Cycling is increasing in popularity, which is great news for road bike enthusiasts. There is safety in numbers, as well as in education and access to great places to ride. When you’re ready to get out on the road and ride, it’s essential to know how to keep your road bike in top shape to maximize the safety and enjoyment of the experience.
Once you have purchased a road bike and have taken it out a few times for a ride, you may start to wonder how often you should clean and lube your road bike chain to ensure optimal performance.
This helpful guide will break down the details regarding your road bike chain, explaining how to best take care of it.
Before diving in deeper, the quick answer is that you should clean and lubricate your road bike chain every month. The frequency you are riding may determine whether you should be cleaning it more or less frequently. However, a monthly cleaning is generally a good rule of thumb and easy to remember.
Keeping a good practice of routine maintenance on your road bike will ensure optimal performance. The road bike chain is one of the most vital parts of the bike. Next, this guide will explore what exactly these parts are that need to be cleaned and maintained.
The chain on your road bike is part of the drivetrain. This drivetrain is the key to your road bike’s performance. It also makes up one of the parts that receive the most wear and tear.
Because it is exposed, rotating, and low to the ground, your bike chain constantly gathers grit, mud, and water anytime you are out riding in the elements. Proper care of the drivetrain, chain, gear crank, and derailleurs will ensure a safe and smooth ride.
Something to note regarding lubricants is that they have two primary properties. First, lubricant helps to prevent the build-up of grit and dirt. The presence of grime like this will significantly accelerate wear on the bike chain.
Secondly, the lubricant must last a long time because wear and tear are inevitable without it.
Many lubricants contain Teflon, which helps increase durability. Always make sure that you are using lubricants that are advertised for use on bikes. Not all lubricants can be used interchangeably for different functions.
Here are a few products that you can use to clean and lubricate your road bike chain.
- The most popular choice for lubricant is Finish Line Dry Bike Lubricant with Teflon. This highly-rated lubricant goes on wet but sets to a “wax-like” synthetic film texture.
- Another option is Finish Line 1-Step Cleaner & Lubricant. This product is an excellent choice for an easy single step, as it can be put on a chain even if it’s dry or dirty and makes the chain immediately ready to use. It’s advertised as a good option for bikes used less frequently, just for quick access pulling out of storage.
- Most experts say to avoid traditional WD-40 for lubricant, sticking to it only for cleaning. However, the brand created WD-40 Specialist Bike Chain Lube specifically to address this issue.
- Finally, check out Ultrafashs Bike Chain Cleaner Lube Set. This last one is a helpful kit designed to have everything you need to perform a thorough clean and lube from start to finish.
As you go about performing the clean and lube, be sure to keep an eye out for these common issues that can present hazards.
Surprisingly, chains that are too tight can be problematic. An overly tightened chain will be sticking and not bending as easily as it should. You can easily spot the issue by running the chain backward and looking at the tightest spot on the derailleur to see how they move.
Often, the issue causing an overly tight link is a build-up of grit or dirt. Address this by cleaning out the link and running it through with the lubricant. If it’s still not cooperating, you may have an issue with a loose pin or damaged chain.
You can fix loose pins by shifting them back and forth using your fingers. You should replace the damaged chain link.
This phrase is actually a misnomer because the chain itself isn’t stretched out when it has slack present. Slack in the chain is usually due to issues with wear between the chain links and their pins.
Now, this can be more troublesome to spot, so if you suspect it could be an issue on your road bike, you should take your bike into a professional shop for the experts to take a look.
Generally speaking, cleaning the bike chain can be as simple as running a rag over the chain after each ride. Opinions on the cleaning strategy vary, so experiment with frequency and tactic and see what works for you.
Do some research about what kind of metals and materials are present in your bike, chain, and drive train. Some degreasers work fine with metals but can cause damage to plastics and carbon. If there is any doubt, stick to a rag wet with water.
For more thorough cleaning, use the appropriate degreaser and hold a rag over the chain while using your free hand to pedal backward. The rag will catch the loosened formerly used lubricant and any other build-up.
Next, use a brush (even a toothbrush will work) on the chain link. Soapy water and a rinse of the chain will be necessary to remove the degreaser.
The next step is applying the lubricant, and the presence of a degreaser will prevent it from affixing properly to the chain links.
Going slowly, apply one drop of lubricant to each roller in the chain. Take care to get it inside the roller but not on the outside, where it will attract dirt and cause excessive build-up. Wipe off any excess, and then your bike will be ready to ride!
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions related to road bike chains.
Should I Clean My Bike Chain After Every Ride?
The answer to this question will depend on how you’re riding. If you are a professional athlete riding many miles through rough conditions, keeping your bike in peak condition will be critical. Run a rag across the chain when you finish the ride, but don’t bother doing a full degrease and lubricant application after every ride.
When Should You Clean and Lube a Bike Chain?
Whenever you notice a build-up of grit or a decline in performance in the bike chain, this is a good clue that it’s time to do another clean and lube. If you’ve gone out riding on a particularly dirty road, you should be sure to clean the bike to prevent issues next time you ride.
How Do I Know If My Bike Chain Needs Lube?
Over lubing a bike chain is possible, so be sure to keep the bike in great shape without overdoing it. The way a bike sounds as you ride and change gears can indicate when you need more lubricant. Grinding, squeaking, squealing, and other such disconcerting noises are often signs you need to add lubricant.
Can You Lube Your Bike Chain Too Much?
This is absolutely possible. Unfortunately, many beginners make this mistake in hopes that having a particularly loose and smooth-running bike chain will ensure optimal performance. In reality, too much lube or applying it too frequently can cause build-up and create a big, icky mess.
Where Is the Best Place to Ride My Road Bike?
Now that your bike is ready to ride, where will you go? You might be surprised to hear that San Francisco, California, is one of the top-rated places in the United States for cycling. Despite the challenging hills that the city is known for, the region itself boasts excellent weather and terrain for long bike rides.
Because the city is teeming with riders, drivers are more cognizant of watching out for cyclists, and you are likely to find a group to ride with, making the experience more fun and keeping you accountable for your goals.
Keeping your road bike adequately cleaned and lubricated is an essential element to living the cyclist’s life. Following the tips above will help you ensure peak performance on your ride. Do a quick wipe down of the chain after every ride, and each month, take the time to do a more thorough deep clean and reapplication of lube. You’ll be glad you did!
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