This week I was replacing some worn out parts on my bicycle with some fresh new ones. In the process I did one repair that I’ve never done before in all my years owning a bike. Changing the chain. I’m not sure why I never needed to do it before. It could be that I ride more often these days since I ride all the way through the winter. But I had my previous bike for twenty years and the chain never wore out. Maybe bikes were just made better in the 1980s.

I have changed my rear gear cassette before on this bike before. I bought the bike in March of 2009 and put a new gear cassette on it in July of 2012 and then again in June of 2014. Being that I put another one on this week that means they’ve been wearing out faster and faster. When the gears get worn they get pointy on top instead of flat. That means they don’t grip the chain as well and can slip when I’m pedaling. Plus the harder I pedal the more likely the chain is to slip. That is not a good thing.

The first thing I changed out this week was the front pedal crank. That’s the two big gears that go in front and are connected to pedal cranks and the pedals. I noticed a lot of those gears were looking pointy and since it had yet to be replaced on my bike I thought it was a good idea to do so. Another thing I had noticed was that the chain wasn’t quite sitting on the top of the gears as it should. It looked like the chain wasn’t catching in the gears until it was hitting the front of the gear wheel. I’m pretty sure that can cause the chain to slip.

Since I had to take my pedal cranks off a couple of years ago and clean the axel I already has the special tools that I needed to switch out the new crank for the old one. It’s easy to do and in no time I had the new pedal cranks on and was ready to go. As I looked at how things were meshing I noticed the chain still wasn’t sitting in the gears on the top of the wheel as it should. When I took it for a test ride the chain slipped worse than it ever did before. That’s when I decided to order a new chain.

Chains don’t just come off the bike frame. You have to unlink one of the chain links to get it off. I ordered a new chain and a chain link breaker tool to get the chain off. It was also easy to do. You put the chain in the tool and then turn the bolt on the tool by hand and it pushes the tiny chain link axel out of the center of a link. I watched a YouTube video to see how it was done. I’m glad I did because one of the things the video said about putting a new chain on was to make sure it had the same number of links as the old one. Don’t go by the length of the chain. That’s because it turns out that a bike chain doesn’t really “Wear out” it actually stretches. When I put the old and new chains side by side they were about the same length but when I tried to line up the individual links side by side things got confusing. There were more links in the new chain than in the old but they were the same length.

I eventually got the chains lined up to where I could figure out the correct amount of links and had to remove a couple of links from the new chain. Then I had to put the new chain on the bike frame. Turns out the new chain I bought has a master link that allows you to take the chain on and off easily. But it also said I needed these special chain pliers to use it. Crap. I didn’t have those pliers. Another Youtube video came to my rescue as it showed how to put the master link on by hand. Turns out that you don’t really need the special pliers but they make things a bit easier. I may buy some in the future.

With my new chain on it was time for a test ride again. But first a little background. When I ride my bike I mainly use just two gears. On the back cassette I keep the chain on the third largest gear and then I alternate between the larger and smaller gears on the front pedal crank. The smaller gear is for going up hills. In the winter I keep the chain on the second largest back gear as I need the bike to pedal a little easier in the cold. This means that this two gears will wear down and the others won’t. When I went for a test ride and had the chain on the third largest gear and boy was I getting slippage. I put it up in the second largest gear and things were smooth. I was happy about that but knew I had to order a new gear cassette.

I had read that you should replace the chain and gears on your bike all at the same time. I never had before and so never quite could see the reason why but now I do. I had also read that a bike chain could stretch over time but also never quite believed that. Metal could stretch? How? I still don’t know how but now I know that it does. Plus I’m assuming the stretched chain was wearing down my gear cassette at a faster speed than a good chain. That’s why that last gear cassette wore down in less than a year. It’s all good to go now but I’ll probably have to replace more stuff. I could use a new front brake. My current one sticks a little, the Allen bolt that hold it on is stripped (I’ll have to break it off), and its little thumb lever snapped off. It still stops me fine though so I haven’t been in a hurry. As long as nothing is slipping it’s all okay.