Technical FAQ: Maintaining an 11-speed chain

Lennard Zinn suggests you avoid removing 11-speed chains for maintenance. Clean and re-lube on the bike.

Dear Lennard,
I have a question about re-installing the chain on an 11-speed Campy group. When removing the chain from the bike is there a recommended place to break the chain? Should it be in the same link as the original connection was made, half way along the chain from where the first pin was installed, or doesn’t it matter at all? I’m wondering if there is a benefit in strength or shifting if they are spread out or kept together.

Dear Gary,

I don’t know your reason for removing the chain in the first place, but if it’s to clean it, don’t do that anymore. Clean it on the bike. Better yet, wipe it and lube it with ProGold ProLink after every ride. Then you won’t ever have to clean it.

Both 10-speed and 11-speed chains are so narrow and have so little rivet extension beyond the plates that there is no room for error. You don’t want a chain to break when you’re sprinting, and if the assembly pin is not installed perfectly, every time you shift under load when that pin goes past, you’re asking for the derailleur to pry the outer plate off of that pin.

Campagnolo came up with the connector pin for 11-speed chains that is split on the end in order to create a more robust connection than the connector pin for its 10-speed chains provided, which was only to be assembled at a “virgin” hole at the end of the chain. If you removed a Campy 10-speed chain, you could only reassemble it safely if you used a short segment of chain with virgin holes on both ends and two assembly pins, or you could instead insert a Wippermann, KMC, or SRAM 10-speed master link.

The 11-speed connector pin, however, is “a true rivet;” it is split on the end the guide pin slips into, and it gets mushroomed out on the back side by Campy’s new chain tool. That way, if for some reason the customer does have to open the chain, they can do it at any link in the chain, as long as they use a new 11-speed assembly pin and install it with the Campy 11-speed chain tool. That said, Campagnolo’s position is that you should not remove your chain for cleaning and should just clean it on the bike for the same reasons I stated. But if you have to remove the chain for some reason, you can close it with the correct pin and tool, at any link you choose.


Regarding rim cement removal
Dear Lennard,
Love reading your explanations, which offer great insight. I wanted to add a little to your advice on cleaning tubular rims.

In my experience with RadioShack (currently) and in the past with the same crew of mechanics on Discovery Channel and U.S. Postal (more or less) we used BBQ grill pads. The ones that look like very coarse steel wool. We basically just knock off the loose stuff and with a knife knock the “edges” off the side of the rim where the glue “spills over” when you mount a tire. As you said, no need to completely remove all of the glue since it’s hard to get it to stick to the rim in the first place. So once glue is stuck on, we leave it (most of it).

Vincent Gee
Mechanic, Team RadioShack

Dear Lennard,
I have used a small wire wheel on a cordless drill to remove old sew-up glue on tubular wheels. It works really well on old dried up glue and leaves a good, clean surface. It especially removes old red Clement cement on old wheels that have been sitting for years. I found this out cleaning old rims to stretch tires.

Another tip is that I use these cleaned up old wheels to stretch my tubulars again after my coats of glue are dry on new tires to be glued. After my coats of glue are dry on my tires, I put them on my cleaned up rims and leave them there until I put my last wet coat of glue on the wheel. That way it is super easy to put the tire on the rim.

Follow-up on tubular patching and tubular tire pressure faux pas
Dear Lennard,
In your recent post you state that “tubulars may arguably still be the best tires for racing, being lighter, requiring lighter rims, and being able to hold tremendous pressures because of being sewn together (the high air pressure reduces the rolling resistance of the tire on the road).”

It seems that your parenthetic statement conflicts statements that I believe you have made before to the effect that the benefits of high air pressure don’t show up in true road conditions because higher air pressure leads to more bounce which negates the rolling resistance benefits.

Am I mis-interpreting??

Dear Lennard,
I read your article on the VeloNews Web site yesterday regarding tubulars and thought you might like to see this e-mail I had previously received from Bryan Hite at Zipp that may change your opinion some. Prior to receiving this I too had thought that one benefit to tubular was that they would allow you to run higher psi to reduce rolling resistance. According to Zipp’s testing, that is not true and the optimum pressure appears to be right in line with what a clincher can safely handle.

“We have found through lab testing and team testing with both Cervelo TestTeam and Saxo there is a law of diminishing return when running high pressure in tires. At 195 pounds, my optimum tire pressure is 120 in the front and 125 in the rear. Overall the greater the pressure you run, the more risk there are for flats and there is proof of more rolling resistance once over 130 psi. We don’t have public documentation available, but when the best riders in the world change their pressure due to our findings, we think we’ve proven something pretty substantial. It really opened my eyes!”

Dear Jeff, Doug, and the others who pointed this out,
I guess that’s what I get for using some material I wrote years ago before I understood the folly of my ways and not proofing it carefully. I grabbed that tubular patching instructions from a file of the first edition of my road bike maintenance book. At the time, I hadn’t looked into it much, still thought about tubies like I had when I was racing, and still believed that statement. By now I know better, and, indeed, the current (third) edition that’s been out for a year or so does not include that mistake. Thanks for catching that. You’re not the only ones.

If you’ve read my columns for long, you’ll know that I, too, believe that tires roll faster with lower pressure in most conditions. Maybe it was a Freudian slip so that I could take another shot at that sacred cow of high tire pressure. I am, however, encouraged to see that the conventional wisdom is now moving enough toward reduced pressures that a lot of people caught me on this one and questioned it.

Tubular tires, or sew-ups, are expensive, hard to install (they must be glued to the rim), and hard to repair; why bother with them?

To start with, tubular wheels are generally lighter than clincher wheels, because tubular rims do not require flanges for the tire bead. Tubular tires by themselves are usually lighter than clinchers, too, although the difference these days is often quite small. Tubulars are enjoying a renaissance now with the advent of superlight carbon-fiber tubular rims, and many riders still find they ride and corner better than the best clinchers. And being sewn together, they can be made to hold extremely high pressures, which could help on a smooth track or if you forgot and left your tires pumped up inside your car out in the sun.

But perhaps the main reason to consider tubulars is their inherent safety. In the event of a blowout, they stay on the rim. Clincher tires, when flat, fall into the rim well, and you may find yourself trying to ride on the slippery metal rim, rather than on a piece of rubber. Tubulars usually deflate more slowly when punctured than clinchers, too, because the air can only escape through the puncture hole. Clinchers can let air escape all the way around the rim.

And this fall, we discussed here at length the tremendous advantage that tubulars have in cyclocross, since they can be run at pressures below 30psi without the danger of pinch flats or fold-over that clinchers have. This gives them lower rolling resistance on rough courses and grass, better climbing traction, and better grip on side hills.

If these advantages appeal to you — and the disadvantages don’t put you off — tubulars are a worthwhile alternative to clinchers.

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Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (, a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.