A few drivetrain tips for idiots

I’ve been getting some long, increasingly annoying emails about chains making funny noises, derailleurs not working properly and whatnot. Two common themes: 1. People mixing used components. 2. People turning screws with no idea what those screws do. Real quick:

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DO NOT mix worn chainrings, chains and cassettes. Dude, I know you scored a sweet chain and cassette at Veloswap, each for $5, but now they’re making a funny noise. And you know what else? When you put down full power, that chain’s gonna peel off the cog and send you over the bars. There’s no way to make these parts work well together.

If price is an issue, get the lowest-end stuff you can find, but make sure you start fresh and let it all wear together.

DO replace your chain in a timely manner. As chains wear, they develop play in their pivots. This play in turn wears your cassette. For details on when to refresh your links, read Chain fu: not for you

DO NOT turn various screws and adjusters willy-nilly. Derailleurs are not complicated, and derailleur makers publish awesome owners’ manuals. Stop the madness: Download your derailleur’s manual, and follow the setup instructions.

SRAM derailleur manuals

Shimano derailleur manuals

OK, that’s it for now.

Just say BRAAAP!

5 replies
  1. patrik says:

    Also, DO use your LBS. These are people who specialize in working on your bike. They will likely help you out, give you some tips on how to adjust your stuff. And I can assure you they know when you mess with your stuff. A limit screw does not end up 2 full turns in the wrong place by accident. Use them as a resource. Most are great and willing to help.

  2. Chris says:

    Perhaps I don’t understand the gripes properly, but I would say “Keep your drive train clean!”

    I have a SRAM Powerlink (quicklink) on my Shimano and SRAM chains (Shimano chain for Shimano drivetrain, SRAM chain for SRAM drivetrain). After EVERY ride in the dirt
    I take my chain off. I thread a small allen key through the end and hook it on the bike hook in my garage ceiling. I pull it tight and scrub the hell out of it with a stiff brush, then it is pulled through a rag a few times. Shiny! I also clean the cluster and driverings with a brush and finally a rag. And then I lube the chain and I’m ready for the next ride. This would have been overkill in the loamy soil where I come from, but here in the dust of NorCal, its the only way.

    Every couple of cleans my chain also goes a few cycles in a small container of hot water and a couple of squirts of degreaser until there is no more discoloration. I don’t do this all the time cause I don’t like using the chemicals, biodegradable citrus or not. Living in Berkeley turns you into a hippy.

  3. Chucko says:

    I’m with Chris, a clean chain is a happy chain. Frequent cassette, chainring, and chain cleanings make for a smooth and trouble-free ride. When I don’t have time to do the full-on hot water and Simple Green bath on the chain, I’ll brush it off and hit it with a self-cleaning lube like Rock & Roll Extreme.

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