Chain Breaker. photo-Cor Vos

That New Chain Feeling

by / / 154 posts

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.

// The Bikes

  1. @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.

    Yeah, but then @TBONE ruins the mystique by admitting that he avoids Rule #9 conditions. Not that I ride in the rain much, mainly because it never fucking rains in the desert. A quick look at the weather history shows it’s only rained 1.75cm so far this year.

    @frank – I agree with the DuMonde Tech comment, love this stuff. Thanks for bringing it to my attention with your Reverence article.

  2. @wilburrox

    @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

    Tyres, now thats a whole other thread!

  3. @bea

    @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.

    Quite possible now I’ve read the wiki list of uses for this natural wonder substance. Keeping sheep dry to nipple lube and everything in between! Now where’s the VMH put her hand cream?

  4. @Ron

    @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 fi’zi:k microtex glossy on my LOOK is going strong after a few years. It looks new, those guys have to make less awesome tape.

    Good stuff that fizik. I must admit that I am changing bar tape at the half-life just for the sake of switching from black to white, or Cinelli to 3T to ZIPP, etc. And note that I changed the Campa hoods with the matching bar tape as well. I did ride fi'zi:k years ago but witnessed the micro-whatever surface degrading too quickly. I think ??

  5. Correction: It was ZIPP CX tape that lost its thin surface faster than you would imagine.

  6. @Teocalli

    @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………………….

    Um…yeah. Woopsiedaysies.

  7. @Ron

    @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 fi’zi:k microtex glossy on my LOOK is going strong after a few years. It looks new, those guys have to make less awesome tape.

    The only reason I ever change my fi'zi:k tape is when the cables or handlebars wear out.

  8. @JohnB

    @bea

    @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.

    Quite possible now I’ve read the wiki list of uses for this natural wonder substance. Keeping sheep dry to nipple lube and everything in between! Now where’s the VMH put her hand cream?

    Don’t know if any manufacturers are using it, but there are several lanolin based chain lubes available (Biomaxa, Inox, Lanotec). I’m guessing they could do double duty as chamois cream.

    Some KMC track chains (the D-101, at least) come with a little packet of that factory grease to pack the bushings of the quick link. It’s magical and smells heavenly.

  9. @Gianni


    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.

    Grease attracts dirt, dirt means grit, which wears shit out.

    @MangoDave

    @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.

    @TBONE ruins the mystique by admitting that he avoids Rule #9 conditions.

    Here’s me winning in the rain, on a waxed chain, this time last year. It should be noted that the last half of May, and the better part of June were a write-off due to the cough I developed from this race.

    @TBONE

    Ratio of wax to carbon? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Well, zero. If you mean graphite, I just dump a bunch in to the wax once it is melted.

  10. @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.

    Oddly enough, it’s less time and maintenance than standard lube to wax. 20 minutes or so every 3 weeks.

  11. – I now use a generic use digital micrometer of 9$ from ebay to measure my chain stretching, in centesimals of milimeter. I like to change them when 10 links measure 133,30mm. So not only I check it, but I see when that number is approaching. So there are no surprises.

    – I use only the best chain; KMC X10 SL, or X11 SL. Much better than shimano, which is way better than sram and campy (i´m talking chains only here).

    – Was lube, like skirt of finish line wax seems to be the best for fair weather, you have to re lube every ride, just a bit. Chain clean for many many miles. In rain it doesn’t work, it goes out after 30km. spring-autums; finish line red. winter: finish line green.

  12. @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.

    Interesting. So, the shifting issue went away when you switched back to the Ultegra chain? I also switched to a SRAM chain (easier to remove and replace for cleaning) but it hasn’t functioned as well as the Ultegra.

  13. @Bespoke

    @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.

    Interesting. So, the shifting issue went away when you switched back to the Ultegra chain? I also switched to a SRAM chain (easier to remove and replace for cleaning) but it hasn’t functioned as well as the Ultegra.

    Yeah changing the frame out helped a ton but it didn’t quite index right until I changed to the ultegra chain. Something about the shape of each link does it. In retrospect for what I paid for the bike plus wheels I shouldn’t have balked at a 30 dollar chain but here we are.

  14. @Owen

    @Bespoke

    @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.

    Interesting. So, the shifting issue went away when you switched back to the Ultegra chain? I also switched to a SRAM chain (easier to remove and replace for cleaning) but it hasn’t functioned as well as the Ultegra.

    Yeah changing the frame out helped a ton but it didn’t quite index right until I changed to the ultegra chain. Something about the shape of each link does it. In retrospect for what I paid for the bike plus wheels I shouldn’t have balked at a 30 dollar chain but here we are.

