Simon’s Cycle Shorts are now available to buy in both paperback (£8.39) and Kindle (£2.99) editions from Amazon. HERE


Dear Cyclist

We are the Chain Gang. We might not be an officially recognised organisation or a nefarious underground crew of miscreants doing bad deeds in your ‘hood, but we do represent a very powerful forward-looking movement with a very important message for everyone that rides a bike. In fact, this letter is so important that if you’re a regular cyclist and you don’t read it and then pass it on to at least five other cyclists, you will be forever pushing your pedals uphill; you will be forever slow, and forever late. You have been warned!

Our message is simple. Your bicycle chain is the most important mechanical part of your bike and one which requires constant attention and care; as Karl Marx almost said, ‘cyclists of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.’

When we started this letter, we didn’t think we needed to explain exactly what your chain does, but it appears that there are more of you than we thought that have somehow failed to notice the relevance of the thin little black wobbly thing connecting your pedals to your back wheel. So here is a short summary of what it is and what it does:

Your bicycle chain is a mechanical device known as a roller chain, and it transfers the power from your pedals to the rear wheel of your bicycle in the most mechanically efficient way; forget drive shafts and gear wheels; forget toothed belts (they have their advantages, but efficiency isn’t one of them); forget levers and cams. Chains are by far and away the best solution! It is for good reason that the fastest motorbikes still have chains, and why cars waste so much of their power – OK, so this missive is about the transmission rather than the power unit, so let’s stick to the message! Just believe us on this one.

Now, before you think that we’re going to rail on at you about oiling your chain, then don’t fret, because we’re not. There has been too much written and proscribed and preached about the ‘best’ way to lubricate your chain and they are probably all correct. But it is worth knowing that a new chain is efficient whether it is lubricated or not because its mechanical efficiency is all that counts – laboratory tests have shown that lubrication makes absolutely no difference at all! The difference that a lack of lubrication will make, however, is simply the amount of time that an un-oiled chain will remain efficient; it will wear out very quickly.

And here is the crux! Most people ride around on bicycle chains that are worn and so are therefore inefficient – a lot of them even have oil on them! Inefficient chains mean you go slower, and mean your bike goes slower and means you will always be late; be it to work or to the end of your race (you will more likely lose!).

So we in the Gang maintain that the 457 separate parts – yes, the 114 outer plates, 114 inner plates, 114 rollers and 114 link pins in the average multi-geared bike chain (if your chain is old then they have 114 bushes as well) – that make up your chain, and, coincidentally, represent more than half of all the parts in your whole bicycle, are worth looking after properly. And don’t just think that this means that you have to oil the darned thing every time you go out, because that can be even worse than doing nothing. Oiling a dirty chain – and, by their nature, they are hung in a place behind the front wheel which means that they will pick up every droplet of water and speck of dust and grime from the road – is probably as bad an idea as doing nothing at all. Dirt is the killer of chains. Dirt will get inside the rollers and between the plates, and, with every turn of the pedal, a tiny bit more of these parts will be ground away. Dirt wears down the teeth on your sprockets, the teeth on your chain wheel, your plates and your rollers, your pins and your jockeys. It will reduce the efficiency to that of a piece of string; and then it will break – proving that the weakest link is in fact the strongest because just one little link has power enough to make you walk home in the rain.

Let’s take a break from this tirade for a moment. Let us take you back to the summer of 2012 when the Olympic movement came to London and the British cyclists claimed a chestful of medals on the road and the track. One thing is absolutely certain. King Bradley’s chain was clean. It was so clean that you could have sat it on your settee – unlike your dog; it was so clean you could have introduced it to your grandmother – also unlike your dog. Keeping things clean was clearly going to part of the mantra of Mr Brailsford’s marginal gains philosophy, but it wasn’t just to make things looks good and shiny for the TV cameras; keeping it clean meant that the mechanical bits were able to do what they were designed to do. Now, Dave probably didn’t actually tell all the mechanics to make sure that Bradley’s chain was cleaned just before they set him off for the time trial from the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, because the philosophy was embedded in everything they did, but you get the idea. We maintain that if having a clean chain made a difference to the Gold medal time for Bradley, then surely it will get us to work a little more quickly on a chain that remains efficient for so much longer.

Once upon a time a lady called Rosa Luxemburg, who lived at a time when bicycles with chains were just in their infancy, and who also happened to be a disciple of Mr Marx, took his train of thought a step further when she said, ‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.’ I think that says it all? Now pass this on and go and buy a new chain!


Simon’s Cycle Shorts are now available to buy in both paperback (£8.39) and Kindle (£2.99) versions from Amazon. HERE

Copyright © 2016 by Simon Bever. All Rights Reserved