Bicycle Chain

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Chain & Gear

A bicycle chain enables the cyclist to transfer power from the bicycle pedals, through the drive train, to the bicycle wheels. Most chains are made from plain carbon or alloy steel, but some are chrome-plated or stainless steel to slow the rusting process.

All bikes that are sold in shops and stores come with their own pre-installed chains. In general, a typical bicycle chain lasts you ride for about 2,000 miles or even longer, depending on the make and quality, as well as your use and maintenance.

Buying the Right Bicycle Chain

When it does come to the point where your bicycle chain gives up on you and breaks apart, you will need to buy a replacement chain. Alternatively, you can also buy a chain to serve as a back up in case you are worried about your original chain breaking while you are out on a ride.

Tip: Oiling your chains is an important part of chain maintenance

Bicycle Chain

Although some deviants suggest that oiling your bicycle chains may be counterproductive, there is a wealth of highly reliable scientific research which suggests otherwise.

Oiling your chains allows them to run smoothly and reduce wear and tear, so learn to do it properly. Avoid spray lubricants as they make it difficult to direct the oil spray where you want it.


It is highly recommended that you will consult a professional to help you in choosing the right chain for your bike and having them installed. Just bring your bike to any reputable bike shop and ask around, surely, they would know something about the right chain-gear-derailleur combination that requires your bike to run smoothly.

If you have faith in your mechanical skills would rather try your hands on DIY repairs and save yourself a few hundred dollars, then you may want to replace the chains yourself. This is actually a very handy skill to know, since there is the chance that you may break your bike chain while you are out riding in the middle of nowhere with no mechanic to help you out. In this case, you will be needing specialized chain repair tools; they are small enough to keep in your bag. Here are some bicycle chain buying considerations:

Bicycle Chain Length

Getting the right length of bike chains is necessary, as doing so could result in very annoying and bothersome problems while riding.

When your bike chain is too long, you will have trouble in riding in small gears combinations. For one, you will feel your bike chain sagging while you are pedaling, which in turn gives you lesser power with every pedal. The worst case scenario is that the chain may actually fall off while riding.

On the other hand, when the bike chain is too short, shifting into large gears combinations can put too much strain on the chain, causing is to break apart when riding, and can result into disastrous consequences.

Bicycle Chain Width

Width is another consideration that must be taken when buying the right bike chain for your bike. Bike chains normally come in two different widths - 3.175 mm (1/8") and 2.38 mm (3/32") sizes. The 3.175 mm size is generally for BMX bikes, three-speed bicycles and bikes that have simple transmission without any need to shift speed, while the 2.38 mm size (also known as derailleur chains) serves as the standard size for many multi-speed bicycles.

Connecting the Chains

There are three different types of chain connection to choose from, each requiring different replacement techniques.

  • Chain Joined With A Special Replacement Pin - In place of a regular stock pin, a special chain is inserted. This is typically found in modern models such as the Campagnolo and Shimano chains.
  • Chain Joined With A Special Connecting Link - Sometimes referred to as the 'master' link, the bicycle chain is joined by a special link that features two outer plates. It also comes with noticeably protruding pins inserted on the chain rollers and are aligned in order to fit them together and snapped in place.
  • Chain Joined By Any Pin - This is the traditional method of joining chains, using any pin that is pushed just far enough to flex the chain to each end.

Sprockets

When choosing a bicycle chain, the front and rear sprockets are common to all bicycle manufacturers. However, the tooth shape presents a difference, especially for the 1/2 x 3/32 type of bicycle chains. A manufacturer designs their tooth shapes to allow better shifting, which is why extra care and caution is required when changing sprockets.

Check Catalog

Manufacturers typically offer different selection systems for the derailleur transmission. This includes the sprockets and chain. Make sure to check the catalog for information.

Chain Performance

The performance of the bicycle chain is largely influenced by the wear and tear. Make sure to choose a chain that comes with coated pins in order to increase the wear resistance. When buying replacement chains, you need to make sure it is connected carefully, otherwise, it will break during operation.

