Your bike chain is one of the most important parts of your bike. After all, without it you simply won’t be able to ride. Unfortunately, it is also one of the parts of your bike that is going to be subject to the most wear and tear, as it is constantly exposed and will likely get dirty and less efficient over time.
As such, properly maintaining your bike chain is crucial if you want to ensure that your bike performs to the best of its abilities. If you are interested in competitive cycling, you will need to know what should be done to keep it in good condition at all times, so that you have an edge over the competition.
How Does Riding Affect Bike Chain Performance?
Your bike chain is going to decrease in effectiveness every time you head out for a ride, assuming you don’t maintain it properly. Chain wear and reduced flexibility in the chain links themselves result from dirt clogging up the system, and all of this can combine to create added wear on drivetrain cogs and other aspects of the bike, affecting overall performance and occasionally causing you to have to spend more money on repairs.
Furthermore, when it comes to competitive cycling you will find that a poorly maintained bike chain will affect your ability to shift between gears, which is vital when you need everything to be at the optimum level to place well in the race.
How To Maintain Your Bike Chain
You should aim to check your bike chain on a regular basis by standing to the side of the bike and lifting the rear wheel off the ground. Rotate the pedals slowly and inspect each link in the chain to check for signs of dirt or debris that could affect performance. You also need to check for links that don’t bend particularly well and listen out for squeaks as the chain rotates.
If you spot any of these issues, you should carry out a spot clean by brushing the links with a form brush and lubricating the chain with a good bike lubricant. Wipe off any excess with a clean rag, as too much lubricant can actually cause more issues.
You will also need to periodically remove the chain from the bike to give it a full clean. Usually you can do this every month, though you might want to increase the frequency if you have a mountain bike. Use a chain-removal tool to safely get the chain off the bike and immerse it in a chain solvent so that you can rid the chain of the dirt that you are unable to get to with brushing alone. Clean it with a dry rag and relubricate before placing the chain back on the bike.
Things To Look Out For
Tight Links – These can be spotted by looking out for links in the bike chain that don’t bend easily. Usually this is because there has been some corrosion between links, or there is a particularly difficult chunk of dirt clogging up the system. Clean lubricate and flex the link lightly back and forth to gain back the flexibility that the link needs to allow for proper performance.
Chain Stretch – No matter how regularly you clean your chain, all of them are subject to what is known as chain stretch. This is caused by wear between the rollers and link pins and leads to the chain becoming less effective. If you have noticed that your bike is slipping gears, the likelihood is that your chain has stretched. Unfortunately, this is not something that can be cleaned or remedied, so use a wear-indicator to find out if the chain is usable. If the prong doesn’t fit in the chain gap, you should replace the chain rather than run the risk of it causing further damage to the bike.
Also Read: 20 Essential Bike Repair Tools