Cape Cod Sea Sports, Hyannis MA

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How-To's & Maintenance

How To: Chain Care

Bike Chain Care

An over lubed chain

One of the most important steps in the maintenance of your bike is proper cleaning and lubrication of the chain. Dirty, over-lubricated or under-lubricated chains wear the rest of the drivetrain components faster and obviously contribute to poor shifting performance. Clean bikes are fast bikes! Remember: if you need a shower after a ride, your bike does too! The following is how we do every chain here at the shop to keep our customers rolling happy all year long.

Inspect for Damage

Bike Chain Care

Twisted Links

First, set your bike in such way that you can spin the cranks freely, either using a bike repair stand or with your bike upside down on the handlebars and saddle. Look over the entire chain from both sides and inspect the chainrings and cassette cogs for damage, excessive wear, rust, bent or broken links and teeth, and foreign objects lodged in between.

Bent or broken links call for immediate replacement as these can lead to failure, usually at the least opportune moment. Excessive wear can be seen as grinding marks or imprints on the cassette, hooked teeth on the chainrings, or angled tooth wear on chainrings. This is usually caused by cross-chaining for extended periods of time. Rust is a sure sign of needed replacement as the rust locks and grinds chain rollers. Rust on cassette cogs is often surface rust and will naturally wear off once the drivetrain has been sufficiently cleaned and lubricated.

No signs of damage? Great! Let's move on to the next step.

Test for Wear

As chains are used they 'stretch' or wear from the inner rollers out. It's often hard, if not impossible, to visually see actual wear of a chain so the best way to properly gauge this is with a chain checker. Several companies such as Park and Shimano make great options, with the Park CC-2 Chain Checker being our go to tool of choice. The CC-2 offers a range of wear indication and is the most user friendly in terms of showing you when it's time to replace the various drivetrain components on your bike.

Bike Chain Care

Checking Chain Wear

To use the CC-2 hold the tool so that you can read the lettering with the gauge at zero and insert the tool straight down into the chain rollers. Make sure that there is no quick link in between the pins of the tool as this can potentially give a false reading. Gently slide the gauge until it stops, ensuring that you do not force the gauge once it encounters any resistance. Forcing the gauge can bend the pin and give you bad readings from then on. Look through the window on the tool and note the reading. If it reads less than or equal to .5 your chain is still within its usable life. At .75 or greater you should replace the chain. Even though the tool says you should replace at 1.0, we like to replace earlier as it saves the rest of your drivetrain components.

Drivetrain components wear at different rates and the replacement schedule is usually this:

  1. Chain
  2. Chain and Cassette
  3. Chainrings, possibly chain as well.

Chains should last about 8-10 months of regular use, less if conditions are muddy, gritty or wet. If your chain is within the wear limits move on to the next step.


Bike Chain Care

Apply some degreaser to a rag and wipe the chain clean

Clean chains are fast chains! Keeping the chain clean helps limit wear on the drivetrain and ensures that it runs quietly and shifts well under any conditions. If this is the first time really cleaning your chain this step may take some time, but if you've kept up with your maintenance routine it takes just a few minutes.

Start by applying a bike friendly degreaser such as Finish Line or Pedro's to the chain, being careful to not get over spray on the frame, wheels and other components. Using a combination of rags and brushes remove all the grit and grime from the chain and wipe dry. Make sure you've removed any lingering degreaser as it can interfere with the fresh lubricant.

Now is also a good time to clean any gunk from the cassette, chainrings and the guide pulleys on the rear derailleur. Stop in and check out our Pedro's Pit Kit. It's perfect for cleaning not just your chain and gears, but the rest of the bike as well.


Bike Chain Care

Use a rag to catch any excess lube then wipe clean.

This is probably the most important technique in the entire process. Most people over lubricate their chains, which is actually far more damaging than under lubricating. Over lubrication attracts extra grit, ultimately turning the chain lube into polishing compound and wearing out the drivetrain much faster. Not to mention all the black marks on your hands, legs and bike and generally looking very un-pro. The downside to under lubricating is slightly faster wear and extra noise; your riding buddies may not appreciate it, but it's not the end of the world.

To lube the chain, start with a quality chain lube like White Lightning, Pedro's or BoShield T9 in a drip bottle. Spray lubricants or other automotive lubricants are to be avoided at all costs. Begin by applying ONE drop of lube to the chain at the roller, avoiding the outer plates. Do this to each roller of the chain, once around the chain, and then wipe off the excess. Run through the gears to check your work, and then wipe off any remaining lube from the chain, chainrings and cogs.

An application will last you quite a while, roughly 150-200 miles on the road and about 4-7 rides on the mountain bike depending on conditions. After every wet or muddy ride you must clean and lube the chain, while during dryer months you can get away with freshening up the chain with lube after a handful of rides.

Still have questions? Looking for some pro tips? Stop by the shop and talk with one of our certified mechanics to get the low down on all things chain related.

How To: Fix a Flat

Today we'll show you the best way to change a flat and get you back on the bike quickly. We recommend that you carry with you on every ride at the minimum a tire lever, patch kit and a pump or CO2 cartridge. A spare tube is a good idea as well. Stay tuned for next week when we'll discuss tubeless setups along with trail-side repairs unique to tubeless tires.

Flats are caused by either an object that has punctured the tire and tube within or from running too low air pressure causing the rim to pinch the tube. Other culprits are sidewall tears, burrs on the rim or a faulty valve. For this article we'll focus on the first two as they are the most common.

To remove the tire, pinch the tire by the sidewalls to reveal the bead and insert the tire lever in and then under the bead; you'll only need to unseat one bead of the tire. Pull the lever down and loop in around one of the spokes. It doesn't matter where you start, but I like to start at the valve stem as it gives me a reference point on the wheel so that as I'm removing the tire I can check for sidewall damage. Using the second tire lever start a few spokes farther along the tire and do the same except this time instead of looping the lever around a spoke, begin to pull the lever along the bead of the tire and the rim.

Once all the way around remove the tube but leave the tire on the rim. Pump a little air into the tube to help find the hole(s). Be sure to keep the tube in the same orientation as it was in the tire; have the valve stem lined up with the valve hole in the rim. Once you've located the hole in the tube reference that spot to the same area on the tire. Look for any sort of foreign object lodged in the tire tread or sidewall as well as any cuts or knicks in the tire. Often times the object stabs the tire and won't be left behind. For one last bit of piece of mind start at the label on the tire and run your hand gently along the inside of the tire feeling for anything sharp.

Once you've cleared the tire of all offending objects slightly inflate the new/patched tube to give it some shape, this will help in getting it back into the tire without twisting. Ensure that the tube is all the way in the tire and begin resetting the tire bead at the point opposite the valve stem. Work the tire on with your hands by grabbing the tread and pulling the bead on back and forth until you reach the valve stem area. At this point it will be a little hard to get the tire on. Using a tire lever gently pry the bead onto the rim being sure not to pinch the tube between the bead and the rim.

Check that the bead is set all the way around and on both sides of the wheel. Inflate the tire to around 20 psi and check that the tire is still seated and the tube hasn't slipped out anywhere. From here just inflate the tire to your desired pressure and you're off!

Pro Tips

When installing the tire mount it such that the label on the tire is centered over the valve stem. This "clocks" the tire so in the event of a flat you can quickly find the culprit in relation to the tube, makes finding the valve stem quicker by giving a larger visual cue and looks quite Pro.

Valve covers and rings aren't necessary and often cause annoying rattles; chuck 'em and save a gram or two.