How to Take Care of Your Bicycle’s Chain and Deraileurs

If you ride your bicycle long enough your chain will become worn and stretched and need replaced. You can buy special tools that will measure how much it has stretched and most shops have these. Most riders however do not purchase a special tool just to see if their chain is stretched.

The simplest way to find out if you need a new chain without buying a special tool is to use a 12″ ruler. Hold the chain straight, I like to lay it on a flat surface like my workbench and measure from the center or a rivet to the center of the rivet closest to 12″ away. If the distance is more than 12 1/8″ throw out the chain and get a new one. A new chain right out of the box should be exactly 12″. Some riders simply keep track of their mileage and change the chain every so many thousand miles. Depending on the rider and sometimes on the rider’s pocketbook that is often anywhere between 2000 and 4000 miles.

Sometimes you may hear scraping noises coming from the crank area. This noise often indicates that the chain is rubbing the front derailleur. If the front derailleur is bent like one I got in just the other day, replace it. Sometimes though you can fix it with a slight adjustment, simply by moving the derailleur enough to center the cage but not cause a shift.

Sometimes on some bikes extreme chain angles occur if you are using a gear combination like using the largest rear gear with the smallest front gear or vice versa. Some people would say just don’t use those combinations. I have a Giant OCR 2 and a Specialized Expedition and have ridden numerous other brands and models of quality bikes. I have used those combinations both ways on more occasions than I can count and have never heard noise from that area on any quality bike. I have only heard this noise on some of the department store bikes I have ridden at various times. Personally I think if the bike is a quality bike is maintained properly and the parts adjusted properly you won’t have that problem.

Your chain should be kept lubricated, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much oil or lube can cause a build up and may cause sand and grit to cling to the chain and soon damage the chain, cogs, and cassette. The general rule is 1 drop of lube per link, wipe off the excess and allow chain to dry for 24 hours before riding if at all possible. This will allow the lube’s liquid carrier to evaporate and keep the drivetrain much cleaner.

If you ride in the rain, your will find it best to hose off your bike which will remove most of the grit and grim from it. You should also towel it off and spray some lube in the derailleur and brake pivot points anywhere where water may accumulate such as the ends of cable housings to keep those areas from rusting and causing problems in the future. Again wait 24 hours before riding and wipe off any excess lube.