World’s first independent chain longevity testing!
*Yes there has been some manufacturer chain testing, which the manufacturer wins of course – however these tests avoided testing numerous top level chains.
Check back here for updated charts on chain longevity wear – on average a new chain test result should be added every approx. 2 to 3 weeks until list completed.
Your chain is your hardest working mechanical component, and it operates completely exposed to contamination. A chain that wears quickly can be bad news for your wallet. If you don’t catch the wear in time, it often means you are up for replacing your cassette when purchase new chain. Sometimes it means chain rings as well, or if not they may still have suffered significant wear damage.
Different cycling demographics have different priorities when it comes to their drive train. Racers will consider low friction important. Weekend warriors / commuters will often prioritise running costs. Racers with training bikes / who also commute will prioritise one over the other depending on the bike. So with that in mind, this testing will start a fact finding journey and help gain a better understanding of our bikes hardest working part. I hope to assist you in your own decision making, as well of course in assisting ZFC in what products to stock / avoid – just like the focus of lubricant testing. Initially I will be looking to cover 3 main area’s;
Q1 – What is the difference between budget chains and premium chains?
Q2 – Is it worth spending the extra on a premium chain or just buy cheap chains and replace more frequently? (especially for non racers)
Q3 – Does a chain that demonstrates exceptional longevity = a lower friction chain?
*Pending the results of testing project – below is provisional understanding at the moment.
A1 – Budget chains you can expect will be made of lower grade steel, and will likely have no surface hardening or low friction treatments or coatings applied (or limited parts receive treatment – i.e inner plates are treated but not pins or rollers.) Premium chains you can expect will be made of higher grade of steel, manufactured to tighter tolerances, and may have numerous treatments such as chromium carbide hardened pins and/or rollers, nickel plating or titanium nitride plating on inner/ outer plates, and again a variety of low friction coatings applied to some or all working parts of the chain.
It is expected that premium chains will be lower friction due to a number of factors (design, manufacturing, low friction coatings), and if have had surface hardening treatments, should be longer lasting.
A2 – For racers definitely premium chains. For weekend warriors / commuters – buying cheap chains can often be a false economy. Cheap chains can have such a fast wear rate that they will often rip past 0.5% wear in a blink and result in needing to buy new cassette, even new chain rings – when replace chain. Many cyclists are not on top of chain wear tracking. However – if you are and replace chains prior to them causing damage to cassette, this testing will assist in what is the most economical choice.
A3 – Maybe, but this requires further investigation. A premium chain may be very fast for a little while, but once low friction coating is worn off it may offer no real friction benefit vs other more budget options. However if a premium chain has surface hardening / plating’s and is made of a higher quality steel – I believe it is more likely to be lower friction. As lubricants become abrasive from contamination – think of it like running a piece of sandpaper on a block of wood vs a steel plate – it is likely it would take more effort to slide the sandpaper across the wood as it will be abrading away material. So very hard surfaces are likely to have a sliding surface friction advantage vs softer metal surfaces, however I will be investigating this further in time.
Further detail on the above is covered in the Full test brief for chain longevity testing. I am also in discussions with an independent body re friction testing of a selection of chains on a proper FTT machine. The last friction testing of chains was done by Friction Facts back in 2013 and I believe was done with factory grease still on which heavily impacted results – so obtaining outright friction results will be great indeed to match with longevity results from ZFC testing. Fingers crossed.