Replacing chain / cassette - am I getting fleeced?

pibrahim Posts: 17
edited November 2012 in Road beginners
Took my Cannondale Supersix 105 which I bought in October 2011 to one London branch of a large chain of cycle shops. They told me:

1) The chain was on backwards; and
2) The chain is worn and I need to replace both the chain and cassette.

In terms of the first point, three months ago another London branch of the same chain were meant to have given my bike a general service and they took the chain off - so obviously I'll be writing to complain about this.

As for the second point though - my bike is a year old and has about 900 miles on it. I'm not great about keeping the chain lubed and whatnot, admittedly, but at a fairly recent Evans Ride-it event in Dorking, the mechanic checked my bike there and thought the chain was fine. And even if it weren't - is it normal to replace the cassette at this stage? I spoke to the mechanic at the shop again and he stressed that it simply "wouldn't work" if he replaced the chain, in its current condition, but not the cassette. Any thoughts as to whether I'm getting fleeced here?


  • CiB
    CiB Posts: 6,098
    900 miles is way short of what you'd expect out of a chain.

    Does it sound rough? Does it skip cogs under load? Does it still change sweetly? Chains stretch over time and these things begin to happen & become more noticeable but 900 is v soon.

    You could ask him to show you with a chain stretch measuring tool exactly how much it has stretched. And tbh even if you have somehow ruined a chain in under a 1000 miles I'd be amazed if the cassette (and rings) needed replacing.

    In your instance, ask for evidence that the chain is stretched. If it is, I'd go with just a new chain and see how it goes. Cogs wear much more slowly than chains so even if you do need a chain it's unlikely that the cogs are ruined too. FWIW I chain my chain every 1500 miles or so and it drops onto the existing cassette & rings without issue on the first change, a bit less than smooth on the second time but it soon beds in, then by the time I'm on a third chain I'm expecting to do the cassette & rings too but may not, depending on how it feels with a new chain on old cogs.

    Are you being fleeced? Sounds like it to me.
  • I'm sure you know that its normal to replace cassette and chain at the same time - but I wouldn't have thought after 900 miles the cassette would need changing - thats just under 2 months riding for me.

    Some chains are uni-dirctional but even if put on the wrong way I cant see how it could cause over 2000 miles of wear in such a short time. The uni- chains also are only meant to aid shifting - so its no biggy to have it on the wrong way.

    Keep the cassette and get a new chain and if you feel any slippage then get a new cassette - no point splashing for something thats usable.
    The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns
    momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.
  • smidsy
    smidsy Posts: 5,273
    New chain on a worn cassette can cause issues but depends how warn etc. - may be totally fine.

    It is generally excepted that replacing chain and cassette together is optimum - but that does not mean it will not work if you just change the chain.

    Regarding lifespan - yes 900 mile sounds very short but if it has not been looked after/fitted incorrectly then anythig can happen.

    Overall I would say they are not outright 'ripping you off' but they are not perhaps giving you the most accurate advice - more the best commercial advice.
    Yellow is the new Black.
  • estampida
    estampida Posts: 1,008
    get a chain measurement tool yourself ... tedKingdom

    if I was a dodgy bike shop I would have 2 rules, 1 for chain measurement and 1 slightly filed down to sell customers a new hollow-pin chain......

    these parts are not hard to change, check out some vids on youtube and do it yourself
  • Thanks for all the advice.

    The thing is, when I took this in to be first serviced in March (when they seem to have put the chain on backwards), they also put on a quick-release chainlink thing (sorry - I don't really know what you call it) which apparently makes the chain easier to get on and off. So my guess is that they thought the chain was still in good condition then, otherwise you presumably wouldn't put it on a chain starting to deteriorate.

