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  1. #1
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    Drivetrain Wear without Chain Stretch?

    For the first time in 15 years I've just replaced the chain on my Gary fisher hardtail. I've checked chain length occasionally over the past few years, and there was zero chain stretch. I even had a couple of mechanics double-check to confirm. I don't know how many miles I've ridden one the bike but I wouldn't be surprised if it was around 10K.

    I've replaced with a kmc 9 speed chain and it shifts very nicely on the stand. No problems.

    However, while riding it can skip at higher torque (in the rear), mainly when I just start up pedaling. The derailleur has recently been adjusted at a shop.

    Is it possible for the sprockets and/or chainrings to be worn even if the chain never stretched? Some of the teeth on the chainrings and cogs look a bit worn but not extremely so.

    So, new chain, rear derailleur adjusted, so the rings or cogs must be the culprit.

    I can't use the old chain again. I trashed a couple of links trying to push out pins with a super cheap chain tool which simultaneously broke while pushing a link in without pushing out the pin.

  2. #2
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    Worn chain wears the cassette so that a new chain will skip on it. I absolutely do not believe your chain wasn't "stretched" from wear. On a road bike, you might get 3000 miles if you're really diligent with lubing the chain and never ride in the wet. Most get 1500 miles, and often less.
    Do the math.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by westernmtb View Post
    Is it possible for the sprockets and/or chainrings to be worn even if the chain never stretched?

    Sort of. Some people spin easy gears and can put a lot of miles on a chain without stretching it much, but cogs and chainrings still wear.

    That said your chain had to have been stretched some and there's no doubt that you need a new cassette and possibly chainrings. Any time you change a chain with that many miles on it you can pretty much always assume that will be the case without even measuring it.
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  4. #4
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    Like the others have said, your chain did stretch and at least your cassette (and possibly your chainrings) need to be replaced as well. If you catch the stretch early enough, you'll just have to replace the chain for a few cycles before the cassette goes, but this was long overdue on your bike.

    I'm more concerned with how your chain has been measured for wear, esp. since you checked as well as multiple mechanics. If you don't resolve the issues behind how the chain is checked, you're going to run into the same issue again in the future. If you still have your old chain, check it again using the ruler method...

    https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair...n-on-a-bicycle

    Check how you're doing it and see if you can verify that your chain is actually past its prime.

  5. #5
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    If I ever got more than a season and a half out of my stuff, I'd consider it a win and wouldn't worry a bit about replacing the whole set. If OP got 15 years and 10k miles they should be thrilled.
    MERCY! MERCY! MERCY!

  6. #6
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    By the way, the chain does not "stretch" per se. The pins at the inner plates & roller wear and that causes the chain to elongate.

    There is no way that a chain with 10k on it is not well past worn out and probably did damage to the cassette and chainrings. As ctxcrossx said, measure the chain with a ruler. Those chain measuring tools are notoriously inaccurate. When I remove and clean a chain I will hang it vertically next to a brand new chain. It's easy to see when it gets to be a half link too long and time to replace.

  7. #7
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    easy : one link mesure EXACTLY one inch

    Mesure it with a good ruler , on 12 link , should mesure EXACTLY 12 inches.

    I change the chain when it gets to the 12' 1/8 mark
    "There is a big difference between kneeling down and bending over" -FZ

  8. #8
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    A 7-speed chain and drivetrain go the distance LOL (I have one that is from 1995 and still going strong!).

    It still amazes me how many people do not lube their chains. Such a simple thing that extends drivetrain life substantially.

    Chain wear varies widely for me... my cassettes and single speed cogs last for many years as I swap chains often to prevent them from ruining chain rings and cogs. When the chain wear indicator (Park CC-2) hovers around .75 in a couple of spots on the chain, I swap in a new one.

    I've run Shimano XTR & XT, KMC's (geared and SS) and Whipperman (SS) chains. 1/2", 3/32nd's, 8-speed all on my SS's plus, 9, 10 and 11 speed chains on geared drive trains.

