How to lube your bike chain

Maybe you’ve just cleaned up your chain, maybe it’s rained a lot, maybe you’ve got a lot of riding coming up, maybe it’s something you haven’t done in a while.  Time to lube your chain!  Don’t worry, this is a very easy task to do!

Lubing your chain reduces the friction between the chain and the other components.  This reducing the scraping and reduces the amount of wear caused by normal use.  Regular lubing will extend the life of your bike.  You should lube your chain when it loses that oily sheen.

Equipment:

  • Chain lube
  • Rag (optional to catch drips)

How to clean your bike chain

After Cycle Qld, 8kms of dirt and 570km of riding, my chain was looking a bit dirty.  You might want to clean your chain if you have been riding in the rain a lot (water flicks dirt up on to the chain) or have to ride over dirt or sand.  A chain looks dirty when there is caked on, grainy black stuff on it.  Cleaning the chain removes all the dirt, sand and grime from your chain which reduces the grinding and wear on your moving components.  This will extend the life of your bike.

This is a bit of a dirty job, so don’t wear your best clothes and be prepared to get a bit of grease on your hands.

Here is what you will require:

  • Chain cleaning tool
  • Stiff brush or tooth brush
  • Degreaser / Citrus cleaner
  • Rags
  • Lube for afterwards

If you don’t have a chain cleaning tool, that is ok.  Just use a tooth brush.  It will be a bit more time consuming though.

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How to reassemble your bike

Well, since I’ve just got my bike back from the courier from Cycle Qld, I thought I’d do a quick post on bike reassembly.  This post is targeted to bikes that were transported in a cardboard bike box.  If you have a bike bag or some other arrangement, your mileage may vary.

I pulled out all of my bike bits and put them together.  They consist of the frame plus rear wheel, the handlebars dangling by the cables, the front wheel, the pedals and the seat.  I have removed all the packaging and padding that was used to protect the bike.

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What to put in a saddle bag

I don’t always ride with a saddle bag.  If I have panniers, I prefer to use them to carry stuff.  Also, when I’m commuting, I rarely use one because I don’t want to leave the bag on the bike if I lock the bike up somewhere and someone help themselves to the contents.  So, I mainly use the saddle bag for longer rides where the aim of the ride is just to ride.  I guess a training ride or just a joy ride.

What you put in your saddle bag is up to you.  But here are some suggestions and ideas as to what will fit in a saddle bag.

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Getting your wheels off

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t always ride out from my house.  Sometimes I’ll drive across town to do a ride or to meet friends to ride with.  When I do that, I have to get my bike into the car.  To do this, I need to get my front wheel off.  Depending on your car, you may need to take your back wheel off as well.  Now, presuming you have quick release wheels (which most bikes have these days), this is not too hard a task.

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What pressure should I inflate my tyres to/what if I don’t have a gauge on my pump?

The pressure you should run your tyres to will be written on the sidewall of your tyre (the side of the tyre).  It will say something like XXXPSI (pounds per square inch).  If you can’t find it, go with the following general guidelines.

Skinny road tyres (about 100psi)

Fatter road tyres (around 60-80 psi)

MTN bikes ridden on the road(40-60 PSI)

MTN bikes ridden off road (a little bit less pressure than MTN bikes ridden on road.  The less pressure in your tyres, the more traction you’ll have, but the more likely you are to get a pinch flat)

So, what if I don’t have a gauge on my pump?

A gauge is better, but if you don’t have one, you can guess.  A good way to check your tyres if you don’t have a guage is to push down on the tyre with the heel of your hand firmly.  Put your body weight into it (remember this tyre is going to support your body weight, so don’t be afraid to give it a good push).  Don’t pinch the sidewall with your fingers, push down on the tyre with the heel of your hand.

100 PSI will have almost no give at all.  Imagine pushing into a dog’s hard rubber toy.  100 PSI is hard.

60-80 PSI will have a slight amount of give.  It probably feels like a well inflated netball.  You’d expect to feel a couple of mm movement.

40-60 PSI will have a bit more give.  More like pushing into a tennis ball.

Valves.

A quick word about valves on your tyres.  There are 2 general types of valves.  Presta and Schrader.  Firstly take the little black plastic cap of the valve by unscrewing it.  This cap just protects the valve and stops dirt and grit working its way into your valve.  If you don’t have a cap, don’t worry, you’ve probably lost it somewhere.

Cap on valve

Most road bikes will have a Presta (or French) valve. You’ll see a brass tube with a little knob on the top.  You need to unscrew the knob (it doesn’t come all the way off ), so that you can inflate the tyre.  If you don’t unscrew the little knob?  You won’t inflate the tyre.

Presta valve, done up. You cannot inflate a tyre like this.

Presta Valve, ready for pumping

Schrader valves look like car tyres.  You can inflate these tyres at a service station with a car tyre pump.  All you do is unscrew the cap and go for it.  They are generally fatter than presta valves.

Schrader Valve

So, how do I inflate my tyres?

This, to an extent, depends on the pump you have.  I’ll give you some general ideas, and I’m pretty sure you’ll work it out.

Firstly, check what sort of pump head you need (Presta or Schrader).  Some pumps will take both kinds of valves without swapping the pump head over, some you need to unscrew and swap the tip over.

Then, get the head of the pump, and stick it on the valve.  Press it on firmly, and make sure that when you put it on, you put it on as parallel to the valve as you can.  Especially with Presta valves, makes sure that you don’t push or pull the valve to hard, as you’ll rip it out of the tube and give yourself a flat tyre.

Support the pump with your fingers so you don't rip the valve off

A lot of pumps then have a lever to lock the pump onto the valve.  Not all pumps have this.  If you are using a hand pump, try and support the pump on the valve with your fingers.  As you pump, you’ll wiggle the valve, and again you want to try and avoid ripping the valve out.

Pump away… Try and use full strokes – as far as the pump will extend before compressing as it’s more efficient.

When you’ve reached the pressure you want, unflick the lever (if it has one), then pull the pump head off.  Again, try and pull the pump away from the valve parallel to the valve (don’t pull it off at an angle) to avoid ripping the valve out of the tube.  If your bike has a Presta valve, do up the little brass knob (if you forget this, you’ll be having to pump your tyre up again), and then stick the little plastic cap onto the valve tip.

Redo this with your other tyre, and Voila, you’re ready to ride

Types of bike pumps

So, now you know how often you need to pump up your tyres, you possibly also want to know about what to use to do it!

Pumps

There are different kinds of ways to inflate your tyres, broadly grouped into pumps and CO2 inflators.  Pumps are the most popular way of inflating your tyres, and there are two main types of these two .   Track pumps – which are floor based pumps, and hand pumps.

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Bike Rack Types, Bike Lock Types, Bike Security

If you are going anywhere that isn’t a giant infinite continuous loop, you are going to have to stop and put your bike somewhere at some stage.  That some stage, you are going to have to lean your mighty steed against some kinda object and leave it unattended for a period of time.  In which case, you probably want it to be still there when you get back.

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