    So the proposition seems to be that my chain has deteriorated to such an extent in 6 months (of using it once a week - maximum) that both the chain and cassette now need replacing. If that is the case then I wonder if that isn't related to the chain having been put on backwards, otherwise I just don't see how it could have been worn down quite so quickly! Either that, or they're just exaggerating - and as I mentioned, the Evans Ride-It guy did use a chain measurement tool and thought the chain was fine, only a month or two ago.

    Looks like I'll have to write some form of complaint letter... at the very least to cover my having paid £70 for a service in March that involved my chain being put on backwards (!).
  • styxd
    styxd Posts: 3,234
    Honestly, just work out how to do the work yourself.

    KMC chains cost pittance on ebay, buy one of theose and stick it on. My guess is it'll work fine.
  • CiB
    CiB Posts: 6,098
    Like Clint says the chain being on backwards won't affect the wear rate; it aids shifting if the plates are facing the right way but it doesn't wear out any quicker. I'd seriously doubt the need to fit a new cassette at only 900 miles regardless. They're as good as new so a new chain will soon fit properly even if the first few miles it sounds a teensy bit rough.

    Chains start to wear from day 1 so whatever happened 6 months ago is immaterial. If you're in doubt (you are, you're on here asking) why not go to an independent LBS and get a second opinion? Or just trust your own judgement, give it a good lube and see if you can identify a problem that Evans have decided can only be solved with a new chain.

    Evans don't have a great reputation so don't be surprised to find the default reaction to their eagerness to sell you a new chain & cassette is met with a degree of yeah right on here.

    and the word you're after is Power Link btw. HTH. :)
  • Unfortunately I've signed up to a sportive this weekend and won't have time to get a second opinion - I think I'll need to find a new bike shop in general as I've lost faith in these guys. I think they're just used to having City guys come in with too much money and no knowledge about bikes (sadly I fit the latter category) and see an opportunity for an easy upsell.

    But when I rang the guy back earlier today and told him I'd been googling online and it appeared you don't need to replace a cassette with a chain (even if it's optimal), he was adamant that it simply "wouldn't work". So it seems he's been pretty damn dishonest about that point, if not more.

    It's actually Cycle Surgery and not Evans btw!
  • CiB
    CiB Posts: 6,098
    It will work. see my first post.

    If it's rideable now you have nothing to gain by swapping chains at this stage. Lube it up & away you go.
  • slowbike
    slowbike Posts: 8,498
    pibrahim wrote:
    Unfortunately I've signed up to a sportive this weekend and won't have time to get a second opinion
    Is the chain skipping or squeaking or not changing or anything else that is making it difficult to ride?
    If no - then just get on and ride the sportive ...
    If yes then perhaps the chain does need replacing ...

    TBH - in your shoes I'd pop into another LBS and pick up a chain measuring tool - they're cheap enough. They have 2 sides - a 0.75% wear and a 1% wear .. you can then measure the chain yourself... if you can fit the 1% wear side in then you could do with a new chain, if you can put it in and wiggle it about then it probably needs a new cassette too ... if it's just on the 0.75% wear then the shop were having you on ...

    FWIW - my chain & cassette lasted ~1800 miles (from new) before needing to be replaced - I hadn't cleaned it much either ... I've resolved to clean it a bit more often now ... as well as getting the kit so I can replace it all myself...

    Oh - and in future - try and clean/lube the chain a bit more often ... ;)
  • dodgy
    dodgy Posts: 2,890
    I get 3, sometimes 4 chains per cassette, if you change before it's 0.75% worn you will too.

    1st chain will last 2500 miles approx
    2nd chain will last 2000 approx
    3rd chain will last 1000 to 1500 approx

    Above figures just to give you an idea, but we all ride different areas, different weather, riding styles etc.

    If the 3rd chain lasts less than 1000 miles, I bin the cassette when the chain is showing as worn knowing I won't get away with a 4th chain on the same cassette.
  • Mikey23
    Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    I must I had not heard of it being optimum to replace chains and cassettes at the same time as some folks are advocating here. I would appreciate some opinions on this ...
  • amaferanga
    amaferanga Posts: 6,789
    If you had to replace a chain and cassette after 900 miles, many people (myself included through the summer at least) would be changing chain and cassette every month. That'd be ridiculous. Tell the bike shop to go f@ck themselves for trying to rip you off.
    More problems but still living....
  • Hoopdriver
    Hoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    Yeah, they are just drumming up business for themselves.

