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How & When To Change A Chain On Your Road Bike

How & When To Change A Chain On Your Road Bike

(logo whooshing) – Maintaining a bike’s chain is something which is quite controversial with bike tech lovers out there because well, let’s face it, there are plenty of
different ways of doing so. The chain obviously, is ultra
important part of your bicycle because it allows you to
transfer the power from your legs through to your back wheel
so you can go forward. What we’re going to look at today though is why you would need to replace it and importantly, how to replace it. (funky electronica music) Why does your chain actually
need replacing then? Well, with every bit of pressure that you’re putting through the pedals, the lifespan of the chain is decreasing. Now there’s a common
misconception out there that chains actually stretch, which is not strictly true unless you’re putting an
incredible amount of watts through the pedals. Because let’s face it, those links and rivets and pins, they’re not going to be
easy to stretch, are they? Well, certainly not with my legs, but how does the chain wear? Well, as it’s moving around the cassette and the chain rings
with little bits of dirt getting involved inside
the rivets and the rollers essentially they’re acting
like a cut and paste and they’re beginning to wear away. Hence, the thought that
it could be stretch. When in actual fact, some parts are just getting
a little bit smaller. Hence, the love for a clean chain. Because a clean chain means
it going to last a bit longer. Now a chain that has excessive wear is not going to give
you good gear shifting. And that is an essential part
of bike riding as we all know. So why is it not going to do that? Well, the chain that’s worn isn’t gonna sit perfectly
on your cassette sprockets as well as your chain rings and in turn it’s actually
gonna wear out those components a lot faster than normal, because you’re trying to get
two things to work together that aren’t ideally suited. So that’s going to give
you more repairs to do. And also it’s going to cost
you more money along the line. (funky electronica music) Now there are a few different methods for you to actually use to check whether or not your chain needs replacing. And the first one is
probably the simplest, and arguably the cheapest because it’s not gonna cost you anything. But there is a downside,
it’s not deadly accurate. But how are we going to do it? Well, first of all put your chain in the biggest chain ring at the front. And then in the rear, put on the sprocket with the least number of teeth. So in my case between
52 and 11 at the rear. And then move around to
three o’clock position on the chain ring, and pull away the chain from the teeth. Now if you can see daylight
through the teeth, like that. But it’s across three or four teeth, then in my opinion, it
definitely needs replacing. Now another method of measuring chain wear is using something like this, a handy little chain
checker from Partsall. Where you essentially put these two pins in between a length of chain and then with this little gauge, it actually let’s you know whether or not your chain needs replacing. (funky electronica music) Choosing your chain is a
pretty straight forward affair. Or at least the first bit is. So how do you do it exactly? First of all, count the number of sprockets
on your rear cassette. So in my case there’s 11,
so I need an 11 speed chain. Now the next bit isn’t
necessarily that straight forward. But a general rule of thumb, is that the more money you spend, the lighter the chain is going to be because you’re going to have slotted pins which join the chain together, as well as slotted links,
which are part of the chain. So in turn, you are going
to save some weight, the choice of that though,
is generally up to you. (funky electronica music) How long should your chain be then? Well, nine times out of 10, you’re going to replacing like for like, so you’re going to have the
same number of chain links. It’s only when you start
putting things into the mix, such as crazy big chain
rings or even a tandem where you start to have to think more and more about the
number of chin links involved. But luckily we aren’t going there today. (funky electronica music) So how are we going to
remove that chain then? Well, in most cases, you’re probably going to
need something like this, which is a chain tool, which is very specific for the actual job. But before you rush out and buy one, have a look at your chain and make sure you don’t have a master link
which you can see right now. So master link, while you’re going to need
something different for those. Now some people they
can remove them by hand by sliding them against each other, working the two sides
in opposite directions. But it’s more than likely as well that you are going to need some of these, a pair of master link pliers, ’cause that makes the job
much easier to remove, as well as in most cases, install too. So you’re going to use
a chain tool, are you? Well, let’s talk about that anyway because it’s quite unique, isn’t it? You certainly don’t see tools like this. How does it work though? Well you can see here there is a pin, which moves in as you turn the handle. And then with the chain in this slot here, you can actually remove
