2011 reigns as wettest year in recorded history. That was the headline of the the local news site the other day, and I wish they were lying. This of course is referring to my home town of Cincinnati, Ohio, along with adjacent Northern Kentucky and Eastern Indiana.  When I set out to perform this chain wear test I had really planned for it to take less than a season, as almost everyone involved typically rides 1000+ miles per year off road. Boy, was I wrong.

When we first set out to do this test, we tried to control every variable we reasonably could in order to have the most worth while real world test our resources would allow. The one element we couldn’t control? The weather, of course.

To be fair, the photo above is actually from Versailles, Indiana, but at only about an hours drive away, it is a favorite destination among locals due to the great trails. From information gathered from trail building professionals, carnage like that pictured above isn’t necessarily due to poor trail construction, rather underground seepage of water. The water saturates our nearly 100% clay soil from the bottom up, leaving a soggy, sloppy mess. CORA, HMBA, and KYMBA do a great job of keeping up the local trails, but sometimes you can only do so much (to see the repairs to the trail section above, click here). I suppose this is payback for the long drought and perfect hardpack trail conditions we had almost all summer long in 2010.

In spite of the huge amount of rain, trails have been rideable at one point or another (just not as much) so keep reading to check out where we are in the test, and what group has the early lead.

As expected, the two endurance riders are the farthest into the challenge with Bob (9 speed) tapping out at 666 miles and Chris (10 speed) still going at 763 miles. With his highest wear reading at 0.63 (0.80 is completely worn out) on the Feedback Sports Digital Chain Gauge, it’s clear that Chris will far surpass Bob for total miles, in spite of the fact that Chris is slightly heavier than Bob. You may be asking yourself how Chris and Bob are so far into the challenge compared to the others. The answer is that Bob and Chris have both traveled to quite a few endurance race events and have ridden gravel roads together when the trails were too wet, which was planned on from the beginning. Since they were both attending the same events more or less, it was ok’d for the test whereas the rest of the riders mostly stayed close to home – hence the lack of miles.

Many riders are past 400 miles at this point, though it is the farthest point in collectively. As pointed out by the chart above, Riley is the only 9 speed rider with similar chainwear measurements compared to the 10 speed group. Does this poke a hole in the 10 speed groups advantage? Unlikely. Soaking wet, Riley still probably weighs less than 130 pounds and happens to be one of the smoothest climbers I know. Unless his bike is bouncing end over end down a cliff (likely), his drivetrain isn’t exactly under a lot of strain.

It should be mentioned that currently we have had zero failures of any of the Shimano XT chains, in the 9 or 10 speed variety. Also, other than the initial break in period, neither group has needed more adjustment than another. Once the limits were set, it’s been smooth sailing with tiny cable adjustments here and there. All riders are still on the original equipment, including cables and housing.

It’s never over until the fat lady sings, but based on the data at this poing, 10 speed is certainly looking the favorite.


  1. Though I’m very interested in this ‘research’ I understand zero or nill of that graph… Where are the miles? What are the numbers under the graph? Don’t wanna be a troll but can you please make that graph a bit more clear or give us the raw data?

  2. This is interesting, but as ea said, the data presentation is a bit tough to follow. You might consider running this by a statistician (preferably one who is also a cyclist). Those guys cost money though… so you could also post as much of the raw data as possible and let us geek-out on it.

  3. ea & Chad, the chart is not a complex as you make it out to be.
    * All measurement were made at the 400 mile mark
    * Multiple measurements were made at this time, presumably to weed out user error.
    * The numbers below the chart are the measurements taken.

  4. The chart is easy enough to read, its just overly complex and doesn’t give the info you need to draw a conclusion. For example, you don’t know if there is a statistically significant difference in the 9 and 10-speed groups. It is a middle ground between raw and processed data.

    I’m not trying to be overly critical. I just think that with a bit of work they could have something that is at the least pretty interesting, and possibly really useful.

  5. I find the graph to be all the information needed. There’s a pretty clear line that shows how 10 speed is lasting a bit longer than 9. If you get the avg stretch of the two groups you’ll find that the 10 speed is at about .38 while the 10 speed is at .50. For me that’s enough to go 10 speed. Especially when this is at the half way point.

  6. The conclusion so far is don’t fight the 10 speed revolution based on preconceptions that it will wear faster and the industry is conspiring to get more of your money.

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