covering the chain, it isn't something I do, but clearly whatever factor that increases life by will apply whatever other method or components used.  There's plenty of stories about full chaincase bikes where the drivetrain has outlasted the rest of the bike.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2024, 11:15:58 am by PH »

mickeg

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2024, 05:05:30 pm »
I am only doing the multiple chain method on one bike, my road bike.

That has a Campy drive train, and an aftermarket Michie 10 speed cassette.  I want to extend the life as much as I can on that bike as the cassette and chainrings are not inexpensive.

But, I do not track mileage, I bought a second chain soon after I bought the bike.  Each spring I switch chains, so ideally the cassette and chainrings should last as long as the two chains.  Longer?  I do not know.

I do not know how much longer Campy will be around as their market share steadily declines.  I suspect that my chainrings will likely be an aftermarket brand when I eventually need to replace them. 

Andre Jute

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Re: Do More Expensive Chains Last Longer?
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2024, 03:13:24 am »
I haven't gone into the idea of covering the chain, it isn't something I do, but clearly whatever factor that increases life by will apply whatever other method or components used.  There's plenty of stories about full chaincase bikes where the drivetrain has outlasted the rest of the bike.

I find it useful to distinguish between the Dutch city bike type of what you call "a full chaincase", and the conceptually and practically entirely different Utopia Country and Hebie Chainglider type of genuinely fully enclosing chain tube-style cover.

I doubled my mileage per chain going from open chain to full chaincases of the Dutch city commuter type.

By fitting a Utopia Country and a Chainglider I added another 50% of mileage per chain on top of that doubling, in total a tripling between bare chains and the Utopia Country and the Chainglider. To me this indicates that they are a clearly different type of chain cover, with more claim to be called a full enclosure than the Dutch "full chain case".

Here is my experience with the full range of chain case types:
A Fully Enclosed Chaincase That Works:
https://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=2233

And a chain experiment as an initial quantification for a zero-maintenance bike:
Factory lube/chaincase experiment (X8 chain, Chainglider, Surly SS & Rohloff):
https://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=6813.0

Being a masher, I regret that I'll probably never achieve the mythical status of the super-cyclist whose chain outlasted the rest of his bike.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2024, 03:16:42 am by Andre Jute »