Bike Chains 1 – Chain Wear

Table of Contents


Endless Post

This post is an endlessly updated post. I have made several corrections and changes. In March and April 2024 I reoranized and revised extensively. This post has been most recently updated April 5, 2024. My revisions were affected by an update to a WordPress theme


This post will explain:

  • when I became interested in bicycle drive chains,
  • the safety bicycle,
  • the basic facts of the drive train, and
  • limitations of internet search as a tool for understanding a technical subject.

Finding Chain Wear

I am not an engineer or mechanic. I have done basic home maintenance on my bikes. Until 2021, I had not read any information resources about chain wear online, or in any cycling magazines or books.

In April 2021, I thought I had less than 2,000 Km on the KMC X11 (11 speed) chain on my Cannondale Topstone gravel bike since purchasing the bike in August 2019 1 It was over 4,000 Km. I did not know the industry standard for 11 speed chain elongation and chain replacement. I made changes to the drive train early in 2020 just before the Covid-19 lockdown. I swapped the factory FSA crankset with 172.5 mm crank arms for the same crankset with 165 mm crank arms and I had the Shimano rear cassette replace with a SRAM cassette with some bigger gears for climbing.

In 2021, I had problems: the chain did not respond shifts, or skipped, or rubbed the front cage. The Park Tool CC-3.2 chain checker was reading that the chain was worn and should be replaced. I was surprized – I thought the XMC X11 was a durable product. I had been washing the chain every two or three weeks in a clamshell tool – a Park Tools CM-5.3 Cyclone chain cleaner – with a few ounces of the Mountain Equipment Cooperative’s Bio-Cycle liquid cleaner. Immediately after the wash, I applied fresh (i.e. clean, unused) drip lube: ProGold Pro-Link and Muc-Off’s retail “dry” lube product. I had followed what I thought was regular practice. I lubricated the chain with brand name a bicycle chain drip lube products.

I located a SRAM PC 1130 chain and a supply of SRAM Powerlinks (SRAM proprietary master links). It was fortunate to find an available chain, in view of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the manufacturing and shipping of bicycle components. SRAM’s Canadian web site describes the PC 1130 chain as “an affordable, lightweight and precise option for all 11-speed groupsets” and the PC 1170 with these comments: “features more heavily chamfered outer plates for improved shifting and quieter running. The chrome hardened pin construction provides longer chain life.”

I tried various lubrication products in 2021, but found by early 2022 that the SRAM chain was wearing too, very fast. Was it a low quality chain, incorrect lubricant, or incorrect cleaning and maintenance?

Safety Bicycles


The safety bicycle “invented” in late 19th century, is an industrial product, manufactured from several manufactured components. Most bicycles manufactured since are variations of the safety bicycle. which is still the “original” bicycle,as understood, in the early 21st century. The safety bicycle involves these elements

  • two wheels in line, each with hubs allowing the wheels to rotate in the direction the bike is moving, usually with a power wheel in the back and a steering wheel in the front;
  • a diamond shaped frame to hold the wheels, support the rider and hold and support a drive train;
  • an assembly attaching the steering wheel to the frame and allowing the steering wheel to be turned;
  • pneumatic tires;
  • brakes, including brakes inside the wheel hubs (coaster brakes), and brakes on the outside of the wheel (both rim brakes and disc brakes);
  • a drive train – pedals pushed vertically by the rider revolving driving gears (chain wheel(s)) powering roller chain powering a driven gear(s) attached to the drive wheel;
  • a steering device (handlebar) with devices to control brakes outside the wheel and, for many bikes, to shift the drive chain between gears.

The technology and industry to support the “invention” and manufacturing of bicycles is discussed in several Wikipedia articles:

Some details are not entirely clear from those articles, or not addressed, making it necessary to refer to other sources.


The wooden-framed proto-bicycles of the early 19th century lacked drive trains or propulsion. A rider sat on a wheeled frame, propelled by the rider’s pushing against the ground:

  • the Laufmaschine designed by Karl von Drais, patented in Germany in 1818.
  • the pedestrian curricle patented in England by Denis Johnson.

