Thursday, February 11, 2010

Check it.

It's been a while since I've gone on a nice long ride. I've done my fair share of grocery getting, commuting to the shop, and what not, but no rides for the sake of getting out on a bike. My plan is to change that soon, probably some time this weekend, so in preparation I decided to give my 'cross bike (my favorite bike...depending on what time of year you ask me...) a once over. I encountered worn out brake pads, which I expected, and an extremely worn out chain, which I did not expect. Which brings me to the point of this post.

Check your chain.

It's easy to do. Have your bike in the shop with a flat? Have the chain checked. Stopped by the shop to get a little air in the tires? Check that chain. Over time the pins in a chain wear down the plates and the chain lengthens a bit. A worn out chain wears out the rest of your drive train. If you ride for too long with a worn chain you risk spoiling your cassette for any other chain. It can cause chainrings to get shark tooth-y. A chain is the least expensive part of the drive train to replace, and the longer you can keep the expensive parts working, the better. How long should a chain last? It's a common and reasonable question, but difficult to answer. It's a little like asking how long a pair of socks should last. It depends on how you wear those socks, how often you wash them, etc. (Maybe not the most accurate analogy, but you get the point...). The best way to find out how your chain is doing is by measuring it with a tool appropriately called a chain wear indicator, or chain checker.

Here at Hub the chain checker of choice is (that sounds like it came from a 1950s ad...) is the ol' Park CC-3:

There are other tools out there, but I like this one for its simplicity. It tells you exactly what you need to know- either your chain is fine, it's wearing out, or it's worn out.

If I had listened to my own advice (or at least remembered to check it sooner), I wouldn't be investing in a new cassette before my ride this weekend...


  1. good advice!

    i thought readers might like to know that they don't have to go and and buy a chain checker to get a good idea of their chain's wear. since the links are exactly 1" long (pin to pin), all one needs to do is take a ruler to the chain (making sure the chain is tensioned).

    first, align one link pin to the start of the ruler, and look to see whether the 12th pin away from that one aligns with 12" on the ruler. if it is 1/8" past 12", your chain as worn a little bit. if it is 1/4" or more past 12", your chain is really worn and needs to be replaced.

  2. Oh yeah. I always forget about the ol' 'measure it' method (you know us mechanic types, with the gadgets and tools and whatnot...).

    Thanks, somervillian!

  3. yeah, i know the "having the right tool for the right job" bit, but sometimes improvising gets you there just as easily!