    Bitch to remove the pin every time you want to clean the chain though. Or do you clean the chain on the bike?

  15. @TBONE

    Well, graphite *is only* carbon, so yeah. I’m just interested in the ratio becase spend my working hours in a world where ratios like that matter. But in this case there may be some tolerable slop. So some carbon added to some wax may be a fine working solution.

  16. @Bespoke

    I use a master link. Maybe not a purist in that regard but if it’s good enough for Frahnk it’s good enough for me. If need be I’ll take it off but mostly it’s a CIP situation.

  17. @Bespoke

    Let me back that one up one step. I use the packaged screw with your mind breakaway pin the first time it’s installed but a master link thereafter if I have to take the chain off for some reason.

  18. @Bespoke

    @Owen

    @Bespoke

    @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.

    Interesting. So, the shifting issue went away when you switched back to the Ultegra chain? I also switched to a SRAM chain (easier to remove and replace for cleaning) but it hasn’t functioned as well as the Ultegra.

    Yeah changing the frame out helped a ton but it didn’t quite index right until I changed to the ultegra chain. Something about the shape of each link does it. In retrospect for what I paid for the bike plus wheels I shouldn’t have balked at a 30 dollar chain but here we are.

    Bitch to remove the pin every time you want to clean the chain though. Or do you clean the chain on the bike?

    I learned awhile back “why would you ever take the chain off to clean it?” Finish Line sells and brush/degreaser that cleans the chain in 5 min. Then I run it thru again with just warm soapy water (another 3 min). Then dry by running chain thru a rag.

  19. @unversio

    @Bespoke

    @Owen

    @Bespoke

    @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.

    Interesting. So, the shifting issue went away when you switched back to the Ultegra chain? I also switched to a SRAM chain (easier to remove and replace for cleaning) but it hasn’t functioned as well as the Ultegra.

    Yeah changing the frame out helped a ton but it didn’t quite index right until I changed to the ultegra chain. Something about the shape of each link does it. In retrospect for what I paid for the bike plus wheels I shouldn’t have balked at a 30 dollar chain but here we are.

    Bitch to remove the pin every time you want to clean the chain though. Or do you clean the chain on the bike?

    I learned awhile back “why would you ever take the chain off to clean it?” Finish Line sells and brush/degreaser that cleans the chain in 5 min. Then I run it thru again with just warm soapy water (another 3 min). Then dry by running chain thru a rag.

    It’s just so much nicer to soak the chain and cassette – everything gets clean. Plus, it’s less finicky without having to work around the frame.

    Anyway, good advice on the master link (I didn’t know that was possible).

  20. @frank

    @Teocalli

    @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………………….

    Um…yeah. Woopsiedaysies.

    Then there’s this little gem, which is going to mess up posting super bad, that’s for sure. Couldn’t find the metric calendar one…

    https://screen.yahoo.com/dan-aykroyd-metric-alphabet-050000965.html

  21. @Owen

    @Bespoke

    I use a master link. Maybe not a purist in that regard but if it’s good enough for Frahnk it’s good enough for me. If need be I’ll take it off but mostly it’s a CIP situation.

    Frank should follow Chris, who went to the trouble to find the proper Campy UT-CN 200 tool for sell from me. I had two of these chain tools at one point and sold one to Chris at a bargain. Removing and inserting the new connector pin is one of those small joys. Why would you (or Frank) pass that up ??

  22. @Bespoke

    Jenson sells a Shimano compatible master link. 6 for 20 bucks or something like that. Bought a set a couple years ago at the LBS.

  23. @unversio

    @Owen

    @Bespoke

    I use a master link. Maybe not a purist in that regard but if it’s good enough for Frahnk it’s good enough for me. If need be I’ll take it off but mostly it’s a CIP situation.

    Frank should follow Chris, who went to the trouble to find the proper Campy UT-CN 200 tool for sell from me. I had two of these chain tools at one point and sold one to Chris at a bargain. Removing and inserting the new connector pin is one of those small joys. Why would you (or Frank) pass that up ??

    I’ve dropped one under the shelves in the garage before and the VMH doesn’t like me scaring the neighborhood kids.

  24. @Bespoke

    @unversio

    @Bespoke

    @Owen

    @Bespoke

    @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.

    Interesting. So, the shifting issue went away when you switched back to the Ultegra chain? I also switched to a SRAM chain (easier to remove and replace for cleaning) but it hasn’t functioned as well as the Ultegra.

