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Chain Maintenance

The most common chain size is 3/32” in width and is used on all multi-speed bikes that have derailleurs.

This chain is further divided into two types: standard width and narrow width – most bikes today use the narrow width chain.

Assuming you’ve been lubricating your chain and cleaning it regularly, the main reasons for servicing or replacing your chain is due to poor performance (poor shifting or “skipping) or due to replacement of a cogset or chainring.

Every chain will develop “chain stretch” (when the pins and bushings of the chain wear out and develop more “play”). As the chain stretches, the sprockets tend to wear in and the two become a matched set – but problems occur because most often the chain wears out sooner than the sprockets. One way to check for chain stretch is to shift your chain into the large front ring and see how much you can pull the chain away from the front of the chain ring. If it pulls out beyond the end of a tooth on the chain ring, it’s definitely time for a new chain.

Another cause for chain skipping is a tight link – check this by pedaling backwards and seeing how smoothly the chain runs through the rear pulleys. If a link is stiff, you can usually “work” it loose by bending it back and forth.

If it’s skipping in only one gear, change the appropriate cog. If it’s skipping in a number of gears, replace the chain. Since your set of cogs (referred to as a “freewheel” or cassette) will also be at least partially worn, you’ll likely have to change your freewheel as well.

Changing Your Chain

Most chains used on derailleur bikes do not have a removable, “master” link – because it’s a little bulkier than a regular link and would hamper the ease of shifting. To remove the chain requires a tool called a chain break which is used to push the rivet out. Most come with instructions, if not, then your local bike shop mechanic will be happy to demonstrate how it’s used. Just be careful not to push the rivet right out – only push it out far enough to be able to work the chain part. Reverse the process to put the chain back together.

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