Tech Podcast: The great chain explainer

Your chain shoulders a lot of the workload of the drivetrain, yet most of us don't truly understand it — or worse, we neglect it.

Is the chain the least appreciated of all the bicycle components? It sure does a whole lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to drivetrain efficiency, yet we’re all likely guilty of neglecting it regularly. Perhaps that’s because the chain is a bit more complicated than we give it credit for — and because it does its job so well it’s easy to forget all about it.


Nick Murdick knows all about the intricacies of chain design. During his time at Shimano, Murdick has seen the chain evolve along with the rest of the drivetrain, as derailleurs demand more from chain components, cassettes get wider ranges, and chainrings get eliminated.

Murdick joins tech editor Dan Cavallari on this episode of the VeloNews Tech Podcast to give us a better sense of what makes a good chain, and what makes a not-so-good one. On top of that, Murdick dispels some myths about the chain, not only related to its limitations, but also to its maintenance and capabilities.

Chains have evolved over the years, often in very subtle ways that in turn create a big impact on your drivetrain’s usability. From minuscule chamfers to hollow pins, these small advances have made drivetrains shift more smoothly and more quickly, all while adding durability to your component spec. Murdick gives us a rundown of some of these slight tweaks and how they affect your ride.

As always, if you have questions about this episode of the VeloNews Tech Podcast, or if you have suggestions for topics you’d like us to cover on a future episode, feel free to reach out to tech editor Dan Cavallari via email, Instagram, or Twitter.

[Editor’s Note: After this podcast went live, Shimano’s Nick Murdick contacted us with a correction. He says, “I just realized that I said we invented the free hub in 1978 while I was quickly addressing it during another topic. If so, I’m afraid I misspoke in my rush. Our free hub system and cassettes were certainly the first commercially successful ones and I think it’s okay for us to take credit for bringing them to widespread adoption, but we didn’t invent it.”]