    Yeah changing the frame out helped a ton but it didn’t quite index right until I changed to the ultegra chain. Something about the shape of each link does it. In retrospect for what I paid for the bike plus wheels I shouldn’t have balked at a 30 dollar chain but here we are.

    Bitch to remove the pin every time you want to clean the chain though. Or do you clean the chain on the bike?

    I learned awhile back “why would you ever take the chain off to clean it?” Finish Line sells and brush/degreaser that cleans the chain in 5 min. Then I run it thru again with just warm soapy water (another 3 min). Then dry by running chain thru a rag.

    It’s just so much nicer to soak the chain and cassette – everything gets clean. Plus, it’s less finicky without having to work around the frame.

    Anyway, good advice on the master link (I didn’t know that was possible).

    Agreed. Remove the cassette and polish each “sprocket”. The chain runs on a PRO axle with a 14t while you clean it. Running the chain thru the Finish Line also somewhat cleans the chain rings while you are at it.

  25. New Campa 10s chainset comes with a darn pin, so… I will upgrade my drivetrain soon enough.

  26. Clearly why Im so shit atm. KMC chain from ultergra changeout coming up. Then Ill be awesome

  27. A question; lube chain pre or post ride? a couple of the guys at the bike shop I work at advocate lubing post ride.

  28. @RedRanger

    A question; lube chain pre or post ride? a couple of the guys at the bike shop I work at advocate lubing post ride.

    Lube post-ride, wipe down pre-ride.

  29. @frank

    @RedRanger

    A question; lube chain pre or post ride? a couple of the guys at the bike shop I work at advocate lubing post ride.

    Lube post-ride, wipe down pre-ride.

    thats what I started doing after they told me the reason behind it.

  30. @RedRanger

    @frank

    @RedRanger

    A question; lube chain pre or post ride? a couple of the guys at the bike shop I work at advocate lubing post ride.

    Lube post-ride, wipe down pre-ride.

    thats what I started doing after they told me the reason behind it.

    Do tell more Obi Wan

  31. @Barracuda

    @RedRanger

    @frank

    @RedRanger

    A question; lube chain pre or post ride? a couple of the guys at the bike shop I work at advocate lubing post ride.

    Lube post-ride, wipe down pre-ride.

    thats what I started doing after they told me the reason behind it.

    Do tell more Obi Wan

    Let the love soak in overnight, and wipe off the excess pre-ride. As @Oli says, you want the love in the chain, not on it.

    But you also want none of the HATE in the chain, so clean it with a chain cleaner like the Park Chain Cleaner or this Finish Line one if it was exposed to any real filth like a muddy Roubaix or some such.

    While I use a quick link, its more out of stubbornness than reason; those chain cleaning tools work perfectly well and even help clean the cassette and chain rings while you’re at it. I almost never take my chain off, but like the idea that I can without having to buy a special kit to do it.

  32. @Barracuda

    Basically a freshly lubed chain is gonna attract more dirt and grit so it off sets the lube benefit. lubing post ride lets the lube work into the rollers a bit more also.

  33. @Ron

    Trying getting the magic link connected under tension.

    Why are you trying to join a chain whilst it is under tension? Put it onto the 11, and drop it off the chain ring to hang around the crank axle and there will be plenty of slack to join with no tension.

  34. @Bespoke

    It’s just so much nicer to soak the chain and cassette – everything gets clean. Plus, it’s less finicky without having to work around the frame.Anyway, good advice on the master link (I didn’t know that was possible).

    I used to be in that camp. Chain of and into a bath and agitate. These days though I have found some excellent soaps/degreasers and don’t bother. Then again I wash the bike/degrease/relube once a week so that probably is a factor. I also wipe the chain down each day after a ride (I have a theory that it’s hot so the lube comes off better) and this keeps the chain very clean to start with.

  35. @frank

    @Ron

    @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 fi’zi:k microtex glossy on my LOOK is going strong after a few years. It looks new, those guys have to make less awesome tape.

    The only reason I ever change my fi’zi:k tape is when the cables or handlebars wear out.

    Or somebody finds some killer orange cable housing for you….

  36. @RedRanger

    @DeKerr

    @KogaLover

    One tool to check them all. You are correct, it is only the width of the chain that decreases as you add cogs to the cassette. The length from pin to pin is constant… unless you apply too much V (or not enough care), in which you have to swap out the chain.

    Also, a 6 speed steel steed!?! Pics pls.

    Yup. Link length hasn’t changed. Park tools does make another chain checker that costs about 3 times as much to tell you the same thing the one I posted does. For a home mechanic this will work perfectly.

