Bicycle maintenance

Looking after your chain

Bike ChainI cycle all year around, every working day for my commute to work and also for leisure at the weekends. So I am particularly vulnerable to winter weather – my bike probably more so. A couple of weeks ago I noted that my road bike chain had “already” started to rust, which I thought was premature for the season. So I posted to our group for advice on how to prevent a rusty chain. The responses were so comprehensive that I thought I should share them here.

Andrew suggested following Mick’s tips to ‘Mickle thy chain’. See which itself is a box of delights.

The legendary Kevin Abblitt, who is Ipswich’s own Bicycle Doctor had a more comprehensive response, suggesting that on the topic of chain and transmission care, that nothing divides opinion quite so much!

Kevin explains the needs to clean chains

“I am not fond of techniques which strip out the lubrication from the internal surfaces of the chain parts. Its very hard to get lube back in there without removing the chain and soaking in oil. The only place you need oil is where the internal surface of the chain roller runs on the rivet and from there the oil can migrate to the hinge area of the inner and outer link plates.

There are some very good chains which have surface treatment to prevent rust eg nickel plating. kmc chains are excellent, they make chains which are then repackaged as other brands.”


Kevin says “I recommends regular and thorough cleaning, especially when the weather is wet.

Regards lubrication a little and often of a traditional mineral cycle oil will be fine and shouldn’t cost much. Towel the chain dry and remove as much as possible of the dirt. Drop the back wheel out and use the edge of a towel to clean between the cassette sprockets. Clean the jockey wheels and the derailleur cages. Oil derailleur pivots (10 points). Remove rear section of outer casing from rear derailleur cable by engagaing low gear, release shifter tension and unhook (no need to undo clamp bolt) and clean and lube, then reassemble. Do the same for the front derailleur.

In all cases above wipe off excess lube with a clean towel to avoid dirt magnet syndrome (DMS). If you follow this each day after work you will not have time to get up to any mischief.

Alternately change to hub gears with a full chain case !

Alternately ride it into the ground and replace the chain and cassette when gears won’t change anymore. I sometimes see cassettes which look like hedgehogs with spikes where the teeth should be , still being ridden..”

Wise advice indeed.

So, I am now on the lookout for old towels. I feel a charity shop visit coming on!

Seasons Greetings and may all your ride be puncture free.

One reply on “Looking after your chain”

I’m currently accumulating bits of rag and old t-shirts that I have either used for removing the oil dirt mixture, or for wiping off excess oil after a clean… do you clean and reuse these rags, or is there a proper way to dispose of them?

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