Broken Bike Chain?

Yes, broken bike chain is a syndrome and no one is immune. It can happen to you with haste. And sometimes there is no explanation other than shoddy craftsmanship. Most of the time it’s a result of poor care.

With chains doing so much of the work, ie, taking you forward up hills and across the land, they get all of the brunt and no thanks. No one gets off their bike and says, “I am so happy about that chain! It’s allowed me to pedal my bike up to this ridge line. Damn it’s gorgeous up here!”

Usually it goes something more like this: “This is a damn fine bike.” They take a look around and move along with a high level of stoke. Life is good. The chain goes unthanked.



What about when the chain breaks? My breaks have been in places that are exclusively isolated and inconvenient. I have to say that at the moment I was not excited about my relationship with my chain.

Why they break:

You’re asking why this happens. So am I. But I know why. Let’s take a look:

  1. chain needed replacing a long time ago and is structurally unsound to operate
  2. really bad shifting (under load)
  3. Installed by an idiot (someone unqualified)
  4. Manufacturer Defect

1. Chain’s need to be replaced as they are a serious wear item. The chain is an assembly of small parts where metal on metal movement is part of life. As the chain twists and bends laterally and rolls over thousands of rpm’s per ride, it’s exposed to dirt and grime and bad shifts. The plates wear at their carrier pins and develop flex. At a certain point this starts to be measured as “chain stretch.” It’s because now the fittings of plates against pins is super sloppy.

broken chain example 1 & 2
fractured chain plates

Then one day under load you shift and then a plate fractures or peels away from the pin and you have a broken chain. End.

broken chain
example 3 & 4

2. When chains shift from cog to cog or chainring to chainring, the chain flexes in an abrupt way, much like when you’re about to miss an exit on the highway at 80 mph and you go for it. Something that is otherwise straight takes on a temporary sharp bend to go to the next gear. When this action happens under load or hard, fast pedaling (like we see done on e-bikes) the chain wears the pins at an accelerated rate. Now concepts from rule 1 apply.

breaking chain
example 5 – chain plate peeling away; chain are quite strong and for a bit this will actually feel like something is going on with shifting until one makes a solid chain inspection

3. When a chain is installed using a formerly pressed out pin, or if a new pin is improperly installed:

improperly installed chain pin
improperly installed chain pin leads to nearly immediate breakage – repaired by simply replacing the link with a master-link

Sometimes the pin installation isn’t right but seems so close that it requires a trained eye. But generally, using a previously pressed pin is the culprit here.

Each chain pin as little flanges at the end that essentially hold the outer chain plates in place. Once a pin is pressed back out it knocks this flange off one side and once pressed back in there is nothing to retain the outer plate on that side of the pin. Do yourself a favor and replace it with either a masterlink or a new chain pin, depending on what chain you have.

shimano chain pin
shimano chain pins, each for a different speed chain.
sram power link
SRAM master link or power link (black is for 10 speed)

4. Sometimes you’re the victim of poor manufacture. Get to your local shop and talk with them about it. Here’s one:

SRAM XX1 Eagle chain that appears to have had a defective pin, notice how the pin is broken in the middle and the ends are still within the outer plates?



Remedies:

Get a new chain. Sometimes you need new chainrings and cogs as well, depending on how worn things are.

Continued Discussion – Bicycle Commuting

Somebody please fix these numbers:

87% of daily trips take place in personal vehicles
91% commutes take place in personal vehicles
(Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

“…Each gallon of gasoline burned creates 20 pounds of carbon dioxide…”
“…Every mile pedaled rather than driven keeps nearly one pound of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Even a short, four-mile round-trip bike ride keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe…”
(Conservation International – What You Can Do)

Search on Google to see how efficient your auto is. I haven’t driven my car for a couple weeks and it feels so great! I ride all over. See my recent post on riding (bicycle commuting) home from the car service center 50 miles from my house. I’ve car pooled some places, with my wife to go see family or friends. Riding my bike to work and the store is simple and requires little more time. Of course, I admit, that my small community makes it easy to spontaneously go to the store on my bike.

Making it happen:

Some communities aren’t so small and require more planning but that shouldn’t stop you from being able to ride a bike to fulfill your daily chores including work. Bikes come in such a vast variety that you can literally find one that mozies around or one that rides like a bullet to do the job. From Touring bikes to competitive road bikes, you have your choice. If you work in a mountain town there are great trail bikes around.

a touring bike
road bike

 

I guess, the hardest part is building it into your day. I once had a customer that was busy enough with family and work that his daily commute was his exercise plan. He built it into his day and each way was about 17 miles through traffic. He was an investment officer. Every person has to figure how they are going to make it work if they decide to do it.

Bicycle commuting is the kind of thing that promotes good health, both physically and mentally. In articles all over the web you can read about how exercise improves mood and productivity at work. The increased blood flow to the brain and body may have something to do with this. Here are a couple articles about exercise and one specifically about exercise before work, 5 Reasons to Exercise Before Work and 7 Benefits of Morning Exercise. Think of the morning commute to work as this way to exercise and brighten your day.

Bicycle Power!

Obviously there are times when we require our auto but I believe that most of the time we can do the work of the auto under our own power and gain massive benefits for our bodies and environment as a result.

I suppose I’ll make an argument for using cars less and less in the next part of the ongoing discussion about bicycle commuting.

A Discussion – Bicycle Commuting

Yesterday I drove 50 miles to the car dealership to drop off my car for service. Rather than having my wife follow me in her car I decided to make a day of it and ride my road bike over our mountain passes to get home. I’ve never been afraid to use the bicycle as a means of transportation; bicycle commuting is my most common way to get to work. With fuel prices and the resulting pollution, riding a bicycle is much more friendly on both environment and wallet.

