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 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
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 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.
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.
Manufacturers typically offer different selection systems for the derailleur transmission. This includes the sprockets and chain. Make sure to check the catalog for information.
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 to increase the wear resistance. When buying replacement chains, you need to make sure it is connected carefully, otherwise, it will break during operation.
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:
- Attractive appearance
- Resistant to weather and rust
- Low Noise engagement
Buying a Bicycle Chain on eBay
Bicycle Chain Maintenance
Most bicycle parts will do just well with minimal maintenance and care, this is however not the case when it comes to the bicycle chain.
Tip: Check your bike chain for stretch
It is important to note that, chain stretch is a serious cause for concern as it wears down the bicycle gears. This is because the larger spaces on the chain no longer match with the teeth spacing on gears.
Chain wear is indicated by worn out chain links which become thinner with wear and therefore elongate the spaces between them. A stretched chain should be replaced.
This is one of the single most important parts that regularly move and keeping it clean and lubricated means that it will work better and last longer.
The fact that this part comes in contact with dirt, sand, mud among other debris means that it is in danger of becoming rigid and damaged if not carefully looked after.
The main loss when it comes to riding with a rarely cleaned bicycle chain is the fact that you risk damaging the rear cassette as well as the derailleurs which are very costly to repair. Conversely, maintaining the chain or overhauling it is two inexpensive options that can be sued to extend the life of the bicycle chain. When carrying out bicycle chain maintenance you will find that it is also possible to measure chain stretch in a bid to know when you need to have it replaced.
Cleaning the Bicycle Chain
The frequency of cleaning your bicycle chain should be determined by the level of dirt and debris on the chain from time to time. Sometimes a simple wipe and lubrication are enough while the above procedure should be followed when the dirt seems excessive. Cleaning your bicycle chain follows a simple procedure and only takes a short while. You don’t even have to remove the chain from the bike as some people may think. For this task, you will need:
- Degreasing agent or hot water and soap
- Gloves if you do not want any direct contact with the oily chain
- A coarse scrubber
Use a scrubber to scrub off the debris on the chain and then rinse it off with water. You can then use a dry rag to wipe away excess water and dry the chain off; once this is done you can then reapply the lubricant. Take a look at these suample chain cleaners:
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
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. Afterward, 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:
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