How Do You Maintain a Bike Chain?

Bike chain lubrication

Everyone loves their bike, and no matter how many bikes you have – it’s never too much to get another one.

But you will still have to go back to the maintenance. If you don’t know how to properly maintain a bike and its chain – it might be the biggest hassle in the world.

However, if you’re equipped with the knowledge and the correct tools – you’ll know exactly what to do. Even better yet, it won’t take you longer than 10 minutes to maintain your chain until the next time.

But how do you maintain a bike chain and what does it take to do it? That’s exactly what you will find in this post – but whatever you do, please do not take your bike to a bike shop just to get your chain maintained ever again.

Why Do You Need to Maintain Your Bike Chain?

Bike chain

Did you bike ever suddenly start producing unpleasant sound during the ride? If it did you would know exactly why you should maintain your bike chain.

But if it didn’t, you still might have felt that your bike gears require a lot more energy from you than usual.

It’s normal for most riders to neglect proper chain maintenance, but this could only lead to excessive wear, poor shifting performance, and even a chain slap.

So yes, whenever you think that your shifter might be playing with you – it actually might be the chain.

Therefore, the more you neglect the maintenance of your bike chain, the more you might be hurting your bike and its components. Of course, this would lead to an excessive repair bill down the road.

How Often Should You Clean & Lubricate Your Bike Chain?

Bike chain lubrication

First of, let’s start with the process of cleaning and lubrication. You only lubricate the chain when you are sure it is clean.

You can lubricate it a couple of days after you have cleaned your bike chain, but if you’re using a proper lubricant – that shouldn’t be required.

The best time to lubricate bike chain is after it’s been thoroughly cleaned.

How often should you do it? It depends on how often do you ride.

If you’re a frequent rider and you use your bike a few times a week, you should maintain your bike chain regularly. Whenever you see, feel, or hear that maintenance is required – you will know what you’re supposed to do!

Therefore, if you are someone who uses a bicycle as transportation to and from work – you will need to do it on a regular basis.

However, if you are a weekend rider – maintaining your bike chain every couple of weeks is perfectly fine.

How to Maintain a Bike Chain?

You will need 3 main products to clean and lubricate a bike chain and they are a degreaser, cleaner, and lubricant.

Bike Chain Degreaser

Bike chain degreaser

Your chain will get dirty over time, and even if it doesn’t – it still might same some lube from the last time you maintained it.

Therefore, using a bike chain degreaser product will help you take off the grease and dirt before thoroughly cleaning it.

Most people’s first thought is WD-40, but trust me, there are a lot of better products suitable for bike chains.

Cleaning Process

Chain cleaning tool

Once you have degreased your chain, it’s the cleaning time.

The best way to clean a chain once it is degreased is with warm water. For the best efficiency, warm soapy water is your ideal choice.

Now, you can rely on any type of brush, sponge, and a lot of scrubbing. Or, you can get a specially designed tool for cleaning the bike chain.

Such a tool is called bike chain cleaner and it looks like a little box which attaches onto the chain. As you backpedal, the brushes inside and water will help clean the chain until it shines again.

Bike Chain Lube

Bike chain lube

Once you have degreased your chain, cleaned it thoroughly until it shines again – the final step is to lubricate it so it’s ready for another use.

We highly recommend using a chain lube which is specifically designed for bicycles.

There are two types of bike chain lube: dry and wet chain lube.

Dry chain lube doesn’t collect as much dust and unwanted debris on the chain. However, wet chain lube is ideal for wet conditions since it won’t come off as easily as a dry chain lube.

Therefore, make a choice according to your needs.

How to Lubricate Your Chain?

While most riders think that they need to drown their chain in lube, it’s actually vice-versa. You don’t need a lot of lube to have your chain moving smoothly.

What we like to use a rule of thumb is the following. When you’re lubing your chain, put one drop of lube on each connection of your chain.

This will be more lube than it is necessary. However, it will lube well the chain links and cassette as you backpedal the chain during the lubrication.

Once you’re done, you should take a clean rag and wipe off any excess lube on your chain.

When is the Time to Replace Your Chain?

Worn out chain

You can be cleaning your chain on a regular basis since day one – but you can’t avoid the chain wear.

As it’s a moving part on the bicycle, it will get worn out – and that’s okay. But what you need to know is the right time when to replace your chain.

The general rule is to replace your bike chain every 2,000 miles (since it can last anywhere from 500 to 5,000 miles). However, you should always replace your chain if you spot any damage.

If you do not replace your chain when it’s needed – you might be damaging your cassette, drive train, and more other components which are related to the chain.

Also, what you should know is that the chain wear is also known as a chain stretch because the chain stretches over time.

Therefore, another common method to determine the chain wear is to measure the chain.

Using a ruler, your chain should measure exactly 12 inches across 12 links. Measure it from the middle of the pin to the middle of the pin.

You will really know when your chain is worn when the number of inches exceeds one percent elongation between the links. But you would want to replace your chain a bit before this happens.

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