Straight from the work bench of our factory mechanic Leif Valin brings you a write up on how to take care of your chain. This often overlooked component is so crucially important to your bike. Give it a little love and it will make your ride a whole lot nicer.
Your chain, cogs and chainring(s) are wonderful mechanical components that help propel you forward on your bicycle. A new fresh chain arrives clean and nicely lubed from the factory. Your cogs and chainwheels whirl happily along together, meshing perfectly like soulmated lovers in a fairy tale…
But after some hard miles in the real world the drive train can start to yell and scream like HeyMan waking up to empty cans of Steel Reserve©. This isn`t a pretty sound or sight.
Reasons to lube your chain:
-You`ll be able to dumpster dive more stealthly.
-Support the chain lube companies!
-You can maintain your introvertedness and remain unheard.
-People will admire your quietness! (especially in Japan).
Reasons to not lube your chain:
-You really want a bike mechanic for a lover and this is a good conversation starter.
-Don`t support the chain lube companies!
-You wont need a bell! You`re bike will be heard creaking and squeeking along. You will not be able to deliver ninja attacks.
-You like spending $500 on new Dura Ace or Campagnolo chainrings as often as possible.
-You need a reason to go to the bike shop.
When your chain gets noisy you could turn your headphones up and continue riding much to the dismay of mechanics and quiet moments all over the globe. Or, you could lube it.
Some weekly chain maintenance takes minimal time and will keep your pedal strokes efficient and quiet.
-Typically a chain lasts from 1,000 to 2,000 miles with many variables involved. More climbing or heavier loads wears a chain faster. Riding on flat roads or under less load (lower gear/higher cadence) wears a chain less. So a chain could last 700 miles for one rider and 3,000 miles for another based on those variables alone. A good or bad maintenance schedule can have a huge effect on this too.
-A nice chain wear measuring tool is good to have. This measures overall wear of the chain and can help you know when to replace your chain before it gets super stretched and prematurely wears out your chainrings and cassette cogs.
I like the Rohloff chain wear gauge. It has two distance indicators to measure how much your chain has stretched or worn.
-At the .075mm gauge distance you can usually replace the chain and it will mesh fine with the existing cogs/chainrings.
-If you replace the chain when it is stretched to the .10mm gauge distance, the cogs(rear) may be worn the same distance as the old chain and a new chain may not mesh well and actually skip forward over the teeth (which is unsafe). Usually it’s a good bet that if your chain is worn to the .10mm you`ll need a chain AND cassette or rear cog. Replace your chain before things get this bad and you`ll save some money.
-You can clean your old worn out chains and use them to make wigs, (be Rick Chains for Halloween), stencil art, earrings, chaindeliers, wind chimes or whatever you can dream up.
-Lube your chain by back pedaling (unless you have coaster brake, then forward pedal with the bike in a stand or upside down on the ground). Apply lube to the rollers and plate intersections for a few revolutions of the chain, spreading an even coat of lube on the chain.
-Shift through the gears if applicable.
-Thoroughly wipe all excess lube off the side plates of the chain with a rag or some fresh linen. The outside plates of the chain should be dry.
-You can use a rag and some degreaser to clean your cogs and chainring.
-Derailleur pulleys can be cleaned of caked on grime with a medium standard screwdriver. Then use a rag (or fresh linen) and some citrus based degreaser (Simple Green,CleanStreak etc.).
-Not usually necessary but some times needed: If your chain is is super caked in mud/grime/blood/worms you can take it off and soak it and scrub it in degreaser. Then dry it out with compressed air and re-lube it. I try to only do this when absolutely necessary as it’s more time consuming. The next thing you know you`ll have your whole bike apart and will miss that pivotal episode of “So You Think You Can Prance” on TV. Total bike tear down and rebuild is a good thing to do on a terribly gloomy winter day though.
-I try to stay away from the wax based lubes as they cake up and are difficult to get off your chain without solvent tanking.
Different lube choices: Here’s 3 of the lubes we use in the shop.
-Finish Line Ceramic infused Wet lube A long lasting treatment that keeps your chain well lubed and quiet. Apply and wipe off excess.
-Rockn Roll gold Good lube, thinner and less of a dirt attractor than the Finish Line. Apply and wipe off excess.
-Finish line Dry lube A Teflon dry lube that goes on wet, then the carrier evaporates leaving a coating of Teflon. Good for people who prefer the cleanest chain possible with the least maintenance. Not the quietest though.
If you don`t have bike specific chain lube at your disposal, some 3-in-1 oil from a hardware store would be better than nothing.