Applying lube to the bicycle chain is one of the most common maintenance tasks, but is, however, often carried out carelessly and inefficiently.
Given the simplicity of the task, it seems absurd that bike chain maintenance is carried out erroneously by 80% of cyclists, causing the deterioration of the chain and sprocket set. Read the following small tips that will help you not only extend your chain’s lifespan but also, in some cases, avoid breaking it especially when riding off-road.
When you have to lubricate, and when not
But first thing’s first: you finally manage to buy your own brand new bike, with a nice silver chain. Don’t touch it, it’s perfect just the way it is! The oil in which the chains are immersed during the production phase is a long-lasting, fine and protective product. Leave it on until you wash your bike or ride over a puddle or something else that dirties its mechanical parts.
Now let’s discuss the first time you clean your bike chain. This topic calls for a short digression regarding the choice of chemical products: it is convenient and feels good to use Chante Clair Extra Strong to clean your bike chain, it has phenomenal results! Pity that it is a highly corrosive Soda for all the mechanical parts involved, not only for the bottom bracket bearings or the shift pulleys, but also for the chain itself. It is important to use a degreaser, but one specific to bicycles. Many non-corrosive products can be found on the market at a modest price ranging from 8 to 12 euros.
The same reasoning goes for chain lubricant: the specific density of bicycle chain lubricants is very fine compared to other oils; therefore using other products will not only shorten the chain’s lifespan, but will probably also cause the gearbox to malfunction.
How to lubricate correctly
Now let’s move on to the actual lubrication of the chain: on a bike with rim brakes, such as a racing bike, incline the bike slightly towards you, so that the lube doesn’t drip off the chain and onto the braking part of the rim. This would not only be detrimental to the quality of braking in the short term, but the chemical composition of the lube would also be partially absorbed when coming into contact with the brake pads, worsening their braking capacity forever. When dealing with disc brakes, it is important not to spray any lubricant on the discs – in order to avoid this you can cover the discs with a clean rag. Spray the oil – or deposit the drops, according to the type of oil you are using – on the rear sprocket pack as you slowly backpedal for a few revolutions. In order to obtain a perfect lubrication continue to backpedal for about 1 minute.
And now we come to a fundamental point which most cyclists tend to “forget” about: wiping off the oil in excess. As a matter of fact, lubricants have no other function than lubricating the chain internally. Therefore, once the lube has been applied, get a clean rag, hold the chain with it and rotate the pedals backwards 4-5 times. The chain must be clean externally, we may not see the lube but it is there, internally.
What happens if you do not remove the excess oil? It will simply attract dirt that will stick to the chain and the small grains of sand or grime will corrode the chain and gears. Worse still, with a mountain or cyclocross bike, a greasy chain can attract a lot of dirt that can get stuck in the shift pulleys during rotation and can cause the chain to break whilst pedaling. This type of situation occurs frequently on off-road tracks, and cyclists tend to blame the mechanic who mounted the chain, or the poor quality of the chain itself. In reality, it is almost always a slight negligence on their own behalf: that of not having removed excess oil during lubrication.