Author Topic: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?  (Read 5457 times)

decessus

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Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« on: January 14, 2015, 09:21:42 PM »
So I recently had to change a tire on the bike - there is one link that is quite stiff (I thought I had to remove the bicycle chain in order to remove the wheel, but of course you don't as I found out) due to me taking my Park IB3 tool and using it to try &  "push out" the pin holding the chain together.  This resulted in a stiff link - I tried reversing it but to no avail.  Should I take it in to the pro bike shop to have them look at it this point?  Will it loosen up on its own?  I'm trying to achieve the balance between basic road safety and saving money.

The link is very stiff you can hear it clicking over the gear...

kendallf

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2015, 09:58:23 PM »
You can usually loosen the link by forming the chain into a 'z' (bend at a sharp angle at the stiff link) and twisting it from side to side until the link loosens. 

decessus

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2015, 11:48:23 PM »
Do I need to use pliers?  I just tried with my bare hands and one barely budged, and the other link seemed pretty stubborn.

Ocelot

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2015, 11:55:00 PM »
On your chain tool, you'll notice there are two usable slots that the chain will fit into. The one furthest away from the screw mechanism is the one you'd usually use to break or join a chain. The one closest to the screw mechanism - the one where the other side of the chain is butting up against the other slot guide, rather than the solid end of the tool - is for exactly the purpose you require. Put your stiff link in it and apply just a little bit of pressure from the screw/pin handle. We're talking a 1/4 turn absolute max from the pin making contact. This should push the outer plate very slightly away from the inner roller and free that link up nicely. If it doesn't work, try a tiny little bit more pressure, but go in small steps as you don't want to overdo it, if you push the pin too far then it won't ever sit tight again and may break (no fun at all and not worth the risk for your knees/teeth/pride). You'll be fine if you go in very small increments.

I'm sadly still part of the working masses, but luckily my day job is fixing bikes, so it's not all bad.

hyla

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2015, 12:00:28 AM »
If you can't get pin back in with the chain tool, is rust or grit an issue?  If my chains get too grimy, I soak them overnight in simple green mixed with water to get the rust off, then scrub off all the old grease and dirt, then let them dry and reapply lube.  This does, of course, require removing the chain.

Generally, chains need to be replaced only if they are stretched out to the point that they will wear down the chainrings and cogs - there is a fairly inexpensive tool that can be used to check this - and if they are stretched out, it absolutely is worth replacing them, a new chain is much cheaper than a new cassette. 

I think a bike shop would probably just try to sell you a new chain, rather than messing around with trying to fix a stuck link.  So, if you don't want to spend the money, keep trying with your chain tool, or see if a good cleaning helps.  Also, you could probably take the stuck link out of your chain all together and reattach it - a chain that's one link shorter would probably be fine as long as your bike has a derailleur.

decessus

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2015, 12:27:07 AM »
This should push the outer plate very slightly away from the inner roller and free that link up nicely. If it doesn't work, try a tiny little bit more pressure, but go in small steps as you don't want to overdo it, if you push the pin too far then it won't ever sit tight again and may break (no fun at all and not worth the risk for your knees/teeth/pride). You'll be fine if you go in very small increments.

I'm sadly still part of the working masses, but luckily my day job is fixing bikes, so it's not all bad.
  Thank you very much Ocelot, I hear you on the "working masses" :) .... what side of the chain do I push the pin on?  Does it matter?  I did it on the side where I thought I saw a "protrusion" - it seemed to loosen things up a bit (though it's still not like the rest of the chain).

Ocelot

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2015, 12:46:53 AM »
In theory it doesn't really matter, but usually you'd push from the outside of the bike inwards as that's physically a lot easier. If one side is clearly protruding a lot more than the other then it would also make sense to push on that side, esp if it's due to you installing that pin yourself. Make sure both sides are protruding a tiny amount or flush with the link plates when you're done, you definitely don't want a pin to be in further than that.

Now is probably a good time to mention that ideally you don't want to be pushing a pin out to break a chain and then re-using that same pin to join it, because the links will be flared out and may not join solidly again. This is true of all chains but especially true of modern ones (8sp, 9sp or higher). You can do it in a pinch but it's not ideal. The 'correct' way to rejoin a chain depends on the manufacturer - for Shimano, they sell specific joining pins that are shaped to slide easily into place and designed to fit nice and tight so the chain is still strong. SRAM, KMC and others use interlocking joining links that replace the damaged link and join very easily without tools - these also work on Shimano and are good as a no-brainer safe option. Both of these options won't cost you more than a couple of bucks and guarantee a good join, and thus no future issues at that point. The SRAM/KMC ones also allow you to easily remove and rejoin the chain for cleaning so I'm a fan of those myself.

Ocelot

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2015, 12:51:35 AM »
I did it on the side where I thought I saw a "protrusion" - it seemed to loosen things up a bit (though it's still not like the rest of the chain).

Try a touch more - you should be able to get it loose enough that it doesn't hang up at all on the rear derailleur pulleys.

decessus

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2015, 07:58:26 PM »
Thank you, I think it's 95%  restored now after I applied your tip and then rode on it some more.

Geldsnor

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2015, 03:08:01 PM »
Yes you should replace it:
A new chain is only a coupe of dollars, while a worn down chain has too much clearance + friction, which will wear down your gears. So being cheap on replacing the chain will actually cost you more in the long run.

