Mechanical Bike Spotting: The Chain (in Kensington Market)

Augusta and Baldwin

We asked: When was the last time you cleaned your chain and do you do anything special to keep it nice?

Photographs by Yvonne Bambrick and interviews by Sarah Greene

This month, dandyhorse started a new column focused on learning a bit more about the mechanics of specific bike parts and how to take care of them. The first part to be featured was the chain.

So we asked some cyclists in Kensington Market a few questions about their chains, and discovered that a) not all bikes have chains and b) for many riders, Friday March 8 (because it was a lovely afternoon) was their first ride of the season! Because it’s been in the news lately — its building is being listed for rent — we shot in front of Casa Acoreana, at the corner of Augusta and Baldwin.

My recommended musical accompaniment: Chains

Selina Martin

Wait a sec, I think I know you: are you Selina Martin?

Yeah. I just took my bike out. It was hanging in my apartment.

Your chain looks pretty good, is there anything you do to keep it nice?

I oiled it when I put it away a month ago and then I just got it out today. I clean my chain, but not very regularly, and I WD40 it and oil it. I’ve taken my bike to car washes where they use power washes, but I’ve since heard that doing that can mess up your chain, so I haven’t done that in a while. I’ve had it for 25 years and my brother-in-law had it before that for five years.

Christian St. Pierre

You were saying your chain is new?

I bought this chain in November and assembled the whole bike myself from parts – old pieces and new pieces – this is a brand new chain I got off a guy on College. It works pretty good. I rode it through the winter.

What do you do to take care of your chain?

I put oil on it a few times during the winter, but as you can see the sand and the salt [get in there]. I’m just going to have to de-oil it with a degreaser and then re-oil it and clean all the parts around it. Tip: Got to keep your pants away from your chain after you oil it.

Jim Gardiner

So you don’t have a chain — what is that?

Instead of a chain on this single-speed bike I’ve got a Kevlar belt, which I was attracted to because I thought it would mean less winter maintenance — and it has, absolutely. There’s no lubricant on it and it just runs dry and it’s been no problem so far and I ran it all this winter very hard.

It only could work on a single speed because you wouldn’t be able to use it with a traditional derailleur; you could use it with an internal hub.

All you have to do is keep tension on it, which is adjusted back here with these screws at the back and I haven’t even had to adjust it yet.

I bought it at MEC – no one else sold anything else like it. I checked every other bike shop in town.

Peter Brown

This is your first ride of the year?

Yes, my bike has been locked on my front porch since the first snowfall so this is the first day back on the bike. There’s rust in a few places, but my chain seems to be surviving.

Do you do anything to keep your chain nice?

I do clean it maybe once a year with grease, with oil, and I lube it up every now and again.

Lindsey Tighe

Do you remember the last time that you cleaned your chain?

It’s been a couple years, for sure. My bike has been away for the winter — I just pulled it off the balcony because it’s so beautiful.

Is there anything that you do to keep your chain nice?

No, I just ride it. Honestly. When I put the seat on a couple years ago, [the mechanic] did a whole tune-up thing, but since then … I know that’s bad (not putting oil on it).

Katie Nicholson

When was the last time that you cleaned your chain?

I actually just picked it up this morning from the shop – from Bikes On Wheels – they cleaned it for me and tuned it up.

Is there something that you do at home to take care of your chain?

No, but I probably should. It was a new bike, so I haven’t had to yet, but I will definitely keep it oiled. I got it last summer so this was my first tune up.


So what should you do to take care of your chain? Read out first ever dandyMechanics column: the Chain to find out.

Related on the dandyBlog:

dandyMechanics Part One: The Chain

Bike Spotting homepage

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