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How Often Should You Lube Your Bike Chain? A Guide To Bike Chain Maintenance

Lubricate Bike Chain

Table of Contents

If you want to get the most out of your bike, you’ll need to know how to look after it properly. While being able to fix a couple of smaller problems on the fly is great, such as putting a bike chain back on or replacing a bike inner tube, knowing how to reduce the likelihood of these problems happening at all is even better. For your bike’s health, prevention is certainly better than the cure.

One of the most common issues a cyclist faces is problems with their bike chain, typically either a jam or the bike chain falling out of place. While these issues can be caused for several reasons, degradation is one of the more common. Neglecting bike chain maintenance will result in the chain wearing down, making it more likely to slip out of place or jam up. If you know how to lubricate a bike chain, you can keep it clean and increase its longevity. In this article, we will tell you how to do exactly that.

How to lubricate a bike chain

Generally, it doesn’t take much to lubricate a bike chain. One drop of your chosen lubricant per chain link is usually enough to get the job done, keeping rust, jams, and general degradation at bay without creating a glue that attracts dirt. If your bike chain is a little worse for wear, adding an extra drop or two where necessary won’t hurt; just be sure to wipe away any excess lubricant with a clean rag as you move between chain links. Leaving lubricant to coagulate will result in a glue-like substance that gathers dirt, ultimately creating a thick, grimy paste. This will mean your efforts will have been in vain, as this grime will do more damage to your bike chain than if you’d have left it be.

Also Read: How To Remove a Bike Chain

Regardless of whether you use a wet or a dry lubricant, you’ll need to wipe your bike chain down with a rag after you’ve applied it to each chain link. Using a few drops of wet lubricant per chain link will likely require a few wipe downs to make sure none of it coagulates. Simply start from one end of the chain and work your way to the other, being thorough as you go. If your bike chain looks clean and you don’t spot any globs of lubricant, your job is done.

Oil Bike Chain

Once you’ve lubricated your bike chain, it’s a good idea to leave your bike for a couple of hours before taking it out for a ride. This will give the lubricant time to set, letting it do its work without the risk of gathering dirt and grime while out on a ride. Applying lubricant the day before you intend to cycle is good practice, but if you really need to do it just before or during an outing, that’s still perfectly possible. Just be sure to give your bike chain a thorough wipe before getting back in the saddle.

Also Read: Best Bike Chain Cleaner

Using a degreaser to clean your bike chain

When lubricating your bike chain, a degreaser can be used beforehand to help remove any dirt and grime, keeping your bike chain clean. That said, while many cyclists swear by it, using it before every application of lubricant, many cyclists do not. There’s a good reason for this; although a degreaser is great for getting rid of the dirt that accumulates during a good cycle, it can also strip away substances important to a bike if it’s too potent. Disc brakes can be left screeching, and rubber seals can be eroded with the more aggressive degreasers, so you should take care to pick the right one for your bike, if you even use it at all. Lubricant, a rag, and some elbow grease are all you need for a decent clean, and it won’t risk causing any damage to your bike, assuming you don’t allow the lubricant to coagulate. While degreasers can certainly be useful in some scenarios, whether you should use them on your bike is up to you.

How often should you lube your bike chain?

It’s all well and good knowing how to lubricate a bike chain, but if you don’t know when to do it, your bike chain maintenance won’t be as effective. To properly maintain your bike chain, you’ll need to consider how often you ride your bike, and how much punishment you put it through. If you regularly ride over difficult terrain and collect a lot of muck along the way, your maintenance schedule should be much more frequent than if you cycle through town every now and then.

Your choice of lubricant will also affect how often you should apply it; generally speaking, a wet lubricant will need less frequent applications than a dry one. Another good rule to keep in mind is sound; if your bike starts groaning or squeaking, it’s probably time to apply some lubricant and give the vitals a good clean.

Cleaning Bike Chain

What type of bike chain lubricant should I use?

Generally speaking, you won’t need to be too picky with the type of lubricant you use beyond the specific type. Wet lubricant is ideal for harsher conditions, ones where you would expect to ride through wet and dirty terrain. This kind of lubricant will repel a good deal of this muck, keeping your bike a bit cleaner even through the worst of conditions. On the other hand, dry lubricant isn’t as good for these conditions, as it doesn’t stick around for as long and isn’t as effective a dirt repellant. Because of this, it is ideal for drier climates and terrains, perfect for a hot summer along a dusty trail.

Assuming you’ve chosen between wet and dry lubricant, the exact brand is completely up to you. If you were to ask around, you’d doubtless find different cyclists swear by a particular brand or combination of lubricants, but there isn’t a whole lot of difference aside from certain specific lubricants. That said, if there is a bike-specific or chain-specific lubricant, you’d might as well use that for the best results.

Wrapping up

Getting into the habit of regularly cleaning off your bike chain and applying some lubricant every now and then is a great way to extend its life. This little bit of maintenance will keep dirt from building up and damaging your bike chain, keeping it in place and preventing jams from occurring. Better yet, you’ll save yourself a trip to the bike store and some cash. Not bad for a five-minute job after a cycle.

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