    Nine hundred miles is a ludicrously brief lifespan for a chain, let alone the cassette. As others have said if 900 miles was the norm a lot of us would be changing chains and cassettes once a month. It doesn't happen.

    Nor do you need to change the cassette every time you put on a new chain. It varies of course but I have found, based on my riding, that with anything like decent maintenance I should get three or four chains per cassette.

    Find a new LBS or learn to do this (very easy) maintenance chore yourself. A chain length checker is a handy tool, and cheap. Even cheaper is a steel 12" ruler which you can use to measure chain 'stretch' . The length of the ruler should equal the length of twelve links. Anything over an eighth of an inch extra and it is time to put on a new chain. Again this is easy to do, especially with something like KMC's quick links. Whole job will take about five minutes.
  • mustol
    mustol Posts: 134
    I've just had to replace a chain and cassette (Shimano HG-50 cassette and KMC chain) on my winter bike (Shimano 2300 groupset) after less than 1,000 miles. The chain showed between 1/16th and 1/8th of an inch stretch (so according to Sheldon Brown the chain was due for replacement, but the cassette should have been OK). However, as soon as I put a new chain on, it started skipping on the middle cogs that get used the most. Fitted a new cassette and now OK. I clean and lubricate the chain regularly, but I ride in most conditions and nearly all of my riding is up and down the hilly country lanes of Devon. I push quite hard on a lot of the hills plus I do a fait bit of climbing out of the saddle, so guess it's a combination of my riding style and a cheap cassette. The Campag Veloce chain on my other bike has only stretched approx 1/32nd of an inch with the same amount of miles, so hope I should be alright for a while on that one. Basically, you might not be being fleeced as others have said, but with 105 quality components, the degree of wear would surprise me.
  • Thanks all for the comments and advice.

    Seems the general consensus here is surprise at the level of wear claimed by the shop in light of the 105 components and the light level of use of the bike.

    I rang the shop a few minutes ago and told them to keep the old chain and cassette on the side as I wanted to see them (i.e. to get a second opinion). Surprise surprise, they'd been "binned already and the van had already emptied the bins". Particularly convenient.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    edited September 2012
    Mikey23 wrote:
    I must I had not heard of it being optimum to replace chains and cassettes at the same time as some folks are advocating here. I would appreciate some opinions on this ...

    It's not saying that if you need to change your chain, you should change your cassette at the same time - rather if you have to change your cassette, you should change your chain at that time!

    A worn chain on a new cassette is a bad idea.

    So, you replace chains 3 or four times and then you replace the chain and the cassette together. The question that the OP needs to ask is not whether both should have been replaced but why it was necessary to replace the cassette after a nothing mileage.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • secretsam
    secretsam Posts: 5,098
    Right - bike shop is liable for new chain because if it's prematurely worn due to incorrect fitting by THEM then they are responsible for wear, so they are responsible for new chain. If they argue, stand in the shop on a Saturday PM or other busy time and have a loud discussion with them, you may find they change their mind.

    As for the new cassette, I've changed chains on an old cassette and it was fine, sounds like phooey to me.

    And as noted above, with the right tools (costs a few quid but you'll get in back over your cycling life) you can DIY, it's a piece of p155 - get a book if needed. It can't be hard, I've done it and I'm a total spa33 at that sort of thing.

