A couple of bike riders come up the shop the other day.
* Bahd #1: “My chain keeps skipping, even when I’m not trying to change gears. I played around with the little screws on the gear changer thing but that didn’t help. I can’t figure out what the problem is, I’ve barley ridden this bike.”
Bahd #2: “My bike is doing the same thing. This is my brothers old bike and it’s really noisy when I pedal. I sprayed some WD-40 on it, but it seems like it’s worse now than before.”
Before we go any further, NEVER use WD-40 on any part of your bike.
A chain that skips makes any ride hit or miss
Grinding gears makes for tears and fears
A stretched chain is normally to blame
Stay on top at your local community bike shop
Now the buddy who is messing around with the limit screws on his derailer needs to check himself. The reason: this is what his chain looked like –
The most obvious solution is usually the right one. I don’t care that you have hardly used this bike, it was left in the rain, snow, mud; what did you think was going to happen to it!? Your chain has been abused through neglect. Lucky for Bahd #1, I’ve cleaned a chain or two before, and by the time we were finished with it, his chain looked like this –
How do you turn back the hands of time on a chain that has lost it’s shine? I’ll show ya.
Start by pulling out your trusty chain gauge and see how stretched out this chain really is. One end hooks on to the chain anywhere along it’s length, the other slides into a link further down the line.
It will give you a percentage. At 50%, its a good idea to swap that thing for a fresh one.
You can also check using a ruler and measuring the space between the pins, but that’s cumbersome and lame and involves math, get to your community bike shop and use their gauge. This guys chain was “brand new”, 0% wear. There were a bunch of stiff links though. So we rolled up our sleeves and I guided him in cleaning his chain with one of these
It’s the best way to clean a chain, unless you want to take it right off the bike and soak it in paint thinner.
Once it’s clean, break out the lube. This does not mean WD-40. What you want is an oil or grease, something that lubricates and stays in between the moving parts of the chain. WD-40 has some oil in it, but it doesn’t work well on bike chains. It actually strips away any grease that might be on the chain, and what it leaves isn’t nearly enough to handle the rigors of a bike chain. We use tri-flow at the shop and have been right happy with it.
When you lube, one drop per pivot point is all you need. You’re lookin’ for a thin coating between the pin and the roller. Anything on the exposed surface of the chain is going to attract dirt like worm pickers to a farm.
After a meticulous application of some quality lubricating oil, start pedaling backward. You want to get all that oil you just applied into the nooks and crannies of your chain. Then you grab a rag and wipe off as much oil as you can. The stuff that should be there will stay and the stuff that would pick up road grime will go.
With a clean and lubed chain, all the stiff links were gone and Bahd #1 was riddin’ right as rain.
Bahd #2 was not so lucky. His chain looked a lot better than his buddy, but its true form was about to be revealed. Grab the gauge.
This thing was stretched further than a hipsters ear lobe. There is no point spending anytime on a chain like this, get ready to say goodbye.
A new chain is needed, but before you borrow a bike and ride to your nearest bike shop to buy one, look at the teeth on the chainring and the cogs. Brand new, they look like this –
This guys looked like this –
Shark fins that would scare Richard Dryfus.
It’s a sign that a worn out chain was used for way to long. The problem now is that a new chain is going to wear relatively quickly on teeth like this. The rear cassette and the chainrings should really be changed, as well as the chain. This particular Supercycle had a lot of sentimental value to our friend so he decided to replace the other parts of his drivetrain as well as the chain. Our shop has a bunch of cassettes and chainrings so it was an easy fix for him.
The old chain still had one last purpose though. A new chain out of the box is almost always a few links too long. Grab the old chain and lay it out beside the new one. Make sure the first link of one matches the other (both male or both female). Then lay them down next to each other. The new chain needs to have the same number of links as the old one, which is not the same as the same length as the old one since it was stretched so far.
Once you figure that out, break out the chain breaker and cut the new chain down to size. I highly recommend a chain that comes with a quick-link, since it makes it real easy to take the chain on and off.
When these two chums cleaned and changed their chains, they were cruising the community carefree.
*”Bahd” is a more fun way of spelling Bud.