    I generally get somewhere between 800 - 2000 miles on chains (ride year round on all sorts of terrain, in the snow, through lots of water crossings, etc). I wipe the chain off with a rag and re-lube after every ride.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueCheesehead View Post
    By the way, the chain does not "stretch" per se. The pins at the inner plates & roller wear and that causes the chain to elongate.
    End result is still the same
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  10. #10
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    Everybody knows what 'chain stretch' is but not sure anybody knows what it is like to elongate a piece of metal.

    I'm about to replace a chain that has stretched to the point of being elongated.
    I mean I'm about to replace a chain that is starting to show signs of wear.

    Feel pretty good that I'm registering around 1150 miles and March 3rd will be a year on it.

  11. #11
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    I never measure mine, just replace it after 500 miles or so and forget about it. Some may think that's foolish but chains are relatively cheap and I seem to get a lot of use out my chainrings and cassettes. Also peace of mind and perfect shifting so worthwhile to me.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  12. #12
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    I had a geared MTB this past summer for the first time in a couple years. First two chains had less than 450 miles on them and were whoop'd. Happily I still spend most of my time on a SS.

    I'm continually surprised by people that get thousands of miles out of a drivetrain and are shocked when they need a new chain and cassette. How long do you expect it to last? If you've had any chain on a bike for 5+ years, and it hasn't been sitting in a shed, you're going to need a new cassette with your new chain. BFD. Get a new cassette and go ride your bike.
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  13. #13
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    The cassette does look worn, I'd like to believe not extremely so, compared to my other bikes' cassettes with far fewer miles.

    A new cassette and tool cost what, $50? New rings, maybe $50. $150 for 10K+ miles doesn't sound too bad.

    And yeah, no chain stretch.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by westernmtb View Post
    And yeah, no chain stretch.

    If the chain had 10,000 miles on it (or even anything close) that is impossible.


    Cassette wear can be really hard to judge by eye.
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  15. #15
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    I put a new chain on every 500 miles, no matter what.

    One time, I listened to this guy tell me how meticulously he maintained his chain, cleaned it, lubed it, etc, and got XXX miles out of it. He was so proud that he wore out his drivetrain before he wore out his chain... duh..
    We don't ride to add days to our life, we ride to add life to the days we have left here.

  16. #16
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    I got 3,000 miles out of my last road bike chain. If your gears/ rings aren't horribly worn, you can replace the chain only. It will take a few rides for it to "match" the wear of the cassette & will feel a little strange until it does.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forest Rider View Post
    Everybody knows what 'chain stretch' is but not sure anybody knows what it is like to elongate a piece of metal.

    I'm about to replace a chain that has stretched to the point of being elongated.
    I mean I'm about to replace a chain that is starting to show signs of wear.

    Feel pretty good that I'm registering around 1150 miles and March 3rd will be a year on it.
    I am sure people do not understand "chain stretch". Some think the side plates literally stretch beyond their elastic capacity and permanently become longer, making the chain longer. Elongated simply means becoming longer. This happens during normal chain wear.

    Normally when you "stretch" a side plate to the point where it permanently deforms the chain snaps as you have surpassed the yield strength.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveRider View Post
    I got 3,000 miles out of my last road bike chain. If your gears/ rings aren't horribly worn, you can replace the chain only. It will take a few rides for it to "match" the wear of the cassette & will feel a little strange until it does.

