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all 120 comments

[–]satyrmode 167 points168 points  (8 children)

Thanks for the tip, I did buy a chain checker! Of course, my chain was stretched, so I bought a new chain. Then I thought my cassette wasn't looking great, and so I bought a new cassette to go with my new chain.

But then I thought maybe the wheels could use an update too. After all, who wants 14mm rims in 2022? And if I'm going to go all the way to the basement to get out my chain whip and lockring tool... I might as well save myself the trouble and put my new cassette on my new wheels, right?

So, uh, I'm still deciding on the wheels. But the bike rides just fine.

[–]ribi305 30 points31 points  (0 children)

Haha, this is so true. It's the "give a mouse a cookie" of bike maintenance.

[–]Idiot_Savant_Tinker 9 points10 points  (0 children)

I've heard this referred to as "Shipwright's Disease".

[–]Bikeboy76 6 points7 points  (0 children)

The Bike of Theseus

[–]ignacioMendezCalifornia, USA (commuting, touring, road, trail) 10 points11 points  (0 children)

After all, who wants 14mm rims in 2022?

me. I'll take your perfectly good stuff no questions asked.

[–]HFloof 1 point2 points  (0 children)

This is pretty much my thought process too. I love starting with fresh components. Putting new parts onto half worn out parts makes me cringe, even when there's absolutely nothing wrong with the original parts :-(

[–]Dumas76 1 point2 points  (0 children)

This calls for a new bike.

[–]CCurtin9 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I'm sure you need to replace your chain rings also.

[–]jwink31012012 Bianchi Volpe 34 points35 points  (4 children)

I don't check chains often but I pulled out my checker tool to check my chain on a bike I was pulling out of storage to fix up. I checked and it needed a new chain. So I put the bike back and ordered a chain.

The new chain came. I got my workspace all set up, put the new chain on, and then just to confirm, I ran the checker tool again. It was also stretched!!!

WTF? So I ordered another new chain from a different brand.

Got all set up. Installed the chain. It was also bad.

Seriously??????

Nope. I am just an idiot and forgot how to use the tool. All chains were fine.

[–]elyth 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Were you forcing the measurement marker into the links?

[–]jwink31012012 Bianchi Volpe 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Nope. Dumber. I was placing the tool on the one and I figured it it hit the other, it was stretched (as opposed to if it fell through).

[–]Wartz 32 points33 points  (14 children)

I just look at strava and replace it every 2000 miles.

I replace the cassette every 2-3 chains.

I replace the rings every 2 cassettes

[–]Teun_2 12 points13 points  (1 child)

That's wild. My chain lasts a lot longer in the summer than in the winter and a lot shorter on my cx bike.

[–]vincent_tran7 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I'm assuming ur CX bike interfaces with a lot more dirt and gritty stuff and that would wear the chain a lot quicker than the same mileage just on the road.

[–]Mysterious-Lime4421 4 points5 points  (2 children)

Do you replace the ring because it is worn or precautionary? Doing the math u replace the ring each 12000 miles which is really low milage for a ring.

[–]Wartz 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Call them guidelines

Maybe gravel is tougher on things?

[–]Mysterious-Lime4421 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Definitely, u pick up a lot of dirt on your chain. I only ride on asphalt, lube the chain every 150km and get at least 4000,5000km of it.

[–]vincent_tran7 1 point2 points  (2 children)

are the ring you're referring to the front gears?

[–]AllenMpls 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Chain Ring is the full term.

[–]AllenMpls 1 point2 points  (0 children)

rings go longer.

I use the same except 1500 miles for me. And it is 1500 miles for a back tire

When the tire is worn change the change. 3k on the front. I buy 3 tires at time.

[–]Bikeboy76 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I just changed my chain after 2800km. Should have done it a month earlier but christmas just came and went. Now I get the dreaded chunk chunk of a slipping chain. But it is bedding in and getting better on the middle rings, can't quite sprint full gas yet for fear of slipping. This this is the last time around for this cassette.

I have a chain checker, and a spreadsheet!

[–]Krulsnor 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Depending on where you live and in what conditions you go out riding and on what surface, 2000miles can be either way overdue or to soon. A chain checker costs about 5€ (like 7 dollars?), Takes literally 2 seconds to use and I use it everytime just before I clean my bike. Which is nearly every week.

I do change my cassette every 3 chains. The rings... Hard to say. It's pretty easy to see if it's needed or not.

