All seasons riding and its maintenance obligations

If you are riding your bicycle all year long, under various climatic conditions, this maintenance section should be of high importance to you.

A bicycle is made of many mechanical moving parts. As we all know, these mechanical parts tend to wear off with time based on the amount of use they are put through and the environment in which they are used (humidity, solid abrasive dirt particles and so on). This is even more important when the bicycle is to be used during winter with the presence of snow, and often calcium or sand abrasives used on our roads.

The transmission components, the chain and the gears, are particularly exposed to accelerated wear when exposed to such conditions. Riding during the winder should entail cleaning up the whole transmission components after every ride you make... and making sure you completely dry the bike's components once this cleaning is done.

Why should we clean the bicycle so often under these conditions?

Because avoiding doing so could render your bicycle unusable after as little as one year. A bicycle used under normal summer conditions only could last over 10 years if well taken care of. On the other end, a bicycle used under snow and abrasive conditions will rapidly wear of as the chain will inevitably rust and become much more prone to erode when sand gets trapped on its many joints.

One thing you should avoid during winder is to use grease on the chain thinking it will provide a highly permanent seal for the chain. The stickiness of the grease will catch all sand and dirt and keep it firmly on the chain as it moves. The grease is so sticky that even washing the bicycle with a water hose will not remove sand trapped in. The end effect is that your chain joints will loosen to a point that your chain expand over many inches in length. Once this process has begun, the bicycle transmission system will become less and less effective, to the final point where you will notice skips. That is, the chain will literally get out the gear and float over it. This can be quite annoying if you are standing up on the pedals as it happens and can cause a loss of control. The best lubricant for the chain and other transmission components remains oil. You will need to regularly re-oil your chain and gears but it will prevent the abrasive dirt matters to adhere to these parts and cause accelerated damages to your bike.

What do I do if the chain starts to exhibit skipping?

Most people will have the reflex to go to a bicycle shop and buy a new chain. After all, it is the chain that causes this, right? Well, not quite. If you only replace the chain in such a situation, the bicycle will skip even more after you have put on a brand new chain. Why? Because the gear sprockets have worn out as well during that time such that the teeth are narrower and thus do not fit with a new chain that is now a tighter fit. So the only remedy in that situation is to replace both the chain and the gears modules (both the front and back ones) so that they all match.

How much time can it take for my chain to expand by that few inches up to the point it starts to skip?

Personally, I haven't seen any bicycle used exclusively during summer to exhibit skipping, even after over 5 to 8 years of use. Under winter conditions, it can take as little as a year for this to occur. To say it differently:

Climate conditions

Workable period

Covered distance

Summer only usage

Over 10 years with good periodical cleaning

Over 5000 Km

Summer and some autumn / spring use

Over 5 years before replacing transmission

Over 2500 Km

All year long including snow conditions

About 3 years with rigorous cleaning

Varies largely based on the use but probably under 1000 Km