Last but not least, you will definitely enjoy the more efficient use of your muscle power because of the smoother ride! So, just replace it while you are at it :)

decessus

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2015, 04:25:23 PM »
Thanks Geldsnor, does anyone know how to determine what size chain to buy?

Geldsnor

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2015, 12:54:19 PM »
As long as the old one ;)

When you go to the bike store, they have standard chains for standard bikes. Usually they are a bit too long, one size fits all. So you have to take a few links from the new chain to match the length of the old chain: just hold them next to each other.

Good luck!

skyrefuge

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2015, 03:41:01 PM »
Thanks Geldsnor, does anyone know how to determine what size chain to buy?

Ugh, please don't listen to Geldsnor, he clearly didn't read your post and has no idea what he's talking about.

Yes, once a chain has been used enough that it's "stretched", it will wear down your gears and those will eventually need to be replaced too. But that's not what your problem was (at least not in this post; you *may* also have a worn/stretched chain, but nothing in your post indicated that). Also, chains unfortunately cost more than "a couple of dollars". More like $15-20 at a minimum.

As noted by Ocelot, who definitely knows what he's talking about, a stiff link from removing/replacing a pin is such a standard problem that chain tools are built to solve it. Replacing the chain for a stiff link is like replacing your car's engine when you need an oil change.

It sounds like you already have it all figured out, but Park Tool has a page with photos completely detailing the stiff-link issue and its solution:

http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/tight-link-repair-ct-3-ct-5-ct-6-ct-7

decessus

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2015, 11:10:18 PM »
Thanks for the link skyrefuge!  I don't think that I have a stretched chain at the moment - the bike was used but I was told it was kept in a garage for the most part. 

Geldsnor

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2015, 12:36:27 PM »
Thanks Geldsnor, does anyone know how to determine what size chain to buy?

Ugh, please don't listen to Geldsnor, he clearly didn't read your post and has no idea what he's talking about.


I do know where I am talking about. A standard bike chain in the Netherlands is between 3-5 euro. Random quick Google search: http://www.demarktbijuthuis.nl/fietsketting

Secondly, a stiff link is an indicator that the chain is worn down and not well maintained. Replacing one link does not help you much, even though is 'solves' the immediate problem. Even if the chain is a bit more expensive in your country (since less people actually do cycle), it is still worth it: what does a bunch of new gears cost in your country? Likely as well 5x more than in the Netherlands if the new chain is really that expensive.

The chain can not only stretch, but you get clearance between the gear teeth and the chain when it has seen some kilometers. As a result you get rounded 'teeth' of the gears. You have a special instrument to measure this clearance if you want to be sure. I just replace the chain when I am at it, kills two birds with one stone.


But hey, it is OP's call. Just trying to help :)
« Last Edit: January 21, 2015, 12:50:06 PM by Geldsnor »

skyrefuge

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2015, 01:24:27 PM »
Ugh, please don't listen to Geldsnor, he clearly didn't read your post and has no idea what he's talking about.

I do know where I am talking about. A standard bike chain in the Netherlands is between 3-5 euro. Random quick Google search: http://www.demarktbijuthuis.nl/fietsketting

Ok, I'll grant that you do know what you're talking about, but that doesn't matter since you still haven't read the original post. It says:

"due to me taking my Park IB3 tool and using it to try &  "push out" the pin holding the chain together.  This resulted in a stiff link"

The stiff link is not from chain wear, it's from trying to take the chain apart.

If I go to the doctor complaining of head pain, the treatment for a tension headache will be rather different from the treatment if I have a steel pipe lodged in my skull. So it's kind of important for the doctor to determine the cause of my head pain before suggesting a treatment.

And yes, I wish the US bicycling culture was more like in the Netherlands, where bike components are just commodity products rather than the expensive so-you-can-win-the-Tour-de-France bullshit. But until that happens it's probably safest to assume that on this forum a poster is from the US unless they specify otherwise.

At current US prices I tend to replace chains and gears (cassettes) at a 2:1 ratio. Replace the first chain before it can do too much damage to the gears, but then let the second one go for a longer time, letting it wear down the gears, since they'll continue to work fine together, and I know I'll be replacing the gears anyway. If I could get chains for $5 and cassettes stayed around $30, then I'd surely replace my chains a lot more frequently, before they could do any wear on the gears.

Geldsnor

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Re: Should I replace a stiff bicycle chain?
« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2015, 02:04:23 PM »
Ugh, please don't listen to Geldsnor, he clearly didn't read your post and has no idea what he's talking about.

I do know where I am talking about. A standard bike chain in the Netherlands is between 3-5 euro. Random quick Google search: http://www.demarktbijuthuis.nl/fietsketting

Ok, I'll grant that you do know what you're talking about, but that doesn't matter since you still haven't read the original post. It says:

"due to me taking my Park IB3 tool and using it to try &  "push out" the pin holding the chain together.  This resulted in a stiff link"

Point taken, I indeed only read the topic title.
Unfortunately when you have a stiff link, and try to 'wobble' it to get it flexible (or worse already driven the bike), usually the damage to the chain is already done.

Next time you are opening the chain, I would advise using a new 'snap on' link afterwards. It just says 'click' and you know the chain pins are in the right position (they are quite expensive compared to a new chain ;)
http://hollandbikeshop.com/fietsonderdelen-stadsfiets/fiets-ketting/fietsketting-schakel-universeel/fietsketting-schakel-universeel/kmc-verbindingsschakel-1-8-inch-universeel/