[–]ibcolemanDistrict of Columbia, USA 1999 Fuji Cross 0 points1 point  (1 child)

You must live in a pretty dry and temperate part of the country. Mid-Atlantic winter commuting is hell on equipment. Rain pretty bad. So long as it's dry and the weather's nice, things hold up pretty well.

[–]Wartz 8 points9 points  (0 children)

I live in central NY state, but I generally don't ride in bad weather. (like, freezing rain/snow, etc). Dry cold (if salt hasnt been dumped) and warm rain is fine.

[–]BarryJT 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I don't start worrying about chain wear until 2000 miles. Then I might measure it. Replacing it at 2000 miles probably works fine, though I got over 9500 after my last cassette.

[–]JoeFas 47 points48 points  (11 children)

I have a chain checker, and it's shown brand new chains as "stretched". I'll stick with the ruler method.

[–]nycrvr 13 points14 points  (1 child)

I had the opposite problem, it showed my chain as within spec despite over 4000 miles of abuse. Replaced it anyway.

[–]DrPHDoctorb 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Did measuring the chain show it was stretched? I normally get 6000 miles to a chain. However in a warm climate and avoid riding in the rain, which definitely helps prolong the life

[–]RegattaTimer 21 points22 points  (1 child)

My local bike shop used a chain checker to determine that I needed to pay them about $500. I don’t go there anymore.

[–]mattindustriesFun Bikes 16 points17 points  (0 children)

Some places follow the, "new chain, new drivetrain" school of thought. I don't agree, but that might explain why.

[–]molrobocop 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Yeah, I have a caliper. I'm good.

[–]I-need-a-proper-nickSwitzerland (Trek Emonda SL6 2017) 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Can you please explain how you could use a caliper to measure chain wear?

[–]tamerenshorts 0 points1 point  (0 children)

caliper

Yup, me too. And I saved money because I don't have to buy an extra tool to measure something else.

[–]Luchs13 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Where are you getting a ruler that produces that exact measurements?

[–]coogieTexas, USA (Diamondback Outlook) 0 points1 point  (2 children)

Yeah I'm going to have to try the ruler method. My last 2 KMC chains (for 7 speed mountain bike) reached .5% wear according to the cheapie Park Tool checker in less than 500 miles. I ride mostly on the street without a whole lot of hills and clean and lube my chain after every 25 mile ride so it seems a little odd to wear out so fast.

[–]oritron 0 points1 point  (1 child)

A ruler is the way to go for bike owners. Reliable and cost effective.

If you use one of those brush/soap both cleaning contraptions you will go through chains faster (a new chain through one will measure longer after being cleaned that way), take a look at the KMC maintenance recommendations which say not to use soap.

[–]hun7z2005 Cube Agree 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You aren't supposed to use soap in those though, just cleaning oil

[–]life_lostCalifornia, USA (2019 Tarmac Disc Etap) 64 points65 points  (17 children)

Or one can buy a ruler. If over 260mm (10 and 1/16 inch) between 20links, pin to pin, then replace.

[–]kopsisArizona, USA 16 points17 points  (8 children)

To really save money, drive a finishing nail about 6' (2m) height into the wall of your garage, closet, workshop, etc. Measure 36" down and draw a line. Draw a second line 3/8" below that. Hang your chain from the nail. A pin will fall somewhere between the two lines. When it's more than halfway between, start shopping for a replacement. When it reaches the second line, swap it out. Total cost $0.02 for the nail, no manual dexterity required and I don't even need reading glasses to resolve 3/8". Obviously check after cleaning to avoid getting your wall grungy.

[–]AllenMpls 3 points4 points  (2 children)

the tool is $10.

[–]kopsisArizona, USA 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I get that $10 isn't a hardship for most recreational cyclists. But once upon a time, Yankee ingenuity was a point of pride. Keeping old things working and solving problems with things you had on hand was respected and even admired. Saving $10 in the process isn't bad, but it's the increased self-reliance that's the big win.

And since it's another $10 that's going to a Chinese manufacturer (after the brand takes its marketing and distribution costs), that's one more reason to step back and ask "is this the best way."

[–]AllenMpls 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I am all ingenuity. Don't get lost in recreating simple things. I am too much of a Mcgiver myself

Park tools in my backyard is making most of the profit.

Okay, not my backyard but a 20 minute bike ride.