the joining pins or rivets from the bushes and rollers of your chain allowing you to split it. And then the same tool actually allows you to rejoin a chain with those rivets and pins. Cool, isn’t it? How do we know then, how much
chain to fit to your bike? Well, in most cases you
will be doing like for like. So the simplest method is
to grab your old chain, and then you’re new chain and line up the links perfectly with one another so that all of the rivets are matching. And then when you find
the end of the old chain, that’s where the end of
your new chain needs to be. Now the other tried an tested method is with your bike chain less like so, put the ridge railure into
position for the lowest sprocket. So when I say lowest I mean the one with the most number of
teeth, so in my case, 28. And then put the front darailia in position for the big chain ring, so just hovering over that. And then you’re going to need to gradually feed your new chain through
the ridge railure cage. Just be aware that obviously
there are little tabs in there which keep the chain
running in it’s right place. And then once it’s
worked it’s way through, actually slot that
chain onto the cassette. Bring it forward onto your chain ring. Like so. And then pull the chains
toward each other. Now as you can see, this chain is pretty much spot on already. Because once I join that, I
will be adding little length in. I am going to take out a length because it does need to
be just a tad shorter. What you don’t want though is for the angle of the
ridge railing to be like that because if it’s too short, you aren’t gonna get good shifting. And in the worst case, you
do find yourself in that gear and the chain is really short, believe me, that can actually lock up and you can’t carry on pedaling or certainly can’t change gear just because there was a
tension through the chain. So on the flip side, if
the chain was too long, well, we joined it how it came, it would be looking like that,
which is not ideal, is it? So, you really want the chain
to be something like this. So you could in fact
measure a chain like that, but the best way of doing
it certainly is to do it with the chain on the big chain ring and the big sprocket in the rear. So most chains they either come
with a joining pin or rivet or a master link, so first up the master link, if that’s what you’ve got, you want both ends of
the chain that you join to look like this, so it’s the internal fix of the chain. Where as if you’re using
a pin to join them, you’re gonna have one
internal and one external, so just be really aware of that before you attempt joining them. Now here’s a little tip for you, before you rejoin that chain because sometimes there can
be quite a bit of tension from both the chain being
fitted onto the chain ring as well as the spring
in the rear derailleur. So, hang the chain down like so and then you can simply join
it with that master link or the actual fresh new pin
without the added stress of trying to wrestle against
the tension of the chain. Now, if you do have a master link, I suggest you add in
one section at a time, so one side into each whole and then you just slide
them in against each other. Job done. So, the other method
is using one of these, especially for a Schmarner chain. This is a connecting pin. As you can see, it has a blunt end and a slightly pointy end. So with your two bits of chain,
so one end and the other end put the internal width into the external and then just put in first
of all the pointier end into the link of chain, then we’re gonna need chain torque to actually push the
connecting pin further in. So, with the pin now in place, you want to slot it
inside your chain torque. And then slowly wind in the handle, so you start to feel some resistance and then gently, just turn by turn, very small amount like so because these lengths well, they’re not cheap
are they, let’s face it, slowly push that pin into place. They go in pretty easily as you can. The last bit, you are gonna
have a little bit of resistance, so you can check just on
top of the chain tool there to make sure that the pointy bit, because you can see that
there’s a little bit of a joint between the pointy bit and
the actual link itself, so just make sure that the slight little joint
actually popped through the other side of the chain. So, with this pointy
little connecting pin, what we’re gonna do is snap
it, that’s right, snap it. The first time I ever did this
I was a little bit concerned thinking I’ve broken it, but it’s designed to be
broken, so let’s do it. Grab yourself some pliers, grab hold of it and then just work against it and sometimes it’ll take a
couple different attempts. And as you can see, there
it is, it snapped off. Now on the inside of that chain link, you want to make sure
that that connecting pin that we’ve just installed
does pop out slightly. So in my case, it does need
to just go out a fraction, it’s so so small. Don’t get carried away, instead reinsert the chain
inside your chain tool and then gradually, and it only requires just
the tiniest little amounts, just push it through a tiny little bit. Now, if you have got
yourself a stiff link, so where it’s a little bit not
quite as smooth as the rest, wrap the chain on each side and then simply flex it from side to side and that’ll free up, so
it’s as smooth as the rest. Now as ever, like and share
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59 comments on “How & When To Change A Chain On Your Road Bike