“Boneshaker” velocipedes of the middle 19th century were made of wrought iron. They had mechanisms to drive a driving wheel that moved the vehicle. The high mount bicyles of the 1880s were powered with pedals connected to crankshaft arms converting linear force on the pedals to rotate a driving wheel, which converted rotational force to linear forward force on the bicycle. These bicycles mainly had steel frames – mainly hollow steel tubes.

Utility Bicycles

Single speed bicycles and utility bicycles were popular in Europe and North America until the 1970s. David Edgerton counted bicycles as an old technology that was adapted in Asia in his 2007 book The Shock of the Old: Technology in Global History Since 1900.

Bike manufacturing in Asia up to the 1970s was mainly devoted making bicycles for riders in Asia. The ownership of bicycles increased in Asia as Asian production increased in the 1970s. Several countries in Asia became manufacturing locations. Part of the Asian production was commissioned by bike manufacturers elsewhere in the world. Asian manufacturers became proficient in producing new bicycles and components for the world market. Shifts in consumer tastes in Europe and North America spread to other parts of the world. Consumers in Asia began to have sufficient resources to afford foreign designed bikes, and have purchased bicycles similiar to bicycles popular in other parts of the world. As they have become more affluent, Asian consumers have purchased motor vehicles.


Drive and Frames

The methods for making steel tubes changed in the 19th century. The process for making seamless steel tubes was first patented in Germany in the 1880s. The thin walled steel tube was an important component in building the frames the safety bicycle in the 1890s and the first several decades of 20th century. Later, frames have been made with

  • wood and bamboo,
  • other metals – aluminum and titanium,
  • plastics and carbon fiber (a form of fiberglass, a plastic composite).

Bicycle wheels, since the safety bicycle, have mainly been wire wheels, although to solid wheels have been used on some track and time trial racing bikes. Wire wheels were invented in 1808 by George Cayley. The rims have been steel but other materials are used. The spokes have been steel, but other material have been used.

The hubs have been steel, but other materials have been used. The hubs have bearings allowing a wheel to rotate front or backward. The drive wheel usually has a mechanism that allows the rider to propel the bike by pressing the pedals down and rotating the pedals forward and to coast by not pedalling. (With derailleurs and external gears the rider can also pedal backward; with coaster brakes pedalling backwards engages the brakes).

Drive Trains

The drive train involves:

  • The rider who provides work, pushing on pedals;
  • Pedals revolve at the ends of crankshafts (crank arms) that rotate around a spindle in a bearing (the bottom bracket) in a structure in the frame of the bicycle (the bottom bracket shell);
  • A driving gear called a chainwhee on a bicycle;
  • A roller chain which fits between the teeth (cogs) of the driving wheel and the cogs of the driven gear(s);
  • Driven gear(s) on the drive wheel.

The drive train is a feature of single-speed bikes, utility bikes, most “road”, “mountain”, “hybrid”, “gravel”. “all-road” and other kinds of bikes.

A toothed wheel is called a sprocket. Technically,a sprocket is a gear that meshes with a chain and not directly with another gear. The sprockets stacked on a cassette on the drive wheel of a bicycle are often called cogs. Technically the cogs are the teeth.


Subject to innovations in material and manufacturing – the safety bicycle is an established product that has been incrementally redesigned. An article in Bicycle Times in 2017 is illustrated with images of 25 “influential” bicycle designs, mainly in the 20th century. The article does not include

  • samples of the designs that have dominated the bicycle markets since about 1993, except a 2005 fat tire bike;
  • cargo bikes of any era;
  • e-bikes.



The metal roller chain has been the drive chain since safety bikes were first developed. There have been other drive systems but the chain drive has dominated. Bicycle chains are made of steel. Steel had the tensile strength for the purpose, and could be produced with smooth surfaces. Other metals have been considered. Few are strong without becoming brittle. Steel is an alloy of iron and small amounts of other metals. Manufacturers use other metals to make steel alloys to coat or plate over roller chain components.