Bicycle Chain

Technical Trend

When choosing a bicycle chain, you may want to take into account the latest design enhancements of bicycle chains, which are developed to feature the following:

  • Lightweight
  • Attractive appearance
  • Resistant to weather and rust
  • Non-staining
  • Low Noise engagement

Bicycle Chain

Bicycle Chain Maintenance

Unlike many other bicycle parts, chain maintenance far outweighs the importance of choosing a particular style or brand of chains. Many parts of your bike require almost no attention whatsoever. Bicycle chains are frequently exposed to dirt, mud and rain, and it can lead to rust or elongation. For this reason, regular lubrication and cleaning is very important: the chain must be kept clean and lubricated for proper functioning.

So what happens if you ignore your chain? Bad things! A dirty, dry chain will not switch gears very well. More seriously, such a chain will invariably wear down the rest of your drive train, such as your cassette and your bicycle chain rings.

Cleaning and lubricating a chain is very inexpensive. Replacing a chain occasionally is also not very expensive. However, if, due to neglect, you wear down your chain rings and cassette, a bicycle chain repair can become very costly indeed. Maintaining a chain consists of three aspects:

Being mindful of these three aspects will not only ensure that you avoid costly repairs, but it will also guarantee you smooth shifting. During a periodical bicycle chain repair, the mechanic is able to measure chain stretch, and inform you if you need a new chain.

Cleaning Your Bike Chain

Some folks may tell you that you need to buy some fancy contraption to clean your chain. Others may even suggest that you need to remove your bike chain entirely. Unless you plan on eating your next meal off of your bike chain, I assure you that you will not need to remove your bicycle chain in order to clean it! In order to clean your bike chain, you will need:

  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Coarse clothes or some sort of scrubbing device (i.e. potato brush)
  • Rags (your old t-shirt will work just fine)
  • Bucket
  • Degreaser, or soap and hot water

Using the coarse cloth and/or scrubber, start scrubbing! After you are finished this, you will want to rinse the chain off. Once you have dried the chain with a cloth, you are now ready to lubricate your chain. Cleaning your bike chain in this manner usually takes around ten minutes. Obviously weather and riding conditions will dictate to what extent you clean your chain. For example, I usually clean my chain in this matter after every mountain biking ride, as the chain gets quite muddy or dusty. If your chain appears in fine condition, simply wiping it off with a clean cloth every week will ensure that it remains in the best possible condition.

Lubricating Your Bike Chain

Like cleaning a chain, there is much debate surrounding the proper way to lubricate your bicycle chain. But here is my advice to you - never let such esoteric debates distract you from the pleasure of cycling!

When to Lubricate

In general, you should lubricate your chain every couple of weeks. If you are riding in more severe conditions, or need to wash your chain more frequently, then you will also want to lubricate your chain more frequently.

How to lubricate

In order to lubricate your chain, do not simply squirt lubricant all over the place with reckless abandon. Remember: excess lubricant will attract excess dirt - only use what you need! One drop of lubricant per link is sufficient. After applying the lubricant, run, your chain around for several revolutions, and then let your chain sit for ten minutes. This will allow the lubricant to soak into exactly those critical parts of your chain. Afterwards, using a clean rag, wipe off any excess lubricant. Just note:

  • Never lubricate a dirty chain
  • Never over-lubricate your chain

Choosing the Right Lubricant

Finding the right lubricant for your bike can be confusing. Bicycle shops are usually stocked with lighter synthetic lubricants, Teflon-based lubricants, heavier oils, greases, and waxes. The lubricant you will want to choose is based on the conditions in which you normally ride.

For someone in a drier climate, you might want to consider Teflon-based dry lubricants. As the name implies, these lubricants have a dry finish, and so attract less dirt. I use Finish Line Ceramic Wax for my summer road bike.

For people riding in wetter climates, you will want to consider a wet lubricant. These go on wet and stay wet - providing maximum water repellency. I usually mountain bike in wet or muddy conditions, and so I use Finish Line Cross Country. Here are some recommended bicycle chain lubricants:

Buying a Bicycle Chain on eBay

Buying a Bicycle Chain on Amazon

Additional Information

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