  1. Jon, you should really wear surgical gloves when handling anything with oil. It's not good for you in the long run – and it keeps your hands clean. Get some biodegradable gloves. I use them all the time.

  2. Worth mentioning that when you are comparing a new chain with an old chain to measure the length, be sure to account for wear. You may need to realign the chain links to ensure your not adding a link or two to the length,

  3. Thank you. Some gentle and hopefully helpful feedback…better lighting on the close-ups (and more close-ups) would have helped.

  4. Do you reccomend to change the cassette every time with the chain or I can use 1 cassette with 2 or 3 chains?

  5. Um yes chains do strech, I change chains every day and fit new chains every day. Most of elongation is from the rollers getting shredded but links in chains do infact strech. I can put max 5sec power of only 980 watts and I can snap a cheap chain. They do strech over time with constant standing starts from commuting.

  6. I buy SRAM chains for the masterlink over the shimano pin. So much easier and can be unfastened never had a problem.

  7. Most of the wear you get is in the pin and the inside of the roller. If you use a "chain checker", it also measures the wear on the outside of the roller, from the wear from the sprocket teeth. Because of this, I always use a steel ruler to measure the elongation.

  8. What do you do with the grease that new chains are packed in? Degrease it while the chain is brand new or leave it on until the grease wears off?

  9. This video is one week to late for me watched the older gcn video on changing a chain and it was so fast I spent 3 hrs wresting with the new chain trying to figure out how to link them lol

  10. Thanks Jon. Is the blue thing on the handlebars some kind of stay to stop the wheels from slapping you in the face whilst you're working?

  11. One thing that wasn't covered is the direction of the chain. As far as I know, Shimano chains should be put on with inscriptions on the outside. Sram chains are bi-directional, but the masterlink is not. There is an arrow on the masterlink showing how to install it. As for the other manufacturers, I have no idea 😛

  12. You talk about one chain checker, in hand, then show another in use. A bit confusing. Secondly if you hang a badly used chain and compare it to a new chain, the links will not match towards the end, although you do say to match the links. I lay both on a bench and insure the number of links match, thus avoiding the gravity issue. I like the idea of removing the chain from the chain ring, much easier, never thought of that and have always had a bit of struggle. Thank you.

  13. If you buy enough bikes and spread out your rides, you'll never have to change the chains in your lifetime….

  14. How is "pulling the chain" and looking for daylight any cheaper or more accurate than taking ANY ruler and measuring from center to center over ten links?

  15. I wish such a video existed when I started cycling and maintaining my bike myself. Because the first time I changed my chain I snapped the chain tool. By the way a good chain tool goes a long way. Avoid $10 chain tools like the plague. They're often made of cast iron and the two posts that go inside the chain will snap.

  16. Actually I think the best method to find the best chain length is small-small so that you have the longest possible chain. Firstly you still can remove links later any time. And secondly you still have enough tolerance for larger cassettes as I always tend to use when I go to the mountains.

  17. There is an app for working out chain wear, I don't have the link but if you use the terms "cyclingapps app market Chain Wear App" and it should come up. Don't know how accurate it is.

