Bike maintenance, by a total novice… Chain replacement…

When I arrived home from cycling Land’s End to John O’Groats, I discovered that I had aged my poor ol Hettie by several decades. I only took up cycling in 2007, and it has been a real learning curve on how to maintain a bicycle. Up to now, I could repair a puncture, clean the bike, pack the bike into a bike bag, and get it re-set up again, replace and repair mudguards… stuff like that. I always thought, the chainset would last for years and years and years. WRONG!

The ‘wrongness’ of this was sadly discovered once I returned home.

When Hettie was dismantled and packaged up into her bike bag, with both wheels off her, the damage to her chainset was obvious to see. Shark hooked teeth bared their disgust at me. The last week of the ride up though Scotland, I had noticed she wasnt keen to change gear, and that on some days (the hilly ones of course) she rather liked to cycle along rather like an ‘automatic’ bike, and gave me bigger gearing than I wanted while cycling uphill. The lads of Saddle Skedaddle where very helpful in tightening the rear derailer, but nothing was ideal really until she could be properly repaired.

What I found – Chain stretch.

The chain had a dose of major ‘chain-stretch’ (A new term for me to remember….). I didnt have a chain stretch measuring gadget in my tool box, (since purchased one), but hubby demonstrated the chain-stretch severity by pinching the chain from the front of the big chainring and being able to lift it clear of the teeth beneath. Not good.

The chain-stretch meant that the gaps between the chain links had badly worn. Basically the loose fitting links were wearing out prematurely, the front chain rings and rear cassette at an alarming rate, to the point where Hettie now needed a complete new set of chain rings on the front, a new chain of course and a new cassette. Had a good cycle company recommended to me again by the members of the CTC forum, and the replacement parts are currently on their way.

It seems Hettie’s chain should have been replaced much more frequently than I had been doing. Hettie was brand new in April 2010. Since then she had been ridden about 7,500 hilly miles all with her original kit on. I had without realising ruined her drive train.

This made me think about Enid of course. She was brand new in November 2010, and she is my winter bike, and the bike I choose for Sportives in wet days, and is used for commuting to work etc. Enid had cycled about 2000 miles from new. I purchased one of those Park Tool chain measuring thingys (recommended by the CTC forum members).

Chain wear chain tool

And by sheer luck, the chain was not as badly worn as I thought it might be. I really couldn’t afford to completly replace the drive chains on BOTH bikes. Enid’s chain set was able to be saved. But I was about to embark on a piece of maintenance not ever done before… Chain replacement.

‘It’s not rocket science, it’s not rocket science….’ My other halfs words repeated the Mantra, as I got Enid out of the bike shed into the cosy kitchen for her dentistry work to commence.

Here goes……

Enid’s brand spanking new SRAM chain. 10 speed PC1070 Hollow pin chain.

Next step is to measure her old chain and take a peek at the damage it might have done.

Front chain ring, not badly worn, but there is evidence of some wear and tear, its time to chuck out that chain. Time will tell, if I need to replace any of front rings or the cassette or both… 

Old chain measured with Park Tool its just about savable….

Here is the chain wear tool being used. Basically, had the chain wear tool slipped into the gap of the chain links, it would have shown that the chain was badly worn indeed. When I measured the chain, the chain wear tool sat on the link buffer instead, which is great news, as its an indication that the chain wasnt badly worn, but in need of replacement.

So, off it came….

The instructions in the chain box were very good and I followed them. I placed the old chain onto the table, and along side it measured the new chain, which needed a link taken out of it, to make the 2 chains the same length, chain stretch occurs inside the links, and does not affect the chain length.. (some thing new Ive learnt).

Once the chain was the correct length, it was threaded back onto the bike and the special ‘power link’ was clipped into place. (No chain tool needed for this). I had to stand on the bike with brakes on, to get the audible loud ‘click’ that told me the chain link was fitted correctly and the correct way round.

I then rode Enid (in the rain) up the road to see all is well, and surprisingly enough, the chain is still in place and on…. I think I have successfully replaced it! Way Hey!!! 

Chain wear tool showing new chain in place.

Something else to add to the independent maintenance list!

Next blog is Major Surgery on Hettie!

Update: 24 September 2011.

Cycling Enid over the past few days, I have gotten to grips with cycling in the ‘Big ring’ more and more. THis I understand will put less stress on the chain and there lengthen the life of the chain set and cassette as well as the chain its self.

Minor problem. While at speed, dropping chain from big ring to small ring (just 2 cos its a compact chainset) this frequently resulted in the chain dropping to the inside and off the inside ring. (Oily fingers….). Then later in the week, this problem got worse and on Friday the chain slipped off the Big Ring to the outside, AND later off the inside of the small ring. Very oily fingers going to and fro work.

Made hubby LOTS of tea and cake, and he took a look at it.

After much huffin and puffin, he could only conclude the problem was the chain. I have a brand new chainring still in its box for sometime in the future, and we compared wear…. Chas concluded that the chainrings were still in fine fettle. So chain it had to be.

‘Did you measure the chain?’ he asked… ‘Yep’ was the reply.

‘Ah… but HOW did you measure it…. ?’

‘I nudged the two chains side by side, removed 2 links until they were both the same.’

But I didnt COUNT the side plates…. DOOH! After counting them, (I had kept the old chain), old chain had 55 side plates, but …… New chain in place, had 56!

More chain tool stuff, and I had removed another complete link.

Oddly, now with the chain shortened to the correct 55 links, the front deraillier mechanisim now rubbed on the chain and this had to be adjusted. But once this was done, out I went for a quick 12 hilly miles.

Chas seems to have fixed it! No chain dropping, no rubbing either by the front mech.

Next time when chain is replaced. COUNT THE SIDE PLATES.

Coor, this bike maintenance thingy is like pulling hens teeth sometimes! It certainly doesn’t come easily to me.

Tomorrow Audaxing 100km. That should show up problems as they happen.