Video: Does Riding Chainless Make You Faster?

Nov 1, 2021
by Pinkbike Originals  


Tom Bradshaw is back with another one of his favourite low level science experiments! This time Tom is testing the hypothesis that riding with your chain off and thinking about braking, pumping and cornering makes you faster for when you put that chain back on.








79 Comments

  • 179 14
 Well done, Tom! For the next experiment I vote you look to see if riding with only one stanchion is faster! I love my Lefty! Be safe be well, Incognito Robin
  • 33 1
 I'm actually developing a single-stanchion fork myself. It's called the "Righty." you need a custom hub and custom brakes, but other than that, there are no downsides! and it fits in the kashima rack, so you'll be set once you get your cybertruck setup. It's about 2 grams lighter than the lefty, so it should go great on your gravel bike!
  • 55 4
 @danielfloyd: Daniel - did you see the leaked Matte Black Cybertruck photos...SWOON! I'm going to have to get a new all blacked out eGravel Bike to match it...but do you think I should get the Performance Elite Kuat rack...the Kashima will clash no?

Be safe be well,
Incognito Robin
  • 10 1
 Mister @notoutsideceo
I wanted to ask you, if you had to do this ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjVVNuraly8 ) lie detector test for your position at Outside.
If i wanna join your company, is this a common process?

THX for your response.
  • 14 2
 @Hamburgi: Only one way to find out...I'm looking for an EA!

outside.breezy.hr/p/0cd73db2584c-executive-assistant-to-the-ceo

Be safe be well,
Incognito Robin
  • 29 2
 Good Day @notoutsideceo, I'll put that one in the low-level science pile. Right next to can I get faster riding with my eyes closed and what happens when you ride all day with your mouth closed. All the best. Tom
  • 2 4
 Going chainless will only make you faster if you’re Ratboy
  • 5 0
 @rivercitycycles: or gwin or neko
  • 26 0
 @Tombrad: Love it. I wonder what would happen if I rode an eBike chainless!?!

Be safe be well,
Robin
  • 3 0
 @rivercitycycles: I went chainless on a mechanical the other day and it does help to have gravity on your side. (Slowest lap ever)
  • 1 0
 @rivercitycycles: In all fairness Ratboy would be a terrible test subject to what makes you fast, the whole list you threw at him would be checkmarks.
  • 53 2
 Suggestion for PB staff if you're out there listening...

I see you in the comments paying attention... So this should be doable without a ton of extra work.

I can't keep up with Pink Bike comments in totality.... but on the occasion that I spend a lot of time skimming, I always seem to find a few very very helpful - often obscure comments that are just damn helpful or extra interesting.

Do you thing you could screen grab the most excellent exchanges in the comment section for each week or month and turn them into a "best of article" ?

I know I miss a lot of genuinely great stuff... would be cool to catalog it.
  • 5 0
 Or pin them to the top or separate part of the comments section
  • 42 0
 You come to the comments section for helpful stuff???
  • 11 0
 @fatduke: That and vulgar British comedy but alas - you brought me neither!
  • 4 0
 That sounds nice, some forums actually have a "helpful" button next to the other upvoting/downvoting stuff.
  • 3 0
 Genuinely a good idea. We could do a split article a bit like the good month / bad month column with half helpful, half unhelpful threads. Probably the unhelpful section would be much longer.
  • 1 0
 @seb-stott: i'm sure you'll figure out the right way to do it Smile

Thanks for considering it.
  • 34 0
 It probably won't make you faster uphill.
  • 30 3
 What's a ... uphill...?
  • 8 2
 depends how steep the hill is.... another one for low-level science ideas board.
  • 5 0
 Riding chainless has definitely improved my climbing performance.
  • 3 0
 @streetkvnt-kvlt: no chain no gain...haha
  • 29 1
 After experimenting with riding chainless, I noticed my speed didn't increase one bit..., but then again, I live in the Netherlands!
  • 23 0
 I think he needs to prove that having no brakes is faster. The tests go as follows:
1) having Front and rear brakes
2) Having no brakes
3) Having rear brake only
4) Having front brake only
5) Switch up the brake lever such that they're actually the opposite hands from his normal front/rear braking

