How to Maintain a Bicycle Chain
Checking your bike chainAre you paying attention to your bicycle chain? Maybe you have been keeping your cassette clean but, are you not paying attention to the chain. The bicycle chain may be the most neglected, essential component on your bike. Before I was bought a tool to measure the wear on bicycle chains, I was sometimes surprised by the wear when I measure the chain. A worn out chain may not look too bad if you keep it clean. Before I understood this I once used a tape measure and lined it up with the chain link pins, I found that it exceeded the recommend 1/16" to 1/8" extra length in 12 inches (24 links). A bicycle chain link is 1/2" when it is new. Every second link will line up right on an inch mark on your tape measure (sorry if you are on the metric system - then it is ever 25.4mm, but that may be hard to follow). Now I routinely use a tool to check for wear. The tool shown slips into the chain with a go-no-go fit on one side at 0.75% wear and 1.0% wear on the other. The Park Tool Co. tool is 0.5% and 0.75%. Most manufacturers are recommending 9 and 10 speed chains be replaced at 0.75% and 11 and 12 speed chains at 0.5%.
A worn out chain is going to wear your more expensive cogs. A worn chain gets longer because the pins and bushings wear over time. If left too long the chain wears out your expensive cassettes and chainrings.
Simple Cleaning ToolsThere are tools made for cleaning a chain on the bicycle. You can use a rag to wipe off any accumulation of dirt when you finish a ride.
Degreasing the chainCitrus based degreasers are readily available, environmentally friendly and effective. A tool like the one in the picture will throughly clean your chain and remove any oil, dirt and grit. If you are a gravel rider, you will need to clean your chain more fequently. Remember that riding in the rain also will require you to check for a dirty chain.
Lubricating a Bicycle ChainUse a high quality bicycle chain lubricant. Automotive engine oil is not suitable for lubricating bicycle chains, because they contain detergents. Don't make the mistake of covering the entire chain. I remember when we used to use oil. Oil is a magnet for road dirt and grime. Only lubricate the links at the pins. Use a rag to wipe off the excess. Another don't; WD-40 is a good solvent for cleaning a chain, but it does not provide lubrication where it it is need to avoid wear.
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