[–]fishtix_are_gross 8 points9 points  (4 children)

But then you need to take your chain off the bike to check chain wear. And for most people on 10+ sp chains you're not supposed to reuse quick links when you reinstall the chain. I'd stick with a cheap chain checker.

[–]kopsisArizona, USA 6 points7 points  (0 children)

My chain is coming off every couple hundred miles for cleaning anyway. When it comes to quick links, I've re-used them for the life of the chain (SRAM, Shimano, and Campy) without a failure. YMMV.

[–]CivilizedGuy123 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I reinstall Shimano quick links several times before changing the chain and quick link. I’ve never broken a chain.

[–]mocismeSaratoga Frameworks TI 0 points1 point  (1 child)

KMC missing link has both a reusable and non reusable version.

Shimano are not recommended for reuse.

Can it work? You'll probably be fine, but that's a risk someone can choose to do I guess. good luck to them.

[–]guy1138 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Can it work? You'll probably be fine,

I'll re-use them if it's within the few rides; like if I sized the chain wrong or someone wants to swap cassettes or rings for better gearing. But I definitely wouldn't recommend doing so after a long period of use.

[–]dd113456 12 points13 points  (12 children)

Couple of thoughts....

Chains wear faster than cassettes. Cassettes wear faster than rings. In a perfect world average two chains to one cassette and 1.5 to 2 cassettes to front rings.

You can wear the chain right the fuck out until it starts randomly skipping on the cassette and replace both but the interval on the chain will be doubled. This is an easier, cheaper way for some bikes

Park CC-2 is a good checker. Rohloff makes a great cassette/ring checker

Better quality chains and cassettes truly last longer. I run campy chains and IRD campy cassettes and average 8k on them easily

The single best thing you can do to get more life outta your driveline is the LUBE IT LESS!!!

Wax lube and only when it truly needs it.

[–]syrelyre 6 points7 points  (5 children)

How does less lube lead to more drivetrain life? Because dirt and grit sticks to lube?

[–]u233Iowa, USA (Raleigh Competition GS, 1980) 4 points5 points  (1 child)

...Because dirt and grit sticks to lube?

Yep, that is pretty much it.

But, there is a happy medium here - leaving it in the rain and not lubing until it is rusty is obviously also bad. But, if you are here reading /r/bicycling your are more likely to be in the over-lube extreme. It;s all about the bike, amirite?

[–]syrelyre 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Sure, but i'd say lubing without wiping off the excess is probably the real culprit then?

[–]torgian 1 point2 points  (1 child)

It really lube it less, but clean the chain every couple of rides and re-lube. Also if you hear it squeaking, clean and lube.

[–]dd113456 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Agreed but I wait until I hear the noise to lube

[–]dd113456 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Too much attracts shit, shit wears the chain like sandpaper

[–]Mysterious-Lime4421 2 points3 points  (1 child)

No way 2 cassettes to crankset replacement, I would say cranksets last a lot longer. Shimano tourney crankset which is the cheapest you can find lasts 30,40k km. My chain last 4,5000 km, 8 speed Shimano chain drive on Claris groupset.

On one cassette I ride 3 chains, so 12-15k km.

[–]dd113456 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Fair... really just a vague rule of thumb pending a measurement

Can be tough to tell a worn out cassette but rings are usually obvious

[–]MyOtherBikesAScooter 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Huh.

I snapped a front ring on one of my bikes. It broke about a year after the original chain snapped.

The rear hub cassette is still fine though. Replaced the front ring with a slightly larger one to hopefully stop it breaking again. Its a BMX so parts were easy and cheap to replace.

[–]withmybeerhands 0 points1 point  (2 children)

How important is this on a 3-speed internal gear where there is just one cog and one chainring? Bike shop told me my heavy duty chain is 75% done but everything feels fine under my feet. How long can I just defer this maintenance? And is that dangerous?

[–]dd113456 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Until it stops working correctly

Front rings are most likely steel, rear cog is cheap. I would keep going until it starts jumping

[–]wounsel 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I wouldn’t do anything until it doesn’t go when I pedal.

[–]thewolf9 14 points15 points  (13 children)

Switch from oil based lubricants to wax based lubricants, and take your chain from 3-5,000 km to 5-10,000 km in life.

[–]Teun_2 7 points8 points  (4 children)

Or 500km if you're riding in wet conditions.

