There are many parts of your bike that you can easily be looked over when servicing. One of the major groups that cannot be missed is the drivetrain. Chainrings, cassettes, chains and derailleurs should always be clean and lubricated. Once worn out, they should be changed immediately. We explain all the tips and tricks of maintaining your drivetrain in perfect condition.
The drivetrain is one of the principal parts of our bikes. Whether you have a mountain bike, road bike or both, performing routine checks and regular services on your bikes are one of the most important things to be done on a bike. It can save you from headaches when out on a ride, and money in the long run.
The most obvious tip is keeping your bike clean and lubricated. A good wash and re-lube of your bike after every ride, especially if it includes water, mud, dust and dirt, will keep it working perfectly for longer, it will also help keep wear to your drivetrain to a minimum. Mountain bikes are especially sceptical to premature wear due to how often they get ridden in adverse conditions, mud and dirt that gets caught up in the derailleurs can cause havoc if left unattended. In these cases a more powerful degreaser is needed when cleaning. If you ride a road bike, or your mountain bike has only collected a thin layer of dust, then a cloth impregnated with degreaser can be used to wipe down the chainrings, cassette and derailleurs to remove the surface dirt then applying a new coat of lube will suffice. Performing these basic maintenance tips will prolong the life of your drivetrain and keep it working perfectly.
An interesting tip taken straight from the professionals is to use a plastic bottle cut in half and filled with degreaser, using a paintbrush, you effectively “paint” the degreaser onto the parts that needs cleaning, it is then left for 5 minutes and rinsed with warm water. This will thoroughly clean even the most stubborn dirt of even the most hard to reach places. Once done, a clean cloth can then be used to dry the area. There are other options like specific cleaning agents for chains that can be used with a cleaner designed especially for chains. It works by encasing the chain in a plastic box. The chain is then passed through a degreasing agent and through some stiff brushes that brush away any excess dirt. Never use products that are not designed especially for bikes, as these can be too corrosive and can damage metals and paint.
CHECK YOUR CHAIN LENGTH
The part that suffers most wear is the chain. But wear can be affected by many factors, dirt, water, mud even the chain tension itself… It is recommended to have a chain wear tool (chain stretch is measured in mm). This a quick and easy method of ensuring your chain, and transmission is in tip top condition. Although logic would suggest that chains be changed every 1000km, they can be used for up to 2000-2500kms. In adverse conditions then it is best to replace it every 1000-1500kms. A worn chain will not only affect how the gears work, and sound, but will also create premature wear on the cassette and chainrings. On 1x systems, the chain tension is higher, which can cause quicker wear throughout the drivetrain, but the plus side is that they are easier to clean and maintain, as well as being less complex. It is incredibly important to keep the chainring clean, as due to the shape of the teeth being used to keep the chain from falling off, any excess dirt or wear can affect how they work.
Chainrings and cassettes tend to last longer than the chain. The normal wear ratio is one cassette and chainring change for every 3 chains if you keep them in good condition. Unfortunately this is not an exact science, and many factors can affect how your drivetrain wears. It is recommended to check all parts of the transmission regularly. A good tip is to check the shape of the teeth of both the cassette and chainrings, once they take the form of a shark fin then this is an indicator of excess wear, and will need to be changed. You will also find that the gears will stop working efficiently, this is probably the most obvious sign that something is amiss in your drivetrain. Another part that is commonly overlooked are the derailleur sprockets, these are used to guide the chain up and down the cassette, so any excess wear here can also cause problems when changing gear. Removing, cleaning and regreasing them, is a simple job that should only take 10-15 minutes to do. They are mostly made of plastic (except for some high end models or aftermarket upgrades) and do not tend to last long, but they are a vital part of the drivetrain.
Lastly, it is important to know which components have been changed and which ones have not. If you have changed the chain three times, then it is time to also change the cassette and chainrings. This way, the wear is even and you will always have a perfectly working machine. When leaving your bike for extended periods of time without use, leave the chain in the smallest sprocket and chainring, this reduces tension that can affect the rear derailleur and chain.