The chain is possibly the most important part of your bicycle, but it’s also the component that is most easily neglected.
Taking good care of your chain will ensure a smoother, faster, and quieter bike ride, and will protect other, more valuable, parts of the bike from wear and tear.
Here are the key things to know about caring for your chain, and the gear that will help you on the way:
CHAIN CARE: THE THREE FUNDAMENTALS
1: KEEP IT CLEAN
Dirty chains make for slow, messy bike rides, so keep yours clean!
The chain of your bicycle will inevitably get mucky as you ride, whether you’re in the warm, dry summer or the wet, gritty winter.
Riding on a chain that has accumulated too much dirt will grind mess into your cassette and chain rings, and will speed the deterioration of your whole drive train.
As well as being damaging and expensive, a dirty chain will slow you down. A gritty, ‘sticky’ chain will generate more friction as you pedal and make your ride less efficient.
We advise cleaning your chain at least once a week, or after every ride if you’ve been in very wet, muddy conditions.
A quick way to clean your chain is by soaking a rag in a specialist bike degreaser and then wrapping it around the dirty chain. Keep the rag in one position and then backpedal the chain a number of revolutions until the plates and rollers start to run clean. You may need to re-soak and reposition the rag a few times if your chain is particularly dirty.
Once the chain is clean, it’s time to re-grease! Check out step two below to learn about the importance of keeping your chain lubricated:
2: KEEP IT LUBED
A lubed chain is a happy chain!
A well-lubricated chain will run through your drivetrain free of friction, giving you a fast and smooth ride. A chain that has run dry will grind at your components and make for a noisy, inefficient ride.
But that doesn’t mean you should go overboard with the chain oil. When adding lubricant to your bike chain, less is definitely more! A thick coating of oil will attract dirt to the chain and cassette and form a sticky, messy paste that will deteriorate your components.
To properly lube a chain, first ensure it is clean and dry (see above).
Then apply a thin coating of lube around the inside of the chain by holding the bottle still while you gently backpedal with your other hand.
We find it easiest to apply oil to the bottom section of the chain, near the cassette.
When the whole chain has a thin coat of oil, use a rag to wipe any excess from the rollers and in particular, from the side plates of the chain.
Lastly, choose your lube wisely. Thin, watery lubricants are best for summer, whereas thick, water-resistant oils are advised for the tougher conditions of winter.
3: KEEP IT FRESH
Even the best-cared for chain will ‘stretch’ over time.
A chain ‘stretches’ due to the inevitable wear that comes as you ride, a result of the cassette and chain ring sprockets grinding at the chain’s rollers. This grinding effectively increases the size of the links of the chain and ‘stretches’ it.
A stretched chain will not shift gears as well and could even jump between gears as you pedal.
When your bicycle chain becomes overly worn, it’s time to replace it. Doing this promptly prevents the misshapen chain rollers from damaging your cassette and chain rings – and it’s a lot cheaper to replace a chain than it is to replace these other parts of your bike.
A chain checker is a simple and speedy way to check for chain wear. We recommend you check your chain every week or two in the summer and more frequently if you are riding in rough weather during the off-season.
TOOLS FOR THE JOB
CHAIN WEAR CHECKER
A quick and effective way to check how ‘stretched’ your chain is and if it’s time to replace it.