  18. There is an equation for chain length that takes into accout chainring latgest sprocket and chanstay length.

  19. Sorry mate… an instructor for maintenance you really need to keep on one theme, finish one train of thought at a time and maybe show the full steps start to finish.

  20. Excellent video as always Jon. In my view, the strength of GCN is that it caters for a wide spectrum of riders. Tech videos like this have a broad application.

  21. Could have done with a diagram of a worn chain instead of just words

  22. Rotating chains means you can use chains for more miles each without rendering the cassette useless. Do 500 miles on chain A, 500 on B and 500 on C. Rinse and repeat. You could be looking at upwards of 10000 miles on one cassette without any trouble

  23. Hi Jon.. Just wondering.. Do you ever use speedplay pedals? Maybe I noticed new presenter Chris using them.. Any benefits beyond weight saving and dual sides? #askgcntech thank you

  24. An oily thumbs up! It is much better having master links or special pins than the old methods of my youth. I gather Shimano are switching to supplying master links now also. Other than a new chain jumping on it, are there other ways to tell if your cassette is past it? Typically how many times do you expect to change a chain before a cassette needs it too?

  25. It is easier to let the bike shop do it when you get your annual maintenance That is why we have bike shops..

  26. Chain tools also measure roller wear.  Roller wear does not cause a change in pitch.  Does roller wear cause premature cog wear?

    I have a Park Tool CC-2  chain checker.  Have you measured yours for accuracy?   I measured mine using calipers.  The .25%, .5%, .75%, and 1.0% markings do not actually equate to a .25, .5, .75, or 1.0% increase in the distance between the checker's pins.  The checker would prematurely indicate a worn chain.

    So… it seems people say that it's best to change your chain once it exceeds .5% (better safe than sorry), the checker appears to have a built in safety factor to prematurely indicate wear (better safe than sorry), and the checker also measures roller wear which doesn't actually change the chain's pitch.  Add it all up and you're replace your chain after every ride..

  27. I prefer the Big-Big-Plus-1-inch method for chain length. No guesswork involved and it always comes out right.

  28. digital vernier calipers, they are cheap, more accurate than chain checkers and obviously you can measure other stuff with it as well

  29. Chains DO enlongate under heavy wear!

    When I compare old chains I take off with exactly the same model and lay them side to side and say they are 100 links long, the worn chain is around half a link longer give or take!

  30. The lenght of the chain is messerd whit the chain on the big ring in the front and the smallest sprocket in the back.
    Then the jockey wheels must be in one line, from up to down, whit each other.

  31. Actually better way to get chain length is to do it with chain on small chain ring on front and smallest on rear. Then you should ensure there is the minimum tension.

  32. Also don’t waste time with pins. Master connectors are way better given you can take them off to clean chain and put back on and they are reusable. Connecting pins are too temperamental. Also run the chain the opposite way he does thought he derailleur as it’s easier

  33. at min 2:20 you say 3 O'clock position but from where I am watching in warsaw I see it's 6 O'clock, time zone difference?? maybe 🙂 thanks for the great video, keep it up!

  34. Always good to watch John, I took the time once to detail the setup of my bikes including all toque settings and what grease where, including how many links in the chain. Couple that with it being a KMC chain with a master link, I have a quick go to guide a drop of a hat.

  35. Chains usually only get changed once totally worn out. The tell tell sign is the teeth wearing… It's funny but GCN never mentions that a brand new chain on a cassette and chain rings which are starting to wear doesn't always mix well.. ( jumpy chain 😡) would be nice to see a video on fixing a chain with a master link or a campy chain. Keep it up!

  36. If somebody hasn't mentioned it already, it can be helpful to install the special connecting pin pointing towards the outside of the bike rather than towards the bike's center. After breaking off the pointy bit from the connecting pin, there always seems to be a little bit more protruding than the other side, which might rub against the a neighboring sprocket as the chain enters/exits the rear cassette.

    Not a big deal, and might be fixed when fine-tuning the pin depth anyway, but is recommended by Park Tool literature.

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