    I saw that pricier tool as well. But since my LBS uses the cheaper chain checker, I thought that that one would be pro enough. I just got Park’s TW 5 tork wrench and now need to find adapters….

  37. @RedRanger

    @frank

    Not according to Campagnolo

  38. @TommyTubolare

    Have the cows come home yet? Been having this argument for years.

  39. @TommyTubolare

    @RedRanger

    @frank

    Not according to Campagnolo

    Nice!

  40. I’m just besides myself considering that all this thought can go in to the maintenance of the chain and I’ve never been one to really think at all about it. Strange as I love obsessing about my bikes but the chain’s just not been on radar. Hmmm…

  41. just ordered new chain for my 9 bike, a park tool checker, and lube. very influential this thread!

    love the ‘encrustations’ on the chain in the Campag guidelines!

  42. Damn, what a timely article. There’s me out of the office all day yesterday and missed its first showing. Funnily enough, I rode #1 on Monday night and noticed some clicks from the drivetain. Wanting to adhere to the PoS, I checked the chain. Stretched! 5 mins later a new KMC is installed and lubed. I always buy a couple of chains when I see them on sale (same for cassettes). Being of an age before such things as reusable links, I think they are the best thing since sliced bread. Shimano and Campag pins? Never again.

  43. Of course the replaceable link is not exactly new. I remember using these as a kid.

  44. Jaysus Gianni, you are a genius for getting the minutiae ball rolling! This article and discussion is perfect for a rare rainy day in Miami.

    Back in the day my LBS had an industrial ultrasonic degreaser and two days before race day the chain would spend 20 minutes in the bath then get hung from a rafter in the basement where it would get a blow job @120psi from the industrial compressor that ran all the air in the shop above. Then I would use a needle thin applicator to drop the perfect amount of lube into each link, one side at a time. Lastly a clean rag would polish the chain off of all external lube.

    I miss that ritual and dream of the day where I can replicate it. Yes, I know that I have striped off the factory lube, yes I could have used paraffin (graphite too), all those good things but this was a weekly thing and the chain was new every three to four weeks. Also I’m talking 5 – 7 speed casettes not this new fangled 11 stuff. The reason for the 2 day rule was to make sure the reattached link had a pre ride in case there was an issue.

    My chains were spotless, quiet and I never skipped a gear in 5 years… Now not so much but my only competition is the Sunday morning race to espresso!

    As a PS someone above mentioned degreasing, then rinsing and drying with a rag. The nice thing about the air compressor is that there is no chance of moisture remaining, which would interfere with the lube.

  45. @rfreese888

    love the ‘encrustations’ on the chain in the Campag guidelines!

    Spaghetti alla Vongole anyone?

  46. @Puffy

    @Ron

    Trying getting the magic link connected under tension.

    Why are you trying to join a chain whilst it is under tension? Put it onto the 11, and drop it off the chain ring to hang around the crank axle and there will be plenty of slack to join with no tension.

    Why was I, you mean. Those were my early days of personal bike maintenance. That’s why I wrote that enough time has passed that I can laugh about it, because I was pretty pissed I couldn’t find the link for around a year. Thank heavens the VMH decided to bake a cake and needed that mixing bowl!

    Also, I’m sure most of you know this, but the new-ish Park Tool chain tool works on all the chains I use, Campa, KMC, Shimano, etc. I’m only on 9 and 10 though, no 11.

    For me, first installation of Campa I use the pin. If I mess it up, I have a KMC Campa-specific master link on hand. After the first chain breaking, I then install a master link and can remove/reinstall easily whenever needed.

  47. @frank

    But you also want none of the HATE in the chain, so clean it with a chain cleaner like the Park Chain Cleaner or this Finish Line one if it was exposed to any real filth like a muddy Roubaix or some such.

    Chains already have a hard enough life (Greasy, Dirty, Muddy, Always Under Power), we don’t need to burden them with HATE as well.

  48. @TommyTubolare

    @RedRanger

    @frank

    Not according to Campagnolo

    Drivetrain gets cleaned with Motorex “dry” lube after each ride, then Finish Line clean 2 to 3 months thereafter.

  49. @RedRanger

    A question; lube chain pre or post ride? a couple of the guys at the bike shop I work at advocate lubing post ride.

    Post ride always the lube to “seep” as it sits waiting for the next ride.

  50. The best part of this chain deal (for me) is finding the best chain deal to buy. Chain rings are stock piled in the shop. And then I confirm there is an appropriate or new cassette to complete the deal.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

/js/magnific-popup/jquery.magnific-popup.js">
Skip to toolbar