Should be real interesting!
  • 22 0
 @CSharp this is right up the low-level science wheelhouse - love it. 6) back pedal brakes, thoughts?
  • 12 0
 The Having no brakes test should be last since you won't be able to do all the other tests after it!
  • 4 2
 @Tombrad: I suggest that maybe the no brakes test should be done last!
  • 5 0
 I think Gwin already did this for us. Can Gwin win a World Cup race with no chain? Yes. Can Gwin win a World Championship with only one brake? No.
  • 1 0
 My dog ate my front brake hose half way through my attempt to ride every day for 2 months.

I kept riding for a week while we sourced a new one (I work in supply chain so I can't blame anyone) It was amazing how much stuff you can ride and it really teaches you to wipe the speed off before a corner/feature and roll the speed on the way out.

I honestly think it made me a better rider for the few days it took me to go back to my bad habits.
  • 2 0
 Everyone who's ridden with rim brakes already knows the outcome.
  • 18 0
 i rode half a season in WBP chainless, def makes you a faster rider, but the real benefit is how quiet the bike is...
  • 14 0
 I was worried he missed the point and did this on a hardtail....
  • 12 0
 Should have a done a lap with the chain on but not pedaling to see if there was a noticeable improvement in suspension performance
  • 10 0
 Where's all the the Whis park rats from '05 to maybe '08 that used to rock the full chainless/derailleurless set-up. There used to be tons of them... remember a couple dudes that even got rid of their regular crank/pedal set up and created some kind of direct mount thing with pedals right on either side of his BB.

Also, DH Scooters! www.pinkbike.com/video/386559/?fbclid=IwAR0O6Ce9iiDLmSLlkoQiKgPSjSxRehSBWAswcvqsfCMbsfu7xP1YBbNRzwo
  • 9 0
 I had to remove a chain before a 2k foot descent once due to a hub failure. For me the part I can never forget is how much better the rear suspension performed without a chain. This affect- Noted by Gwin when he won a World Cup after a chain break- is the reason behind high pivot bikes and crank elastomers (Ochain). Watched the whole thing waiting to hear about suspension dynamics without a chain.

So what’s the deal, did you notice a change in suspension dynamics? Last I checked commencal is a single pivot that should be radically transformed by a lack of chain. No difference, or just not noteworthy?
  • 8 0
 Not in Denmark it won’t!!!!!
  • 1 0
 Or... Delaware.
  • 4 1
 Whenever I think about going chainless it makes me curious about replacing the normal crank set up with a bottom bracket that has longer spindles that you can thread your pedals into directly sort of like moto pegs- side by side not one foot in front of the other. Then I think about bike pedals in place of pegs on motorcycles. Clip in moto boots... rabbit hole.
  • 6 0
 Can you test if riding one wheel is faster next? Front or rear
  • 6 0
 @Jeffkendallweed is mostly on his rear tire, and seems pretty fast Wink
  • 3 1
 Well, if you're going to remove the chain, you might as well remove the cranks and bottom bracket as well. Tuck those legs into the frame, or let them flap in the breeze? - might want to A/B test that.

