Whether you race your road bike every weekend or enjoy the occasional bike tour in Denver, CO, one of the most important things you can do (besides wearing a helmet) is to take care of your chain.
Your chain is directly responsible for providing forward motion and will have a bigger impact on performance than just about any other part of your bike. Neglecting your chain will not only cause it to wear out prematurely (costing you more money to replace it sooner than you should), but it will also wear out everything from your cassette to your rear derailleur.
So, how can you take care of your bike chain? Here are a few tips that will improve your chain’s life and performance.
Tip 1: Clean It Regularly
How often should you clean your chain? Well, that depends on what you ride, what type of conditions you ride in, and how often you ride. As a general rule, you should clean and lube your chain every 10-20 hours of on-the-road ride time if you ride consistently. If you ride in the dirt (on a cross, mountain, or BMX bike), then you will probably need to clean it more often. If you ride in the rain or sleet, you will likely need to clean it after every ride because water will quickly rust your chain if you aren’t careful. If you only ride recreationally a few times a month, you can usually get away with cleaning the chain once or twice a year. Keep in mind that if it starts squeaking, it needs to be cleaned at once.
As for cleaning, using an old toothbrush and natural degreasing solution will help you to get all the excess grit and grime out before you apply more lube. Using water to wash away dirt is a great idea, but don’t use high pressure nozzles (it will force water into bearings and seals).
Tip 2: Don’t Use Too Much Lube
A common misconception that both recreational riders and professional cyclists believe is that when it comes to lube, more is better. More is definitely not better. You need to use enough lube that each individual link will be well coated thoroughly, but that’s it. Too much lube will attract dirt and grime. With too much lube, the grease itself will act like a glue and hold on to all the debris and dirt. When dirt gets stuck in the chain, the grit and debris will wear out your chain much quicker and will also decrease performance.
Tip 3: Use the Right Lube
You should use a chain lube that is appropriate to and designed for what you ride and how you ride it. There are special lubes for wet weather, dry weather, off-road, and on-road riding. If you don’t know what to use, ask someone at your local bike shop.
If you take care of your chain, you can expect hours of fun riding your bike. If you want to keep your chain in great condition, it’s all about the lube and how you clean it. Master those 2 principles and you are in good shape for your next tour in Denver.