10th October 2017 / Comments (3)

The Chain

The bicycle chain

Roadies and their money form an almost ionic bond. It is next to impossible to persuade the two to part, at least not without significant force. Well, that is how the joke goes. It is all down to the comparative longevity of components on a road bike compared to the constant need to replace off road components . Isolated from a diet of mud, grit and oil, things just don’t wear out as quickly. It also seems to be a matter of pride to keep things running smoothly for as long as possible. This is a direct contrast to the mountain biker.

Is there anything for the ‘adventure’ rider to learn here? Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes.

If your idea of maintenance is to give your bike the occasional quick rinse with the hose followed by a cursory squirt of lube for your chain, you are reading the right article.

For a roadie, a dirty chain means putting up with a thick, black, viscous goo which spreads its’ charms over anything it touches. It is vile! For an off road rider, lube is usually washed or rubbed away by vegetation, mud, river crossings etc. so the problem is hidden away. Your lube may have gone, but deposits of mud and grit remain. While you won’t suffer from the black death, you will carry a very fine grinding paste around, a paste which loves aluminium components. I am not sure which is the least desirable but the fix is easy. A little regular maintenance will save your drive train from wearing out as quickly. More importantly, for the gravel bike rider with many sets of wheels, it allows you to change them without swapping the cassette every time.

As a serial wheel swapper, this is important to me. I have three sets of wheels. I bought three cassettes and fitted them at the same time. By keeping it clean, I can slow down chain wear and defer the onset on the dreaded chain skip. I can also swap wheels willy nilly without worrying. One or two riding mates have bemoaned the short life cycle of the 11 speed chain. I am thousands of (off road) miles into my first chain and have little sign of wear yet.

Before the introduction of quick links, changing the chain was a hateful task. Greasy black slime, cheap chain splitters and sticky links made the whole process a nightmare. Nowadays, removing the chain is simple, the work of a minute or two. Reassembly is equally rapid so there is no longer any excuse for putting the job off.

All you need are the right tools to split the chain and remove the cassette, a chain bath, an old rag and a degreaser. The chain bath is simply a one gallon, plastic container with the top cut off.

Once the chain and cassette have been removed, soak them in neat degreaser. I like Fenwicks but other options are available. Slosh it around until the liquid turns black then rinse off with clean water. Buff it all up with the rag, reassemble and apply lubrication.

A clean drive train is justification enough for me but, if you need another incentive. Use the money you spend on drive train components to buy better shorts, shirts or shoes than you normally would.

Last modified: 10th October 2017