The parts that connect the links are made with tight tolerances, for transmission of force. There are microscopic gaps between pins and rollers and/or bushings, which allow the links to pivot to rotate on the chain rings and the cogs of the driving wheel transmission apparatus. The basics of roller chain are alternating inner and outer links, the ability to bend at the ends of links, and rollers.

The most efficient line from the chain wheel to the cog on drive wheel for single speed bicycles was parallel to the bicycle. In Europe and North America, riders and designers favoured systems that allowed the rider to shift gears to use power effectively and respond to changes in conditions and the goals of rider – e.g. going faster with the same effort. Road racing brought the development of derailleurs to shift the chain onto other gears – and a flexible chain that could operate at a slight deviation from a straight chainline. Chains are designed to flex to displace far enough to change gears when pushed by the pulleys (jockey wheels) of a derailleur. Innovators altered the design of chains to get lighter, more efficient chains. At the end of the 1970s, a road bike might have 5 or even 6 cogs on a rear cassette. Mountain bikes adopted derailleurs, flexing roller chain, and other technology from road racing. Mountain biking became competitive and mountain bikes became popular. For a time, drive train components were specialized: road or mountain/hybrid. Some innovations made in road chains or mountain bike chains became common or dominant in chain manufacturing. time.

The chain almost always has to run over and under a chain stay – usually on the right side of a conventional two wheeled safety bicycle. The chain stays are welded or attached to the bottom of seat tube near the bottom bracket shell, and to the seat stay. The chain stay is one side of a closed triangle. Tt was necessary to use a chain “breaker” tool to displace a pin to remove the chain before the development of master links.

By the early 20th century the bike industry began to use bushed steel roller chain on most bicycles. The bushingless chain became the dominant design by the end of the 20th century. There is more on chains in Bike Chains 2 and Bike Chains 6


Bicycle roller chains become longer by a small amount as the chain is used. Microscopic wear on individual links adds up. The elongation of chain and the cause being wear are well known to engineers and bicycle mechanics:

Cyclists often speak of chain “stretch”, as if the side plates of an old chain were pulled out of shape by the repeated stresses of pedaling. This is not actually how chains elongate. The major cause of chain “stretch” is wearing away of the metal where the link pin rotates inside of the bushing (or the “bushing” part of the inside plate) as the chain goes onto and off of the sprockets. If you take apart an old, worn-out chain, you can easily see the little notches worn into the sides of the link pins by the inside edges of the bushings, or the formed side plates of a bushingless chain.

Sheldon Brown, John S. Allen, Bicycle Technical Information pages, Chain and Sprocket Wear, How Chain Elongate

See below for the Bicycle Technical Information (“BTI) pages founded by the late Sheldon Brown.

Riders assume, correctly, that steel chains are very durable. But chains, even when lubricated well and maintained, wear. A worn chain does not fit the gears – the chain wheels and cassette cogwheels – and abrades those components of the drive train.

Again, the topic of wear will come back in other posts in this series.

Specifications & Standards

By 2021, many, perhaps most new bikes, other than e-bikes, sold in Canada and the USA had rear wheel gear cassettes with 11 or 12 gears. Elongation of 11 and 12 speed bushingless chains by .5 – one half of one percent – of the length of a chain is the replacement point. It is implicit in the design of chain gauges (chain checker tools), and known to the employees of bike shops and to some some users. 11 speed chains and rear cassettes were introduced by Campagnolo in 2008, and by Shimano in 2013. 11 speed cassettes and chains became a common feature of new bikes. The design, release and sale of modern chain gauges followed. By 2024, some drive trains for 13 gears on the rear cassette are being made and marketed

The length of a chain varies, depending on the length of the chainstays, the sizes of the largest chain ring and the largest rear gear, and the rear derailleur shape and size. A chain may have 55 to 59 links (counting a pair of 1 Outer link plus 1 Inner as 1 link) which can also be counted as 110 to 118 links. A chain may be 1397 mm. to 1473 mm. long

