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Do expensive chains last longer? I get 300-400 miles using Wally World's $10 8 speed chains while riding off road or dirt. I monitor and replace the chain at close to 1 percent stretch. Would a 'better' (i.e. more expensive) chain last longer? Has anyone done a comparison of chain life and longevity vs price?

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  • I spent $10 on my last 8 speed chain and that is for a name brand SRAM chain. KMC is a company that pretty much only makes chains, and their stuff is decent quality. You can get an 8 speed chain for under $6 online. Maybe it's because you used it offroad, or didn't lube/clean it regularly, but you should get much more than 300-400 miles out of it. I replace my chain once every couple years which is probably after about 2000 km, and I don't even feel that I need to replace it, but 8 speed chains are just so affordable, it makes little sense to push them to their limits.
    – Kibbee
    Jul 11 '15 at 14:46
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    300-400 miles is really poor. I generally figure about 2000, using SRAM chains. Jul 11 '15 at 18:15
  • @DanielRHicks you are comparing apples to oranges (road vs grimy MTB) but I agree with your conclusion that the distance is far too short. Yet do acknowledge that an MTB rider can go through a new chain within a day, if they are riding an endurance MTB race and are reluctant to spend the 2 minutes of cleaning and lubricating it.
    – Vorac
    Jul 10 '20 at 6:30
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No. The only advantage of expensive chains within a specific brand is the minor reduction in weight. The ones with extra plating do look nicer and provide some corrosion resistance, but it takes almost no effort to keep your chain rust free.

There are differences between various manufacturers, but in general those relate to shifting and how the quicklinks work, not the chain life. (i.e. if you like how SRAM chains work on your bike, buy the cheapest SRAM chain. )

300/400 miles is a very short life span for a chain. Two things might help you extend the life of your chain.

  1. If your rear cluster is worn, that will quickly wear out a chain. On the other hand if you replace your chains regularly a rear cluster can last a very long time. If you have lot's of miles on the rear cluster consider a replacement. Any time you replace the rear cluster you should replace the chain. Front chainrings can also cause wear, but they take a lot longer to wear out.

  2. Excess lube on the chain. In a dusty dirt environment any lube on the outside of the chain creates a grinding paste that will wear a chain quickly. Chains actually move very little. All they really need is enough lubrication to prevent corrosion inside the rollers. If you're riding in dirt and dust wipe the outside of the chain as clean as possible before installing it.

Point 2 is controversial, all I can say is I ride on fine clay soils that destroy chains and it has worked for me to greatly extend the life of both chains and expensive gear clusters.

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    They also sell different types of lube for different riding conditions.
    – Batman
    Jul 11 '15 at 15:38
  • Because something is sold doesn't mean it actually provides any benefit. There's a lot of "snake oil" products available for chains. Jul 11 '15 at 16:02
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    Selecting the correct lube WILL extend the life of the chain. In particular, in dusty conditions one should use a "dry" oil (basically one that uses a sort of wax), as ordinary oil or "wet" oil will catch and hold dust. Similarly, a "wet" oil will help exclude water in wet conditions. (Of course, frequently cleaning and relubing is also important, and can be a substitute for using the "correct" oil.) Jul 11 '15 at 18:13
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    Usually the price range buys you performance and weight, not durability (assuming we're not talking about super cheap Wallmart bikes).
    – super
    Jul 11 '15 at 19:35
  • Thanks for the responses. As to point 1, I just replaced my chairing and cogs. Still I only got 3-400 miles on the first chain. I use this bike only for single track. As per 2, I use dry lube (white lightning) as in my area it's mostly dry sand/dirt conditions. I do a quick wipe of chain before applying the lube before every ride. Another point, my cheap chains measure at ~50% stretch new. Do better chains start less stretched?
    – Brianutah
    Jul 13 '15 at 13:23
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I get 5000 to 10000 kilometers from mid-priced 20€ Campagnolo C9 chains. I would say this is money well spent.

Of course, as other answers state, riding conditions and maintenance do effect the chain life. In my experience SRAM and KMC chains are nowhere near as durable with similar maintenance.

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  • If I recall correctly the C9 chains are actually “shorter” than normal chains and can last much longer until they are stretched. Unfortunately this can cause problems (or faster wear) with worn cogs and chainrings. Great for a new bike/drivetrain though.
    – Michael
    Jul 13 '15 at 21:49
  • If you measure the actual length of the chain, the length is exactly correct. The chain measurement tools measure the chain wrong way and will show too short if the chain rollers have tighter tolerances than what the tool is made for. That being said, there have been lots of reports about C9 not working with this and that cogs and being noisy. For me it's noisier than SRAM but shifts at least as well.
    – ojs
    Jul 15 '15 at 23:06
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Unfortunately it depends a lot on the specific manufacturer.

I usually get around 1500 km (or more) out of SRAM and Shimano chains. I always buy the least expensive option and usually 9 speeds. (All of my bikes are 3x9 speed mountain bikes) And I ride mountain trails in muddy or otherwise very humid conditions.

I clean after each ride if needed, but when the weather permits I skip cleaning up to 3 or 4 rides. I use Finish Line Wet lube, or 3 in 1 and even cheap 3 in 1 knockoffs usually sold in my country.

Except that I'm currently in another country, And used up an 8 speed Taya chain in just 500 km of city/road-ish riding and using Finish Line wax lube (A lube for dry conditions). I'm in a city that is almost flat, but it is very dusty.

Due to the short duration of this Taya Chain I switched to 8 speed Shimano Chain on Finish Line's dry lube. The change is at this point to soon to review, but as short as the first ride I noticed much better shifting performance and quieter operation under heavy load.

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