Mick's Tips - Bicycle Chain Care and Maintenance Made Easy.

The ‘Method’ is not the only chain care programme out there - there are others. By MICK ALLAN

There are, of course, other methods of lubricating a bicycle chain. But after many years of in-depth investigation this is the only one that I believe in:

The crud which accumulates on the exterior surfaces of your chain is composed of grit and dust from the environment, much of it thrown up by the front wheel, mixed with the chain lube you left on the chain last time you lubed it. Using solvents to remove it certainly works but has the downside of removing all the lube from inside the chain.

The only chain surfaces which move against each other are on the inside (once the chain gets onto a sprocket it stops moving), knowing this we can conclude that we don’t need lube on the outside surfaces. It doesn’t do anything there except attract grit and dust.

Purchase a bottle (not an aerosol) of proper chain lube (not WD85, not GT40, not ‘oil’, not ‘2 in 1,’ not even basil infused virgin olive oil although any of the above will work better than nothing. Just) of the kind manufactured by Finish Line, Pedros, White Lightning etc and sold in your local bike shop.

The Method involves nothing more than chain lube and a rag. The first job is to wipe down the chain. Park the bike up against the sofa/ shed and, holding the bike with your left hand, simply….

** Wipe the chain. Use the bike’s freewheel mechanism to your advantage by grabbing the lower run of chain with the rag and dragging it backwards, slide your hand forward and the chain will feed backwards through the rag presenting a new section to wipe. Wipe, wipe wipe etc, Rotate the rag to get a clean section every so often. Eventually, depending on the mankyness of the chain, you wont be able to get any more off.

Now, lube the chain. With one hand slowly rotate the pedals backwards whilst dropping lube onto the lower run of chain in front of the rear mech (or wherever). When you are happy that every link has a drop of lube spin the pedals backwards a few times to allow the lube to seep in. Go back to **

The last thing you do is wipe, remember you don’t need any lube on the outside of the chain (aside from a very thin smear to discourage corrosion). You spend much much more time wiping than lubing. When the rag stops picking up black crud the job is done. Except just one thing, ride the bike a few miles and wipe it again.

The more often you do it the cleaner your chain will be and the cleaner your chain is the quicker the job. So little and often is better. Once a week when it’s dry is more than enough, more often if you do lots of miles in the rain. The less crud you have on the chain the less can get on the other transmission parts too. Lube + grit = makes a really effective grinding compound when it comes into contact with aluminum rings.

The alternative, removing all the crud with solvents, removes all the lube from inside the chain. You then need to remove the solvent because putting lube on a chain full of solvent will destroy the lube. So you wash the solvent off with something? Then you have to remove whatever you washed the solvent off with. Oh, and then have to safely dispose of the now contaminated solvent hoping that none of it has permeated you skin because whatever it says on the bottle solvents aren’t good for you or for anything else in the environment.

So. Wipe – lube – wipe – wipe – wipe. Ride it a few miles and wipe it again. Once your chain has become accustomed to the new regime it should take no more than a couple of minutes each time.

This entry first appeared as a series of posts in a series of robust discussions on the very excellent Cycle Chat forum.

You can read more on lube in my follow-up post here.