Chain gauges started to be distributed and sold in the 1980s. They were noted in articles in publications and on the Internet:

There … also special tools made to measure chain wear; these are a bit more convenient, though by no means necessary, and most — except for the Shimano TL-CN40 and TL-CN41 — are inaccurate

Sheldon Brown & John S. Allen, about 1990, Bicycle Technical Information pages, Measuring Chain Wear section in Chain and Sprocket Wear

The usefulness of gauges was understated, but the problem of accuracy is still present in 2024.

A chain gauge checks for wear in a span of 12-14 links. The gauge has to precisely cut (machined) and precisely used to detect elongation of .5 mm. It is useful to put the gauge on different places on the chain to look for wear.

The existence and marketing of chain gauges suggests the modern cycling component, tool, and maintenance industries expect riders to replace chains. The experience of many industries with steel bearings demonstrates that steel wears, even when lubricated.

Master links, devices that replace a single outer link, became common in the 1980s and 1990s. Master links make it easier to remove a chain for cleaning, maintenance and replacement. They were noted in the BTI glossary (see Sheldon Brown and BTI under Cycling Knowledge, below). Even with master links, removing a chain is an operation which many cyclists do not have the time, tools or knowledge to attempt.

There is more on chain gauges and measurement in Bike Chains 2 in this series under the heading Checking for Chain Wear. There is more on durable chains in Bike Chains 6 this series.

Friction & Lubricants

Lubricants are materials that are applied to surfaces of other materials to reduce friction when force applied to the materials and the surfaces move against each other. A lubricant reduces kinetic friction by changing static friction to lubricated friction, allowing metal surfaces to slide or turn without getting hot and making noise.

For much of the 20th century, most bike chains were lubricated with oils manufactured by refining petroleum and processing the refined product into useful material. The lubricants for bike chains were oils. Motor oil was and is a product to lubricate parts of an internal combustion engine. At the end of the 19th century, industry settled on the internal combustion engine as the device that could be used to power passenger cars, motorcycles, transport trucks, farm machinery and industrial machines. In this context, the development of the safety bicycle seems less consequential for the use of energy, or as a means of transportation. Motor oil was commonly available in the places bikes were used, and it was a popular lubricant for decades

Academics and industry researched and developed many specialized lubricants. Bike chain lube has become a specialty market. Bike shops sell what they can get from suppliers; bike owners/users have limited help in finding and choosing the best lubricants. Manufacturers and distributors will make all kinds of claims for their products. The best chain lubricants are not easily found and applied. Many are not effective at avoiding chain wear.

There is more on lubrication in Bike Chains 3 and Bike Chains 4 in this series; paraffin lubrication is discussed in Bike Chains 7. Cleaning is discussed in Bike Chains 5. Durability is discussed in Bike Chains 6.

The Internet & the Web


There is a huge amount of material on the Internet, and in HTML format (on the Web). Much of it is not accurate. Tom Nichols refers to SF writer Ted Sturgeon’s 1956 Law, “ninety percent of everything is crap” in his 2017 book, The Death of Expertise. Tom Nichols’s book is tendentious about some topics but makes a good point about Internet and Web search services as tools to understand mass produced engineered products such as bicycles, bicycle chain and lubricants.

The sheer size and volume of the Internet, and the inability to separate meaningful knowledge from random noise, means that good information will always be swamped by lousy data and weird detours. Worse, there’s no way of keeping up with it all …


… finding [good] information means plowing through a blizzard of useless or misleading information posted by everyone from …

Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise, Oxford University Press, New York, 2017, at pp. 107-108

The internet and the World Wide Web came into being a century after mass production of safety bicycles and components began at the end of the 19th century. The information on the internet reflects the interests of cyclist and mechanics from 1980 to the early 2020s.

