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Explaining the Chain



We are going to look in more detail at your drivetrain, starting with your chain.

This can be one of the most ignored & taken for granted parts of your bike – until it snaps on you & you’re faced with a long walk home!

Then you’ll spend some time researching why this happened & trying to prevent it from happening again – particularly if you’re stood up on the pedals in the “fat man in lycra dying” position when it happens. Oh, yes that really does hurt.

Why did it snap?

Over time the lubricant on your chain picks up dust & dirt & forms a substance like gunk. This is very abrasive, almost like a grinding paste, and wears away at the links until eventually one snaps.

What’s the solution?

Cleaning & lubrication.

The instructions that come with your chain say that before every ride your chain should be cleaned & then lubricated. How?


I’ve tried a number of ways to achieve this. I started by trying to clean the chain on the bike with a cloth, brush & detergent. Didn’t work & made a real mess.

Next, a hand held steam cleaner. Took forever, made a real mess, didn’t clean the chain & took all the skin off the back of my hand. Back to Argos with it.

Next, chain cleaning tool. This fits on the chain & has brushes inside as well as a bath to put degreaser in. You slowly rotate the pedals & the chain moves through the bath & brushes, beautifully cleaning the chain.




Well, not exactly…….the chain moves through the bath & brushes & gets cleaned but the whole area looks like a scene of devastation. The chain moves the degreaser all over the cassette, chain rings, frame, floor and if you do it too fast you’ll get it dripping off the ceiling as well. Rather like my 13 year old Son visiting the toilet, everything will get splashed & covered.

Next I saw the Sram Powerlink Connector. This goes back to how chains used to be. You remove a link with a normal chain tool & put in the connector that just clips together. But, and here’s the good bit, it also unclips for cleaning.




You remove the chain, shake it with degreaser, give it a wash & it’s clean! Hooray!

These links also come as standard with all KMC chains or you can buy them separately, £5.99 for 3. Different ones for different chains as 8, 9, 10 & 11 speed chains are all a different thickness.

You fit the chain as normal & just remove an extra full link to fit the connector.

You should fit a new chain when you are changing a cassette or chain rings as they all wear together & if you have an old chain on a new cassette or rings you will get sloppy changes & the chain will slip.

The formula for sizing your chain is to put the chain around the largest cassette ring & largest chain ring but not through the derailleur, then add one full link.


The advice is not to use oil, 3 in 1 etc., as it does soak up the dirt & aids chain wear, instead use a specialist chain lubricant. The trouble with this is they can be very expensive, so the answer is to find the one that works for you. There are two main types.

Wet Lube: This goes on wet & stays wet. Good for extreme conditions such as wind, rain and mud. Just like one of Kev’s normal rides really. Has a water resistant property so best for winter riding.

Dry Lube: Goes on wet then dries. Great for Summer as no dirt sticks to it, but the chain has to be clean before you apply it & you have to let it dry before you ride. Once applied & dry you can just wipe the chain clean. Will wash off on a rainy ride, so great for dry Summer rides.

Lubrication can be the key to a good ride as you will have crisp shifts & a correctly lubricated chain will lower friction, enabling you to ride further, faster.

The video shows how I clean my chain.




Next month is about how to remove, clean & refit a cassette.

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