    You may be able to do that but it will prematurely wear your new chain because it basically has to mill the chainring, cogs, and itself in order to mesh with worn parts.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  19. #19
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    ^ your nit-picking irrelevant minutia. Most of us understand how a chain "stretches". The point is not how, but when it happens the chain needs to be replaced.
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    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  20. #20
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    I know there are some that question the age of the OP's chain. I agree that in today's world, chains (and cassettes and chain rings) come and go rather frequently. But I do remember one of my older bikes ('03 Fisher) having a chain and drive train I thought would NEVER wear out. I mean, that thing saw YEARS of year 'round near daily riding. Thousands of miles. I certainly didn't complain. It was fitted with all original '03 era 100% XT stuff. When I finally swapped its original chain and gears (with current XT stuff), chains and front rings would need to be replaced every year. Cassette ~2 years. And the funny thing is, as the years went by, that particular bike saw less ride time. Maybe it was the quality of older XT stuff? I don't know. Never had another bike with a drive line that has lasted as long as its original did.
    You didn't quit riding because you're old, you're old because you quit riding.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by *OneSpeed* View Post
    ^ your nit-picking irrelevant minutia. Most of us understand how a chain "stretches". The point is not how, but when it happens the chain needs to be replaced.
    This is true, and I'm assuming everyone who responded knows the distinction between the two. However, for the OP, as well as informational purposes for those who find this thread later, it's probably a good thing to note at some point.

  22. #22
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    Chains are narrower now. There is less bearing surface between links. They will wear out faster.

    But there are other kinds of chain wear. If you are a spinner with a well-lubed chain, your chain will last a long time. If you get certain types of contaminants into your chain - even if it happens to mix with the lube that is on your well-lubed chain - your bushings on each link can wear before the plates "stretch" or pivot points ovalize. If you ever completely degrease a chain like that down to bare metal, you can hear all the bushings wobbling loosely on the pins, but the pitch length will appear to be in spec.
    The loose bushings mean the bushings mesh with cogs, but they are not tightly constrained so the cogs will see unusual wear. The new chain will not work because it does not mesh with the unusual wear on the cogs.

    And even with 7 speed, I've had a day of mud, sand, water, mica... the chain is done in pretty much one day. And it still measures in-spec, but the bushings are all wobbled out because all that abrasive infiltrated the pivots in the chain. This was an exceptional day of mud and high-speed water splashing in N. GA or TN. It was pretty rough on brakes too.

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  23. #23
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    Your chain was worn, it wore your cassette. Funny that you keep swearing that your chain wasn't worn, but clearly have the end result of running a worn out chain for too long - worn cassette.

    I get 500 miles per chain measuring with Shimano's tool.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveRider View Post
    I got 3,000 miles out of my last road bike chain. If your gears/ rings aren't horribly worn, you can replace the chain only. It will take a few rides for it to "match" the wear of the cassette & will feel a little strange until it does.
    You mean that the chain will have to wear down quickly in order to match the wear of the cassette and rings?

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by westernmtb View Post

    You mean that the chain will have to wear down quickly in order to match the wear of the cassette and rings?
    Exactly.

  26. #26
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    Just curious--hypothetical question: will a 15yr old NIB cassette and NIB chain ring (both circa 2004) shift and perform flawlessly with a brand new chain from 2019?

    My hunch is there may be a compatibility issue.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by bingemtbr View Post
    Just curious--hypothetical question: will a 15yr old NIB cassette and NIB chain ring (both circa 2004) shift and perform flawlessly with a brand new chain from 2019?

    My hunch is there may be a compatibility issue.
    If it's the correct chain, it will.

  28. #28
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    Why not revive a thread that's almost dead...

    I just came across a good article that discusses much of what was said here.

    https://www.bikeradar.com/us/road/ge...plained-46015/

  29. #29
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    I put a brand new chain on a 1986 Trek Antelope I bought off craigslist to replace the old rusted thing that was on there. The chainring/cassette are made of steel, so the wear was minimal or non-existant and just happened to work out fine.

    However, on a "new" bike (read: newer than like 1995...) if you go too long on a chain, you will be replacing your entire drivetrain.
    We don't ride to add days to our life, we ride to add life to the days we have left here.

  30. #30
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    That's pretty comprehensive, good article.



