Bike Chain Maintenance Guide

Your chain and cassette are two of the most important components on your bike. The former transforms your effort in to forward motion while the latter allows you to ride your trusty steed over almost any gradient imaginable. It is no coincidence that single speed bikes have been resigned to the niche pursuits of track cycling or, if you are of that disposition, trundling moustachioed between cereal cafés in Shoreditch. Bearing this in mind, follow our handy bike chain maintenance guide for top tips to make the most out of these two vital bits of kit.


Our quick tips for a smoother ride:

  1. New Chain = New Cassette
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    New Chain = New Cassette

    We recommend changing both chain and cassette at the same time. Over time the chain will wear and “stretch” as the pins between each link slowly become worn. As the chain wears so does the cassette. This occurs to such an extent that eventually – to unashamedly quote the Spice Girls – two becomes one. By this we mean that only your chain will run smoothly on your cassette and changing only one of the two will lead to your chain skipping and gear changes to be erratic and far from slick.

    Thankfully, ProBikeKit can provide you with chain and cassette bundles to keep your drivetrain singing.

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  2. Check, Check, Check
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    Check, Check, Check

    Our first tip comes with a slight proviso. Your chain will tend to wear slightly quicker than your cassette as it has more moving parts and the cassette shares its wear across the whole range of gears. As a consequence, your chain can become worn before a new cassette is needed but before the cassette becomes incompatible with a new chain. Luckily, chain wear is very simple to check with many tool manufacturers offering a tool enabling you to catch a worn chain before it wreaks havoc across the rest of your drivetrain. Your chain only has to increase in length by 1% before significant damage will be caused to the rest of your bike’s moving parts and most manufacturer;s recommend a new chain when your chain has increased in length by between 0.75% and 1%.

    ProBikeKit’s favourite chain wear checker is the Park Tool CC-3.2 Chain Wear Indicator.

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  3. Treat it Mean, Keep it Clean
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    Treat it Mean, Keep it Clean

    Dirt and water will reduce the lifespan of your chain and cassette massively. It is therefore paramount for bike chain maintenance that you keep both dry and grime free. Degreaser and lubricant are the cornerstones of any good mechanics tool box and should feature prominently in yours too. Try to degrease and re-lubricate your chain every other ride. Use a specific chain degreaser such as Park Tool’s ChainBrite 2 to remove the dirt and grease from your chain before wiping dry with a rag. Then apply chain lubricant to the clean chain removing any excess once applied.

    Here at ProBikeKit we stock a wide range or cleaning and lubrication products – more than enough to keep both your chain and cassette squeaky clean.

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  4. Length does Matter
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    Length does Matter

    Sorry folks but length is critical. Chain length that is. Too short and your derailleur won’t allow you to use the full range of gears, too long and shifting will be ponderous – neither of which lend to a satisfying experience on the bike. There are many methods for determining the correct chain length from the simple “big-big” method to far more complex formulae. A few of the best methods can be found here but to get your chain the right length you’re going to need a chain tool.

    Once again ProBikeKit can cater for your every need. Our favourite chain tool is the Pedro’s Pro Chain Tool 2.0 which comes with replacement pins to ensure you never need to buy another chain tool again.

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Make the most out of our top tips and buy everything that you need from our site!

Writer and expert