Bike Maintenance - The Drivetrain

Triathlon - the sport the requires countless hours of swimming, biking, running, strength training and body work. On top of all of this we have valuable equipment that we need to ensure is dependable for us in training and racing. At the top of the list for equipment that requires maintenance is our bike. Broken down to its most simple concept the bike is circles turning circles and we need to maintain all of those moving parts. In this article I am going to go over the basics of maintaining your bikes drivetrain.

The most crucial part of a bike that requires maintenance is the drivetrain. The drivetrain includes your cassette, chain, chainwheel and rear derailleur pulleys. First and foremost a clean and properly lubricated chain is key. Dirt and grime buildup on your chain will cause the whole drive system to wear quicker and result in poor shifting over time. If you primarily ride on the trainer indoors buildup of grime is less likely to happen. If you ride outdoors often (multiple times a week) be sure to look at your drivetrain frequently to see if your bike requires a drivetrain service that includes striping the system of dirt and buildup. To keep your system running smoothly proper chain lube applied lightly to the chain is key. You can tell when your bike needs lubricant by simply touching the chain - if it feels dry it’s time to apply lube.

How to apply chain lube:

Begin by applying a drop of lubricant to each link, and turn the cranks until all links have been oiled. Next, hold the chain through a rag with your left hand while turning the cranks backwards several revolutions with your right hand. If your chain looks very dirty, you may have to repeat this whole procedure. It is best to not apply lube right before a ride as the lube will often “fly off” as it has not set fully into the chain.

As for what chain lube to use there are a lot of brands to choose from an even more options on the matter. I prefer to use a ceramic or teflon lubricant as I find the chain stays cleaner.

Even with meticulous maintenance of your drivetrain parts will still wear out over time. To minimize mishaps I suggest inspecting your drivetrain or taking it into a quality bike shop for maintenance once in the spring and then again a couple weeks out from your goal race to ensure any worn parts are replaced. If you are going the route of inspecting your drivetrain one key tool to have is a chain checker to make sure the chain has not stretched too far.

Cassettes, derailleur pulleys and chain wheels all wear out with time as well. Often visual inspection of these components can tell you if it’s time for replacement.

Keeping your drivetrain clean and properly maintained will save you watts! Don’t let your hard work and training become diminished by not having a properly maintained drive system.

-Coach Tyler