If you cannot tell from the chain’s look, you will know it needs some maintenance from the annoying squeaking and grating noise it makes while you are cycling.
It is easy to neglect your chain. However, using a proper maintenance routine on your chain will prolong the chain, cassette, and chainrings’ life, saving you money in the long run.
So is it safe to use a rusty chain?
Aside from the annoying noise, a rusty chain left untouched can potentially be dangerous. The rust hampers the chain’s integrity, meaning that the next time you push down on the pedals, the tension may be too much for one of the rusty links, and your chain snaps.
This can be dangerous if you are on the road as it may cause you to suddenly turn and lose control or leave you standard miles from home, with no means to fix your chain.
Basic Chain Maintenance to avoid a rusty chain
Fortunately, a rusty chain can (and should) be avoided by just paying a little bit of attention now and again.
Buy some chain lubricant
Firstly, you need to invest in some chain lubricant. Avoid the temptation to use solvent-based lubricants such as WD40 or GT85. They will clog your chain with grit after a few rides. You can get an inexpensive bike chain lube online or from any bike store.
Once a week, apply the lube on the chain’s length and use a rag to catch any excess and remove any dirt and grit that may have found its way onto the chain.
If you have already left your chain to get rusty, you can try and salvage it using this method every ride, until you start seeing the metal of the chain sparkling through (but for the cost and peace of mind you are as well learning from your mistakes and buying a new chain).
- Will my bike rust in a shed?
- Can you leave your bike outside in the weather?
- Why do Bikes have Fenders? And do you really need them?
Keep the chain dry
Secondly, you should keep your chain as dry as possible. The rust has only been caused by a combination of neglect and water damage. Obviously, you cannot keep the chain dry while cycling, nor do you need to, as all bikes are resistant.
However, if you have cycled in the rain or through some deep puddles, you should rub down and dry your chain immediately after use.
Finally, try to keep your bike indoors overnight. If you do not have enough room, make sure that your bike is covered from the elements. You can get some inexpensive waterproof bike covers that will do the job.
While you might get away with a rusty chain for a short while, you risk the chain causing irreparable damage to more expensive components or snapping mid-ride altogether.
Avoid this situation entirely by taking 5 minutes a week just to give your chain a little bit of needed maintenance.