How To Replace A Bike Chain In Few Minutes
Three words for you that seem to be a fairly common occurrence on most bicycles; Dirty Bike Chains. Yes, the good old bicycle chain that goes about its business transferring the power from our legs to the drivetrain of our bicycles.
Bike chains don’t do a lot of complaining when they are dirty but do start to eventually put up a bit of a fight when things really get grimy. No one really enjoys fixing a bike (except maybe full time bike mechanics), so let’s discuss how to avoid this situation.
Dirty Bicycle Chains
When your chain is very dirty and gritty, it will not only start to chatter quite a bit but more importantly, will start to wear down your drivetrain components; namely your chain rings and your rear cogs. Wear these down enough and its going to cost you some money to not only replace your chain, but also the parts that you have worn down. Let’s fix this problem before we start to wear down our bike components.
The task really is as simple as keeping your bicycle chain clean. I learned this fact the hard way after my old dirty chain wore down my rear cassette so much that I needed to buy another. Now I know that it is much cheaper to just clean my chain instead of ruining my components (note: Bike chains also eventually stretch and wear out which can also contribute to the wearing of these bike components).
Let’s Clean the Bike Chain
In their article How to Clean and Replace a Bicycle Chain, the howstuffworks team summarizes this process very well. They estimate that this simple procedure should only take between 30 minutes and 1 hour (which seems very reasonable to me). Here’s how to clean your chain so that you can avoid having to fix a bike later on.
There are 2 sizes of chains that you will need to be familiar with; a 1/8” chain with master link and the 3/32” continuous chain. Most 1 and 3 speed bikes will use the 1/8” and the remainder of the bikes should have the 3/32” chain installed. The main differences that you need to know about, besides just the length, is the process that needs to happen to get the chain off the bike to be able to clean it.
Chains with master links can usually be removed with needle nosed pliers, whereas continuous type chains need a rivet extractor. To learn more about using the rivet extractor, see the article “How to Remove a Bike Chain”.
Once the master link has been removed or the rivet has been pushed out on the 3/32” chain, you can now remove the bike chain from your bike.
The Howstuffworks article suggests using kerosene to immerse your chain in for cleaning. Kerosene does do a fine job but there are also some other environmentally friendly degreasers on the market as well that will do a bang up job for you (it’s your choice). A bit of scrubbing with an old toothbrush will help you really get the chain good and clean.
Once the chain has been cleaned and dried, you are now ready to re-lubricate it (a very important step). The article suggests immersing your chain in motor oil (which will definitely lubricate it), but I have always just put the chain back on the bike and squeezed chain lube into each of the sprockets.
I have found that this method does just as good of job and is quite a bit less messy also.
Put the Clean Chain Back on the Bike
The final step when installing your chain is to ensure that the fit is correct. If the chain is too tight or too loose, shifting will be compromised. If you have a derailleur type of gearing system, then you are in luck as this type automatically adjusts the bike chain tension.
For all other types, you will need to ensure that your chain has a ½” sag (see the description of how to check and then adjust here).
Fixing a bike can be looked at as one of those necessary evils that all of us riders have to do once in awhile. If you want to minimize the number of repairs that you may need to do, simply perform some regular bike maintenance on your bicycle and minimize the risk of getting stuck while out riding.
What sorts of liquids do you clean your bike chain with? I know there are lots but I’m also sure that there are some other pretty good ideas that you may have as well. Let me know what they are and I’ll post some of them on the site!