Bicycle Know-Hows

Bicycle Chain Maintenance Steps

  • Ninety One
    Team 91
  • 5-minute read
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To enjoy smooth and hassle-free bicycle rides, one of the essential maintenance that you must do is on your cycle's chain. While it seems like a simple chain, it is made up of multiple links, rollers, and plates, all moving parts that keep your bicycle running smoothly.

When you are outdoor enjoying adventurous rides, your bicycle chain collects souvenirs in the form of grit, mud, and other similar particles. Over time if the chain is left dirty, this grit can transform into an effective grinding paste damaging the metal. The effect will be non-smooth pedaling, creaky shifting, and worst of all, unnecessary wear and tear. You don't want that. Every cyclist would wish the best performance and perfect rides each time and does not expect to replace bicycle chains often. The good thing is that you are in control of the situation, and by keeping your cycle chain clean and lubed, you are guaranteed to enjoy hassle-free rides and long life of the drivetrain.

You need to follow a regular cleaning and degreasing, and lubricating to maintain your bicycle chain. We have explained the details of each of these activities. But first, position your bicycle in a way that you can comfortably clean the chain without knocking the bicycle over. An excellent way to do that if you do not have a bicycle stand is to set it upside down so that it rests on its seat and handles. Alternatively, you could lean your bicycle onto a wall or something similar. You need to be able to move the pedals with your hand freely.

The tools and cleaners that you need to degrease and clean the chain can be simple soap or mild detergent and water or a specific degreaser spray that is readily available online. Even your local bicycle store may stock it. You could make do with a rag, better still if you have a brush or set of them, or a specifically made degreaser tool. You would also need another dry rag to wipe out all the water off your bicycle chain after you have cleaned it.

How to degrease and clean your bicycle chain?

1) Some cyclists choose to remove the chain from the bicycle, degrease it before putting it back.

2) A more popular method is to degrease and clean the chain without removing it from the bike.

Do whatever you are comfortable with and achieve the result of a clean chain.

Cleaning and Degreasing the Chain

Step 1

If using a rag, make sure it's lint-free. Give it a couple of folds and spray a generous amount of the degreaser liquid on it. Hold the bottom part of the chain firmly with the degreaser sprayed rag. At the same time, use your free hand to pedal the chain backward. The grit and dirt will come loose. Repeat this step till the rag is relatively clean and the grit dislodged from the chain. In a pinch, you can use baby or wet wipes.

You also get a special chain cleaner tool where you load the chain through the handheld device. It has multiple brushes to clean both the top and bottom of the chain simultaneously. Fill the device with the degreaser solution as indicated. Load the chain through this tool, close it, and then move the pedal backward, ensuring the whole chain has passed through this device. The bristles in this device clean the nooks and crannies of the chain, dislodging any grit stuck there.

If you choose to use a toothbrush of any other firm bristle brush or a 3-way bristle brush apt for bicycle chain, simply spray the bristles with the degreaser solution. And hold it against the chain as you backpedal. You would have to do this process twice. Once while doing the top of the chain and then the bottom of the chain.

Remember, do the cleaning activity in the chain section below your drivetrain for an upright placed bicycle.

Now you are sure to see a clean spanking chain. But wait, the cleaning and degreasing process does not end there. Let's move to step 2

Step 2

You should clean the sparking chain now with warm and soapy water and rinse it thoroughly. You want to ensure that any remnants of grit are completely flushed off so that the fresh lube you will be applying will stick to the chain.

Step 3

We can't stress this enough dry, completely dry the chain. Use a fresh, clean, dry rag. Some cyclists suggest using a hairdryer or even a blower. Drying the inner part of the chain can be challenging and may take time. But it would be valuable for you to spend a few extra minutes to ensure the chain, especially the inner links, plates, rollers, and pins are dry. It would be best if you had a completely dry chain before moving on to the next step, which is lubricating.

Lubricating your Bicycle Chain

Choose your lube. Use wet lube if you ride in wet, muddy conditions and dry lube if you ride in dry conditions. But remember, the lubing frequency will have to be increased if you're using a dry lube.

Lube the chain at the bottom section of the link. That means if the lube drips, it won't fall onto another area of the chain. Now carefully place a small drop of lube on top of each roller in your chain. Make sure to aim the lube right into your rollers. Getting lube on the outside of the chain will pick up more dirt. Move the chain along by backpedaling. Ensure you wipe off any excess lube, and you're ready to ride!

#91 Tips

If you use your bicycle regularly, we recommend you do this 15-minute chain maintenance at least once a week. If your cycling routes take you through dirty and wet conditions or off-roading, increase the frequency of this process. In case you notice that your chain is noisy, it's time for the clean, degrease, and lubing of your bicycle chain. A visual inspection and running your finger along the chain will also indicate when it's time to clean your chain.

While we talk about the chain and proactive maintenance steps you must carry out, let's also list a few things we urge you never to do.

1) When repairing a broken bicycle chain, never reuse the pin to fix it. Preferably use a new pin which will be more reliable. Alternatively, use a quick link.

2) Do not use rust cleaners or other similar solvents that are not meant for bicycles. Instead of helping the chain get clean, it may have a negative effect.

If you follow these steps to clean, degrease and lubricate your bicycle chain, you are guaranteed a pleasant experience on every ride and extended life of the chain.

Do you have a tip or two that you'd like to share on bicycle chain maintenance? We'd love two hear about it do write to us in the comments section below.

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