Maybe you’ve decided to bike your way to work, or perhaps you’re joining the weekend biking group. Either way, it’s essential to know how to care for your bike chain because you cannot bike without a chain. To understand how to identify whether your bike chain is too loose, read below.
Understanding the Purpose of a Bike Chain
One of the most significant parts of a bicycle is its chain, although it is sometimes overlooked. You don’t even notice it’s there when it’s operating correctly, but when it’s not, it’s likely the only thing on your mind. A bike chain is a roller chain, which transmits power that you put in the pedals to the bike’s drive-wheel.
This allows the bike to move forward. If you pedal harder, your bike will travel faster. Most bike chains are constructed of alloy steel or carbon; however, some chains are plated with nickel to prevent corrosion (or, for aesthetic reasons).
Why a Loose Bike Chain is Dangerous
A loose bike chain can lead to premature cog replacement, chainring replacement, chain replacement, or freewheel. This is due to the increased wear of your drivetrain components.
Furthermore, the chain could get stuck in the other mechanics of the bike, causing problems as it wedges between the frame and the crankset, frame and the small cog, or the large cog and spokes of the wheel behind it. It could also drop off the gears unexpectedly, causing you to lose your balance as you pedal, resulting in a crash.
Is Your Bike Chain Too Loose?
To fix a loose chain, it’s crucial to identify whether the chain is loose in the first place. Here are some ways you can check whether your bike chain is too loose, too tight, or just right. If it is loose, you can learn how to tighten a bike chain and fix the issue yourself.
Look at the Bike Chain From the Side
Make sure your eyes are leveled with the chain, do not look at the chain from above or below. Do you notice any sagging? If your chain is sagging near the chainstays or below them, while hanging between the chainring and the rear cogs, it is a sign that your chain is too loose.
Is the Bike Chain Dropping off the Gears?
When you ride your bike, do you notice the chain slipping off the gears? If it keeps falling off, it means your chain isn’t tight enough and that you need to tighten it.
Is the Bike Chain Skipping?
Do you notice your bike chain skipping gears? It could also lead to your gears being shifted twice instead of just once. This leads to a jumpy ride and is often caused by a loose bike chain.
Try Moving the Bike Chain
Try to move the bike chain up and down manually, and notice how far it goes. A standard bike chain should move no more than about half an inch, so if there’s a movement beyond that, it’s a loose chain.
Check if the Bike Chain Has Stretched
It’s normal for bike chains to stretch over long periods naturally. This is because of the wear and tear, mechanical damage caused by dirt, and other components’ lifespan. To check if your bike chain has elongated, you can buy a “chain checker.”
How to Use a Chain Checker
This is a tool with two sides, and the sides are marked with 0.5 and 0.75, respectively. These markings mean the percentage of stretching your chain has suffered compared to the original length. All you have to do is put the tool against your chain. If it does not reach the 0.5 mark, that means your chain is fine and has not elongated.
If your chain reaches the 0.5 mark, it means it has elongated 0.5% of its original length. If your bike has 11 or more rear gears and reaches 0.5, you need to tighten or replace the chain immediately.
If your chain reaches the 0.75 mark, it means it has elongated 0.75% of its original length. If your bike has ten or fewer gears, you need to change the chain or tighten it immediately.
Fixing a loose bike chain is not difficult at all. Letting it linger on as loose and not fixing it will lead to more complicated problems than just the ones mentioned above, and it could also lead to an accident. It’s best to be on the lookout for signs of wear and tear on your bike chain so that riding a bike is a safe experience for you.
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