1 Dec 2015


It’s probably one of the least exciting parts of your bike, yet one of the most overlooked. But your chain – whatever kind of riding you do, from the discipline of time trial to the grit and mud of mountain biking to the mile-munching of road racing – is vital to your performance. Keeping it in tip-top shape pays big dividends. Fortunately, maintaining it is easy once you know how and stick to the process. Like this…

Firstly, make sure your chain is still serviceable. It’s a consumable and eventually will ‘stretch’ too far, but this isn’t actually the link plates stretching – it’s the connecting pins wearing. The extra play the wear allows, tiny in each link, adds up over 200+ pins to something meaningful enough to ruin shifting. Keeping your chain clean and well-lubricated minimizes wear and extends the life of the chain, improving shifting all along. It also reduces the chances of it snapping.

Mechanics advise: look after your chain and it will look after you when you need it!

A chain gauge will quickly tell you if your chain is past its best. They’re cheap and simple, and replacing the chain once it’s reached the end of its service life will stop it going on to trash your rings as well. When you do need a new chain we’ll have plenty of products and technology background reading  for you, including Team Issue chains and the mighty MegaTooth.

A word of caution. Avoid lubing with household oils such as 3-in-1, as not only is it acidic, it will gum up, trap dirt and increase wear. Meanwhile, sprays such as GT85 or WD-40 won’t hurt, but they’re more a solvent than a lubricant. They evaporate quickly by design, leaving your chain unprotected (in fact the ‘WD’ in WD-40 stands for ‘water displacement’, and these are not products sold directly on their lubricating qualities.

To maintain your drivetrain, follow these five steps:

1. Dissolve the grease
Use a degreaser to cut through the gunk – you can buy devices that enclose the chain and bathe/scrub it as it turns, but while these avoid messy spray, they’re not vital. A stiff brush and a can of degreaser will do fine.
Next, degrease the cassette, derailleur (paying particular attention to the jockey wheels) and front rings. It may help to remove the jockey wheels, but be sure to use threadlock when replacing them. They can easily go astray.

2. Rinse it off
Use a hose or bucket and sponge to wash away all traces of degreaser. If using a jetwash, spray downwards to avoid blasting the grease out of any bearings. Be thorough.

3. Wipe it off
Run the chain through a soft rag – you’ll be surprised how much gunk you can still get off a clean-looking chain. Dry it as much as you can, then leave it to fully air dry.

4. Lubricate
Lube the center line of the chain, along the rollers and links – not the outer plates. Apply it to the inside of the run so centrifugal forces pushes the lubricant through to the outside.
Spin the cranks to work it in between the rollers and side plates to the connecting pins. Wipe off any excess with a rag.
Lube the axles of the jockey wheels, but sparingly, and wipe away any excess. It’s a prime spot for gunk to build up, so don’t make it any easier by leaving it sticky.

5. Upgrade!
Chain dead, cassette hooked, gears skipping and crunching? It’s the perfect time to upgrade to something lighter and faster…  check out the Team Issue 11-speed10-speed and 9-speed chains, and a range of connectors, such as this. Whether you ride road, tri, cyclocross or mountain bike, FSA have a drivetrain to suit your needs.

Team Issue chains are available in 9-, 10- and 11-speed specifications.