Biking is among the best ways to exercise and commute. It’s good for the heart, good for the Earth, and provides a sense of freedom. But that freedom can be quickly limited by a frustrating rusty bike chain. Sometimes, no matter how you keep it, your chain will find ways to rust.
This article provides you with a hassle-free method to treat that chain, increase the longevity of your bike, and return to that sense of freedom.
What is a bike chain and why does it rust?
When you pedal, this metallic rolling chain revolves along gears to generate bicycle movement. The smoother the chain, the smoother the movement. The chain is typically made either of a pure steel or a steel alloy, and while quite strong, is prone to rust.
Rust occurs when your chain is exposed to water, moisture, or road salt. Once exposed, the metal oxidizes, creating that reddish-brown color. Rust will cause your chain to stick, and eventually weaken the chain to the point of breakage.
Although it is difficult to prevent the direct chemical reaction of rust, there are methods to treat it. Simply discarding and replacing a rusted chain may be cheap, but you can avoid that cost and waste altogether with the right knowledge and tools.
How to prevent your chain from rusting:
The most significant obstacle to replacing a chain is simply knowledge and confidence. Amateur to intermediate mountain bikers may be intimidated by the inner workings of a bike, but it’s really quite simple. Do some research in your neighborhood and look for bicycle co-ops or tool shares to try and familiarize yourself with common bike maintenance.
The following are our selected tips for proper maintenance of your bike to prevent your chain from rusting:
- Cleaning and drying the chain. To begin, simply take note of which terrain you travel. When cycling through wet or muddy areas, make a mental note to clean your chain when you return home. Rinse off any mud or dirt with clean water and dry your chain with a clean cloth.
- Proper storage of the bicycle. Before storing your bike, let it air-dry completely, preferably in the sun. Never put it away wet. Try to keep it away from road salt or other chemicals that may be stored in a garage.
- Apply lubricants on the chain. Lubricants serve as an intermediary between your bike chain and the environment. Water and salt will have a harder time oxidizing your chain with a proper lubricant. Be sure to wash and dry your chain thoroughly before application.
- Choose a quality lubricant. The best lubricant to use is one that contains Teflon. These products are designed to repel dirt and smoothen the rotation of your bike chain. Quality lubricant is one of the best ways to save your bike chain.
The following are some other selected tips for applying lubricant to your bicycle:
- Wash and dry chain. As mentioned, ensure your chain is clean and dry before application. If comfortable with it, remove the chain from the bike for a deeper clean. Use a toothbrush, or hardier steel wool to really get in there, and if needed, soak the chain in a gentle solvent to loosen grime.
- Oil as you pedal. Re-affix the chain to the bicycle and prop or mount the bike so that you can easily rotate the pedals with your hand. Apply the lubricant directly to the chain as you pedal for a complete application.
- Wipe off excess oil. Use a clean cloth to gently wipe off excess oil. This will prevent unnecessary dirt and grime from accumulating. Let your bike sit for a couple hours before riding.
- Regular cleaning. Clean your chain every few months, even if you haven’t been riding. You don’t need to deep-clean every time, but frequent maintenance will increase your bicycle’s lifespan.
Benefits of proper chain maintenance:
Rust simply isn’t the product of an old chain, and, with the right treatment, can be avoided entirely.
For improved performance and maximum efficiency, you should clean your chain every 3-4 months. Save yourself some effort when biking and use a chain that’s smooth. Spend less on overall repairs and get to know your bike.
As an added bonus, a clean chain looks beautiful and will gain you a lot more respect than a rusted chain. So get cleaning, and get riding!