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  1. #1
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    Tandem drive chains

    Have been using SRAM 951 chains since 2007. We've had no issues with them until recently. I change out the drive chain every six months as a precaution (in the main) and due to some chain stretch (~1/16 over six months, but chains are much cheaper than chainrings and cassettes).

    Out yesterday on the bike and snapped a chain. This chain had 1.5 rides on it from new, as we'd snapped a chain two rides ago that had been on the bike only since August. I have two more new-in-box SRAM 951 chains that I'm hesitant to install on the bike. It would seem that there is/was a bad batch of SRAM chains out there, but from all appearances on the chain and packaging, there's no way to identify when it was made. Chain failure occurred with the side plates separating. The first was while shifting, the failure yesterday was in low-torque flat riding with no shifting, but we had just spent a half-hour climbing a switchback singletrack.

    Two questions - 1. Is/has anyone else experienced unexpected failures of SRAM chains recently? 2. Are there suggestions for another manufacturer? We'll need a new drive chain for next weekend.

    Chain failure is NBD; since I swap out chains relatively frequently I carry my stash of SRAM powerlinks. More the principle of the thing, especially on that 1.5 ride chain from yesterday.

  2. #2
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    Don't know if you have cross posted, but the Drivetrain section may be more fruitful for responses?

    How many hours riding do you do in 6 months?

  3. #3
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    More of a tandem-related thing, so I thought I'd stick it here. MTBTandems spec all their stuff with the same chains I use. Doubt even Clydes on singles put as much power through the drive chain as a tandem team.

    Typical riding in 6 months is ~600 miles or so. The Aug-Dec chain probably had half that due to other factors.

  4. #4
    "the big red train"
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    Julian, I had the same issue with chains this August when we were heading to Mammoth. I like to use the 7701 XTR chain and I put a new chain and cassette about a week before our vacation and got 2 rides then up in Mammoth we broke the chain. Thank goodness for the Sram powerlink, no problem and I happened to have a spare new chain.

    You know its just like tubes, you go for years without any issues them it you get a flat everyother ride?

    I'd just check everything and make sure chainrings and cassette are good and install the new back-up chain you have.

  5. #5
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    Most of the chain issues I have had on the tandem have been the result of bad shifts( one or both of us not letting off the power when shifting).Some result in immediatly peeling a link and others may take a day or two. We use SRAM PC991 chains. The most inconvienient one occured last year during AORTA. We had just arrived at DuPont SF, I unloaded and assembled the tandem, we got on to ride over to the group and the first pedal revolution separated the drive chain. Some digging around for quick links solve the problem but not my choice for starting a ride. I have switched to KMC chains on the road tandem and am considering them for the Ventana.
    The price of the SRAM chains is much cheaper though and I also switch drive chains about 2-3 times a year on the Ventana.
    Ed and Pat Gifford
    the Snot Rocket tandem

  6. #6
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    Gave up on SRAM chains years ago for tandem use for the same reasons. Knock on wood but with nickel plated Wipperman chains I have had no tandem chain issues for going on maybe 5 or more years now. Seem to wear very well too.

  7. #7
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    Up until these most recent failures, I haven't had any issues with 951s going back to 2007. From the looks of mtbtandems.com build specs, Alex uses 'em as stock.

    However, it may be a non-issue if you can go 3x on a Wipperman vs. a 951.

  8. #8
    Schipperkes are cool.
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    If the SRAM chain broke somewhere other then the Power Link, it is a fault of the chain. I see a Lot of SRAM chains break at the pin/outer plate. There have been many bad batches of SRAM chains in the last 12.5 years. I rarely see Shimano chains have that break on a link that was Factory installed.
    Also, for the best shifting, keep the rear derailleur and the chain of the same manufacturer. ie Shimano rear derailleur & SRAM chain is the sloppiest shifting possible & SRAM rear derailleur with a Shimano chain is the fastest shifting, but the most anal.
    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee
    Better suited to non-aggressive 125# gals named Russell.

  9. #9
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    I rarely have had problems with SRAM chains, run them on all of my bikes, except for my Campy equipped road bike, in which I use a Wipperman chain.
    I switched from Shimano chains to SRAM, because I was breaking the Shimano chains and you had to use that stupid pin system Shimano was using(maybe they still the pin) but have been very happy with SRAM chains.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane Jeff View Post
    I rarely have had problems with SRAM chains, run them on all of my bikes, except for my Campy equipped road bike, in which I use a Wipperman chain.
    I switched from Shimano chains to SRAM, because I was breaking the Shimano chains and you had to use that stupid pin system Shimano was using(maybe they still the pin) but have been very happy with SRAM chains.
    + 1 or 2 on the SRAM chains. Busted Wipperman chains on road tandem. Great results with SRAM, did not like the pins on Shimano.

    991 and 951 have both worked well. Agree about SRAM with SRAM etc.

  11. #11
    PMK
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    All the bikes for us, all SRAM chains.

