bike maintenance - drive chain

Riding a bike for long kilometres in dusty, sandy conditions under heavy load causes the drive train, ie the chainrings, cassette and chain, on the bike to wear out rapido.

The grit that accumulates speeds the stretching of the chain and helps grind out the cassette and chain ring teeth meaning the entire drive train deteriorates.

It’s economic to replace all worn parts, chain, cassette and worn chain rings, at the same time as they all wear together. The chain, and the teeth they engage, work best when close fitting.

The weak link is the chain. The bearings inside each chain link deteriorate due to the stress on the chain together with the general grit. The chain slowly stretches which causes additional wear on the teeth of the cassette and chain rings which don’t mesh perfectly. The chain supposedly wears out much quicker than the cassette but as it does the stretched chain damages the cassette.

Two actions can help prolong the time until you need replacement. Or, that’s the theory.

One is to use two chains. Yup, two chains, but only one at a time. Use your new chain for 1000km after replacing the cassette then swap it for the second chain for the next 2000km. Then the original for the next 2000km etc. This gives a better match for the deterioration of the cassette. It means you can keep the cassette for twice as long. You also have a spare chain.

The second is to use a dry type lube that sheds grit rather than an oily type which attracts and holds the dust. You get a bit of dust out on a dirt road. Each bike shop recommends its own special arid zone formula. There’s waxes and water based lubes. Keep that chain clean with a good brushing and lube daily.

Like all bike theories this one is a bit controversial. There’s plenty of long distance riders who never spend much time scrubbing the chain.

None of this is catastrophic out there, you can still keep going despite an aged drive train, as long as you have a few spare links, but remember that parts like a replacement narrow 9 speed chain, or cassette, will not be available outside cities where there is a decent bike shop.