Information about materials, designs, mass production and marketing was not necessarily written down, or published. Only a fraction of the knowledge of cycling community was published, and much was published in periodicals, not books. Many books went out of print or were removed from library connections. How much information was ever digitized? In the early days of the Internet, text had to be typed in to be published online.What publications were scanned or subjected to OCR with good character recognition? Were copyright issues negotiated? The most accurate material on internet and the web may have been copyrighted; on the internet it may be gated or paywalled.

Search Engines

Skeptical of Large Platforms

Cory Doctorow writes some SF, and some non-fiction about the internet, information technology and business. He has written about the business practices of the large tech companies including The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation (2023) and Chokepoint Capitalism (2022).

He identifies Google search as a leading example of a business strategy, which he names in an unflattering way:

… let’s examine how enshittification works. It’s a three-stage process: first, platforms are good to their users. Then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers. Finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, there is a fourth stage: they die

Cory Doctorow, ‘Enshittification’ is coming for absolutely everything, Financial Times, February 7, 2024

Search vs Research

Google Search became the dominant search service because it was the best, at one time, and because users believed the Google company when it said it was against evil (self-serving, greedy tricks?). The modern Google search tool is full of advertising. Search returrns now promote “sponsored” content. Other Google “services” eg YouTube, and most other commercial search platforms share the problems.

Cory Doctorow on Google search:

Google’s search results are terrible. The top of the page is dominated by spam, scams, and ads. A surprising number of those ads are scams. Sometimes, these are high-stakes scams played out by well-resourced adversaries who stand to make a fortune by tricking Google …

But often these scams are perpetrated by petty grifters who are making a couple bucks at this. These aren’t hyper-resourced, sophisticated attackers. They’re the SEO [search engine optimization] equivalent of script kiddies, and they’re running circles around Google …

Google search is empirically worsening. The SEO industry spends every hour that god sends trying to figure out how to sleaze their way to the top of the search results, and even if Google defeats 99% of these attempts, the 1% that squeak through end up dominating the results page for any consequential query …


… Google’s algorithmic failures, which send the worst sites to the top of the heap, have made it impossible for high-quality review sites to compete …

You’ve doubtless encountered these bad review sites. Search for “Best ______ 2024” and the results are a series of near-identical lists, strewn with Amazon affiliate links. Google has endlessly tinkered with its guidelines and algorithmic weights for review sites, and none of it has made a difference. For example, when Google instituted a policy that reviewers should “discuss the benefits and drawbacks of something, based on your own original research,” sites that had previously regurgitated the same lists of the same top ten Amazon bestsellers “peppered their pages with references to a ‘rigorous testing process,’ their ‘lab team,’ subject matter experts ‘they collaborated with,’ and complicated methodologies that seem impressive at a cursory look.”

But … grandiose claims … result in zero in-depth reviews and no published data. Moreover, these claims to rigorous testing materialized within a few days of Google changing its search ranking and said that high rankings would be reserved for sites that did testing.

Cory Doctorow, Pluralisic Blog, February 21,2024

Searching for bicycle chain cleaning, maintenance and lubrication is a flawed way of researching a technical topic. A search engine is not an encyclopedia or a book. It sifts content looking for text strings. Search engines need a lot of tuning to find articles that can be used to illustrate or explain the history of a technical idea, or adoption of technology by designers, manufacturers, investors, journalist and people who can afford to buy bicycles, but cannot construct the history.

Search engine algorithms follow the crowd. Searches generate long lists of links. Some search engine hits are predominantly text or text with static images. Search engines may show hits for videos, including YouTube videos but usually not podcasts. For podcasts, a user needs to search for podcast in an podcast index. Many or most text pages and videos:

  • are direct advertisements for products, or endorsements;
  • are low value “reviews”.

The concept of a “wise crowd” is a statistical fact which does not say that the opinions of a majority of people with opinions can be condensed to a crowd view of the facts about a technical idea; people who sell, fix, buy or ride bicycles do not assess facts the same way.

