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Initial Look – SHIMANO CN-9000 : 11-speed chain on a 10-speed group

*** UPDATE – 8/17/2014 below ***

BACKGROUND

After completing a chain test for TAYA chain, a brand new Dura-Ace 9000 chain showed up in the mail from Shimano.

SHIMANO Dura-Ace CN-9000

SHIMANO Dura-Ace CN-9000

Great timing since my bike had no chain! The instructions said to run the chain on my current Dura Ace 7900 group and provide weekly feedback as to how the chain shifts, wears, and how smooth and quiet it is.

I read all of the information I could find on the chain. I pulled information from Shimano.com, as well as several of their major distributors and added the information in the summary table. One feature that these sites had listed that my chain did not have is slotted inner-links for additional weight savings. The picture attached is exactly how my chain looked out of the box and after close inspection, I could find no slots. This was probably preliminary information to the suppliers before the chains went into final production.

The CN-9000 is symmetrical, meaning that you can put the chain on either way. I am guessing that Shimano went back to symmetrical design due to being too narrow for an asymmetric design. Shimano also improved the tooth shifting profiles so an asymmetric design with its chamfered edges is not needed.

During the months ahead, I will be looking to answer the following questions:

  • Are there any other advantages of a symmetrical chain?
  • PTFE coatings
    • What is the overall durability of this chains PTFE coating?
    • Will it flake off like Gore cables PTFE coating?
    • Do you need to oil the chain (since nothing sticks to PTFE)
  • At what mileage do the outer plates start wearing to the point of poor shifting performance?

INITIAL SETUP

After cleaning up the cassette and the chain rings, I installed the new CN-9000 so that it had the same number of links as the TAYA chain. After it was installed, I gave it a quick wipe-down and added some Pro Link chain lube. I drenched it pretty well, and then let it sit overnight. The next AM I gave it a light wipe down and ran it through the gears while still on the stand.

As with the TAYA chain, I will be wiping down and re-lubing this chain after each ride, as well as checking it for wear and tear and logging these results every 200 miles.

CYCLING THROUGH THE GEARS

Ride #1– 50 miles. Shifted fine. Nothing to complain about, nothing to brag about either. It didn’t skip on the cassette

CN-9000 on a 7900 group

CN-9000 on a 7900 group

and shifted like any other chain. But, remembering that it takes a couple hundred miles to break in a chain, I still need to put some more miles on it.

Ride #2 – 60 miles. Its seems to be breaking in a little. Shifting is good.

Rides #3, #4 – 90 miles. A double-ride for the day – 45 in the AM, 45 in the PM. Now up to 200 miles. The next ride or two, I should start feeling a real difference.

Ride #5 – 60 miles. Chain is riding smoother and quieter, much quieter. It appears to be breaking in.

Rides #6+  Mile after mile, as of 8/12/13 I have 500 miles on the chain and WOW, what a difference there is once the chain has broken in! It is ultra-quiet, ultra-smooth and ultra-quick shifting! It SNAPS into gear when clicking the Dura-Ace 7900 levers. What a BIG difference from when I first installed it. The chain seems to be getting better and better as I continue putting the miles on it.

INITIAL CONCLUSION

I have heard from several Shimano engineers saying that this chain should theoretically last 5,000 miles… only one way to find out!

When you couple the CN-9000 chain with the new Dura-Ace 9000 cables, this will transform your Dura-Ace 7900 so that it shifts as smooth as the tried and true Dura-Ace 7800, allowing you some time to save for a full Dura-Ace 9000 group!

In the months to come, I will be tracking mileage as well as notes on how smooth it is, as well as wear and tear on the PTFE coating and do the shifts continue to be quick and snappy. So far, it looks to be a high quality, quick shifting, smooth running, and quiet operating chain!

*** UPDATE 8/17/2014 ***

Currently, our team has tested a dozen chains to failure. We have tested 3rd party chains as well as those from the main component manufacturers. What we have noticed are several things, (1) chain life is not so much of a function of lube unless you use wax which greatly decreases chain life, therefore, any high quality lube will work even Mobil 1 engine oil, (2) chain life depends on riding environment, (3) chain life depends on how clean you keep your chain, (4) chain life depends on how much chain deflection and how often you ride with extreme chain deflection, (5) chain life depends on how many watts you are putting through it – this is probably the factor which impacts chain life the most.

I weight about 185-190 pounds and am consistently getting 3,200 – 3,400 miles out of an 11-speed chain. Chains are replaced when they reach 100% wear indicated by Park CC-2. This is then verified using Shimano TL-CN42 gauge. On the other extreme, one of our other testers is 150 pounds and consistently gets 5,000 miles out of an 11-speed chain. The caveat is using a high-quality 11-speed chain. Depending on 1-5 above, your results may vary.

The Dura-Ace 9000 chain lasted me around 3,300 miles. This is the #1 best way to increase the shifting response of the Dura-Ace 7900 group. The chains last longer, the shifts are smooth, crisp and precise. Note, since the chains last longer, expect to get 2 chains per cassette vs the standard 3 chains per cassette.

You might also consider the Ultegra 6800 chain. For a lower cost with slightly less life (200-300 miles less), this is a very good price/performance chain.

Quality 11-speed chains are built to tighter tolerances and every one, when new, measured <0% wear as indicated by Park CC-2. On the other hand, I have tested some quality 10-speed chains that indicated 50% wear right out of the box!

 

 


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