Adventures With Chains

Regular readers will recall my post in late May where I discussed the surprising revelation that my chain was stretched.  With no organized rides, vacations, or other significant adventures in my near future, I decided the time was right to attempt a replacement.  I ordered a chain tool and 1o-speed chain from the good people at Nashbar and these arrived earlier this week.  Armed with my parts, the knowledge from several Youtube videos and websites, and absolutely no personal experience, I made the attempt this evening.

It was a near thing.

Park chain tool with extremely detailed instruction manual

The Second Law Of Thermodynamics states that all things move toward disorder.  This is why it was much easier to break my old chain than assemble my new one.  Armed with my brand new Park CT-5 chain tool, I quickly removed a pin from my old chain.  With the chain now broken, it was a simple matter to remove it from the sprocket, cassette, and derailleur.

Pushing the old chain's pin out

Following the advice from one of my Youtube videos, I hung the chain from a nail on my garage wall.  I hung my new chain next to it and was thus able to quickly determine the correct length required for the new chain (I did take into account the old chain was stretched).

Before installing the new chain, I took the opportunity to clean up my bike using TOTALLY AWESOME ORANGE, which once again made my bike sparkle.  The entire process up to this point took 15 minutes.  The next 45 minutes is where the drama occurred.

First, feeding the new chain through the derailleur was surprisingly difficult.  After a bit of fussing, I got the thing through and over my sprocket, so the two ends were dangling toward the ground on either end of the drain train.  There was only one small, simple thing left to do: attach the two links.

The Missing Link

My Nashbar chain has a nifty feature called the Missing Link.  When connected, two pieces form the final link in the chain.  The pin from either slide is held in place by the other piece, and one needs to merely pull on both sides of the chain to cause the pins to slide permanently into place.  Or at least that’s what the instructions said.  In practice, it was extraordinarily difficult to get this link to click into place.  I tried multiple positions (sitting alongside, behind, above, and lying beneath) to no avail.  I then removed the chain and tried to use my work bench.  I then tried using the pin I removed when I shortened the chain to the correct length.

Nothing worked.  It was hot.  I was sweaty, and the sun was setting.  I was in an ill humor.

Finally, I grabbed two thin screw drivers and inserted them between the links in the chain.  Using these screwdrivers as handles, I pulled them in opposite directions with a great deal of force.  The pins budged, but not quite into their final positions.  I pulled on the screw drivers with even greater force, to the point where I thought I might break the chain.

I heard a click.  Huzzah!

All done, in the dark

I inspected the chain and it appeared to be in good shape with no bent pins from my extreme measures.  I lubed the chain and put my bike and my tools away.  I had originally planned to give the chain a test ride tonight, but it was getting dark and I had already “enjoyed” myself as much as I cared to today.  Either the chain works or it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t work, I don’t care to know that fact tonight.

So the jury is still out on my chain changing experience.  I think the Park tool I bought is barely serviceable.  It required considered force to push the pins out and the tiny tool doesn’t give you much leverage.  The bargain-basement Nashbar chain was a bit of a challenge, but if it holds up over time it will have been worth the frustration during assembly.  Time will tell.


14 thoughts on “Adventures With Chains

  1. 🙂 good job.
    YouTube is very helpful, but the reality never seems quite as simple, does it. I wish someone had taped you doing it and put it on YouTube. Might have been good for a chuckle and perhaps a more realistic tutorial.

    • It would definitely have been worth a chuckle and would be very realistic. I’m not sure how valuable it would be as a tutorial. I also suspect it would be pulled by Youtube for excessive foul language!

  2. How about if you had arranged the chain so that the ‘missing link’ was loosely assembled on the top run of the chain and then applied pressure on the pedals to snap it into place? just a thought and may not be practical..

    • The problem would be that the link not completely closed would not accomodate a tooth from the sprocket or cassette. It might work, but then again it might derail. It is certainly worth a try – nothing else was working!

  3. One thing I always do when swapping chains is to hook 2 links of the new chain together with a piece of wire, an old coat hanger is good, this leaves the 2 ends you have to join free to work on without them being under tension. Hope that makes sense, I’ll elaborate further if it doesn’t!

  4. THe advice with snapping a snapping a missing link together using chain tension is correct, that is how I always so it at least.

    Nashbar brand chains are actually KMC Z-chains, I’m running one of these on my Nashbar touring bike now, I don’t think they are as good as a more expensive, KMC X-9, or any model of SRAM or Shimano chain. The reason I think this is that I’ve used them in the past and they seem to wear more quickly and shifting isn’t quite as smooth. The one I’m using now seems to be working well enough though so YMMV.

    The SRAM chains come with gold connectors which are reusable, they snap into place and easily snap right back out so you can take the chain off very easily and without tools. Its my favorite chain.

    You are on your way to bike maintence mastery, soon you’ll be building your own!

    • SRAM, eh? I will remember that. As for bike maintenance mastery, I think I have a way to go. I have a spoke wrench, tire levers, and a chain tool. I may be on my way, but it is similar to saying that finishing the first mile means you are “on your way” to a century! 🙂

  5. Clive’s wire trick to take the tension off is awesome!

    I use a quick link on all my chains similar to the missing link. They’re usually a bit of a pain to get on, but it does help to keep the tension off the chain.

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