April 10th, 2011

Bike chain

I like to think that I'm a fairly good cyclist, but my weak point is bike maintenance. I'm making an effort to improve in that area: it can save me money, and it makes me more self-reliant. For instance, I mentioned Brompton punctures a while back: if it's the rear wheel and I take the bike to Evans then they'll charge me £27.50. Also, if I'm in the middle of nowhere then it may take me a while to push my bike to a repair shop.

More recently, I've been thinking about chains. I had my Brompton serviced in January, and they mentioned that the chain was so stretched that it was literally off the scale, so they replaced it. I've heard people talking about this concept a few times, but I didn't really understand it until I bought a new tool: a Park Tools Chain Checker. You put the pegs between the links of your chain, then slide one end outwards until it hits the chain; this tells you how worn your chain is. In other words, the stretch is "side to side" rather than "end to end", and the chain won't actually get any longer. This stretch is bad because it makes the chain more likely to slip off your sprockets (cog wheels), so it might derail, and apparently it can cause extra wear and tear on your gears. Now that I've got the tool, I can test my chains periodically, and I'll know when to replace them. If you live near me, and you'd like me to check your chain, just let me know.

Meanwhile, my Roberts bike has been making some odd noises recently, to the extent that pedestrians turned around when they heard me coming. It only happened when I was pedalling (rather than freewheeling), which implied that it was a chain problem. The obvious solution is to oil it, but I gather that it's a good idea to clean the chain before you put the lubricant on. Since I'm turning into a bit of a hippie, I bought degreaser and oil from Green Oil. I also bought another Park Tools gizmo: the Cyclone Chain Scrubber. This was something of a mixed success.

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My plan for tomorrow is to cycle down to Brighton; hopefully this will go better than last month's attempt, and I'll see how the chain performs.

Edit: The chain performed well today (Sunday), and the bike ran in "Whisper Mode". The only snag is that I left it in top gear after I cleaned it last night, and didn't discover this until I tried to move off from the kerb! Fortunately there was a big gap in traffic, so I had time to shift down.