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May 01, 2021

Whether you bike hundreds of miles a week or just to the nearby park every weekend, taking care of your chain is important. Failing to maintain a clean and well-lubricated bike chain will make it harder to pedal, and could also lead to damage to your gears or other parts of the drivetrain. Luckily, upkeep on a chain is relatively simple and inexpensive.

Cleaning a Rusty Chain

Maybe you haven't been biking as much as you'd like to, and when you grab your bike out of the garage you notice the chain has become a bit dirty or rusty. You may be tempted to just replace the chain, but that could be an overreaction. It could just need a good spring-cleaning, and it won't be too much trouble to make it happen. Here are some steps to take to get your chain riding smooth and looking fresh:

  • Remove the rust by spraying or soaking with a rust remover such as this
  • Wearing gloves, apply a degreasing agent to the chain with a rag or brush
  • Grab two nail brushes with stiff bristles and clamp them around the chain with one hand
  • Use the other hand to rotate the pedal backward, moving the chain through the bristles
  • Once the chain is clean, remove the degreasing liquid with a rag/sponge and hot soapy water
  • Using a separate rag, thoroughly dry the chain to prevent further oxidation/rust

This should leave your bike chain clean and free of rust and gunk. If you want more detailed instructions or some other cleaning methods you can find them here. If you'd like to see how it's done, here is a quick tutorial on chain cleaning.

Preventing Rust

Now that your chain is clean and rust-free, let's look at the methods you can use to prevent this from happening again. Rust occurs when metal is exposed to moisture, causing a chemical reaction (oxidation) that changes the structure of the metal. Salt, dirt, and mud can exacerbate this process, so keeping a chain clean and dry will go a long way in preventing rust. Simply wiping your chain down with a clean rag or towel after every ride will make a noticeable difference.

Regularly applying lubricant to your bike chain is another way to keep it in good working condition and prevent rust from setting in. Lubricating your chain is a cheap and easy process, but there are a few tips you should know before getting started:

  • Too much lubricant can attract dirt and grime, so make sure to only apply a small amount
  • After applying the lubricant, clean off the excess oil with a rag or washcloth
  • Use a proper lube. High-grade lubricants will be much more effective at keeping your chain in good condition, and they aren't much pricier than their counterparts. We recommend this one for all-purpose lubrication. If you often bike in more extreme conditions, this one should do the trick

Adhering to these basic methods will help keep your ride smooth, your chain clean, and the rest of your bike functional for years to come. So stay safe, stay clean, and enjoy your time on your impeccably maintained bike!

If you live in areas of humid climate or by the ocean, check out our blog post with more tips to protect your bike.

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