High Mountain Pass at 9000′

The ride home started off pleasant, as all rides do but I needed to climb 5700′ vertical over 43 miles. The pitch basically ramps up steeper and steeper as the day wore on, the cool air turning warm with sun and elevation thinning the available oxygen…

Seriously, elevation gain

Although I was home by noon, I was useless in regards to getting on with my day. The commute took 4 hours, the climbing unrelenting. But I made it home. Get this, I rode an 2001 steel Bianchi to do the job. Think of it this way, instead of using the bike for fitness and recreation, why is it not used more often as a primary means of mobility?

Bicycles can be more for just the occasional business professional or everyday college student. Bicycles should possibly be used every time we go out to dinner, the movies, shopping.. sure, it takes more time and more planning, but you end up with just the essentials when shopping, a bigger day floating the river, and a nice way to get home after sitting in a theatre for too long in one uncomfortable chair.

You and I might say that a lot of folks do this. Well it isn’t enough. Imagine having to go into the city with your bike from your rural home. It could be a long way off. You make a day of it. In Europe there are trains to help people move about in this way. Between Heber City and Salt Lake City, Utah, there are no such options. So.. We ride our bikes over mountain passes?

I don’t know the answer here. But I’d like to think that it’s possible, with proper planning to be able to do bigger and badder things in the name of simple economy and saving the world from the effects of all types of pollution. We might spend more time shopping local, buying much less of the things we don’t need, living healthier lives with our bodies in motion, and other things.

We could spend more time breathing the air rather than polluting it. Anyhow, check out The League of American Bicyclists page. It may help you out.

Fat Bike Packing – Day 2, Soapstone

Back out on the open road I descended on into Soapstone Basin by following the switchbacks down the mountain-side. The road was beleaguered by trucks hauling smaller off-road vehicles. The men driving these trucks were of size. They never move a muscle in order to move about.

This is how the Terminator won the battle against humanity.

Water. The spigots were an oasis in a country that shouldn’t have been devoid of water. There was a river nearby. This seriously shouldn’t have been the first water I’d seen in so long but I failed to trust the sources I did see because of the large populations seemingly living in such close proximity. This water was good. No nasty flavor, no hint of chlorine. Hell, it may have been free of Fluoride. Don’t tell anyone. It’s a good thing.

I drank a bunch. Topped off my reservoirs and headed immediately out to find a place to camp. I wasted an hour thinking I could find a place just there off the road. But in the end I paid $20 for a spot over a the Soapstone campground. At least, I thought, there should be running water there. I was wrong. There wasn’t a single spigot that worked. Turns out that the only running water at a campsite was the Lost Creek site, some 15 miles up the road.

So I grabbed a sweet site in the middle of the campground close to a toilet. It was open and spacious, like a comfortable house. I had room to walk around and contemplate my existence. After setting up camp I grabbed my extra bladder and headed for the sanitary station once more 1 mile back the way I came. I was able to bring back one more gallon of water.

I used it all before I left camp the following morning. Mostly drinking it.

I never really took stock before when backpacking how much I used water at camp, between drinking and cooking, one gallon per person per night seems to be about par for me. The next time I do this I’m simply going to bring an empty jug. And planning routes around water is such a legitimate thing. Which isn’t a thing I’ve ever spent much time thinking about! While backpacking in the true backcountry I just grab water where I find it. But it always seems more common. With bike packing, as this was my first experience touring altogether, water stops seem more dispersed and something to consider while planning routes and camps.

With all the consideration for water, the other main concern was food. I had definitely brought enough, with an emergency supply of bars and electrolyte powder as a luxury, just in case. But I didn’t have anything else. Night took its time getting to camp, descending slowly as I ate some more oysters and mashed potatoes. That felt like a dinner I’d repeat and recommend to others.
The camps adjacent to me were literally all trailer or camper oriented. I was there with a bike, empty car park, and a lone single man tent. My experience was so completely opposite of my fellow campers that it was nearly only laughable.

I built a nice fire out of some scrap wood I’d found around the area. While I didn’t mind the solitude a fire is about as useful as a cold fire pit when you’re not sharing it with someone. My fire-ring companion is my wife. We always enjoy them together. This time, I was alone and staring blankly into a fire that simply burned for warmth. There was no social gathering around this fire.

About 9:30 I stuffed the fire out and headed for the tent. I tied the bike to a tree so that the local children would have a hard time borrowing it for the night. There were a lot of children about. And I slept really well that night. It was quiet except for the one guy with his generator running into the night and early in the morning. Not sure what he needed all that electricity for. Probably his electric toothbrush.

Gravel Bike Problem Solving

So, with my carbon Specialized Crux I had to make some modifications to accommodate my 11-36 cassette. This was before the x-horizon derailleur platform was available from Sram just 3 summers ago. With a mid cage x0 rear derailleur I was able to use a 34/50t chainring combo as well.

The problem with the carbon Crux was that the rear derailleur cable stop was internal. The cable exited the frame just above the dropout and was designed to feed into the rear derailleur from the rear, because that’s how road rear ders work.

My conundrum was how to route the cable housing so that it didn’t look idiotic and still worked. I fished out an old thing called a “rollamajig” made by Avid (Sram) a long time ago. They aren’t made anymore…

And Nokon housing which was purchase by Jagwire and is pretty alright stuff for this application:

It works exceptionally well. And is now paired with a 36/52t chainring combo. It is a super-competitive gravel grinder.