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The bike chain is akin to a blood vessel delivering life-giving power from your muscle to the wheels.
Since the bike chain does all the dirty work of transferring power, it’s not uncommon to find them dirty and unkempt.
Here's the thing, a bike chain gathers dust, dirt, and even rust easily than you can imagine.
Dirt, in any form, is always bad news for your bike chain and your riding experience.
This is because a dirty chain has an increasing rate of chain wear; it reduces the flexibility of the chain links, wears the derailleur & other components and results to impaired shifting.
Generally, having a dirty chain severely affect your overall riding performance and places the chain and other component's structural integrity in jeopardy.
To keep the chain well maintained and enjoy a smooth sound of improved performance, you must perform regular lubing.
Lubing is not rocket science, and everybody can do it.
A simple DIY task, we shall show you how to lube your bike chain.
Tools you'll Need
- Chain lubricant
- Old newspaper or cloth towel
- Wood stick/screwdriver
Choosing the Right Lube
There is an incredible range of lubes in the market.
The choice of lube, however, is largely dependent on the weather conditions.
Typically, the three types of lubes in the market are;
The dry lube is extremely thin and penetrates easily into the chain pins and rollers. However, it’s easily washed off and so not suited from damp riding.
It’s more vicious than the latter, and it often clings to the chain better. Further, it does not require a constant application and is suitable for the wet riding.
However, it's more or less like glue, meaning it sticks on your chain and can result from wearing on the drivetrain.
Like the wet tube, it clings better but has a greater penetration like that one of the dry lube. These lube options are quite expensive, but they are the most popular.
Prepare the Working Area
If you are working in a garage on any closed space, you don’t want the grime coming from the bike chain to dirt your space.
So, place some old newspaper on the floor to catch the falling dirt.
Flip your Bike
For efficient dirt removal and chain lubrication, you need to flip your bike.
Here, you can either use a bike stand or simply flip the bike so that the handlebars rest on the ground while the wheels face upward.
Most of the chain lubes are efficient in clean spaces.
This is because applying lube on a dirt space might result in the lube attaching to the dust and mud as opposed to the chain.
Using a wooden stick or screwdriver or any slim object, gently remove the dirt and mud on the teeth of the crankset, cassette, and rear derailleur.
If you are using any metal material, you need to be extra carefully; otherwise, it might scratch the paint surface on the chain.
Polish your Chain
Using a rag or any piece of clean cloth gently wipes the chin deeply.
To clean the chain, you simply need to wrap it with the cloth. Then, slowly rotate the pedal at the same time, letting the chain come through the rag.
By doing this, you will clean the chain and create a clean surface area for lubrication.
Lubricate your Chain
Chain lubrication is the most important step of the entire process.
To lubricate your chain, hold the lube bottle, and put the head of the lube bottle over the chain.
Gently squeeze the bottle to let the lube come slowly to avoid over lubing or dirtying the floor.
While still lubing slowly rotate the pedals by hand. This will let the lube drip over the chain uniformly.
It's easy to distinguish between a lubed and an un-lubed chain. A lubed chain has a glossy surface, while the latter has a matte surface.
Cleaning Up and Testing
The final step of lubing your chain is testing your bike.
If you performed the lubing correctly, your riding performance should feel smooth and fluid than before.
How Often Should I Apply Lube?
Lubing is like any other maintenance process, and the frequency of lubing is dependent on a plethora of factors.
Some of these factors include;
- How frequent you ride
- The conditions of the terrain
- Type of lube used
- Your attention to chain maintenance
For instance, if you ride frequently and use a dry lube in the wet, and muddy conditions, and rarely wipe the chain in between the rides, then you’ll require more frequent lubing.
Again, understand that like anything else, if life, too much of lubing, is similarly detrimental.
Excess lubing will attract more dirt, which forms a gritty paste on the chain. Consequently, this paste grinds the bike components, including the derailleur.
To Degrease or Not Degrease
Bike chain degreasing is a highly debatable topic.
According to proponents, degreasing helps in removing grime and dirt from the chain.
At the same time, however, degreasing strips the chain the very substance it needs.
However, I'm the opinion that degreasing in unnecessary and for the most day in, day out maintenance, a simple wipe down with a rug, and using a toothbrush in between the rides would suffice.
However, the application of a degreaser is quite crucial in certain applications such as:
- When switching from different lubes
- Switching from different brands of lubes
- On a new chain
As you can see, lubing your bike chain is not as laborious or challenging as it seems to be.
You simply need to follow our outlined steps, and you should start to experience a smooth ride.