It is funny how advice comes to you. When I first started riding, I followed a neighbor’s instructions on bike maintenance. As I grew older, I took the word of my favorite shop mechanic as law. Then my racing friends began correcting me on the do’s and don’ts of maintenance. All the instructional ordering and commentary became overwhelming. It was during a moment of silence when I discovered the one true mechanical philosophy: no matter what you do, change your chain often!
The jury is out on how many times a year you should do this. However, a good rule of thumb is to think about it every three months. Who created this rule of thumb? I did. My logic stems from the supreme knowledge of experience. As I mentioned earlier, I have been around the block with racers, professional mechanics, neighbors and family know-it-alls. When it comes to mechanical operation, they all have a theory. I figured the best thing was to create my own, because everyone else has. Thus, the Three Month theory was born.
No matter how much you are riding, your chain takes the most pressure. It is pulled, pushed, dragged through underbrush, covered with mud and salty sweat. It is the brunt of all your bike’s travels. It is lubed and not cleaned; usually has a build up reminiscent of turkey gravy and is the red-headed step child of your transmission. This goes for all bikes, not just the mountain bikes of the world. Town cruisers, hybrids, road bikes, BMX and junk bikes all have the same issue at hand. A chain cannot belong to the bike and the bike cannot belong to the chain, although I’ve seen this phenomenon on many a town cruisers left overnight at the local pubs.
The Three Month theory is very simple. Actually it is more about replacement than anything else. You’ll need four items to begin. The first item is a calendar. Circle the end of each quarter or three months from today. Make it obvious, so you don’t forget. Next, you’ll need a chain. I always buy SRAM. They have the easiest system available. It doesn’t need any tools. Instead it relies on a quick-link system whereby the chain is fastened by hand. The cost for a SRAM chain depends on the model. The most expensive will run you about $70. The least expensive will cost you $10. Ask you local bike shop, which one is right for you. Now that you’ve hopefully purchased the correct chain, it is time to move on to lube. I suggest that you buy a Teflon-based product. I’m going to continue to use Teflon until the scientific journals tell me it causes cancer. Yes, there is a danger it might harm you in the long term, but the jury is out. Finally, you’ll need a rag to clean the chain.
Now, you’re ready to start the practice of the Three Month theory. Ready? On your calendar, you should have marked the exact chain-changing day with a big circle. If that day is today, then head down to the basement and change the chain. You see! How simple is that? No complicated measuring tools or adages about chain maintenance, just simple time management. You’ll find your bike in better working condition than it has ever been. Good luck!