The bicycle chain is considered one of the most integral parts of a bicycle, and it is also the part that goes through the greatest amount of strain whilst you are riding your bike. The bicycle chain is the element of the bike that transfers the power that the rider puts into the bike (through the pedals), to the wheels that will propel the rider forwards.
The more a rider takes care of their bicycle the chain, the more accurately the chain will work and the smoother and quicker your bicycle will be. This article will talk you through how best to maintain the most important piece of equipment on your bicycle.
At the bare minimum, a bike chain should be cleaned and maintained at least once per month. However if you are a more avid rider, you may find yourself needing to clean your chain almost daily. This also depends on where you ride, and when you ride.
How Often Should You Clean Your Bicycle Chain?
There is not a straight answer that completely encompasses this question, as there are many variants that will affect the chain of your bicycle.
Whether that is the season and weather conditions you ride in, if you live in an area with varying levels of terrain or even how often you ride your bicycle. For some individuals they will need to clean their bicycle chain after every use, whereas others will only have to clean their chains at least once a month. However, if you want to keep it looking nice (or to show off that cool gold chain) you will want to clean more often.
Winter Months vs Summer Months
During the winter months, and if you live in areas that experience more rain and colder conditions, it is advisable to clean your bicycle chain after every time you ride your bike to ensure optimal performance.
Winter and wet conditions bring extra hazards to your bicycle chain such as road grit, snow and rain creating more mud on off-road tracks, all of which can have detrimental effects like rust, and corrosion on your bicycle chain’s performance if not cleaned afterwards.
Whereas if you use your bicycle during the summer months, you will only have to clean your chain a minimum of once a month. This is because of the less hazardous conditions that are expected during the summer, with fewer objects expected to get stuck in your bike chain.
If you are a regular bike user in summer, opting to clean your bike chain once a week rather than once a month will ensure that no small stones or grit have gotten stuck in your bike chain.
Regular vs Irregular Riders
Similar to the winter conditions vs summer conditions argument, the time you spend on your bicycle will also affect the amount you will need to clean your bicycle chain.
Whereas irregular riders can get away with cleaning their bicycle chain either once a week or once a month, especially if they are only covering short distances. Riders that cover longer distances more often will have to clean their bicycle chains after every use.
Considering this measurement is based on the amount of rides and distance your bike is used for, your bicycle chain will indicate whether you are overusing the chain (without cleaning it). Often the sound of the individual chain links will grow more noisy or the chain itself will appear dry. When this occurs, your bicycle chain cleaning is overdue.
Different Terrain Types
If you are taking your bicycle on steeper terrains or off-road, your bicycle chain will be under a greater strain to covert enough power for your bicycle to move. Not to mention the greater amount of hazards that can get stuck in your bicycle chain.
If these are the conditions you bike in, then you will have to clean your bike after every use to ensure your bicycle chain performance remains high.
While opting to ride your bicycle on smoother terrains and roads will create less strain on your bicycle chain, and therefore it will need of less maintenance.
If you are doing this often, you may still need to clean your bicycle chain at least once a week to ensure no loose pieces of tarmac or stones end up in your bicycle chain.
Have you ever cleaned a bike chain? No? Then you need to make sure you have the right gear for the job. Thankfully you can get by easily with some chain lubricant, some old rags, and a smaller brush of some kind (an old toothbrush could even work). That said, if you are starting from scratch, below are some of our favorite items you might want to look at getting to maintain your chain.
- Finish Line Dry Lube – 4 oz. Squeeze Bottle
- Finish Line 5-Piece Pro Brush Set
- Finish Line Speed Degreaser
Of course, if you want to get really fancy, you can get an awesome kit like this that makes cleaning a bike chain a breeze! Keep in mind though, even if you use something like WD40 to clean off the grease, make sure to re-oil the chain.
Frequently Asked Questions
You should oil your bike chain any time you clean it, as cleaning the chain will take away any oils you have added in the past. You should also add oil any time it begins to look dry, even in between cleaning of the chain.
If you are riding in the winter, or on dusty trails you should think about cleaning your bike chain after every ride. This will keep your bike running in tip-top shape!
Dish soap can be used to clean your bike chain, however you should always make sure to add oil to the chain afterwards. Dish soap is extremely effective at removing oils, even the important ones that you need for the bike to operate correctly.
There are many aspects that a bicycle owner needs to consider when contemplating how often they need to clean their bicycle chain. Whether you are an irregular or regular rider, if you ride your bicycle in more extreme terrains or weather conditions and even the current season of the year will change the amount you need to clean your bicycle chain.
Overall, as a general rule to follow, if you consider yourself to be in one of the more extreme categories that has been previously mentioned, then you should clean your bicycle chain either after every use or once a week. And everyone should clean their bicycle chain after every use during the winter months.