That New Chain Feeling

I replace my chain every year, more or less. It tends toward less as I don’t have a set anniversary for new chains. Usually I notice the shifting is lagging a second and it dawns on me that the chain is in need of replacement. In my youth I would keep the same chain on the bike forever. I even used to take it off, and reinstall it inside out (?!) thinking…thinking that I was a cheap idiot. The result of that was the rear cogs were always ruined too, reinforcing the cheap idiot thing. Since replacing the chain on a yearly basis I’ve never had to replace a cassette. I’ve heard that the Fabian Cancellara’s of the pro peloton get a new chain once a week. The pros are fifty-two times more mighty.

This most recent chain replacement had me using a Campagnolo Chorus chain I had attempted to install on another bike and failed. I shamefully put the chain on a shelf until I had stocked up on Campagnolo’s special bullet shaped, don’t drop this on the shop floor or you will never find it, you only get one shot at this, very special chain pin. Maybe it’s like redoing your handlebar tape or filing taxes; these jobs only done once a year never go perfectly. Installing the Campagnolo chain is like what I imagine arming a field tactical nuclear weapon is like. It is cramped. It requires small hands. It requires excellent vision. It requires mechanical skills and you only get one shot at it. Luckily, for me, the whole mess was contained with a KMC 11-speed quick link, whew, done and dusted.

My point is, when one changes just one component on one’s bike, the change is very noticeable, The first few pedal strokes out on the road with a new chain is a subtle revelation. It feels different. It feels better. Damn it feels excellent.

Or is it all in the mind. This article was linked in the Velominati posts a while back. In a world full of anecdotal evidence I do enjoy an article where our perceptions are put to the test. Maybe my new chain feeling is all in my head? Who cares, I can still enjoy it and “in my head” is where enjoyment happens anyway.

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154 Replies to “That New Chain Feeling”

  1. A new chain is indeed a wonderful thing. No matter how often you clean and lube there is something extra slick and silent about a new one. What grease do the manufacturers put on them before packaging?

    Once a year though? I couldn’t wait that long except on the fixed because it’s 1/8th. Twice a year on the #1 and hardtail, every 3 months max on the wet/ winter bike. It’s been a long while since I too purchased a new cassette and the Park CC3.2 chain checker has been worth every penny of the £6 it was when purchased back in the day.

    To me chains are a throwaway consumable, a pleasing item to change out and saving money elsewhere, Dura Ace on the #1, 105 on the others.

  2. What JohnB said, I’m surprised it’s only once a year. After a big two month block, I had to change an 8 week old chain (it was Rival, because I can’t afford 1090 every two months).

    You probably could change it more often ;)

  3. About 1700 miles is it for me on a Record 11 chain, and it gets tossed. I always feel a chain is it’s best between the 200 and 1500 mile point. At least for me.

  4. Being the fat bastard that I am, and riding in hilly country, I’d be buying a lot more cassettes than I already do if I only changed my chain once a year.  That said, I don’t get that “new chain feeling” until there are a hundred miles or so under its belt.  Meanwhile, something feels slightly out of adjustment to me, even if it has a new cassette to go with it.

    Now, new cables, that’s a thing of beauty right out of the gate.

  5. I gave up on chain lube and its messes last winter. I bought to Campagnolo Chorus chains, and stripped the factory grease off of them. Melted a pot of paraffin wax, and dumped in some graphite. Added the chains, and let them stew in there for a while. I took one out, and put it on my new drivetrain, secured with a KMC 11 speed quick link. I just don’t have the patience to muck about with the pin.

    Every ~900km I need to remove the chain, and swap it out with the one that is entombed in the wax. Heat up the wax, and do the switcheroo. My drivetrain is silent, always clean, never needs lube, never leaves a mark on my leg. No visible wear on the cluster or rings. Granted I have to use a new quick link each time, but I won’t have to replace the drivetrain for a long time coming.

  6. My chains (Ultegra or DA)  last about 3000 to 5000 km. I replace them when my Park Tool checker tells me to.

    I am relatively new to this site, but isn’t all the talk about miles against at least one rule?

    @TBONE

    I’ve heard of this method before. Is it effective in wet conditions?

