The most frequently asked question I get this time of year is "What should I do to get my bike ready for winter?" To which I usually respond, "Are you going to ride through the winter?" Let's pretend you just answered, "Yes." (Check here about tucking your bike in for a long winter's nap). Cool, so you're going to brave the winter. Good choice. What you need is chain lube.
A neglected chain sounds to me like an angry metal skeleton chasing you down the road. That sound hurts my heart. Not only does it sound angry, it also wears out faster. What causes a chain to sound like that? The short answer is winter. With it's rain/sleet/slush/snow/salt/sand and whatnot.
Lubing your chain is the best and easiest maintenance you can perform to keep your ride rolling through the winter. You have to think moderation here- too little is not good, and too much is not good. Here's how I do it:
1. Drip chain lube along the inside of the chain as you backpedal the crank with your other hand to coat the whole chain.
2. After you've coated the chain, continue to backpedal for a while (20 seconds-ish?) to let the lube work its way into the chain.
3. Wipe off the extra with a rag. You just want it on the inside of the parts where the friction happens. Lube on the outside will attract dirt, which wears things out faster, which defeats one of the points of this exercise.
See that junk on the rag? Not only did you lubricate, but you also cleaned it. A twofer!
What kind of lube should you use? Good question. There are plenty of choices, and I bet if you asked 10 bike mechanics what their favorite is, you'd get 10 different answers. My favorite is Boeshield T-9 (or just "T-9" to its friends...). I like it because it's light, and clean so it doesn't attract a bunch of junk. It's also good for lubing cables/housing, and flushing out various moving parts (shifters, derailleurs, whathaveyou...). It's even good for non-bike things. Like this little guy I fixed today:
I also like Tri Flow. It's a little heavier, but still pretty clean. The original stuff smells vaguely of bananas. It's the smell of my first real job...oh, the good ol' days. The thing about these lighter chain lubes is that you need to apply them more often. Hear those angry birds again? Get caught in a rain/sleet/snow storm? Time to reapply!
Alright folks, Charlie and I are off on adventures next week, so we'll see you on the 27th. Happy Thanksgiving!