Not all parts are created equally. Chains come in a variety of types and grades. Types of chains include o-ring, x-ring and roller. Most of the popular chain manufacturers have various grades of chain as well from economy chain to upper end performance chain. The differnce in chain grades are tensile strength, rolling resistance and life expectancy. O-ring and x-ring chains are sealed, so they will last much longer than an equivalent non-sealed chain. A high end performance chain will last much longer than an economy grade chain.
If you are considering switching from a non o-ring chain to a sealed chain, you must be aware that sealed chains are wider than chains that are not sealed. Careful observation is required before making the switch to determine whether or not the sealed chain is too wide for your bike. Unfortunately, you may not be able to use a sealed chain. It all depends on the construction of the bike.
Sprockets are available in a wide variety as well. Sprockets typically are made from carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum. There can even be variations within each of these materials. Unfortunately, when looking to buy a sprocket, you may not have the luxury of knowing what material some are (specifically, I mean). Of course, each type has benefits and limitations. Some aluminum sprockets will wear faster than some steel ones, but aluminum is much lighter. Some stainless steel sprockets will out last about everything but are typically heavier.
I cetainly understand sometimes you just can't afford to buy the good stuff. That is okay though. The trick is to select the parts in such a way they have the greatest likelyhood of wearing together at the same rate. Perhaps only experience can facilitate choosing correctly. Regardless, if you decide to buy an economy chain, don't bother with a "high end" rear sprocket. Conversely, if you decide to buy a high end sprocket, get a good chain. When deciding, read the specifications for the parts and make your decision as wisely as possible (educate your self). My favorite combination is the DID ert racing chain and Supersprox sprockets. The DID ert chain is an outstanding non o-ring chain. The Supersprox rear sprocket is excellent as well. It sports a tool steel outer ring secured to an aluminum core. I have had great results with this combination.
I have seen amazing sprocket life with a stainless steel rear sprocket. A stainless steel sprocket can last a long time. In fact, the last stainless sprocket I used never wore out. The problem though, was the chain did wear out. Because the sprocket was in such good condition, I never realized the chain was badly worn (this is a good example of why you should periodically check the chain length). The chain wear became evident when it started climbing on top of the sprocket teeth. The chain would then slip and drop back down making a terrible clunking sound. The reason for this was the pitch of the badly worn chain no longer matched that of the good sprocket teeth. Because I do not run sealed chains, I stopped using stainless steel sprockets. As I mentioned previously, a sealed chain will last much longer than a non-sealed chain. A stainless sprocket with a quality sealed chain is likely a good combination.
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