Bike Maintenance: Chains

This old ball and chain might be irreplaceable, but our bike chains are definitely replaceable. Once again, I’m very grateful that I’m doing this bike trip with a guy who knows bikes like the back of his hand… or at least, he knows them a lot better than I do.

I have learned over the years that bike chains stretch out and need to be replaced, or they could damage your cassette and probably some other stuff I can’t remember. There is a tool to measure how stretched out your chain is, but you can also just use a ruler. We don’t have either, so we have just asked bike shops to check for us along the way. Indeed, we are now on our third chains of the trip.

However, my chain swaps have not gone very smoothly. The first one happened at a bike shop in Banff. It took me a day or two after the switch to a new chain to realize that I could no longer shift into my highest gear; not cool when I want to wear the yellow jersey. I had no idea why this was the case, until Chris determined that the chain they had put on my bike was too short. I’m still not sure that I understand the mechanics, but fortunately, Chris carries a few spare master links that he put on for me.

In Jackson, I had my chain swapped out again. This time, it took me about 170 miles to notice that the chain had been put on wrong, threaded outside a metal shield on the derailleur. Actually, to put the record straight, I didn’t even notice; Chris did: “Sheesh! No wonder it was so hard for you to pedal!” he exclaimed, as he once again fixed the problem. (I thought I’d just gotten weaker during our long break in the Tetons.)

The groove marks the chain wore in the aluminum

I am very sorry for anyone who is as oblivious as I am and does not have a Chris to help them along 😆. Anyhow, now I’m running smoothly again. 😊

6 thoughts on “Bike Maintenance: Chains”

  1. We had one day on the trip that Ian had chain trouble. We had just taken a break and Ian’s bike had fallen on its side. We righted it, continued our break and when we were ready to go, Maddie and Corey took off. I usually took up the rear and my heart sunk when I saw Ian’s chain totally off. I had a brief panic that it was broken but was able to get it back on (it was spectacularly off). It was making noises but at least he could move! Corey did his own adjustments that evening and another piece had bent—. In any case it was a reminder at how limited my bike knowledge is and how dependent I am on my guy! Miss you two, glad you are back to tip-top bike shape!

    1. Yikes, nice job getting Ian’s chain back on to keep moving! Sometimes it feels like the derraileur gets messed up if you look at it wrong. Miss you all, too, Kate! Xoxo~ Chrachel

  2. Yikes! Now every time you’re tired you’ll suspect something must be wrong with the bike. Like when you get off three times climbing a hill to see if the brakes are rubbing. Thanks for the updates, so fun to watch your journey!

    1. True, it’s a lot easier to blame the bike than yourself, Joe! Glad to hear from you, hope you’re having great summer and that it hasn’t been too hot in Vermont!

  3. Thanks for your blog; informative and entertaining. I’m starting from Banff in a couple of days. (Maybe I should have started from Jasper down the FTR but decided on the Icefields Parkway to Banff for my shakedown ride.)

    1. Our pleasure Dave, we’re glad to hear you’ve found our posts helpful! You’ve got an amazing time ahead of you, happy trails! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions/want suggestions, etc. at any point during your ride! As for the FTR vs. Icefields Parkway… you certainly won’t be disappointed with the parkway. It may not be as remote as the FTR but the scenery is much more spectacular and traffic isn’t terrible. We’ve met a handful of other riders who have done the same thing and absolutely loved it.

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