What other vital parts of a bicycle can we remove for science? Brakes? Surely that will increase your speed... for a time at least.
  • 7 5
 How about riding with your chain *on* and only thinking about braking, pumping and cornering?
Faster, slower or same as "riding with your chain *off* and thinking about braking, pumping and cornering"?
  • 5 0
 I take it you didn’t watch the video?
  • 1 0
 @Blackhat: fair point
  • 3 0
 Great video! @tombradshaw
Did you re-use the quicklink each time you put the chain back on?
Did the suspension feel any different with the chain off?
  • 8 0
 @jalopyj thanks heaps! I did during the day but got a new one on now. The suspension did feel different, and I'd like to do a follow up video explaining what and why that was. I wanted this one to be about the actual skills, that anybody could pick up or become aware of by taking the chain off.
  • 2 1
 @Tombrad: you should do different chain ring sizes. It makes a world off difference with lots of suspension layouts
  • 4 1
 I raced a chainless DH race a few years ago and was surprised how much more responsive the suspension felt. It was a very noticeable difference.
  • 1 0
 Can absolutely state that riding chainless got me way better at a long rock garden into big gap section on DH bike. With chain was adamant needed to throw in pedal strokes to just make it. Chain off and pumping through rock garden had me going way deep. Put chain back on and speed stayed up there. Chain off would have been slower for entire track because pedalling was beneficial in some areas.
  • 1 0
 Not being able to pedal sure makes you learn to not scrub speed off where not required, but suspension is so much more supple without the chain.
I can see a use for downhill or even enduro drivechains to include a "neutral" gear, to disconnect the chain from the suspension for those tracks or sections where there is no pedalling required, but cant then put it back in gear when required.
I did something similar back in the day putting a spacer in place of one of my second to hardest gear. Shift up to (6th at the time, as it was 7 speed), and the chain would free spin around a toothless position. Just remember to put it back into 5th or lower to pedal again.
  • 1 0
 I would imagine it's very much like riding a rigid single speed. You are looking to eek every bit of flow out of the trail and maintain momentum. Plus at this time of year, the fall, you don't put extra wear on your bike with mud.
  • 1 0
 Good lessons for sure... I think Remy Metailleur said in one of his videos, "ride like you can't pedal anything" or something like that... Did you notice improved suspension performance without the chain?
  • 3 4
 Absolutely. If you are riding at a bike park for a week without a chain your should will improve. But honestly at many bike parks it wouldn't be fun or realistic because there is so much pedaling required. Whistler is probably the best place that I know of to do it, but even there you'll do some hiking without a chain.
  • 4 0
 SunPeaks. Even better than Whistler.
  • 3 0
 Next Experiment: an all-day pedaling adventure without the saddle!
  • 6 0
 haha another excellent low-level science experiment - does standing up all day and downstairs impalement help anything...at all?
  • 1 0
 @Tombrad: a good core sample for a colonoscopy!
  • 3 0
 Keep the seatpost though; just to keep u on ur toes.
  • 3 0
 @Tombrad: Ehm... no... I was just thinking to remove the saddle, keep the dropper seat post and as Oneal says.... Enjoy the ride!
  • 1 0
 @apokolokyntosis: The seat doesn't have to come off. You just don't sit on it.
  • 1 0
 What would in fact be nice is an experiment with riding a complete ride with slammed saddle.
  • 2 3
 Back in the v-brakes days, if I got to know a trail real well, I would loosen up my brakes so they could only engage at 50% power max. This *definitely* helped me learn to ride those trails faster, even after tightening them back up.

I want this feature available on hydraulic disc brakes.
  • 1 0
 Incredible camera view. I actually thought I was going to crash into those trees. And, I'm sitting at my desk.
  • 2 0
 @zerort ha thanks, me too!
  • 2 0
 Chainless is rad. Everyone should do it for a day at least.
  • 1 0
 Keep up the great videos @Tombrad . I am looking forward to the day you team up with Henry Quinney for a video
  • 1 0
 Thanks @elrad - one day in a not so distant future!
  • 1 0
 On a group ride it's fun to throw in a "no-pedal challenge" to the odd trail. Drop in and see who can make it the furthest!
  • 1 0
 Hell No, or maybe that's just me lol
  • 1 0
 Chainless+Florida =Nope
There I fixed it Smile
  • 1 0
 Feel like much of this is also learned by by Hipsters on Single speeds.
  • 1 0
 You ride chainless? I ride brakeless fo.
  • 1 0
 Who gives a shit, I need to pedal.
  • 1 0
 Gotta take the rear mech off for the full experience.
  • 1 1
 breaking also affects your suspension
  • 1 0
 Quit skidding
  • 1 1
 Only downhill.
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