6 Things You Might Not Know About Your Bike Chain
The chain is one of the most important parts of a bicycle, but it’s often overlooked. When it’s working properly, you don’t even realise it’s there – but when it’s not, it’s probably the only thing you think about.We rounded up six things you might not know about bike chains to help you get the most out this crucial drivetrain component, and celebrate just how how impressive your loop of metal links really is.
Replacing your chain regularly can prolong the life of your drivetrain.
Most mechanics agree that you should replace your chain about every 3,500km depending on your riding style. Many Tour De France riders wear out two or even three chains on their primary bike over the course of the three-week race.
The easiest way to determine if you need a new chain is to use a chain-checker, which measures how badly your current chain has stretched. Although a properly maintained chain can technically last nearly 12,000km it becomes much less efficient as it wears and elongates, says Jason Smith of Colorado-based research firm Friction Facts, with two watts of lost power for every one percent of elongation.
What’s more, the gritty grunge that sticks to your chain lube acts as a grinding paste, causing the pins and rollers to wear down. According to Smith, this increases the center-to-center distance of your chain, and this chain stretch will wear out your gears prematurely. So instead of paying a new chain, you’ll end up paying for a new chain, chain ring, and cassette.
You. Must. Clean. Your. Chain.
To keep a chain in optimum shape, you need to clean it often. Every pro and amateur wrench has their preferred method. For instance, Park Tool master mechanic Calvin Jones uses Park Tool’s Chain Gang filled with the company’s degreaser every time he cleans, while Josh Simonds (the creator of NixFrixshun chain lube) suggests simply wiping down the chain with a clean cotton rag after every ride; when the chain eventually becomes overwhelmed with contamination, Simonds says, use a nylon brush to scrub it with hot water and washing up soap. If it’s really filthy, take your bike into your local shop for an ultrasonic cleaning, or take off the chain and shake it around in a Gatorade bottle filled with degreaser.
After the chain is clean, be sure to dry and lube it, wiping away any excess.