Chain-cleaning tips Keep it gleaming
Here’s how to make sure your bike’s chain gives miles of trouble-free service
A question of condition
A good maintenance routine will make your chain last longer and feel smoother. Try to carry out chain maintenance after a ride when the chain is warm, as the build-up of oiled crud is likely to be more soluble. Put the bike on its main stand or a rear paddock stand, then spin the wheel. The chain should run smoothly over the sprockets with no snagging or jingling of the rollers as they interact with the sprocket teeth.
Chuck out the muck
Clean the chain using a dedicated cleaning product, such as this £11.99 Sdoc product. The idea is to clean the chain, not degrease it. Chain lube attracts a build-up of dust and road grime which forms a grinding paste, damaging your chain. This is what we want to clean off. If you’ve got a particularly cruddy chain you may wish to let the chain cleaner dwell for a while to allow it to penetrate the muck.
Brush your teeth properly
The build-up of grease and scuzz generated from old chain lube can be seen around the circumference of the sprocket, a bit like a tidemark in a dirty bathtub. This can also be cleaned off using the cleaning product and a cloth. Any stubborn deposits can be agitated with a brush and then wiped clean with a cloth.
Look for tight spots
Using a steel rule, measure the freeplay at the point described in the manual – often this is the midpoint between front and rear sprockets. At this point the slack should be the greatest, typical spec is 18-25mm. Check for tight spots by spinning the wheel – any rise and fall in tension will indicate a worn chain.
Do the splits
A split link is a semi-permanent way of connecting two ends of a chain that relies upon a metal clip rather than a rivet to keep the chain ends joined together. Not many bikes are fitted with split links these days, but if you have one it must be fitted correctly. The open end must always face away from the chain’s direction of travel, so when the link is on the top of the rear sprocket the open end is facing the back of the bike.
Check the tension
Refer to your bike’s owners or workshop manual to see procedure for checking the chain tension. Pay attention to whether the tension should be assessed with the bike on its stand or with a rider aboard. The manual will also give a range of acceptable freeplay in millimetres, and state the point on the chain where you should measure it.
Dial out any slack
Check your manual for chain tensioning instructions. Generally, you loosen the spindle nut and the adjuster locknuts, adjust the slack out of the chain in small increments and do it equally either side. Tighten the spindle nut to spec with a torque wrench, and tighten the adjuster locknuts. Check the tension again before you go for a ride.
Using chain lube
When lubing your bike’s chain it’s important not to make a mess or overdo it, as you don’t want to get overspray onto tyres or braking surfaces. Place an old rag or newspaper behind the chain then spray the lube on the inside of the rollers a bit at a time, slowly rotating the wheel and treating little sections. It’s best to leave the bike for a bit to let the lube penetrate the rollers and the solvent to evaporate away.
It’s a dirty job but not that dirty if you keep on top of ité
O Rear paddock stand Suitable spanners Allen keys O Socket and ratchet Chain cleaner and lube Old rags TOOLS NEEDED