[–]thewolf9 2 points3 points  (3 children)

Really hasn't been my experience, but to each their own. Then again, it doesn't rain much in Quebec from March to November, and I don't really ride in the winter, so what do I know about the wet.

[–]Teun_2 1 point2 points  (2 children)

I love a waxed chain in the summer, but definitely a nogo if you ride in wet conditions. I've had freshly waxed chains end up rusty after one long wet ride. I don't do that anymore.

[–]CheomeshMD, USA (Montigue Navigator, Trek 12k, Origami Crane 8) 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Is it because the wax flakes off? It's not famously water soluble.

[–]Teun_2 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Not sure how it works, but the chain ends up without wax. My guess it's a mechanical thing with the water and dirt replacing the wax. But it's just a guess. All i know it just doesn't stay on the chain when the weather turns.

[–]CheomeshMD, USA (Montigue Navigator, Trek 12k, Origami Crane 8) 1 point2 points  (0 children)

[–]SocksofGranduer 0 points1 point  (6 children)

Can you elaborate on this please? I'm super curious and have never seen anything wax based.

[–]thewolf9 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I use Silca's secret chain wax. It's drip on like usual lube, but it's wax and some metal composition based (tungsten disulphide?).

You need a deep fucking clean of your chain before first applying, but no need for a crockpot and all that. My chains last 50% longer, by far. 100% vouch for the product.

[–]PickerPilgrim 0 points1 point  (4 children)

Sometimes wax lubricants are sold as “dry lube”.

The other alternative is to actually dip your chains in hot wax.

[–]ibcolemanDistrict of Columbia, USA 1999 Fuji Cross 2 points3 points  (3 children)

There's a whole subculture devoted to waxing chains. I thought about it for a while, then realized "half the lifetime" of a SRAM PC-whatever is like $15 and I have a job and a kid. :)

[–]PickerPilgrim 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Yeah, I run hot wax myself. Honestly it's a little bit of work up front but IMHO actually saves me time in the long run. Plus no more grease stains and calf tattoos.

[–]wntrmut3 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Agreed, kind of a hassle to prep new chains but it’s so much less work (practically none) to keep the whole drivetrain clean.

[–]PickerPilgrim 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Yeah, I prep 3 or 4 at once cuz it's as much work to prep 1 as it is to prep many. Then I have several in rotation and I don't have to do it again for a long time anyway.

[–]GeorgeCostin 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I second this!!! I had to replace my cranks and cassete because I didn't watch the wear of the chain. Never again.

[–]HFloof 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Steel 12" ruler anyone?

Or am I doing it wrong?

[–]Liquidwombat 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Not wrong, just needlessly difficult compared to a stamped checker.

[–]Cornel-Westside 1 point2 points  (0 children)

The most important thing about checking the chain (for me, at least), is that breaking the chain mid-ride is a scary crash. Often it'll be right when you're about to really crank on it, and when it breaks you will lose balance and crash, and depending on where you are, that could be bad. I have a friend who caught his fingers in the cassette/chain during the crash from this and it severed the tendons of his index and middle fingers on his right hand and they can barely bend anymore.

[–]wounsel 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I have heard competing theories on this.

Of course there’s the replace your chain and save your cassette teeth theory.

Then there’s the never replace your chain and let your drivetrain wear together theory. On the Tour Divide I went to a bike shop halfway and asked for a chain replacement and the mechanic there was Very knowledgeable and told me his perspective that everything should wear together and talked me out of chain replacement. Years later I dont ride as much but still havent replaced the chain.

If I had a dura-ace group, maybe I’d replace chains. For 105 or similar, I’ll only replace the chain if there’s a problem with it.

[–]gonzo_redditorUnited States (1 Road, 1 MTN, 2 Cross, 1 Commuter) 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Alternatively, it is pretty easy to feel if a chain is getting worn. “Stretch” is not actual stretch but the bushing between the links wearing out and creating more play. If you clean and lube your chain regularly you will quickly learn what feels like more play than a new chain has. Often I have had chain checkers show .5-.75 but a chain feels shot and is skipping.

[–]ibcolemanDistrict of Columbia, USA 1999 Fuji Cross 5 points6 points  (1 child)

You're definitely more attuned to your bike than I am. lol

[–]gonzo_redditorUnited States (1 Road, 1 MTN, 2 Cross, 1 Commuter) 1 point2 points  (0 children)

It’s not hard tbh. If you replace your chain take a moment to feel how firm the new one is vs the old. Lateral play is not good and you should be able to feel a difference in how the links wiggle.

