After months of soaking rains, and ruined trails, progress on the chain wear challenge is finally being made. Never in my life would I have expected to not be able to put in any serious miles until nearly the start of June, but it seems that weather patterns nation wide have been a little off this Spring.

While the two endurance riders in the test are nearly halfway finished as expected, the rest of the crew has been struggling to rack up the miles. Currently, everyone in the test is at least to 50 miles which is great, but not where we really need to be. However, there were high hopes for improved riding conditions after a week of 90+ temperatures and no rain, as most of the trails were drying out. But, that didn’t last long as local spots just received 4.5 inches of rain in less than 24 hours….

Even though 50 is the only milestone everyone has reached so far, trends are all ready starting to emerge.

What chain group has taken the early lead? Find out after the break!


While it is clearly early in the test, based on the average of all chainwear measures after 50 miles, so far 10 speed group holds the lead for the least average wear. With less than .01 between the two groups though, it is still anybody’s game. I will say though, that based on the numbers of those riders who are currently past 50 miles the trend is continuing. Although, once the remainder of the data from the remaining riders comes in though, that could easily change.

For the purpose of testing the chain lube that comes stock on Shimano chains, all chains were not lubed until it was felt that it was needed (basically dry and rattly). Like clockwork, just about every chain reached the point of need right about 50 miles in. It was at this point that all of the chains were cleaned, and then lubed with Dumonde Tech Original chain lube.

What’s amazing, is that when I first set out to perform this test, I considered myself to be fairly knowledgeable regarding chainwear based on my years in a shop setting. Though, after scrutinizing the chains and their wear for even this short of time, I have noticed quite a bit I would never have expected. For instance, the initial difference in wear of the chain from 0 to 50 miles is 2, sometimes 3 times the wear when compared to subsequent 50 mile intervals after the initial break in.

When it comes to measuring the chain itself, that too, was a learning experience. Apparently, the Feedback Sports digital chain gauge is so accurate that if you don’t at least clean the chain thoroughly before you measure, you will get incorrect measures. It seems that the dirt between the rollers may keep the chain gauge from spreading the links adequately and results in a low measure. When you think about it, the gauge measures down to 0.01mm so it’s really not that surprising that bits of dirt could throw off the reading. This is illustrated in the graph above due to the fact that both Bob and Chris had a few measurements before I realized the discrepancy. You will notice in the future that at about 150 miles, at least Bob’s numbers jumped sharply catching up to, and surpassing any of the 10 speeders at 150 miles.

With the bulk of summer ahead of us, you can count on the mileage coming on faster than ever, but until next time, stay tuned.


  1. alloycowboy on

    Wow, instrumented bicycle chain testing. Kudos! Now all you have to do is start testing bicycles with a GPS, stop watch, and power meter and you will be the world leader in bicycle testing.

  2. John on

    I was under the impression that the stuff that came on a new chain was grease, not lube, and needed to be de-greased. No? If so, that would explain the huge difference you found between the initial wear, up to 50 miles, and beyond 50 miles: that’s that point that you de-greased it.

  3. John on

    Huh! Though, now that I think about it, I’ve been buying sram chains for the past several years now, I don’t know if a new shimano chain comes with similar stuff on it or not.

  4. bc on

    I would think that the 9 speed would have more wear and tear. On the 10 speed, the rider is making use of his gears more efficiently.

    Check this out of a Chain wear testing machine:

  5. greg on

    there is nothing “dry” about factory Shimano chain grease. the coating used to be very tacky (still is on SRAM) and is primarily to ensure that the chain you purchase is not pre-rusted. IMO it also is a fine chain lubricant, but the sticky versions sure attract a lot of dirt, and i have my suspicions (untested) that it has something to do with the somewhat frequent chain link “burring” that can happen with a new SRAM chain.
    so in the end, i’d leave the factory coating on with shimano chains, wipe it off and relube with sram chains, but i feel no need to “degrease” them, just use your fave lube to help wipe off the sticky stuff.
    some chain manufacturers, such as kmc, recommend against any degreaser use on chains.

  6. Brett on

    To my knowledge the factory grease that you are talking about is Cosmoline. Basically a grease that protects the metal from rusting. Its the same stuff that they use for storage and preservation of surplus firearms. That said, yes it is a grease, but i am not sure how well it works for lubrication. I my experience every time i don’t remove it from my chain, it picks up so much dirt and grit from the trail i end up having to degrease the chain anyway.

  7. CJ on

    In 2006 I contacted Shimano, SRAM, KMC to get an answer to this very question. The response was unanimous, the sticky grease that comes on a packaged chain is in fact lube. This is the story that I received from every manufacturer. A chain is in essence, a series of bearings connected by a link plates on each side. The links slide against each allowing the chain to bend, and the bearing surfaces roll against the cogs and chainrings. The reason for the thick lube is to keep it there as long as possible, as once it is gone, there is no effective way of getting it back short of the old school paraffin trick. Here’s the rub, the lube between the links vaporizes way quicker than the stuff inside the bearings, hence the need for chain lube.

    Long story short, degreasing your chain is a one way ticket to premature wear. Also, don’t use chain lubes that are mostly solvent (I’m talking about you white lightning). The best way to deal the grease on a new chain is to spray some WD-40 or Tri-Flow on a shop rag and wipe the chain down until you reach the desired degree of slickness.

    As for the chain wear challenge, a commendable effort. Not sure if you can build this into the analysis, but it would be great to track measurements of pin to pin (old school ruler method) and bearing to bearing distance (chain tool method). My looming suspicion is that chain wear indicators measure a combination of bearing play (either due to loss of grease or wear) and chain stretch, but have always wanted to know what comes first, and what of the two causes the most drivetrain distress wear. Also, any thought to measuring lateral stiffness?

  8. Big D on

    Maybe I missed it but have you guys talked at all about what the chains are actually made of? In my experience over the years with ALL of the component manufacturers almost every time they release a new iteration of a product they update the materials being used. And in the case of Shimano’s products they also seem to build to a higher level when it comes to tolerances. I would think that these two things in particular could easily offset the small amount of narrowing that occurs. I would expect to see however that the 10 speed drive trains show accelerated wear more quickly as the miles add up on the drive train. New out of the both the teeth on chain rings and cogs clearly have much harsher edges and sharper teeth.

  9. ZachOverholt on

    @Greg2, actually Greg part of the test is going to be comparing the point at which the Shimano TL-CN41 (which your source claims to be accurate) reads that the chain is worn out, to that at which the Feedback Sports gauge says likewise.

    To all, we have never claimed this test to be the end all, be all, scientific chain wear test, but merely an experiment to see what would happen. We’ve tried to control all the variables we could. There is more going on than just 9 vs 10, like how many miles the average rider can expect from a regularly maintained chain, and whether Shimano’s own chain wear measurement tool coincides with other popular options.

    We should have official answers from Shimano shortly on the chain lube issue, and also material construction of the two chains.

    Thanks for reading!

  10. LomaAltaMater on

    in the original post about this test there was a comment about the new (machine) tooling of the 10 speed components versus the assumed older tooling of the 9 speed components. The machine tools that are used to manufacture chains do wear out and eventually need to be replaced.

  11. DudeBRO on

    Im very curious to how long these Shimano chains last..

    Also take note of what drive trains are being used, and if the rider is a spinner or a masher.

    Ive done tests myself and have seen some pretty interesting numbers so far, still in testing mode tho.


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