Searches for recorded audio and video material (podcasts, YouTube) depend on a few searchable lines of text, an item title, or the organization of the resource (the identity of an author or publisher, channels, tags, indices etc.). After getting a good hit, a user needs luck and time to find the moments when a subject will be explained.

Reviews can be useful in finding products, but have limited value in evaluating products. It is not possible to find out how the author or publisher has influenced, or has preconceptions. Many reviews reflect personal experience in conditions that are not clearly explained, or quick reactions. The comparisons are between the products which the author or publisher mentions i.e. are limited to as to what is available or known to the writer. The testing, if any, is not scientific and does not assess the actual conditions of use. Many reviews or overviews are catalogues of methods, sometimes narrow, sometimes overly broad. Many make improbable claims about products.

Comments in forums may reflect experience, but the amount of experience with the products is not clear. Some comments reflect frustration that the bike industry keeps selling more expensive new bikes and components while bikes are harder to maintain without tools, supplies and knowledge. There are many resources reflecting many opinions.


There are criticisms about how how well Wikipedia manages to provide accurate and weighty judgments. However, Wikipedia is reasonably fulsome on several relevant topics. The Wikipedia page for bicycle chain notes that chain cleaning and lubrication are important, complicated and controversial:

How best to lubricate a bicycle chain is a commonly debated question among cyclists. Liquid lubricants penetrate to the inside of the links and are not easily displaced, but quickly attract dirt. “Dry” lubricants, often containing wax or Teflon, are transported by an evaporating solvent, and stay cleaner in use. The cardinal rule for long chain life is never to lubricate a dirty chain, as this washes abrasive particles into the rollers. Chains should be cleaned before lubrication. The chain should be wiped dry after the lubricant has had enough time to penetrate the links. An alternative approach is to change the (relatively cheap) chain very frequently; then proper care is less important. Some utility bicycles have fully enclosing chain guards, which virtually eliminate chain wear and maintenance. On recumbent bicycles the chain is often run through tubes to prevent it from picking up dirt, and to keep the cyclist’s leg free from oil and dirt.

Wikipedia (October 2021) on Bicycle Chain

Bike Knowledge Sites

The late Sheldon Brown, a bike mechanic in Boston, and a modern polymath, started writing on the Web by the early 1990s. He had contacts among local riders and shops, and participated in Usenet news groups and other online forums on cycling.

Sheldon Brown and his original contributors wrote extensively and collected internet material. The Bicycle Technical Information pages (“BTI”)were a leading online source of information about bicycle repair and bicycles. The pages captured parts of the histories of bicycles and components, manufacturing, repair, touring and riding. Sheldon Brown admired and promoted Sutherlands Handbook for Bicycle Mechanics by Howard Sutherland, (the 6th and 7th editions are available as of 2022 from Sutherland’s Bicycle Shop Aids in California), and published articles by several authors on technical bicycle repair and maintenance matters.

His web wages on cycling were hosted by his employer, Harris Cyclery, until it closed in 2021. The BTI pages have been updated since his death in 2008, and continued to be published after Harris Cyclery closed in June 2021. The BTI pages have been published by a community of friends and fans; some topics have been updated or added.

Many published books on bicycle repair and maintenance went out of print, Few if any were digitized and published online after the publishing industry lost interest in publishing printed books about those subjects.

The BTI pages reflect a perspective on innovations in the industries in the 1990s, and have not addressed all the maintenance issues arising from early 21st century innovations, although some page have been updated. A few comments that do not hold up (for instance, that riders should not try to remove factory grease from a chain). The BTI pages that mention chains, lubrication and maintenance include:

The contributors to the BTI pages had varying experiences in life. Some were engineers and mechanics, or knew about some industries. Some were computer enthusiasts. Some read science fiction.