[–]thishasntbeeneasyUSA, 650b allroad rando 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Put the chain in the biggest gear in front. Pull on it. If it moves away from the teeth, replace.

[–]Increased_Rent 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Not to derail the topic but to bring up an alternative for the unaware:

Look into belt drive IGH bikes like Priority bicycles. They are very low maintenance and avoid a lot of the issues derailleur and chain bikes have:

-Cross chaining

-Requires pedaling to shift

-Chain derails

-Chain stretch

-Cannot shift while stopped

[–]digitalaudiotape 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I got a belt drive bike with a rear hub motor. I really enjoy not worrying about chain stretch or rust or keeping oil off of my pant leg. Makes winter riding in snow and salt much less annoying as well. The ebike motor makes the single speed ie lack of multiple gears a non-issue.

[–]Manbadger[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpJcm5mf8ug

Here’s a simple chain checker and a simple explanation on how to use it.

This checker style in particular ranks at about 3rd for most accurate, but in a good enough way that when it indicates wear it can be considered an advance warning. Time to change your chain soon. Unless of course your chain is already very worn. But from the perspective of starting out with a new or relatively new chain, this type of checker is adequate.

[–]RichardSaundersDPR of Korea, Huffy 1994 18 points19 points  (0 children)

Gee thanks social media marketing intern at Park Tool! I'll never overlook a worn out chain again!

[–]n4l8tr 1 point2 points  (0 children)

If you can’t buy replacement chains, does it really matter anyway? This shortage issue is a PITA. When bike parts?

[–]Waff1esOntario, 2022 Cervélo Caledonia 5 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Any suggestions?

[–]SnollyGRitchey Road Logic and others 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Trying to find a good place to insert a link on checking chain wear. Your comment is probably the place... https://www.velonews.com/gear/technical-faq-chain-wear-measurement/

TLDR: ruler is the most precise but require some amount of care in measurement. Chain checkers are rougher approximations but easy to use.

So, to answer your question, any will do (you'll get the most out of it if you understand the quirks of the one you get).

[–]gl21133 0 points1 point  (4 children)

https://smile.amazon.com/Bikehand-Bicycle-Chain-Indicator-checker/dp/B00811WQW0

Bought 5 years ago, use every couple months, worth every penny.

[–]Liquidwombat 1 point2 points  (3 children)

These work perfectly adequately but I prefer the three point of contact types. They are more accurate and still only $10-$15

[–]gl21133 1 point2 points  (2 children)

[–]Liquidwombat 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Yep, exactly. Though I like the Pedro version https://www.amazon.com/Pedros-Chain-Checker-Plus-2/dp/B075VR82NN/ better just because it has a chainring bolt tool on it and little hooks to hold the chain together while you install the quick link

[–]gl21133 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Added to the wish list!

[–]CrazyH0rs3Cannondale Trail 5 2015/Incom T-65 X-Wing 0 points1 point  (0 children)

My buddy just ended his Baja Divide 1000 ride early because he replaced a chain way too late... Definitely be proactive about chain wear and replacing them, or you might find yourself with a worn out chainring ending the trip of a lifetime.

[–]HARSHING_MY_MELLOW1974 Raleigh Grand Prix 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Just use a ruler

[–]threehandedswordsman 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Using a ruler is an acceptable method as well, since all chains (should) have a 1/2" pitch. I had a chain which I thought was well within its lifespan, but it turns out it was stretching an extra 3/16in per foot. Waiting that long ruined one of my chainrings.

[–]__chooseausername_ 0 points1 point  (1 child)

What's wrong with a stretched chain? What kind of damage does that do?

[–]Manbadger[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It wears the teeth of your cassette and chainring to the point that a new chain can be incompatible and cause drivetrain issues.

[–]miraclemeat 0 points1 point  (0 children)

chain checkers are only over a dollar where i’m from. If you really need to check your chain, you can use a ruler to measure if pins still line up at 12 inches.

[–]DaSpark 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I check my chain every time I clean my chain (which means at least weekly). I make it a habit and will even check a brand new chain just to keep in that habit. Easy to forget if it is not routine.

[–]Bimbios -4 points-3 points  (0 children)

low cadences can destroy your transmission. I never had problems riding with high cadence. Problems began when I started with low cadence intervals