The availability of both bike parts and bike mechanics are still feeling the squeeze of covid. Which means that doing some minor bike maintenance is necessary if you want to keep your bike on the road this summer.
Since your chain is your bike’s most “at-risk” part and an essential component, I feel that it deserves an entire newsletter on how to care for it..
In general, you should lubricate your chain whenever it squeaks or appears “dry.” But taking the extra time to clean and lube after wet rides will help keep your chain from rusting. It is a simple task but often gets forgotten, especially when we are cold and wet and just want to get into the shower.
To clean a chain that doesn’t have too much built-up grime, simply use a rag and degreaser. For really dirty chains, you may need to use a chain cleaning device that is more thorough and a lot less messy. Once you have cleaned the chain, you also need to clean the bike parts it comes in contact with, the front chainrings, rear cassette, and rear derailleur. See photo above if you are unsure of which parts I’m talking about. Scrub the front chainrings and rear derailleur with a brush and degreaser while turning the pedals (moving the chain). For the rear cassette, take off the rear wheel and wipe away any remaining dirt by flossing between the gears/cogs.
After the degreaser has dried, apply drops of lube slowly onto the chain, getting some on each link. Run the chain through all the cogs. Let the lube dry, then wipe off any excess lubricant, so it doesn’t attract more dirt. .
Cleaning and lubricating your chain frequently will help slow down the rate of chain wear. But even the most meticulous rider will need to replace their chain eventually. The more you ride, the sooner you will need to replace it. This bit of maintenance may seem costly, but it is much cheaper than the damage it could cause if you don’t. If you can get your hands on a spare chain now, take it! At some point, you will need it.
What happens if you don’t change your chain when you should?
If you continue to ride with an old chain, even if it is clean, it will start to grind away at the metal on your front chainrings and rear cassette. Over time, the chain and gears will grind out new grooves that a new chain won’t be able to match. This is not a good thing. You are now beyond the point of no return, and you will need to replace all three together. Your cheap $60-$150 replacement chain may cost you $500 or more, depending on what you parts you need to replace.
If you want to avoid this mistake, ask your bike shop to measure the chain to see how much wear it has left. When you bring your bike in for a tune-up, they should do this for you. They will let you know how much life you have left in your chain. If they don’t say anything – don’t assume that it is OK – ASK!