The expressions like there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (“TANSTAFL”) was well known, and used by the popular golden ager SF writer Robert A. Heinlein 2a golden age conservative or libertarian on some issues; also see the Quote Investigator site’s page 2016/08/27. or kludge were used to describe the realities of riding and fixing bicycles and the results of financial, organizational and decision making processes of bicycle manufacturers, politicians and traffic engineers. 3TANSTAFL was adopted by the economist Milton Friedman. It has become a libertarian and anarcho-capitalist slogan implying “you get what you pay for“. I use TANSTAFL to mean “it is what it is“.

This comment published in a BTI page on how riders adhere to beliefs about chain maintenance rings true:

Chain maintenance is one of the most controversial aspects of bicycle mechanics. Chain durability is affected by riding style, gear choice, whether the bicycle is ridden in rain or snow, type of soil in the local terrain, type of lubricant, lubrication techniques, and the sizes and condition of the bicycle’s sprockets. Because there are so many variables, it has not been possible to do controlled experiments under real-world conditions. As a result, everybody’s advice about chain maintenance is based on anecdotal “evidence” and experience. Experts disagree on this subject, sometimes bitterly. This is sometimes considered a “religious” matter in the bicycle community, and much vituperative invective has been uttered in this regard between different schismatic cults.

Sheldon Brown & John Allen, Bicycle Technical Information, Chain Maintenance

Some scientific research and publications are summarized in Bike Chains 3 in this series, under the headings and subheadings Lubricants: Scientists, Lubricants: Paraffin, and Lubricating a Chain: Academic Research.

Online Magazines, Journals & Cycling Sites

General caveat

I agree with Tom Nichols, in his 2017 book, The Death of Expertise (noted above), where he applies Sturgeon’s Law to journalism:

… many people do not seeks information as much as confirmation, and when they receive information they do not like, they will gravite to sources they prefer … Today, hundreds of media outlets cater to even the narrowest agendas and biases.

This mindset and the market that services it, creates … a combination of groundless confidence and deep cynicism …

Americans increasingly don’t trust anyone anymore. They view all institutions, including the media, with disdain.

Nichols, The Death of Expertise, cited above, pp. 157-158
Useful and Trustworthy

BikeGremlin web pages were written with care, and take the range of views and experiences of some riders and mechanics into account. It addressed lubrication in the article Bicycle Chain Lubricants explained, apparently written in 2016 and updated in 2018 and 2021.

BikeRadar is careful and thorough. It ran its Complete Guide to Bike Gears in April 2020, an introduction and overview of drive trains.

CyclingTips was an online cycling magazine with strong technical coverage – until the publisher made changes in 2022. It published a some “endless FAQ” articles (detailed articles, periodically revised) on some components and issues of maintaining modern bicycles4No longer online at CyclingTips as of early 2024, perhaps available at archive sites and services:

Component or issueStartedRevised
Disc BrakesMay 2018August 2019
Tubeless Tires2019October 2021
Waxing ChainsAugust 2020March 2021

CyclingTips covered chain maintenance, cleaning, lubrication and wear and modern pioneers of testing lubricants and chains in text articles and audio media: CyclingTips NerdAlert podcast discussed technical and repair issues. The panelists often mentioned the cycling industry’s history of selling products that have drawbacks and flaws. Discussions of chain maintenance:

CyclingTips was reorganized after corporate changes, and downgraded its efforts to creating technical content in 2022. The new Escape Collective entity and team began to produce content in March 2023. Many of the writers and podcast panelists who had produced content for CyclingTips are with Escape Collective.

Discussions of chain wear on the internet often address readers and viewers interested in different issue:

  • speed in races
    • on different kinds of bicycles
    • under different conditions, and
  • durability and value of bicycles and components.

I am not able to keep the themes, separate and to separate the credible scientists, engineers, manufacturers, marketers, and journalists from the herd of misinformed noise. I will flag a few events and people I thought were credible as I discuss chain wear in this series of posts.


When an internet source or a published book or magazine mentions a person, a company, a product or an idea, internet search can lead to material that can be read and followed up on. This is time consuming but can be the most effective way of researching.


One response to “Bike Chains 1 – Chain Wear”

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