    Quote Originally Posted by Thustlewhumber View Post
    I put a brand new chain on a 1986 Trek Antelope I bought off craigslist to replace the old rusted thing that was on there. The chainring/cassette are made of steel, so the wear was minimal or non-existant and just happened to work out fine.

    However, on a "new" bike (read: newer than like 1995...) if you go too long on a chain, you will be replacing your entire drivetrain.

    Lots of chainrings and cassettes are still made of steel, the reason a new chain worked out fine for you is because there wasn't many miles on that rusty old thing.

    I started working in shops in the mid-80's and practically on a daily basis I had to explain to people why they needed a new cassette (or freewheel) after a new chain was installed. Some people say the old chains lasted forever but that's just urban legend.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  31. #31
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    What if I just allow the new chain to break in with the old cassette and chainrings? Will the skipping stop after several rides?

    What's the worst that could happen? Accelerated chain wear? New chain never shifts properly?

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by westernmtb View Post
    What if I just allow the new chain to break in with the old cassette and chainrings? Will the skipping stop after several rides?

    What's the worst that could happen? Accelerated chain wear? New chain never shifts properly?
    Well, why did you decide to replace only the chain in the first place? You'll basically be back at that point relatively quickly (but it'll likely take more than a few rides).

    What will end up happening is that the chain will break in to equal the wear of the cogs and chainring at some point. You'll find that it will progressively get better, with less skipping under pressure as it happens. It will cause rapid wear of the chain though which will also be accompanied by side to side wear, which will impact shifting performance.

    Assuming that everything is shot, which is pretty likely, you can just ride until the chain is broken in, and then just keep riding it like that. Your shifting will be sub par, but should be functional.

    In the end, you'll get to the point where everything will have to replaced (chain, cassette, chainrings, even derailleur pulley wheels. You're basically at that point now, it seems. Start saving money to get these parts and swap it all out when you want optimal shifting.

  33. #33
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    You didn't quit riding because you're old, you're old because you quit riding.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by westernmtb View Post
    What if I just allow the new chain to break in with the old cassette and chainrings? Will the skipping stop after several rides?

    What's the worst that could happen? Accelerated chain wear? New chain never shifts properly?
    The worst that will happen is you'll be out of the saddle cranking away and the chain will slip.

    I had a bad crank when I was a child. It slipped when I stood up to keep up with my friends. I have the broken tooth today that proves why I wish I didn't slip. LOL

    If you want the bike to just 'ride', you can. It will slip and will continue to slip. Less enjoyable of an experience.

    If finances are the concern, and you have the old chain, I'd say to just reinstall old chain until you can also replace other components such as cassette and maybe the ring(s).

    I replaced a chain ring on a bike that was toast (I wasn't skilled enough to know a chain should be changed routinely). I replaced the ring but then it wouldn't shift because one ring was too worn out and the replaced one was, well, it was new.
    I ended up with 3 rings and a chain.

    On a ride one day I was unable to ride up a hill because the ring was too worn out.

    There are pretty cheap cassettes available. Perhaps for the time being you can get a budget cassette and have it replaced cheaply. Then the other problems will go away.

    It's tricky to get a bike in tune with mismatched components. There are ramps on the cassette that may be worn down and the new chain can't engage them very well. Just a bunch of little things that usually need to work together and in this case it sounds like it's not too likely to work out as well as expected.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forest Rider View Post
    The worst that will happen is you'll be out of the saddle cranking away and the chain will slip.

    Yeah that's about the worst that could happen, and that can be potentially painful, but what will absolutely happen is that the new chain will prematurely wear out.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  36. #36
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    did someone ask for a worn chain? check this one out, probably 10k miles maybe more.Drivetrain Wear without Chain Stretch?-chain.jpg

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by scooterman View Post
    did someone ask for a worn chain? check this one out, probably 10k miles maybe more.Click image for larger version. 

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    lol, that's awesome!
    I brake for stinkbugs

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