  7. @danny

    @TBONE – why do you think you need to change the Quick Link?

    The manufacturer says so, and I don’t want to snap one and have a bad time.

    @Flatlander

    @TBONE

    What kind of graphite do you use? And how would I go about getting some? Cheers.

    Home Depot, near the locksmith area, the powdered stuff. The paraffin can be found in the canning area of your local supermarkte

    @Hein

    My chains (Ultegra or DA)  last about 3000 to 5000 km. I replace them when my Park Tool checker tells me to.

    I am relatively new to this site, but isn’t all the talk about miles against at least one rule?

    @TBONE

    I’ve heard of this method before. Is it effective in wet conditions?

    mostly. I’ve done a few really wet races, and needed to swap the chain out afterwards, but everyone’s drivetrain was a mess anyways.

    Even though I live in Vancouver, I avoid riding in the rain, and if it’s wet out I’ll head to the velodrome, or the gym.

  8. @Hein

    It’s all the “bloody yanks” on this site that keep messing with the measurements. You’ll notice that @TBONE uses the correct metric for calculating distance, as well as demonstrating a significant level of meticulousness in the care of his drivetrain.

  9. @DeKerr

    Yes, I noticed that and I am considering trying his method for myself. I only don’t want to be forced to swap the chain – and throw away a ql – every time I drive in the rain, which is about once a week, unfortunately.

  10. @JohnB

    A new chain is indeed a wonderful thing. No matter how often you clean and lube there is something extra slick and silent about a new one. What grease do the manufacturers put on them before packaging?

    I love the lube that the factory uses. It is some warm bath of lube-goodness and i would love to be able to replicate it. I know this post is going to turn into a lube-fest. So be it.

    Once a year though? I couldn’t wait that long except on the fixed because it’s 1/8th. Twice a year on the #1 and hardtail, every 3 months max on the wet/ winter bike. It’s been a long while since I too purchased a new cassette and the Park CC3.2 chain checker has been worth every penny of the £6 it was when purchased back in the day.

    To me chains are a throwaway consumable, a pleasing item to change out and saving money elsewhere, Dura Ace on the #1, 105 on the others.

    Chapeau! Don’t screw around.

  11. @Joshua

    What JohnB said, I’m surprised it’s only once a year. After a big two month block, I had to change an 8 week old chain (it was Rival, because I can’t afford 1090 every two months).

    You probably could change it more often ;)

    It’s because I’m only 1/52nd of a Pro. You must be 8/52, or 15.4% of Pro. Yes, I could change it more often if I put in the awesome miles, which I don’t. Because I suck.

  12. @JohnB

    I just had my chain, chain rings, cassette replaced for the cost of about $1000 (included brakes and other stuff) because I was not paying attention, and wore the chain rings down badly. I guess it only took a few rides where I had not cleaned it properly for the damage to be done. I do about 9000K on this bike, and had not replaced the chain rings for several years.

    I live in Vancouver as well, and for the most part use my winter bike for rainy days, but my Cervelo has seen rain.

  13. @TBONE

    I gave up on chain lube and its messes last winter. I bought to Campagnolo Chorus chains, and stripped the factory grease off of them. Melted a pot of paraffin wax, and dumped in some graphite. Added the chains, and let them stew in there for a while. I took one out, and put it on my new drivetrain, secured with a KMC 11 speed quick link. I just don’t have the patience to muck about with the pin.

    Every ~900km I need to remove the chain, and swap it out with the one that is entombed in the wax. Heat up the wax, and do the switcheroo. My drivetrain is silent, always clean, never needs lube, never leaves a mark on my leg. No visible wear on the cluster or rings. Granted I have to use a new quick link each time, but I won’t have to replace the drivetrain for a long time coming.

    OK, I was going to call you an animal for removing the sacred Italian factory red sauce, Granny Campy’s family recipe. But your plan of wax and graphite is inspired.

    Do you think it extends the chain life or just rocks because it is silent and always clean? Silent and clean would be more than enough.

  14. Speaking of cheap idiot, when I changed the chain for the first time on the now #1 I cheaped out and got the SRAM chain for an Ultegra gruppo-san. Wouldn’t you know it never shifted right until I finally bought the more expensive but correct chain. On the bright side, constantly troubleshooting shifting problems *did* allow me to find a crack in the frame that was subsequently covered by the Fuji warranty.