    For experienced teams, schoolboy mistakes can still happen. Is there maybe just a few highly loaded shifts possibly causing the concern?

    Maybe they are just a bad batch of chains as mentioned.

    AORTA 2011 was a year for the Powerlink...there were some broken chains, most appeared to be caused by a heavy load downshift during a climb.

    Hope it gets resolved.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by PMK View Post
    For experienced teams, schoolboy mistakes can still happen. Is there maybe just a few highly loaded shifts possibly causing the concern?
    On the 5-month chain that broke - perhaps. It did break while shifting and going uphill, but honestly the shift wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

    On the 1.5-ride chain? No shifts when it broke - flat fire road, light loading. As mentioned, we'd just spent a half-hour climbing singletrack before topping out on the flat, but that's nothing out of the ordinary.

    I called SRAM. They didn't admit to any issues with chains, even though there are sufficient reports on the intertubes to indicate a bad batch here and there (mostly pointing to poor/insufficient hardening). But as SRAM don't deal with end users, I'd have to submit the chain to a bike shop and have them submit it to SRAM. For a $15 chain, I don't see the point, nevermind I don't have a LBS I frequent.

    I ordered a Wipperman, and will keep the new SRAM chains in reserve.

  13. #13
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    [QUOTE=Okayfine;

    On the 1.5-ride chain? No shifts when it broke - flat fire road, light loading. As mentioned, we'd just spent a half-hour climbing singletrack before topping out on the flat, but that's nothing out of the ordinary.
    [/QUOTE]

    With the chain that broke at AORTA in Dupont we had not ridden at all that day and had just put the front wheel on and turned the pedals once. I assumed I had made an errant shift the day before and it was just catching up with me, but now you have me thinking. There were a lot of broken SRAM chains at AORTA last year. Some of them you could hear the teams shifting going uphill under load but we are experienced enough not to do that. Who knows! We always carry 2 or 3 extra links and a chain tool on the Ventana anyway.
    Ed and Pat Gifford
    the Snot Rocket tandem

  14. #14
    Schipperkes are cool.
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    Power Links work great with Shimano chains, but the Link is softer then the Shimano plates.
    Shimano pins are Super easy with the right chain tool. The chain tools that do not push the pin all the way out obviously will not work.
    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee
    Better suited to non-aggressive 125# gals named Russell.

  15. #15
    PMK
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    Quote Originally Posted by giff07 View Post
    With the chain that broke at AORTA in Dupont we had not ridden at all that day and had just put the front wheel on and turned the pedals once. I assumed I had made an errant shift the day before and it was just catching up with me, but now you have me thinking. There were a lot of broken SRAM chains at AORTA last year. Some of them you could hear the teams shifting going uphill under load but we are experienced enough not to do that. Who knows! We always carry 2 or 3 extra links and a chain tool on the Ventana anyway.
    Ed and Pat Gifford
    the Snot Rocket tandem
    Some of the failed AORTA chains were obvious downshifts under heavy loads. I watched a couple of them.

    After reading this topic again from the first post, I now notice the chain model is the 951 series that failed for okayfine.

    For comparison,

    Our Ventana ECDM 26" wheeled machine runs
    Surly stainless chainrings on the timing side with a SRAM PC850 chain
    Rear drive is Salsa front ring, SRAM cassette and SRAM PC971 chain

    The Fandango has installed on it
    Shimano tandem timing rings and a SRAM PC850 chain
    Rear is a Middleburn Hard Anodized with pins / ramps front ring, SRAM cassette and SRAM PC971 chain

    The Fandango drive train is getting replaced probably this weekend.
    The following is the stuff picked up for the task
    Timing rings will be Middleburn Hard Anodized with no pins / ramps, SRAM PC971 chain
    Rear plan is another Middleburn Hard Ano with pins / ramps same PN SRAM cassette, and SRAM PC991 Cross Step chain

    The Co-Motion runs Race Face timing and drive chainrings. The Cassette is SRAM. Timing chain is a SRAM PC870 and the drive is a SRAM PC 991

    Don't know if that helps anyone or not.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  16. #16
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    Yeah I also noticed a lot of that type of shifting at AORTA. FWIW we also run Sram PC 991 chains and Middleburn hard ano rings.

  17. #17
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    From a brief search on the internets it would seem the 951 and 971 chains are the same, except the 971 gets nickle plating (perhaps only on the outside links). The 991 has full plating and hollow pins, otherwise the same.

    We currently have Middleburn coated chain rings (pins and ramps) and an XT cassette. We have a Raceface chain ring set in reserve, and a SRAM 990 cassette in reserve. FWIW, the 990 cassette only has one rivet per arm attaching the 34T cog, while the XT has two rivets per arm. Subjectively the XT piece feels much more substantial, and we've had zero issues with the cassette in over a year of abuse. Uh, I mean use.

    The Wipperman replacement won't arrive until next week, so one of my back-up SRAM chains will go on so we can ride this weekend. Wish me luck.

  18. #18
    PMK
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    FWIW, the PC991 is available in both formats of hollow pin and solid pin.

