I have a Jamis Beatnik (love) and ride on the single-speed side of my hub. I'm wondering - derailleurs seem to me like they might 'stress' the chain (even if only slightly) more than single-speed in the process of changing gears. Are geared bikes' chains harder to maintain / shorter lived than single-speeds'?

(Background: I noticed I hardly have to clean my chain on my single speed, and it always looks great and feels tight.)

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    Sounds like you're not riding very hard. Single speed chains stretch like crazy; I need to replace mine at least annually. – Mathletics Sep 10 '14 at 18:40
  • Not sure about that. I do about 20 miles a week of mostly inner-city and suburban commuting, am 225 lbs, and have had the same chain for two years. By bike mechanic usually jokes how hard I seem to ride the frame (replaced my crankset, heavy duty tubes, big, flat bmx pedals). I've wiped the chain down once, but never "cleaned" or oiled it, and with a few very small exceptions it looks almost new. – d8aninja Sep 11 '14 at 13:16
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Single speed last longer and cost less. More metal and less (no) flex.

SS comes in 1/8 and 3/32. I would contend a SS 3/32 of the same basic construction is stronger than a 3/32 7 speed because it does not need to be built to flex and it is not flexed.

I am not finding any pictures of 3/32 SS chains and the chain on my SS bike is 1/8.
So I guess it is not really a straight comparison.
But a SS will take a 1/8 and geared will not so it is a fair comparison.

Also SS is built to take the abuse of a fixie. In a fixie the chain has to take the braking force and gets hammered. Note the question is SS not fixie.

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    Are you sure the result here is true? Obviously this is anecdotal, but I've gone through many more chains on my fixie. I always assumed that you put tension on the chain because you have to keep peddling with the same gear when if you had a gear, you would have changed long ago. – Niall Sep 10 '14 at 18:32
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    @Niall But the question is SS not fixie. Way different. – paparazzo Sep 10 '14 at 20:03
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    In my experience as bicycle mechanic, SS chains will last at least twice as long, but mostly even much longer. It is because they are less flexible (= stronger) and because they don't move from gear to gear during use. And mostly, SS chains are thicker to. – Foxhill Sep 11 '14 at 12:47

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