Friday, 21 October 2011

Long Term Test: SRAM PC1 1/8" nickel-plated chain

Length of test period so far: a couple of years (since July 2011).
Product obtained from: local bike shop (Buckingham Bikes)
Product obtained by: personal purchase through "regular" sources.
Price paid: approx. £16 Pounds (c. $25 US, 18 Euros) 
Second Gear rating (marks out of 10): 10 - excellent.

The chain on my folding bike finally packed up,
with four (yes, four!!) broken sideplates.

old chain (with broken link)
and new chain (SRAM PC1)
So down to my LBS (local bike shop) I trudged, and got a nice new SRAM PC1 nickel-plated chain.
It looks lovely, not that it will be every visible when I refit the chainguard!
It comes in a "standard" length of 114 links, and as I needed only a 92 link chain, I used a Park Tools chain splitter to remove the excess 22 links.

The chain comes coated in a clear packing grease, that looks (and feels) not unlike Vaseline (petroleum jelly)
counting the links to get the chain length right
Works great, so far!

Update 24th November 2011:
Yep, not much to say, it goes round and round. No sign of any problems or damage yet. I have decided to go for the minimal lubrication scenario - there is a good economic argument to be made against spending (in total) many times the price of a chain on cleaners and lubricants, when it is just cheaper to use the chain, let it wear, then get another one (especially if you have cheap sprockets too!
Of course, usage is relevant, but I don't exactly cycle down mountains 50 miles (80 km) from the nearest "civilisation": instead using my bike for fairly short distance commuting, a bit of shopping, and general errands around the (fairly modestly sized) town where we live.

Update 9th January 2012:
Still very happy with purchase. 

Nothing much to report, which is good!
The chain works, which is what is supposed to happen!

Update 26th January 2012:
Still very happy with purchase. 
Still nothing much to report, which is still good!
The chain still works, which is why I bought it!
Quite a bit of road debris and dirt has stuck to the chain (see below)
SRAM PC1 Chain after 350 to 400 miles (550 to 650 km) of mostly road / pavement (sidewalk) usage. No lubrication.

Update 10th February 2013:The chain is now looking rather sorry for itself.
I have stuck to the no lubrication scenario, so far, but I'm about to end it, and start using chain lubricant.The roads around here are salted in the winter, and that has taken its toll, certainly on the outside of the chain.
But the chain still has no kinks or "sticky" links, which suggests that the internal, factory, lubrication on the joints and links is still effective, although the chain has stretched quite a bit - it has stetched, in total, the equivalent of about 2 inches (5cm) of excess play in the chain run.
SRAM PC1 Chain after 900 to 1000 miles (1450 to 1600 km) of mostly road / pavement (sidewalk) usage, including two winters where salt has been used. No lubrication.

Update 11th August 2013:
Another six months have past, and I've probably only added 300 miles (480 km) to the bike, for a total of about 1300 miles overall (about 2100km) on the SRAM PC1 chain
The chain is looking a bit better.
I remained on the no lubrication scenario, so far, but I did lightly spray the sideplates with thin oil and wipe clean them up a bit. I also cleaned up the chainwheel and the rear hub sprocket, and gave them a light oiling.

I was keen not to dislodge the oil treatment that the factory applies, and avoid harsh cleaning regimes (such as soaking the chain in a solvent) or dubious oiling regimes (such as using WD-40, or some other light penetrating oil, which soaks into the inner links and tends to wash the factory lubrication out).

Once the winter was over, the salt was no longer used on the roads
, and the surface corrosion almost stopped!

The chain still has no kinks or "sticky" links, which suggests that the internal, factory, lubrication on the joints and links is still effective, even after a couple of years, although the chain stretch means that it is now at about the "full wear" scenario -
  • the chain has stretched quite a bit, but is still (just) able to be properly tensioned by the method of moving the back wheel (which I did a couple of months ago, after I changed some broken spokes)
  • next time I might have to get a new chain, or move to the "emergency wear" scenario, and take an extra link out - but if you have to resort to this, you really out to get a new chain!
One has to compare the various scenarios of lubrication:
 - no lube and buy more chains

- lots of thorough cleaning and chain relubrication.

If you remember that I have spent VERY little on lubrication (less than a pound / dollar / euro - and that was for cleaning up the sideplates and the sprockets) in 1300 miles (2100 km), and compare the cost of a new chain with the cost of all the solvents and lubricants that I could have spent on this one, then the idea of not lubricating the chain doesn't seem so crazy - and that is even before one puts a value on the time I have saved in maintenance!).

After I finish off this chain, I will, perhaps, see about getting a full chainguard, and seeing what effect that has on wear for the next chain.

I never did refit that chainguard (it was only a "hockey stick" chainguard anyway, that went round the front of the sprocket and back along the chain run), and just ran with an "open chain" for the entire time, so not having the chain dripping with excessive lubrication helped to keep thing cleaner.

Overall, though, I am VERY pleased with the chain, and the nickel finish is very attractive - far nicer than the usual black!

Test will be updated as time passes.

If you wish to thank me for this review, then please comment or click on one of the advertisers' links - you might like some of the cycling related stuff (I know I do!)

Other Long Term Tests:
Schwalbe Marathon tyre
BikeBins pannier boxes
Park Tool SCW Shop Cone Wrench

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