A Broken Spoke And A Stretched Chain

I got off work early yesterday, which meant I could go for a longer ride.  In order to restore my karmic balance, the Universe decided this would be an appropriate time for my first broken spoke of the season.

After work today, I took my bike into the LBS and learned that this bike shop does not have a one year warrantee on the bike like my previous one did.  This means I’m out $26 for a new spoke plus labor.  Not a big deal, unless this becomes a recurring event as it did last summer with my hybrid.

The big deal is my chain, which the LBS mechanic has determined to be stretched.  I realize this sort of thing occurs eventually, but I was a bit surprised it happened after only 2,000 miles on this bike.  The mechanic said chains actually go bad around 800-1,000 miles.

800-1,000 miles!  I was incredulous.  My shock only grew when the gentleman quoted me a price on a new chain: $72. 

“Really?” I replied.  “I know of many riders who log over 4,000 miles per year.  You will have me believe they buy five chains every year at a cost of $350.  On chains.”

“Well,” he said, “They can last to a little over 1,000 miles sometimes.  But anything longer than that and you’re going to wear down your rear cassette and front sprocket which will cost you a lot more money to replace.”

I told the mechanic to leave the old chain on for now.  I need to think about this one a bit.

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19 thoughts on “A Broken Spoke And A Stretched Chain

  1. I’ve gone through several spokes on the past few years with my FSA RD-600 wheels. They are great wheels but tend to pop spokes every now and then. I think it’s the price we pay for lighter wheels.

    On the topic of the chain, hold up mate! I just changed my chain and rear cassette after riding 6,000 kms on them. Now, I know that’s a little extreme and I also admit that the last 1,000 km my gear changes were far from smooth, but changing it every 5 minutes like this bloke is recommending is bananas!

  2. Sounds like your LBS is a tad on the expensive side. I had a spoke go on my hybrid last month and Performance bike charged me $1 for the spoke including fitting and $20 to true the wheel As for the chain, I wore out the chain in 600 miles through the winter. Got a replacement on Amazon for less than $20 and fitted it myself. Not overly hard, just needed a few links removing to be the same length as original. Took maybe 30 minutes.

  3. Chain wear tools are cheap and can give you a good idea of when it is actually time to replace your chain. You can also measure this without a tool but it involves removing the chain. Changing the chain yourself isn’t a tough job. My riding is rather different than yours so perhaps you have different need but I suspect you can get by with a much cheaper chain.

    As your LBS Mech said you DO want to avoid riding with a worn out chain as it will quickly ruin your cassette and chainwheel. Been there, done that. The chain slip on on my winter bike was horrendous at one point this year necessitating a complete power train replacement. In my case, I replaced it with a cheap mix of new and used components from my local bike co-op.

  4. I have always wondered about chains, since mine never seem to wear out. But thanks for reminding me, Steve. I’m coming up to 5000 km since I bought the bike, so I should probably start thinking about it.

    1600 km seems extremely low to me. I’ve been told 5000 km and have read similar, but maybe it depends on many different factors. Still, it’s a big chunk of change every few months.

  5. I wonder how far stomping on the pedals up hill and using big gears affects chain wear. I certainly don’t do that but I have still changed mine fairly frequently on the advice of bike mechanics in shops. I do a lot of winter riding on gritted roads which probably doesn’t help. It must be a good idea to get a chain wear tool and then you’d know if you were getting a fair deal from the shop.

  6. I heard the same thing on the same day!!!!! There is a way to check your chain. Zin’s book on bike mechanics is very good, and there are others. I have gotten over 5000 miles on the Bianchi chain.
    Although I doubt I needed the chain on the LHT, because friends had checked it before I left, I bought it. Then he said I needed a new cassette, which is a possibility, because chains can wear the cassette down. I didn’t buy the cassette, and the bike rides perfectly. Even under a heavy load. The chain cost me $20! You can do it yourself, but probably don’t need it. Sounds like a beginning of the season scheme to me.
    Glad you didn’t “bite”

    • The best thing I learned from Zinn is to clean my chain nearly every ride. I’m not sure if this prevents the chain from stretching, but it certainly does wonders for the rest of the drivetrain.

  7. What perfect timing for me to read this!

    Last night, literally, we had our monthly bike club meeting and the guest speaker was a former mechanic for the HTC-Highroad pro cycling team. He now owns a pair of bike shops and one of the discussions was chains.

    He said yes – the standard wear mileage given for chains is 800-1000. But he said it can vary, depending on riding styles. According to him what wears chains out more than anything is shifting. He’s seen chains wear out at 600 miles and he’s seen the same quality chain last for 5,000 miles.

    I told him I had over 2,500 miles on the Unfat’s chain and at last check (around 2,350) it was still in great shape. He said that’s one of cycling’s dirty little secrets:

    A lot of the lower end products outlast the higher end more expensive ones. He said chains on entry level road bikes as well as shifters and brakes like Sora and Tiagra level (speaking Shimano) are built to not be smooth and fast, but to last. They are tanks.

    He said when you get to higher end chains and shifters and brakes, the in-ride quality goes WAY up, but the long-lasting quality goes down. He said the recreational rider should never get sucked into buying higher priced chains or cables or shifters — he said ask yourself “Do I want to go faster or have my stuff last longer?”

    He said prices for chains can run anywhere from around $50 to over $200. He said the $50 chains will usually give you 2,000 or more average use miles even though the quote will be 800-1000, which is the max for the higher end chains. He said definitely compare LBS’s because they will differ in price.

    He did confirm that keeping your chain in good shape will same you money in the run because – yes – a stretched chain will ruin a cassette and then you end up sending way more money than if you had simply replaced the chain.

    He did not discuss spokes.

  8. Thanks all for the comments – there’s plenty of food for thought here. Rather than drop $70 plus labor on a chain every 4-6 months, I think I’ll buy a $15 chain tool and learn to do this myself. I’m seeing chains online for as little as $20, so this doesn’t appear to be as costly as my LBS would like it to be.

    • I think that learning to change it yourself is a good idea especially considering the length of rides you are doing and your ambition to do longer ones. Knowing how perform a variety of routine mechanical tasks including working on a chain would be very handy if something goes wrong when you’re a hundred miles away from home. A small chain tool travels with me everywhere I cycle.

  9. I agree with everyone else, you need a new LBS… Actually you need an LFBS, local FRIENDLY bike shop!
    I have an Ultegra chain which is quite slim, it has to be for a 10 speed block. I have done over 1000 miles on it.. I checked it after reading your post and no sign of wear yet.. I do about 600 miles a month so I would get through about one chain a month on his calculations
    you do need to check the width of chain you buy and get one to suit your block or it will rub against its neighbouring cogs and the noise will drive you crazy !!

    • I’m with you. Of course, it does require a small investment in a few tools. I’ve got my spoke wrench and sitting the bike on a rack is a poor-man’s truing stand. I still need to get a chain tool, though.

  10. You also need an inexpensive casette tool and chain whip since most of the spokes you’ll break will be on the drive side and you’ll need to pull the casette off. Very easy.

  11. This article got me worried about my chain, so I took it to my bike shop here. The guy said I had another 1000 km or so in it and that it should last 6000 km in total, give or take.

    There sure is a wide range of opinion out there!

  12. Pingback: Adventures With Chains | There And Back Again

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