A YBN (Yaban Chain Industrial Co.,Ltd.) rep came to the office a few weeks ago to give us a look at samples of new chains recently developed, both 10 and 11 speed. YBN did well at the recent Taipei Cycle 2010, where they were awarded 3rd place in the 2010 Taiwan Bicycle Exporters Association Innovative products competition for their Self-Lubricated Auto 11 Speed Chain. Here’s shot I took of the winning entry. The photo is of high enough resolution for you to read the blurb and do some searches based on those terms in the future. Note YBN’s redesigned master connecting link.
The chain in focus here is the SLF210 Titanium model which YBN label as the “lightest chain in the world”. You can get some very basic information from the Taipei Cycle website, although it is somewhat brief. Let me summarize the details from the brochure accompanying the samples:
The SFL210 chain took two years to develop and test. It offers a 30% weight advantage over “normal” bicycle chains. It not only uses titanium but also a new “Self-Lubrication” material. Having cleaned the chain there is no need to oil it. Exposure to the rigors of 300-500 hours of Salt Spray Test, there was no rusting. So aside from being extremely light (210g for the 10 Speed with 106 links; 227g for the 11 Speed with 106 links), it is “smooth and noiseless”. But the key point is its durability, with a projected life of 6000-8000 km. This was tested on a mechanized drivetrain with a loading of 85kgf at 30km/h. Other specifications include
- Pin: Chromium Carbide Surface treatment HV 1500
- Pin Power: 300 kgf above
- Unique Chamfer Design: Extremely fast shifting
- Will prolong the life of sprocket and crank by around 20%
Whilst my company’s riders have not had a chance to put the 11 speed chains to the test, we did have the chance to try the Titanium 10 speed. So we installed it on a 7800 Dura Ace standard crank with a 12-27 cassette that had already done around 5000km. The first day of use was a group ride of around 130km about half of that on undulating roads, the other half climbing. The day was dry and clear with a temperature of 21-22C at that time of the morning.
Spinning for the first 50km until the start of the steeper grades the chain performed very well indeed. Whilst there was no noticeable difference in shifting in comparison with the previously installed Dura Ace 10 Speed chain, the SFL 210 was most certainly quiet. I should note that consistent with Wade Wallace’ssound advice, the previously installed chain was kept clean minimizing wear and tear on the cassette. It was also regularly replaced. However when the rider poured on the watts going into a steeper grade just before the main climb the chain began to slip on the 27T sprocket. This was not clear at the time as the chain was shifting back and forth between the 27T and 24T sprockets. It seemed like a slight derailleur adjustment was in order, which was duly carried out. Continuing up the grade within 10 meters the chain severed: the YBN master link connector had been wedged apart by the sprocket. Replacing the master link and continuing up the slope without applying the force as before, the problem was slippage on the 24T sprocket. The crank would slip forwards under pressure, but only on the 27T. The hapless rider was condemned to tackling the main climb (av 8+%) limited to the 24T. On the descent and spinning over the hills on the return journey, the chain functioned beautifully. The chain was removed and a new Dura Ace 10 Speed chain installed. 2000km later, there has been no experience of the issues encountered testing the SFL210.
I resolved to try it myself. My groupset is SRAM Force compact crank 50-34T, 11-28T cassette. The SFL210 was installed and connected with a YBN master link, as are all our chains. After several hundred km [I’ve been busy getting ready for the Show, ok… :-)], the chain is performing nicely. There is no slippage under pressure on a climb, although my power output is considerably less than the rider who first tested the chain. It is very quiet and the shifting is superior to the YBN standard 10 Speed chain that I normally use, although I had just upgraded from Rival to Force, so it may the Force effect that is making itself felt here–it is manifestly superior to Rival.
What conclusions can be drawn from this? Clearly nothing concrete. One testing run is not representative. It may say more about Shimano components being engineered precisely for Shimano components. I should note that a standard YBN chain also tested by the Dura Ace rider developed shifting problems over the 14, 15, and 16T sprockets after several hundred km. Once again, when a Dura Ace chain was used, the problems disappeared. And I have used YBN chains on many of my bikes all of which sported SRAM Rival compact crank groupsets without any problems. We’ll have to wait and see if any more indications emerge that there may still be some engineering issues to be sorted in respect of this very promising piece of technology.