    It's just a hill. Get over it.
  • John.T
    John.T Posts: 3,698
    Get the best and cheapest chain checker. It is called a ruler. Measure 10" between pin centres with a bit of pressure on the pedal. It it is 10 1/16th then change the chain. You should get up to 3 chains per cassette at this.
    For summer use (mainly clean roads) you should get 3000 + miles from a chain. In winter round here with all the cr*p on them it is closer to 1500 to 2000. Assuming proper maintenance. My winter bike has done 1100 miles since Jan 1st and the chain is fine. I will probably change it around Christmas but don't expect to need a cassette. My Madone has done at least 6000 miles on the original cassette and is still working fine. I may need to change it next chain as I am heavy on the 14 and 15 sprockets.
  • I'm going to pick up my bike this evening (as I say, I didn't have the time to try and learn a DIY solution in time for the weekend). I'm going to ask the mechanic once again to confirm his opinion that replacing a chain after 900 miles also warrants the cassette to be replaced - again, after Evans found no problem with it a month or two ago, and the other branch of Cycle Surgery found no problem with it six months ago. They're asking £175 (at least) for this job, and that's in addition to the previous £60-70 I spent six months ago for the privilege of them putting the chain on backwards.

    As you say, it really does pay to learn to do this yourself - especially if these guys are just looking to milk every job for all it's worth.
  • John.T
    John.T Posts: 3,698
    Bloody hell. £175. To answer your question if they are just fitting a chain and cassette then yes you are. New Ultegra 10sp cassette - £49.99 and new Ultegra chain - £22.99 at Chain Reaction. I could easily fit them in 1/2 hour.
    105 or less considerably cheaper.
  • CiB
    CiB Posts: 6,098
    pibrahim wrote:
    scary numbers
    That's the very definition of being fleeced. Tell him you'll do it yourself, even if you don't. Blimey.
  • It was meant to be a general service (£55). It was after the chain and cassette debacle that the price suddenly jumped up to £175. And as you say - mine isn't even Ultegra...
  • Mikey23
    Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    To answer your original question it seems that you are ...

    Looks like the bike shop of the year award is not going their way. Looks like you are going to have to pay through the nose. A salutary lesson
  • smidsy
    smidsy Posts: 5,273
    Get a full break down of the costs and refuse to pay if there are any discrepencies.

    Make an offer of payment relative to the time and cost of parts - use their own prices of the parts in store to emphasise the point.

    Ultimately if you have to pay (they have the bike) make it clear that you will be taking the issue up with the Office of Fair Trading and that you will write about your negative experience in the local press. Ask for thier head office details so you can make a formal complaint.
    Yellow is the new Black.
  • Mikey23
    Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    Good advice... And also that there are lots of cyclists in the community who are awaiting the outcome and may not wish to do future business
  • John.T
    John.T Posts: 3,698
    pibrahim wrote:
    It was meant to be a general service (£55). It was after the chain and cassette debacle that the price suddenly jumped up to £175. And as you say - mine isn't even Ultegra...
    Did they quote you for the extra work and get your permission to proceed. If not then they can only charge you for the service and should return the bike with the old parts still on it. If they have lost them you are in the driving seat. Find what you could have got the new parts for at say CRC and offer them that. They should not charge you for the labour if they did not have instruction to do the work.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    John.T wrote:
    Bloody hell. £175. To answer your question if they are just fitting a chain and cassette then yes you are. New Ultegra 10sp cassette - £49.99 and new Ultegra chain - £22.99 at Chain Reaction. I could easily fit them in 1/2 hour.

    Realistically, it would be difficult to take longer than 10 minutes to do that. I'd feel guilty charging more than a fiver for that!
    Faster than a tent.......
  • 'General services' should be banned; I genuinely believe that. If you can't ensure that your bike is basically roadworthy (which is generally what a 'general service' consists of), you shouldn't be riding it. I wouldn't dream of ever paying for such a thing. Apart from anything else, a close family relative has a good deal more of my confidence than the LBS. :lol:

    But that price is moronic. Buy a new cassette and chain, along with the relevant tools if you do not have them, and fit them yourself. :)
  • Hoopdriver
    Hoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    What bike shop is this, may I ask. That is an insane charge.