Spraying a quick coat of chain lube seems like such a menial element on your pre-ride checklist, but there are more maintenance topics to consider in this area. From the chain and sprockets to the adjusters and determining correct slack in the chain – here are a 8 considerations we deemed important to mention.
1. A clean chain lasts longer.
Using a product specifically designed for cleaning the chain is important for its longevity. Harsh solvents can break down the O-rings and power washing the chain only traps water inside the roller (potential rust). We’ve found aerosol chain cleaners from Maxima and Bel-Ray work particularly well. We also recommend using these in conjunction with a chain brush like this one called The Grunge Brush. This is also the time to inspect the chain and sprockets. Look specifically for hooked teeth on the sprockets, inspect the master link, and look over the rollers for wear or damage.
2. Not all chain lubes are equal.
Chain lubes are made for specific uses and are composed to meet the needs for those conditions. Choose what works for you and your riding conditions. Note: penetrating oil is not an adequate chain lubricant as it was not designed for this use, sorry WD-40 lovers.
3. Horse shoes and hand grenades.
Getting close doesn’t really count here. Most people spray in the general vicinity of the rollers but never actually hit their mark. When lubing the chain, point the spray straw at the inner wall adjacent to the roller. Spray on both sides too. Spraying here increases the likelihood that the lube will make it under the rollers which is what really counts.
4. Proper adjustment.
Proper chain adjustment is crucial to not only the life of the drivetrain, but also protection against the catastrophic. Too much slack and the chain can jump teeth, slap the wheel, or worst case – bust the engine case. A chain that is too tight overloads the counter shaft when the suspension moves through the stroke. This also puts more stress on the chain causing it to wear out faster. The correct adjustment for your application can be found in your owner’s manual. Note: New chains stretch the most at first, so check it regularly.
5. When is it time to replace?
Over time, the chain wears into the sprockets and develops a ‘hooked’ pattern in the teeth. For a mental visual, they start to look like shark fins and the tip faces the direction of forward movement. Steel sprockets wear longer than aluminum and there are hybrid sprocket available for a lighter, longer lasting alternative for future reference. To determine the chain’s time to replace, push it horizontally and perpendicular to the direction of travel; if it deflects significantly more than when new, then it’s time to replace. Also, at the farthest aft point on the rear sprocket, pinch the chain and pull it away from the sprocket. If there is ‘stretch’ or play allowing it to pull away from the sprocket, then it’s time to replace.
6. Replace the whole set at the same time.
Like tires or brakes on your car, chains and sprockets develop wear patterns. It’s a common practice to replace the chain more regularly than the sprockets. The second or even third chain have nowhere near the life span of the first chain due to these wear patters. This tip is up to your own judgement, but count yourself informed…
7. Wheel alignment.
Failure to properly align the wheel results in uneven wear on the chain and sprockets. You’ll likely notice the sprocket teeth are thinner or only being worn on one side. Like it or not, the adjustment markers aren’t always the most accurate. Double check that your axel is evenly spaced on both sides and visually inspect how strain it looks by looking down the chain in reference to the swingarm.
8. Chain adjuster bolts.
Know somebody who has had to have their chain adjuster bolts drilled out because they seized in the swingarm? Hopefully it hasn’t happened to you, but it’s a really common issue we see. The steel bolts corrode inside the aluminum swingarm and when you finally try to adjust the chain, they won’t turn and oftentimes snap off – needing to be drilled out, tapped and replaced. The solution is simple; when the wheel is off, remove the adjuster bolts and lube them. First, clean the bolt and the threads inside the swingarm. We recommend pumping a little grease inside the hole in the swingarm; this ensures the entire span of threads gets some lube. Use anti-seize on the bolt threads. We like to dilute the anti-seize with a little oil to thin it out. Then re-install. It isn’t necessary to do this every time the wheel is off, once or twice a year is fine depending on how often you ride.