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Why can't we purchase chain by the meter, in any length, instead of in fixed lengths? Then the chain could be cut to the exact length required, unlike current situation of throwing away several links. This might not be beneficial for end users, but what about large bike shops or even OEM bike manufacturers.

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    I can't see how it would be more precise to cut the desired length from the larger piece of chain against the one sold today - you need the same number of links anyway. I guess the main reason for how it is now is that the bikes today aren't too different in terms of how much chain they need. Also when they are nicely packed, the manufacturer can add the connecting pin or a master link, while otherwise this would be less convenient. One situation where I see the advantage ofselling chains from continuous thread is for recumbents or non-standard bikes whcih may need significantly longer chains. – Slovakov Feb 27 '15 at 12:02
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    The waste of several links per chain would be eliminated. – Vorac Feb 27 '15 at 12:14
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    I am quite confident that bike manufacturers can obtain their chains either in bulk or pre-cut to the exact length needed. No one else (other than bent owners) would benefit from bulk chain. (The links themselves cost virtually nothing -- cutting to order in a one-off situation would be more expensive.) – Daniel R Hicks Feb 27 '15 at 12:25
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    @Vorac I personally like having a few spare links, they often come in handy when least expected. I have mine attached to a key ring so they also look nice. – Slovakov Feb 27 '15 at 12:52
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    @Vorac Not everyone wants reel of chain. A shop cutting custom lengths is manpower intensive. As stated by many - most people want a few extra lengths. I don't go the the shop knowing exactly how many lengths I need. Pull the existing and then cut the nicely packaged new chain to match is the common process. – paparazzo Feb 27 '15 at 14:07
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They do. Connex (Wipperman) sells bulk chain, as shown by this link, and these people also buy it by the spool. This is likely what bike manufacturers do, and I've seen it in a bike shop or two. I'm sure you can also get it at some place like McMaster-Carr or Grainger if you ask for ANSI #40 roller chain with the appropriate width (possibly by special order).

The only bikes which use bigger chains than a standard chains are custom, longtails, tandems or recumbents -- its just more convenient for 99.999% of the people to just get a standard length chain [and many of these are pretty close to just taking multiple chains joined together]. As for the few extra links "waste", they come in useful sometimes when you need to do a repair. And in net, its probably cheaper to just pick up a little plastic box which has a slightly larger chain than going to the LBS and asking the girl to break the chain to the exact number of links you need (remember, she needs to get paid and do the daunting task of counting/comparing the # of links in your old chain to the new chain provided you actually brought the old chain in. if you didn't do that, she has to assume you didn't muck up the # of links in the chain and you wont complain if your new chain ends up too short). And its quicker.

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    Another cost is the hand cleaner needed after the sales assistant has handled the old chain bought in by the customer. Thinking it though, she won;t wsh her hands till the sale is complete, so the POS will need industrial cleaner on the keys, and workshop tools will also be caked in 20 year grime..... – mattnz Feb 28 '15 at 7:19

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