I have a modest commuter bike with Shimano 3x7-speed Tourney gruppo on and I ride quite a few miles on it. Compared to my 105 11-speed road bike, I noticed that chains don't quite last as long ... on 105, I get about 5000 km life out of it and it's not even worn to death, the 7-speed chain (CN-HG40) is pretty much done after less than a third of it usually and that's not much if you commute 100-200k per month plus some other rides...

Of course, just as I'm used to from my road bike, I try to keep it clean and lubricated within reason but that didn't change much in lifespan on the 2nd chain I'm through within the last year. Cassette is OK, looks far from pointy and shifts absolutely fine with new chain on, no skipping etc...

I'd like to get more life out of the chain, there is a CN-HG71 chain which should fit but seems to be e-bike spec. Is it worth a try running that one on a normal bike and get more life out of it or can I expect similar wear from it while its indeed a bit pricier (not that it matters at retail prices from 10-20€).

Are there some other fitting non-Shimano options, even if it doesn't shift as crisp, my standards here are not as high as for my other bikes, to be honest ... 😜

Thanks for your input!

  • 1
    Aside, consider that your commuter rides in arguably worse weather than your nicer bike, so accelerated wear is to be expected.
    – Criggie
    May 24 at 19:26
  • @Criggie Sure thing but it's not as is if I would grind out 1000 km on a gritty chain, I have my standards here as well, so I'd say that the 7/8/9-speed "narrow" chains just aren't as good as those on modern road groupsets, by a mile ...
    – DoNuT
    May 24 at 19:31
  • 1
    @DoNuT if you concern is wear, I recommend you to consider wax instead of lube. According to this website (zerofrictioncycling.com.au) it helps quite a bit (and having a clean chain is nice on a commuter too).
    – Renaud
    May 24 at 20:51
  • @Renaud Yeah but isn't that a bit over-the-top for a commuter at the end of the day? I mean reading the cyclingtips.com source quote in the answer below, it just seems that Shimano has improved the pin construction from 10-speed upwards and these older chain series are just expected to be wearing out fast. I'll try to find out of there was some technology transfer to the HG-CN71 model or if KMC etc. have durable alternatives, it's not about marginal gains and maintenance geekery on an everyday bike, I just don't want to swap chains 3 times a year. 😉
    – DoNuT
    May 25 at 5:31
  • @DoNuT good point, and that's why it's a comment and not an answer - that being said, there are some people here that are commuting on waxed chains. Seems to me like a "different time distribution" (slightly bigger chain maintenance operations, but more spaced, and some time gains on cleaning - I ride in dusty conditions, so wet lube is not ideal). I only started recently to wax the chain (drip wax though, not hot wax, but that's in the program), but so far I like.
    – Renaud
    May 25 at 5:59

1 Answer 1


My experience with chains is that some simple chain care and selecting high-quality chains helps a lot.

I have gotten 4000 km from the original chain of my 10-speed e-bike (with Tiagra components but not sure if the chain is Tiagra or Ultegra or something else -- I'll replace it with Ultegra once it's worn). It isn't still 0.5% worn and I expect I do the next chainwear check the next time it starts squeaking which should be at about 4500 km. And note this is an e-bike and that I used to weigh more than 100 kg for most of that 4000 km I have ridden. Given those specs (over 100 kg weight, e-bike), chainwear should be very fast but I seem to be getting more kilometers out of it than would be expected given the strict 0.5% wear limit I adhere to.

There is a chainwear article with broken images here but fortunately Wayback Machine helps: https://web.archive.org/*/https://www.cyclingtips.com/2019/12/the-best-bicycle-chain-durability-and-efficiency-tested/ (select old enough version to see the images)

The 8-speed chain, HG40, wears indeed very fast. 9-speed HG93, 10-speed CN-6701 and 11-speed CN-HG701 have far longer lifetimes.

What they didn't test is equal spec 8-speed with equal spec 9-speed (if you can find matching pairs anymore).

However, this shows that with the move to thinner chains, chainwear doesn't automatically increase. Better manufacturing can offset the drawbacks of thinner chains. I suspect if you choose CN-HG71, you can get some of that better manufacturing for 7/8-speed systems too even though it may not match HG93 and CN-6701.

About the chain care. What you want to do is to never add oil to an oily and dirty chain. All the oil does is to help attract more dirt, and help that move to chain innards near the pins where it can do the most damage.

