I have been remiss.
Thatch: “I’ll say.”
Thatch has needed a new chain for awhile. It was easy to tell. She didn’t shift smoothly, and seemed to have lost power. On the weekend, I fixed that with a $15 chain.
I use a chain wear tool and usually do not allow my chains to get so worn. The tool is easy to use. You place one end between 2 links and drop the other end down. If it drops all the way down, as it does in the top picture, the chain is done. If it is unable to drop between the links, like in the second picture, it means the chain is new and good for miles of cycling.
If you replace the chain before it is fully worn, you will not have to also replace the cassette. I generally get 2 chains to every cassette. However, if you spin a fully worn chain for any length of time, you run the risk of damaging not only the cassette cogs but the chain rings as well.
There are several things you can do to prevent premature chain wear. First, and foremost, clean and lubricate your chain regularly. And secondly, don’t cross-chain. Not under any circumstances (but we all do).
What is cross-chainging?, you ask. It’s what inexperienced cyclists do. It is what elongates a chain quicker than anything. Cross-chaining is when the chain crosses the centreline of the drive train. In other words, when your chain is on the large chainring and large cog on the cassette, or the chain is on the small chainring and the small cog at the back.
Thatch: “Ooooooh! That hurts.”
You can easily tell if you’re cross-chained. The chain makes an irritating noise as it rubs mercilessly against the other parts of your drivetrain. As a rule of thumb, I change chainrings when the the chain is mid-point on the cassette.
How often do I need to replace my chain?, you ask. There is no magic number. To a large extent, it depends on the type of cycling you do, how well you maintain it, whether you cross-chain regularly, and road conditions. I would suggest you purchase an inexpensive chain wear tool like I have and check your chain wear every month or two.
Thatch: “That sounds like the smart thing to do. Why didn’t you follow your own advice?”