Author Topic: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.  (Read 2817 times)

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Offline sanuk

To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« on: June 16, 2010, 12:21:45 am »
On my last trip via some of the mountains of northern Laos I often didn't have the right gear at the right time which resulted in some nasty crunching noises when I geared down under pressure. Sometimes it was just that the climbs were so long I needed to shift lower as I tired.   OK.  Maybe that's not what the pros do.  They figure it all out in advance. I also had a problem with the derailer guard having got bent in when the bike was on the roof of a bus.  I'm usually better at predicting the right gear when approaching a hill but I still have the same original chain which has now down around 2 - 3,000 kms.  1,500 miles? 
Now I'm about to attempt something like a 2,000 mile trip in the US.  The chain looks and feels good: I clean it after every trip and there's no excessive slack and the gears are adjusted right and the cassette doesn't look worn either.  I only use this bike for touring trips.  But then there's that thought: out in the middle of nowhere and bang!  A broken chain.  Worse than a flat tyre. 
I've read how with the aid of a chain tool you can supposedly shorten the chain and just ride on to the next bike shop in one gear, or something like that, but I've never had to use a chain tool before and wouldn't want to have to learn by the side of the road in the middle of the Sierra Nevada!
So what's the consensus?  Get a new chain fitted before I start, which would also probably mean getting a new cassette and then there's always the front crank too?  But who would want the weight of a spare chain?  What in fact are considered to be the essential repalcement parts one should take along, even assuming there're plenty of bike shops enroute?  So far I haven't taken more than a puncture repair kit and a couple of tools.

Offline univac

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2010, 12:52:10 am »
Now I'm about to attempt something like a 2,000 mile trip in the US.  The chain looks and feels good: I clean it after every trip and there's no excessive slack

How do you know there's no excessive slack (yes, I'm testing you!). :-)

... But then there's that thought: out in the middle of nowhere and bang!  A broken chain.

If it makes you feel any better, I've never broken a chain in my long life. :-)  It doesn't mean it won't happen, of course, but I think you're worrying too much about it.

I've read how with the aid of a chain tool you can supposedly shorten the chain and just ride on to the next bike shop in one gear, or something like that, but I've never had to use a chain tool before and wouldn't want to have to learn by the side of the road in the middle of the Sierra Nevada!

If you've never changed the chain on your bike before why not spend the $10 - $15 and change it before the tour and you'll get the practice!

I'm not sure about your bike, but I have a Rohloff hub and there's no way I can shorten the chain if it breaks.  Carry some spare chain links with you.

So what's the consensus?  Get a new chain fitted before I start, which would also probably mean getting a new cassette and then there's always the front crank too?  But who would want the weight of a spare chain?

I would change the chain before starting the tour.  The cost is trivial unless you have are using a premium chain of some sort.

I think you meant front chain ring rather than crank?  I actually changed my front chainring before my tour, in addition to the chain, but only because it was already significantly worn.

FWIW, I carried a spare chain with me on my tour of Canada last year (>8,500km/5,300mi).  I didn't find the extra weight that big a deal.  I had zero mechanical problems and zero flats.

What in fact are considered to be the essential replacement parts one should take along, even assuming there're plenty of bike shops enroute?

Whoa!  That's a whole 'nother thread right there!  You can find tons of packing lists on Crazy Guy on a Bike and probably here too.

Offline cgarch

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2010, 01:47:54 am »
univac has good advice. I've never broken a chain either but my spare chain parts and chain tool saved someone else's ride once. It happens. You can either be stuck somewhere and depend on others to get to the next bike shop (which is where?) or be prepared to fix most anything that comes along. There have been other threads on what you should bring - checking out CGOAB is an excellent source.

cg

Offline whittierider

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2010, 02:02:59 am »
I carried a chain tool for 50,000 miles and never needed it, so I quit carrying it.  If you go with other people, it's easier to justify one of this or that for the whole group than to justify having one person carry everything he probably won't need.

As far as actual breakage, with normal good shifting practice I wouldn't worry about it as long as you don't use Wippermann chains.  I have read way too many first-hand accounts of people breaking those, many of them when the chain was brand new or almost new, and none of them were at the place where the ends were joined together for installation.  It seems Wippermann, at least a few years ago, had a sporatic problem with their riveting machine cracking the side plates.  I don't know if it has been 100% taken care of.  Until I'm sure, I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.

Offline waynemyer

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Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2010, 07:29:31 am »
As far as actual breakage, with normal good shifting practice I wouldn't worry about it as long as you don't use Wippermann chains.
You're not the first person I heard smack-talk Wippermann chains.  I've never had a problem with them and would only use Wippermanns for many years.  I begrudgingly changed back to SRAM recently because I was having a hard time finding the Wippermann chains locally. 