    Checking the SRAM site last night while posting, their site stated the PC991 Cross Step is their strongest chain.

    Somehow I also thought that PC991 regardless of labeled Cross Step or not were all that style. Don't know how they peen the hollow pin stuff.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Okayfine View Post
    From a brief search on the internets it would seem the 951 and 971 chains are the same, except the 971 gets nickle plating (perhaps only on the outside links). The 991 has full plating and hollow pins, otherwise the same.

    We currently have Middleburn coated chain rings (pins and ramps) and an XT cassette. We have a Raceface chain ring set in reserve, and a SRAM 990 cassette in reserve. FWIW, the 990 cassette only has one rivet per arm attaching the 34T cog, while the XT has two rivets per arm. Subjectively the XT piece feels much more substantial, and we've had zero issues with the cassette in over a year of abuse. Uh, I mean use.

    The Wipperman replacement won't arrive until next week, so one of my back-up SRAM chains will go on so we can ride this weekend. Wish me luck.
    Well, good luck with that. Let us know how the Wipperman chain works out. the ones I looked at seemed pretty pricey. We pay around $29 for the PC991. Ours does not have hollow pins or plates. I like the shifting reliability we have had using Shimano XT cassettes.
    I generally keep a Sram on the spare set of wheels we take with us when we travel. I have returned a couple of Sram cassettes that were so out of alignment that they wouldn't fit the splines on the rear hub.
    Ed

  20. #20
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    Jenson had the Wipperman at $40, -$10 for a previous missed delivery by Jenson, and $30 is cheap enough for a test. If I get a year out of it without undue stretch, I'll be happy and probably switch for the drive chain. I get much longer life on the sync chain, so I'll figure out what to do once it gets to 1/16" stretch.

  21. #21
    PMK
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    Quote Originally Posted by giff07 View Post
    Well, good luck with that. Let us know how the Wipperman chain works out. the ones I looked at seemed pretty pricey. We pay around $29 for the PC991. Ours does not have hollow pins or plates. I like the shifting reliability we have had using Shimano XT cassettes.
    I generally keep a Sram on the spare set of wheels we take with us when we travel. I have returned a couple of Sram cassettes that were so out of alignment that they wouldn't fit the splines on the rear hub.
    Ed

    FWIW, we don't run Shimano cassettes, every one has folded on us.

    Ed, in regards to those SRAM cassettes not being aligned for the splines, not defending SRAM, bur FWIW, there is a long allen headed fastener that ties the set of sprockets together. Often for us, this will loosen slightly with use. The fastener does not fall out just loosen maybe a 1/4 turn or less. Then the sprockets sort of float or pivot out of alignment on the fastener.

    To control this, actually deal with it, I have an old freehub body that I slide the loose cassette onto. Then without a hub flange in the way, I re-tighten the fastener.

    Also, for anyone with an aluminum freehub, to remove the cassette, you may need two chain whips so you can unseat the sprocket from the notch cut into the aluminum. Trust me, they wont come off with easy persuasian.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by PMK View Post
    FWIW, we don't run Shimano cassettes, every one has folded on us.

    Ed, in regards to those SRAM cassettes not being aligned for the splines, not defending SRAM, bur FWIW, there is a long allen headed fastener that ties the set of sprockets together. Often for us, this will loosen slightly with use. The fastener does not fall out just loosen maybe a 1/4 turn or less. Then the sprockets sort of float or pivot out of alignment on the fastener

    PK
    Good to know, thanks Paul. FWIW these were brand new , never installed on a wheel cassettes. We have never folded a Shimano cassette. You 2 need to stop eating your Wheaties.(LOL)
    Ed

  23. #23
    ballbuster
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    I have no tandem experience, but the only chains I ever broke were SRAM chains. I use XTR chains almost exclusively with a SRAM Powerlink (9 speed) and have had zero issues.

    We're not talking about the sync chain, are we? I don't see any reason to use anything but a good singlespeed chain for the sync chain.

    Yeah, with twice the torque being applied to the drive chain, keep a very careful eye on it. Check it often with a chain checker, and use good thick chainlube. The thin stuff has no film strength. I use Finish Line Synthetic wet lube or DuMonde Tech thick lube year round. So my chain looks dirty... so what? My chains last me for frickin' evar.

  24. #24
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    Wippermann chain came in last night. Installed it today. Looks very pretty all plated, but the master link isn't as easy to work as the SRAM piece. Proof will be in the pudding, so hopefully I won't be updating this thread for at least a year

  25. #25
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    SRAM quick links work fine on Wipperman chains if needed.

    Also, make sure your Wipperman connex link is oriented properly. There is a slight curvature to the link. That curvature needs to be the same as the rings an/or cogs. If it is upside down you will skip on your smaller cogs and it just is not happy that way. The Wipperman instructions have a tiny picture of the curvature matching the drivetrain.

    Once you have installed the connex link a couple of times to get the hang of it I found it the easiest of all quick links to use. It is a tad unusual though.

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