Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chain Chain, Chain!

The most common thing said when people look at my Recumbent is, "That's a long chain! Do you ever have any problem with a chain that long?"
They all seem to think that the longer the chain, the larger the problem. Looking at something and not understanding it can be a scary thing, especially when its covered with black greasy stuff.
Three times the length of a normal bicycle's drive train, a Recumbents chain lasts 3 times as long. Its all a mater of the little rollers coming in contact with the teeth of the cogs and how clean and oiled it is. Three times as long, three times the life.
Most riders never really take into consideration how exactly a chain works. If it gets oiled at all, it is usually covered and then ridden. Extra oil on the outside of the chain will pick up road dust and grime and work like a abrasive to wear things out. One needs to understand the design of the chain to see that in fact the only place the oil is needed is "Inside" the little pill shaped roller.

In the illustrations to the right, you can see how a chain is put together. Each link has a roller link,(B), and a pair of face plates connecting them (A). The pin that holds the links together goes through a bushing,(T) with a roller,(L) on its outside. The oil needs to be inside the roller so the roller can spin freely. If it does not, It will actually work like a grinding wheel when it comes in contact with your gear and wear them out in short order.
When the little pill shaped roller meets the notch between the teeth, it stays put while the chain rotates around. The pressure between the pin, bushing and the roller requires an oil that will not be too thin and break down. Oils like WD-40 may not be the best thing for the job because they do not have the viscosity to withstand the weight of the rider and the job. Without oil, it will not move freely and as the chain moves, grind away the part. Oil is not needed on the Cassette, Chainrings or the outside of the Derailleur pulleys. If its there, it will only collect dirt and cause things to wear out prematurely.
Oiling the chain and removing any grit is important for the both the bicycle and you. Greasy chains make for a greasy cyclist in the case of a roadside repair. Cleaning and oiling once a week is best and after every encounter with wet roads.
Putting more oil on top of older dirty oil is not a good idea. You can clean your chain with the new oil, but it is an expensive to do it.
Your bike shop will be happy to recommend the proper lube for the job. Different times of year require different oils to work best. Ask what they like and how to apply it. Most shops will be happy to help at no extra charge.

Happy Mother's Day, Class Dismissed.


  1. Longer chain = more chain available to yank.

    Great info here, Scott.

  2. Maybe *your* chain is covered in "black greasy stuff". Not mine, buddy. :-)

  3. Replies
    1. I will show you next time we go riding.Thanks.

  4. Scott, I've been riding "bent" almost 30 years and I use my Tour Easy daily. I've changed the chain, chain wheels, and cassettes several times but I have never thought about the point you made, that a chain lasts almost 3 times longer. Interesting. I get it though! That's a great answer to the ubitiuous questions about the long chain.

  5. Thank You. Nothing like a Recumbent with a clean drive train on a beautiful day! Enough said.


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