  15. @TBONE

    I gave up on chain lube and its messes last winter. I bought to Campagnolo Chorus chains, and stripped the factory grease off of them. Melted a pot of paraffin wax, and dumped in some graphite. Added the chains, and let them stew in there for a while. I took one out, and put it on my new drivetrain, secured with a KMC 11 speed quick link. I just don’t have the patience to muck about with the pin.

    Every ~900km I need to remove the chain, and swap it out with the one that is entombed in the wax. Heat up the wax, and do the switcheroo. My drivetrain is silent, always clean, never needs lube, never leaves a mark on my leg. No visible wear on the cluster or rings. Granted I have to use a new quick link each time, but I won’t have to replace the drivetrain for a long time coming.

    I might just completely switch over to the KMC quick links. My 80% success rate on the pins is not too encouraging. Or when the Wipperman Connex 11 speed chains don’t require a trip to Germany to buy them I might go there instead.

  16. I think if you only change your chain once a year, you are not riding enough :-)

    I change mine every 3,000km which is about 4 times per year.

  17. Usually change Campa 10s chain, chain rings, and cassette all coordinated together. Used stuff hangs around the shop. A used Record chain is rigged as the pull on a overhead workbench light.

  18. @Hein

    My chains (Ultegra or DA)  last about 3000 to 5000 km. I replace them when my Park Tool checker tells me to.

    I am relatively new to this site, but isn’t all the talk about miles against at least one rule?

    @TBONE

    I’ve heard of this method before. Is it effective in wet conditions?

    Reminds me to check for stretch next time I clean the drivetrain. I will never discuss miles gone past. Miles behind me are forgotten (lessons during miles — not forgotten) and the only miles that matter to me are the ones I still need to ride.

  19. @DeKerr

    @Hein

    It’s all the “bloody yanks” on this site that keep messing with the measurements. You’ll notice that @TBONE uses the correct metric for calculating distance, as well as demonstrating a significant level of meticulousness in the care of his drivetrain.

    Hey now, easy on the name calling. I’ll have you know we know 1 and 2 liters quite well since we buy our sugary drinks in those volumes and we would have no idea of what a pound of cocaine looks like on the television since the cops use the metric system there when telling us what they caught various miscreants with.  The whole distance bit has been a bit slow on my ‘Merican brethren. And as an avowed (but currently misplaced) Southerner, I’ll have you know we find it rather quaint when you use the term “Yank” (a contraction of Yankee) to describe us all.

  20. DA 9000 chain – 3500km tops, nothing, nothing, like shimano factory grease, I get 100km plus before I have to use lube- to clean the chain. Clean it with a rag, lube it and clean all the lube off with a rag, golden.

  21. @JohnB

    A new chain is indeed a wonderful thing. No matter how often you clean and lube there is something extra slick and silent about a new one. What grease do the manufacturers put on them before packaging?

    Once a year though? I couldn’t wait that long except on the fixed because it’s 1/8th. Twice a year on the #1 and hardtail, every 3 months max on the wet/ winter bike. It’s been a long while since I too purchased a new cassette and the Park CC3.2 chain checker has been worth every penny of the £6 it was when purchased back in the day.

    To me chains are a throwaway consumable, a pleasing item to change out and saving money elsewhere, Dura Ace on the #1, 105 on the others.

    That’s a lot of chain changing. How ’bout tires? I go thru tires a lot more frequently than I do chains. Tires I like to change. But dang, I don’t change a chain as often as you are. The again, must be the Di2 ! Flawless shifts every time… couldn’t resist. Cheers all

  22. @Owen

    Speaking of cheap idiot, when I changed the chain for the first time on the now #1 I cheaped out and got the SRAM chain for an Ultegra gruppo-san. Wouldn’t you know it never shifted right until I finally bought the more expensive but correct chain. On the bright side, constantly troubleshooting shifting problems *did* allow me to find a crack in the frame that was subsequently covered by the Fuji warranty.