What you instead want to do is to wait until you can hear the slightest amount of squeak. It means the chain is starting to run dry. Then the rollers are shiny clean. The chain innards near the pins are quite clean too, since there's little oil to attract dirt so there's little dirt too. Clean the exterior of the chain with stiff brushes and specially reinforced paper towels for about 10 minutes. Once it's acceptably clean, oil it with thixotropic motorcycle chain lubricant. This lubricant is good for about 800 km. Wipe the excess lubricant away with a specially reinforced paper towel. Then you're good for the next 800 km.

So the idea is that since it's hard and messy and requires lots of hard-to-dispose solvents to clean the chain innards, you use the natural cleaning action. Once the chain starts to run dry, the dirt isn't held inside the chain anymore and can find its way out. The side plates will be dirty though in the parts that don't rub against each others, but that you clean with brushes and paper towels.

The important thing here is to react as soon as you hear the slightest amount of squeak (best to react in 50 - 100 km since even 150 km of riding with a squeaking chain can do lots of damage). If you let it squeak for too long, the lack of oil wears the chain very quickly. So there's a balance. Adding oil every 100-200 km means it's continuously full of oil and full of dirt (fast wear), waiting too long to add oil means it wears from lack of oil (fast wear too). But an optimal oiling interval based on hearing a very slight amount of squeak means the wear is very low and chains last long.

Now, theoretically you could remove the chain away from the bike for very thorough cleaning every 100 km before adding oil. It requires lots of time so not worth it since you could spend that time riding instead of working on the bike. I suspect it would however increase chain lifetime somewhat over the brush/paper towel cleaning every ~800 km. Also theoretically you could use on-the-bike cleaning machines every 100 km before adding oil. However, they make a huge mess, require lots of solvent and oiling a chain that hasn't fully dried from solvent probably doesn't make sense and drying the solvent is best done on a hotplate and you can't obviously put a chain on the bike over a hotplate.

So-called dry lubes require so frequent application that I'm almost certain they make no sense, since even though they don't attract dirt as heavily, they can still carry dirt inside the chain, and it doesn't make sense to clean that dirt away so frequently and oiling a dirty chain with any kind of lubricant is a big NO! But it certainly makes sense to quickly clean dirt away every 800 km which is the interval needed for thixotropic motorcycle chain lubricant. Also dry lubricants probably are not as good as lubricants -- ever seen an internal combustion engine lubricated by a dry lubricant?

I'm sure this answer will be downvoted by a huge horde of wannabe racing cyclists who fear how many watts you lose by not oiling the chain before every ride. But once you stop fearing about watts, you will see that it's very simple to extend chain lifetime a lot, it doesn't require really much time, it can even save time since you don't have to change the chain so frequently.

  • Thanks for the comprehensive answer, but to be honest, as I'm an avid road cyclist, I'm aware of good chain care. I use dry lube on my road bike because I hardly ever ride in wet conditions (would rather go for a run, then) and am happy that I don't have a dirty drivetrain just from dust picked up by an oily chain. On the commuter, I do the opposite because I ride in every condition and the from-factory lube all over the chain protects the chain from rust etc (especially in winter). On my 105 group, if often clean the chain before even riding with the greasy new chain once. 😜
    – DoNuT
    May 24 at 18:15
  • I tried cleaning the chain so that it is never dirty and "only lubricate as much as need", i.e. links only and wiping off excess oil but in winter, the outer plates of the links started to rust (even though I wiped the chain dry when riding on wet roads). Now I'm back to an off-the-shelve lube/protection spray because it is easy to apply on the whole chain and blocks off rust - the flipside is the chain picking up more dirt but that can be cleaned, unlike rust ... problem is, CN-HG40 is just s**t compared to Shimanos newer and higher-spec chains.
    – DoNuT
    May 24 at 18:18
  • I just checked the cyclingtips article and the measure wear is higher than my real-world results but in the same ballpark if you add about 50%, so a CN-HG601 does about 5k to 0.5 wear and CN-HG40 is probably at 1k by that point and then falls apart even faster - with 300km more on the clock, it was more than read to go. At least the Tourney cassette seems to be sturdy and doesn't mind those ever-wearing chains.
    – DoNuT
    May 24 at 19:49

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