Remember our good friend Steve-O who wanted the eight speed Long Haul Trucker? Well, it seems his mindset/drivetrain longevity paradigm is alive and well in the minds of others. I took an email today with the EXACT same argument: I don't want ten speeds because those wimpy, skinny little chains stretch too fast. I gave my usual argument that drivetrain cleanliness has more to do with longevity than the number of cogs, but I should've know better. Nobody listens if you're telling them what they don't want to hear.
But then I had a thought: what if I'm wrong? What if eight and nine speed drivetrains really are more durable? One instance of a person thinking this? I wrote it off because Steve-O is a kook. But two instances becomes more compelling. So I'm putting it to you readers. I want the most rigorous data you can muster. I'll accept anecdotal evidence if that's all you've got, but the argument, "Eight speeds are more durable because I had this bike once..." doesn't really cut it. Anecdotes are interesting and compelling, but I'd love to hear from somebody with more than one bike, or a couple of bikes with different drivetrains ridden under similar conditions, etc. I want controls and variables if possible.
For the record, these are my points of argument:
1. Chains don't stretch - they elongate as the bearing surfaces are eroded (not really controversial or refuted)
2. There is a direct correlation between the rate of erosion and the amount of dirt/grime/nastiness on the chain (still pretty uncontroversial, but less universally accepted because there is no way to quantify the cleanliness of a chain, which makes that variable open to interpretation)
3. Modern chains and cogs, regardless of the number of speeds, and when comparing components of comparable quality, are made of better materials with more sophisticated processes, which increases their durability. This one requires some breakdown. "when comparing components of comparable quality" What I mean by this is a comparison of a DuraAce ten speed cassette to a Sora eight speed cassette is not a fair comparison, nor would be a comparison of a DuraAce eight speed cassette to a Sora eight speed cassette. Presumable, the DuraAce is going to be more durable because it's a higher quality component, irrespective of the number of cogs. For this comparison to be fair, we need to compare a DuraAce ten speed cassette to a DuraAce eight speed cassette, or an eight speed XT to a ten speed XT, etc. The point may or may not be true. I think we want it to be true, because what's the point of advances in technology and metallurgy if not to make stuff "better," but there exists the fact that "better" does not always equate to "durable" in the bike industry. But since I'm a Polyanna, I choose to believe that better can and does mean more durable.
4. People's drivetrains are not as clean as they think they are. Again, some breakdown. In the U.S., bikes are toys. Toys do not require maintenance, unless said maintenance amounts to no more than charging and/or replacing batteries. Ergo, if somebody wipes their chain down twice a season, they are, in their minds anyway, doing a good job of keeping their drivetrain clean. I am a little anal about my chains - not so bad as some, but more anal than many. On my road bike, which doesn't often see we weather, I lube my chain every third or fourth ride, and wipe it down pretty thoroughly before I take it out again. On my MTB, I lube it and wipe it down every ride. On my commuter bike, which sees all kinds of nasty, I use a heavier lube, and lube and wipe it every week or two depending on how wet it's been. Regardless of the bike, if it gets wet, the chain gets lubed and wiped down.
It's not the most rigorous drivetrain routine out there, and I'm really unparticular about the lube I use. Shit, when you work in the industry, you use whatever's free. About the only one I don't care for is Triflow, but it's not bad, just not as good as some of the other stuff I've used.
My point is, that's still a lot more time and hassle than most "average" cyclists are willing to put forth. Sure, there's a learning curve there, and the more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes, but we're lazy motherfuckers. We don't like learning curves.
Actually, when I was working on Steve-O's LHT, I threw the question to Zinn, and he took the time to answer it, which I appreciated, albeit pretty superficially. I think it was because Steve-O had been corresponding with Frank Berto (author of The Dancing Chain), and Zinn didn't want to be left out of the conversation. Basically, he (Zinn) also thought Steve-O was fucking crazy.
OK Minions, whatchoo got? Send you data and/or anecdotes my way via a concise yet thorough, grammatically-correct, droll and/or wry comment. If you choose to type it without using correct punctuation or spelling, I will punch you square in the baby maker.