    Do tell of the Fuji warranty re said crack.   I have a paint crack that went for warranty on my SST and they said it was superficial and no structural damage.  Im left wondering whats gone on beneath the paint crack to cause it ?

  23. @JohnB

    A new chain is indeed a wonderful thing. No matter how often you clean and lube there is something extra slick and silent about a new one. What grease do the manufacturers put on them before packaging?

    If (big if!) I’m informed correctly, it’s lanolin.

  24. I changed the first chain out of my first Nr#1 after 1000kms. I wonder if that was a bit soon, but also wonder if it was quite a cheap chain installed at the factory (like, sub 105 standard).

    I now have an Ultegra chain on and it just seems to be a bit smoother, cleaner, etc than the original. So hopefully, especially now summer is here, I’ll get a lot more life out of it. Must get me a chain checker.

  25. @TBONE

    I gave up on chain lube and its messes last winter. I bought to Campagnolo Chorus chains, and stripped the factory grease off of them. Melted a pot of paraffin wax, and dumped in some graphite. Added the chains, and let them stew in there for a while. I took one out, and put it on my new drivetrain, secured with a KMC 11 speed quick link. I just don’t have the patience to muck about with the pin.

    Every ~900km I need to remove the chain, and swap it out with the one that is entombed in the wax. Heat up the wax, and do the switcheroo. My drivetrain is silent, always clean, never needs lube, never leaves a mark on my leg. No visible wear on the cluster or rings. Granted I have to use a new quick link each time, but I won’t have to replace the drivetrain for a long time coming.

    Dude that is Jedi chain wisdom – chapeau!

  26. I managed to get my bike shops chain gauge to keep so I can replace the chain before it skips and therefore damage the cassette. I generally go through two chains for every cassette but I’ve stopped wearing as quickly by a regular program of degrease and relubing particularly after a wet ride.

    During a wet week (I commute) I’ll wipe the chain with a rag after each day to reduce grit until it’s practical to do a full clean.

  27. OK the photo is from 2009, but notice the sign behind Cancellara. I wonder if that house is still up for sale…. seems perfect for Frank.

  28. By the way, @piwakawaka is onto it. That grease that chains come with can’t be beaten inside the rollers, and it’s a fuck sight easier to strip it out with degreaser than it is to get any decent lube back in there, and inside the rollers is where you want the lube, not on the outside.

    Whatever your flavour of lube, just apply lightly to the chain with factory grease in situ, then wipe off the excess. Keep wiping the excess off over subsequent rides until it’s time to apply a bit more, then repeat the cycle.

  29. My favorite (now that it is awhile ago) chain installation mishap came when I had the bike in the stand in the kitchen of our rental house. Trying getting the magic link connected under tension. Hand slipped, chain pulled, all went flying, and I hear a faint “tink.” A year or so later I found 1/2 of the link in a mixing bowl atop the refrigerator.

    Faithful homebrew luber here. Mix up a few jugs every few years, put in contact solution bottles, wipe chain, light relube, let evaporate. I get many KMs out of my chains, but I ride in a relatively dry and relatively non-dusty place.

    Campa on Campa, KMC on Shimano and Sram.

  30. @Ccos

    We may be “Yanks” – but remember this.  There are only two types of countries.  Those that use the metric system and those that have put a man on the moon!

  31. @Gianni

    @JohnB

    A new chain is indeed a wonderful thing. No matter how often you clean and lube there is something extra slick and silent about a new one. What grease do the manufacturers put on them before packaging?

    I love the lube that the factory uses. It is some warm bath of lube-goodness and i would love to be able to replicate it. I know this post is going to turn into a lube-fest. So be it.

    Once a year though? I couldn’t wait that long except on the fixed because it’s 1/8th. Twice a year on the #1 and hardtail, every 3 months max on the wet/ winter bike. It’s been a long while since I too purchased a new cassette and the Park CC3.2 chain checker has been worth every penny of the £6 it was when purchased back in the day.

    To me chains are a throwaway consumable, a pleasing item to change out and saving money elsewhere, Dura Ace on the #1, 105 on the others.

    Chapeau! Don’t screw around.

    I think the frequency of required chain replacement has a lot to do with how clean you keep it, how much you lube it, and how you ride.

