After working in our bicycle shop for 5 years straight, we closed it down for good for obvious reasons. First is the profitability issue. And second, we feel like it’s a waste of time servicing pointless bicycle repairs. Most of the issues can be avoided easily, and fixing it when the problem is small will definitely help to keep the cost down. Well, enough of the rant, here’s how to and how NOT to maintain your bicycle chain, Malaysian style.

This is the cassette that made us write this article. Left after an hour of cleaning, right after 2 hours of cleaning.
This is the cassette that made us write this article. Left : after one hour of cleaning. Right after TWO hours of cleaning.

How NOT to maintain your bicycle chain.

DO NOT USE ENGINE OIL / MOTOR OIL

Do not use engine oil or motor oil, especially used one. We find that a lot of bicycle shops actually offer used engine oil for their customers to pour on anything as they like. Frankly, this is a very smart business decision as the used engine oil destroys chain fast! The metal particles from the used engine oil and its stickiness will attract sands and dirt to destroy chain within months. And from the efficiency point of view, it’s a waste of your pedal power as those engine oil are way too sticky to let your chain run as efficient as possible.

DO NOT USE WD-40

Do not use WD-40 as your main bicycle lube. As a disclaimer, we’re not against WD-40 Bike, we’re only against the original WD-40. And we don’t understand why everyone is spraying the WD-40 on their bike literally everywhere when we forgot to take it inside. If you’re trying to race a 50km race and just wanna use it temporarily, it’s fine. But WD-40 evaporate way too fast to keep your chain lubricated properly in the long run.

DO NOT TRY TO USE ONE CHAIN FOREVER

DO NOT think that your bicycle chain can last forever. A typical multi-speed chain from KMC Z series would last aboout 1,000km. The mileage can go up to 1,500km to 2,000km for their more expensive chains like the X series, depending on your riding style. Consider buying a chain length measuring tool, chain wear is REAL! Failure to change the chain when it’s due can result in premature wear of the sprocket cassette, and sometimes, chain rings. In short, you can save RM 10 on a single speed chain but you’ll lose RM 35 on buying a new freewheel and chain rings. For multi-speed systems, the numbers could be 10 times bigger.

How to maintain your bicycle chain, properly, professional style.

USE DRY / WAX LUBE

We understand that most people are busy and / or lazy to degrease, clean, and lube their chain like every few hundreds kilometres. Here’s our tips to minimise the boring and tedious cleaning part, use wax lube or dry lube. Dry / wax lube will solidify after application hence attracting less sands and dirt. Typically, wax and dry lube has shorter intervals in between applications. But you’ll save a lot time from not needing to clean your whole drivetrain for hours. That’s what we use on our leisure bikes, because we’re too lazy to do extra cleaning that we don’t get paid LOL.

USE WET LUBE

If you’re using your bicycle for competitions, here’s our best advice. Buy 2 different chains for different purpose. Apply the dry / wax lube for training and / or daily use, and apply the wet lube for the expensive chain you’ll be using for competitions. Generally, the wet lube requires degreasing the original chain grease before first application. In competitions, these wet lube will definitely save you a few watts and make a difference at the finish line. Bear in mind that wet lubes need to be cleaned more often as it’s wet and it attracts dirt and sands, that’s why we recommended 2 chains to minimise cleaning. Just noticed how lazy we are at cleaning our own bicycles LOL.

CLEAN IT

No matter how much tender, love and care you throw in to your chain, there will be a time that you’ll have to clean your chain. If you’re doing everything right, you should be cleaning the chain less than 2 times a year. When the time comes, please clean the whole drivetrain for the sake of sanity. Yes that includes your chain, front derailleur, rear derailleur, chain rings, and sprocket cassette. Our lazy staff tried to clean the chain only, and found out the hard way that the dirt and grime from other parts migrated back to the chain in like 5 minutes.

The best part about cleaning your whole drivetrain is, you don’t need expensive products that other websites / guides suggest that you’ll need. From our 5 years experience, the best products of cleaning drivetrain are : diesel fuel (yes the one they put it in the truck), WD-40 (yes it’s the fastest degreaser, and it evaporates fast enough, but costlier than diesel fuel), toothbrushes (the cheaper the better the harder the better), and some torn clothes or jeans or whatever.

For chain, we highly recommend you to take the whole chain out for cleaning. Just dip the whole chain in a container (500ml water bottle works fine too) and pour diesel fuel just enough to cover the chain. Give the container a good shake until the diesel fuel turn black, replace with new diesel fuel and repeat the process, until there’s no visible sands or dirt coming out of it.

For the rest, apply WD-40 or diesel fuel on the clothes and rub it until it’s clean, then wipe and dry it with the clothes. Be extra careful here, diesel fuel and WD-40 spilling onto disc brakes or rims can result in buttery smooth brake! You just need the minimal amount of diesel or WD-40 to get the job done without causing spillage.

Unless you know how to set your gear cable right, there’s no need to dismount the front and rear derailleur for cleaning, you can just roll the clothes into a rope and reach anywhere.

We suggest brushing the rear derailleur pulley wheels without dismantling the whole RD. As most Shimano RD are running 2 different pulleys with specific direction. That means you can forget how to put it back properly. Failure to put the pulleys back in the right order means you’ll be having weird noises and / or shifting issues.

APPLY THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF LUBE

OK this is the hardest part for most people including us. We’ve tried countless methods over the 5 years time we had in the shop, and we find that the RM 5 something syringe from Daiso works the best for wet lubes.

We’ve been using Finish Line Ceramic Wet for our daily, training, and competition bikes. We think that the unnecessary big hole on the original bottle means excessive lube everywhere, picking up sands and dirt faster. With the syringe, we apply only one tiny drop (when we say tiny drop, it means the droplets won’t fall away from the syringe) from the needle directly onto each roller (doesn’t really matter if the needles touched the inner and outer plates or not). With just one tiny drop on each roller, we’re able to get the Finish Line claimed 280km intervals without seeing the chain dried up totally. Our experience showed the distance needed for the lube to dry up totally was about 500km. And you don’t wanna try that as the dried lube with dirt and grime means it’s cleaning time again due to stupidity.

However, the syringe method shouldn’t be used for wax lube or dry lube. As the wax lube and dry lube tends to solidify inside the syringe and seal the needle, means that the lube and the syringe can only head to the garbage bin. We only use the original bottle for wax / dry lube.

Conclusion

Well, that’s our 5 years worth of experiences on chain maintenance given out for free. But don’t take our words for granted, you can always try different methods yourself. If you have better ways, do let use know.

Since you’ve read so far, we’ll reward you with a Shopee voucher. Enter the voucher code MAINFLENG and you’ll get RM 5 off all of our Finish Line products. Valid from 14th March 2019 till 13th April 2019, for first 5 customers only. All of our Finish Line products are here https://shopee.com.my/shop/127852682/search?shopCollection=13693529

Hopefully, this article will help preventing some bicycle shops’ mechanics from going crazy LOL. What we’re sure is, this article will help you save your time cleaning drivetrain and spend more time riding.