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Marketing Wank Analysis – Sram Eagle Chain

HOME FORUM RIDING FEELS GOOD FORUM TECH TALK Marketing Wank Analysis – Sram Eagle Chain

This topic contains 6 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Canadmos Canadmos 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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Fox 34

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  • #816026
    Profile photo of Matty F
    Matty F
    Participant

    I finally got my hands on a small chunk of Sram’s Eagle XX1 chain, which I have been keen to take a look at for a while now on account of Sram claiming this thing to be “the quietest, strongest and most wear-resistant chain in the world.” Those are some bold claims, especially for a company who has notoriously produced poor quality chains. On top of that, this chain costs a monolithic $115 – that’s just a few bucks shy of being DOUBLE the price of Shimano’s premier CN-HG901 (Dura-Ace/XTR) chain. So like a kid fresh home from the candy store, I was tickled pink to be able to get home and unwrap this thing.

    So there it is. To start with, we see the classic cheapskate method of applying the titanium nitride treatment in which it is applied to the chain once the chain is fully assembled, rather than to each individual piece of the chain individually. This renders the treatment completely useless, other than for the aesthetic purpose of making the chain gold, since the treatment won’t actually be applied to the mating surfaces of the chain.

    Before we get going any further, I’ll put up a photo of an 11 speed XX1 chain so we can compare the Eagle chain to Sram’s previous efforts, then I will break down Sram’s claims on the Eagle chain (source: https://www.sram.com/sram/mountain/products/xx1-eagle-chain#sm.001z0z5f71cppdjdwex1mh40hc1ki).

    “The Eagle™ chain’s links have a smooth radius, with no sharp edges or chamfers, which yield a significant reduction in noise, friction and wear on chainrings and cassette cogs”

    – This seems to be true. The inside of both the inner and outer plates have been radiused rather than chamfered.

    “This design also allows for a flatter plate, which means more consistent chain riveting and greater overall strength.”

    – I’m not sure which plate they are talking about. I’m guessing the outer plate/rivet interface is what they speak of, since Pinkbike reviews have boasted that feature. But other chain manufacturers achieved a completely flush outer plate/rivet interface ages ago. Zero points for that one.

    “HARD CHROME™ technology extends the chain’s optimal performance life”

    – Hard chrome treatment on the chain pins have been commonplace across all manufacturers for probably two decades. No dice.

    “Titanium Nitride coating on the Gold and Black models decreases corrosion and further reduces friction”

    Simply not true. No titanium nitride on the mating surfaces of the chain means it does not reduce friction within the chain, nor prevent corrosion where it matters. I mean, if you want to split hairs, there may be some small amount of friction reduction where the chain glides across the cogs, and there will be some corrosion protection on the outside of the chain, where it doesn’t matter at all.

    “Groundbreaking new chain design and technology”

    “Groundbreaking”? Like, because of the radii on the side plates? That’s the only real difference I can find between this and their previous 11 speed chains.

    A few other little observations:
    – If you look at the holes on the inner plate in the bottom left piece of chain, there is a shoulder around the hole which looks like it’s supposed to interface with another shoulder on the outer plate. But if you look at the outer plate (top right piece) there is no firm mating surface. Just a radius. Bit of a sloppy junction.
    – There are some nasty looking strain marks from forging around the hole of the inner plate (bottom right piece). This is the surface that mates with the roller, and the surface finish inside the rollers are pretty rough, too. Of course, neither of these surfaces have the titanium nitride treatment on them. Just raw steel. Seems like a great deal of friction would build up there.
    – Punching a pin out of this chain is far easier than punching a pin from a KMC or Shimano chain. A pin splitting from an outer plate is why chains fail 98% of the time, so my guess is that this chain is more prone to failure than the competition.

    So there’s my two cents. I hope you found it interesting. Thanks to @fasttimes for the chain piece!

    Sidenote: I know I probably seem like a curmudgeon since most of what I post in the Tech Talk forum is just slagging products out there. But I only post breakdowns and analyses which I can’t find elsewhere on the internet. If you want to read glowing great reviews of products, there are a thousand websites posting them every day. Hell, here’s a link to a great review of the Sram Eagle Drivetrain (which I think is roughly the same length as this post in which I only look at the chain): https://www.pinkbike.com/news/sram-eagle-drivetrain-review-2016.html

    Santa Cruz

    3 users thanked author for this post.
    #816027
    Profile photo of Whynot
    Whynot
    Participant

    Kudos to Matty_F for looking beyond the shiny things!

    #816030
    Profile photo of Renegade Hardware
    Renegade Hardware
    Participant

    Awesome. I’ll add some technical information based on your observations:

    I see two inter-playing issues with this chain, based on this post (not even measuring the flatness, which we can do if Matt wants to come by one of the shops I work at or use):

    1: TIN applied to a complete chain
    2: Hard chrome pins.

    for 1, TIN is applied with either a PVD/CVD process, and it’s disposition temperature is quite high. Usually in the 900deg range (850C to 1050C for CVD). Since this is applied to a complete chain, which is an assembly, the assembly will go through this thermal cycle and each component will expand differently due to size, shape, and material. This is a huge no-no in manufacturing, as it will stress items and is more than likely the cause for both the pins coming out easy, and the stress cracking around where it was pressed in. Albeit the latter could just be a poor tolerance stackup, die issues (if these are made overseas in China, I can tell you first hand that dies there are usually suspect and wear FAST), or material issues. Nevertheless, 1000C isn’t going to help any assembly. This is a big problem to me.

    Also for TIN, this is NOT a corrosion prohibitor. TIN is microscopically porous, and failed salt spray testing we did for Sikorsky related products back in about 2012. DLC on the otherhand, is not porous, and passed saltspray testing better than ALL PVD coatings, paints, ceramic coatings, etc.

    2: Hard chrome pins, assembled, then put into DLC. Chrome must be stress relieved after application, which is a 4 hr bake at about 375-400deg F. this also helps eliminate hydrogen embrittlement. But, you bring it up to the disposition temps required for TIN, and you have lost over 50% of it’s hardness at this temp. Fatigue strength is also reduced.

    Matt, can you verify if the chrome is grey, or has a hue or tint of green to it?

    All in all, this chain is a perfect example of marketing jargon not standing up to industrial analysis.

    #816031
    Profile photo of Renegade Hardware
    Renegade Hardware
    Participant

    *put into PVD not DLC….

    #816033
    Profile photo of jcitizen
    jcitizen
    Participant

    As an ad guy I’ve polished so many turds in my life, yet I’m still blown away by the stuff companies pull (and get away with).

    Jesse

    #816034
    Profile photo of Tpratt
    Tpratt
    Participant

    Wow… great analysis! pretty wild!

    #816036
    Profile photo of Canadmos
    Canadmos
    Participant

    Interesting post.

    This kind of mumbo jumbo is why I buy the cheaper chains. Sure they might be heavier, but I’ve not had a problem with them over the years. I think I last broke a chain 7 or 8 years ago?

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