    I clean my chain obsessively and have never had much need to change it until I started big-ringing more often and found it to stretch a lot more quickly.

    And, rather than just guessing at how many miles it takes you to fuck your shit up, routine use of a chain gauge takes the guesswork out of it.

    And DuMonde Tech is still the best lube out there.

  32. Oh, and the Connex quick link is my favorite; no more $30 Campa chain reconnection kit any time you decide its a good idea to take your chain off.

  33. @Barracuda

    Shifting was always a little spongy on the cassette, and the local wrenches were having a hard time figuring out why. They basically replaced every drive train component in a systematic fashion and it didn’t help, but they noticed a small crack in the paint where the shift cable entered the frame on the top tube. Reasoned that paint crack was due to crack in underlying carbon. Called up Fuji and a week later had a new frame.

    The shop guys definitely got a case of beer for that one.

  34. @frank

    @frank

    @Gianni

    @JohnB

    A new chain is indeed a wonderful thing. No matter how often you clean and lube there is something extra slick and silent about a new one. What grease do the manufacturers put on them before packaging?

    I love the lube that the factory uses. It is some warm bath of lube-goodness and i would love to be able to replicate it. I know this post is going to turn into a lube-fest. So be it.

    Once a year though? I couldn’t wait that long except on the fixed because it’s 1/8th. Twice a year on the #1 and hardtail, every 3 months max on the wet/ winter bike. It’s been a long while since I too purchased a new cassette and the Park CC3.2 chain checker has been worth every penny of the £6 it was when purchased back in the day.

    To me chains are a throwaway consumable, a pleasing item to change out and saving money elsewhere, Dura Ace on the #1, 105 on the others.

    Chapeau! Don’t screw around.

    I think the frequency of required chain replacement has a lot to do with how clean you keep it, how much you lube it, and how you ride.

    I clean my chain obsessively and have never had much need to change it until I started big-ringing more often and found it to stretch a lot more quickly.

    And, rather than just guessing at how many miles it takes you to fuck your shit up, routine use of a chain gauge takes the guesswork out of it.

    And DuMonde Tech is still the best lube out there.

    The chain and chain ring on a SRAM Force CX1 last for about 1,500kms in winter if you’re lucky no matter how much you clean them

  35. @RedRanger

    Thanks for pic. When reading this post earlier today, already went browsing for an appropriate Park tool to check my chains, and found the one you put on later. Good to get confirmation that’s the one to get. Does it (have to) make a distinction between chains for cassettes with say 5-6 or 9-11 cogs? My old steel bike would fall into the first category (6 cogs was the thing back then). Or is only chainwidth different but length same?

  36. @Rick

    @Ccos

    We may be “Yanks” – but remember this.  There are only two types of countries.  Those that use the metric system and those that have put a man on the moon!

    …which was accomplished with science that relied on the metric system…

  37. @Rick

    @Ccos

    We may be “Yanks” – but remember this.  There are only two types of countries.  Those that use the metric system and those that have put a man on the moon!

    Wasn’t it that Mars lander that tried to use both based on the US not realising the Euro partner used metric.  Result being that it was travelling a tad quickly when it met the surface of Mars………………….

  38. I use the KMC master links with my Campa chains (Campa specific), work well for me, but plenty of folks love the Connex links.

    And yes, as Frank writes, cleanliness and checking go a long way. I remember an LBS mechanic saying he tossed his chains at 1200 km. I regular get far, far more than that out of a chain. Buy a chain checker tool, use some calipers or Verniers and take the guess work out of it.

    I also rotate through three chains at a time on my road bikes. Read about it on a forum when I was a Pedalwan and it has worked well. Buy a bunch of chains and links at a time, then simply chart via my odometer and swap out at 2500km. I continue to rotate through until they’re done, I get 2-3 rotations out of most chains. Works for me and I’ve got it down by now.

  39. @unversio

    @Gianni

    Bar tape 3 to 4 times a year — and utilize a winter drivetrain and a summer drivetrain. This guards the Principle of Silence all year.

    As much as I’d like to replace it, the fizik microtex glossy on my LOOK is going strong after a few years. It looks new, those guys have to make less awesome tape.

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