I have broken SRAM and Shimano chains, of course in the dead of winter at the exact mid-point of my ride.   ;D  My chain tool and a spare split link took care of that quickly.
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Offline rvklassen

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2010, 08:15:40 am »
Your real question is whether your chain is due to be replaced, and if not, will it come due before your trip is out.
If you're worried about breakage there's always a master link.  But I can't see much value in taking along a master link and/or chain tool if you don't know how to use them...

Depending on how clean it stays, a chain (on a single) tends to be good for 2,000 to 4,000 miles.  Much less on a mountain bike being used as intended.  It's the grit that wears down the chain.  The way to know whether it needs replacement is to look at the length of 12 links pulled taut. Google "chain stretch" or "bicycle chain wear".  If you can't tell the difference between 12 links (same position on first and last) and 12 inches, and you have a good ruler, and good eyes, you're still good.   Once you can measure 1/16" of apparent stretch, it's time. 

If it is overly worn, you need to replace the cassette as well.  Your chainrings should be good for tens of thousands of km unless you don't change your chain frequently enough.  The first sign you didn't change your chain frequently enough is when you do change it, you will start to get chain suck on your smallest ring.

I wouldn't carry a spare chain.  And we tour on a tandem, so chains wear at twice the rate.  Because of the higher risk/greater cost of failure, we do carry a master link and chain tool.  On a long tour I would expect to change the chain en route, but would do that by mailing the chain to a known location.

My order of spares would have to be - tube, patches; tire; spoke(s); chain master link; batteries (for lights).  All in order of decreasing likelihood - to be added in as the length and remoteness of the trip increases.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2010, 08:47:27 am by rvklassen »

Offline paddleboy17

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2010, 01:16:30 pm »
Get a chain gage and check your chain often,  My general experience is that once a chain starts to stretch, it very quickly starts to stretch all the way.  So catch chain stretch early, and you won't be replacing cassettes and front chain rings.

A light weight chain tool does not take much space, and is generally good enough to just drive a rivet out.  SRAM chains come with the marvelous master link.  This has been alluded in other posts, but if you did not know about the SRAM master link you might not pick up on it.  You can buy them after market, and I have had OK luck using them on Shimano chains.  Always carry a spare master link.

I used to carry a spare Shimano Hyperglide pin, but then you need pliers to snap it off.  Convert to a SRAM chain at your convenience, but get a SRAM master link ASAP.
Danno

Offline sanuk

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2010, 09:58:56 pm »
Thanks.  The bike is already in pieces, packed and in the box, so I don't want to go hunting for the chain to measure it right now.  True, I'm not really sure it isn't stretched.  It just looks OK and doesn't seem to have any more slack than when new, although logically it probably has a bit.  According to the bike specs,the chain is a Shimano Deore LX, although the rest of the drive is all XT.  I don't mind getting a new chain if necessary, but I don't want to get into replacing the cassette plus the front chainrings just yet.  I've only had the bike a year!  In more than five years regularly riding my Trek mountain bike on and off the very gritty, dusty, muddy and potholed roads of this part of SE Asia I've had to change the chain twice and the cassette and crank once.  Isn't 'front chainrings' the same as the crank?  Don't know about Sram chains, but having a chain tool plus master link sounds a reasonable compromise.  I'll also check CGOAB.  I don't think I'm being overly paranoid, just trying to cover as many bases as poss before heading out on the highway.  Thanks again for the advice.

Offline univac

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2010, 11:39:34 pm »
I'm not really sure it isn't stretched.  It just looks OK and doesn't seem to have any more slack than when new, although logically it probably has a bit.

You need to measure it either with a plain old ruler or a guage.  Eye-balling isn't going to work for the majority of people.

I've only had the bike a year!  In more than five years regularly riding my Trek mountain bike on and off the very gritty, dusty, muddy and potholed roads of this part of SE Asia I've had to change the chain twice and the cassette and crank once.

Those 2 chains must've lasted so long because you cleaned and oiled 'em between every ride, right?!  ;-)

Isn't 'front chainrings' the same as the crank?

Um, nope.  The pedals attach to the cranks, and the chainrings typically attach to a spider on the crank, although on my bike, it's attached to the bottom bracket spindle.  

Also, FYI, chainrings are implicitly on the front, although they're still technically sprockets, as the rears are.

Don't know about Sram chains,

Don't get hung up on SRAM, Wipperman, etc.  It's all religion, i.e., subjective.  Do your own research, which is fun itself. :-)  But just be sure that you what size YOU need.  There's a variety of sizes out there.

... having a chain tool plus master link sounds a reasonable compromise.

On my X-Canada tour, I took a chain gauge, chain tool, spare chain and links/master to handle my driveline needs.  I took the entire spare chain 'cos I didn't want to shop for that specific chain (not a common one) or mail it to myself (what would happen if I arrive at the PO on a long weekend when the PO is closed?  Then I'm 'stuck in that town for a couple of days).  It was a lot easier to bring the spare chain with me.

I don't know if you've ever heard of Sheldon Brown (now deceased) but he has a LOT of the answers you're looking for at www.sheldonbrown.com   His web site may not have ALL the answers [to cycling] on this planet but it has a ton of info all in on place.  Once you start browsing his site you'll be up all night reading it!  RIP Sheldon.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2010, 11:53:05 pm by univac »

Offline CastAStone

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2010, 12:09:26 am »
Here's what I do, and what all of you should do.

Carry 2 sets (4 total) SRAM Powerlinks (whether you use a SRAM chain or not). Make sure you get the right widths. Ask your LBS for a short length of extra chain off of a bike they recently built up (I ask for 5 complete links - 10 total links). Make sure you get the right width; it doesn't matter the brand/model. All of this will take up about 1 square inch and add maybe 2 ounces. Make sure your multitool has a chain breaker on it, or carry a tiny one with you (they make ones that fold to the size of a golf pencil).

If you break one link, break it off and use the quick link in its place until you can get to a bike shop. If you damage a part of the chain, take that part out, put your length of chain in its place (or break your little length and use a portion of it) using the 2 sets of quick links at either end.

Zang zadam. You're not screwed if your chain breaks, you've only spent like $6, and you're barely carrying anything.

Offline CastAStone

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2010, 10:50:32 am »
One last thought about chains for touring: The SRAM 870/970/1070 is the hardest chain you can buy in terms of metal density. In theory at least, that means it should break the least often.

Offline JayH

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2010, 11:07:09 am »
As a user of mostly SRAM chains, I've yet to break one commuting or touring. I have had to use my chain tool which I highly suggest you learn how to use one cause it's just plain good. :-)

I had a derailleur pulley cage bolt break off due to shear metal fatigue. Just riding along, the cage was sucked up in the seatstay (fortunately, didn't get sucked into the wheel) and I had to take the chain off the der and take a few links off to run it as a singlespeed. 

Jay

Offline paddleboy17

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2010, 11:51:14 am »
I've had to change the chain twice and the cassette and crank once.  Isn't 'front chainrings' the same as the crank?  Don't know about Sram chains, but having a chain tool plus master link sounds a reasonable compromise.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Shimano and their need to design parts that cannot be repaired.

Some cranks have chain rings that can be serviced (replaced) and some do not.  Shimano changes the way that chain rings fasten to the crank constantly so that even if your chain ring can be replaced, you may not be able to buy a replacement.  I run 8 speed XTR on my mountain bike, and the matching 11-32 cassette is not available anywhere, and has not been for 5 years.

If you are diligent about servicing the chain, you can go through the life of the bike with the original cassette and front chain rings.
Danno

Offline sanuk

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2010, 03:34:38 am »
That's good to know.  Yep, I'm a pretty diligent chain cleaner. Can't ride for long with a dirty one.  I use one of those plastic chain baths - as I refer to them.  Pour in a bit of washing-up liquid and some warm water and spin the pedals.  That's it.  First I give it a scrub with a toothbrush dipped in diesel.  Fairly toxic stuff but great degreaser without leaving it all dried out as gasoline would. 

Offline Westinghouse

Re: To have or have not part 2: spare chains,etc.
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2010, 04:27:03 pm »
IMO a new chain and freewheel / cassette are insurance against a drive-train breakdown. I have bicycle toured about 37,000 miles (59,000 kilometers) using cheap Wal Mart chains. A chain broke on me only once, and that was because I overused it. I used it to cycle from Florida to California. After motoring back to Florida I used it for months locally. Then, I set out again from Florida to California with the same chain. It broke
in Mobile, Alabama. I used a chain tool to put it back together, and bought a new one. Generally speaking, a new chain should get you there without any problem as long as you keep it well lubed. A chain tool may very well be nothing more to you than useless weight, but I would not advise against taking one. They can be comparatively light weight.

If you have new, quality equipment the most you should have to deal with are punctured tubes and perhaps broken spokes on the freewheel side of the back wheel, and possibly not those either. Of course, brake rubber wears down.