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Situation: I'm new to the world of trike maintenance. My son and I purchased recumbent trikes at the end of last summer. The weather for the past couple of months has been cold, snowy, cold, and...cold (Northern Pennsylvania climate.) So I cleaned them, tried my hand at lubricating the chains for the third time since owning them, and put them up in the shed to keep them out of the sun and precipitation.

This weekend looks like the first time in awhile that we might be able to go for a ride without freezing the fingers off. I took a look at the trikes, anticipating having to add air to tires and maybe clean the disc brakes, and saw the chains: enter image description here The top is one trike, the bottom two are the other...

On soliciting some info, I was told that is "definitely rust." Apparently I didn't do something right when I put them in the shed for a month of storage, or rust is not easy to fend off. As I said, I'm new to this, and trying to improve maintenance skills. I'm hoping this isn't so bad that the chains require removal or replacement at this point.

Questions:

  1. How bad in shape are these chains, relatively speaking?
  2. I have yet to find a definitive answer to this; how do I clear off the rust? WD-40, followed by degreaser and relubricate them?
  3. These are chains that came stock with the trikes. I wonder if the future fix is to get a particular type of rust-resistant chain?

Being winter in PA, the roads will no doubt be salty from road melt material. I'm trying to keep the trikes cleaned, touch up paint where chips are found, wipe them down, etc...but there's a lot of contradictory advice on how to do certain things. Any advice/fixes for the questions above would be appreciated...

  • My experience living in a relatively cold/damp area (E coast of Scotland) is its virtually impossible to keep chains totally rust free if they live outside (once they are wet, they never truly dry until the weather is warm). I have had good luck with a heavy duty rust proof chain for a single speed mtb, but not sure if such things are available for finer chains for geared setups. – Andy P Feb 22 at 15:38
  • A bit of googling tells me KMC make a 'EPT' chain with a rust resistant treatment – Andy P Feb 22 at 15:48
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    Clean em, lube em and ride em is my motto with chains.. The riding will remove the rust from the locations that matter, everything else you do is only to make the chain look pretty. In climates you have, shout yourself a new chain to celebrate the arrival of spring. – mattnz Feb 23 at 8:02
  • Oil the chain! If you have trouble with rust, use a thick "wet" chain oil. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 23 at 12:55
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As long, as you can easily move the links of your chain, there's no problem. Just lube them and ride them, and they'll be fine. The movement will rub any rust from the critical places. You may need to work the chain for a while before the links become free, a creeping oil should help get the links moving again.

That said, there are two ways to ensure that a chain won't rust (as quickly as yours):

  1. Make sure they are always well-lubed. A surface that's covered by oil is not covered by humid air, and cannot rust. May work well during storage, not so well when you actually use the bike.

  2. Use chains with an anti-rust coating. I have quite good experiences with this, though the chains are a bit more expensive. I'm not sure how robust the anti-rust coating is against sliding through a front deraileur, though (I only ride IGH). In any case, I've never had a rust-proof chain go stiff.

    Of course, anti-rust coated chains still like being kept well-lubed...

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Chains are consumables, so there's nothing wrong with replacing the chains if they don't move freely.

Downside is each may require three times the chain of an upright bike so the cost soon skyrockets.

If the chain functions okay, don't bother replacing them. If you just want to make them look better, then you can take the chain off, degrease the outside, lay it on its side and give it a light spray with black anti-rust paint like Rustoleum. Give it time to dry and harden, then either refit with the painted site outwards or flip the chain and paint the other side before refitting. Once fitted do relube all the rollers in the chain.


I have a dutch M5 highracer and the chain is about 275 links long. I started with $9.99 7 speed chain that worked reasonably well, and suited the 7 speed cassette.

Then I changed to an Alfine 11 speed IGH, and the 7 speed chain worked fine there as well. When it was overworn I changed to 10 speed chain and the only noticable change was a decrease in chain/tube friction.

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    While the price-tag for a long chain is higher, its wear is lower: You only get wear at the chain-wheel/sprocket, not while the chain is traveling back and forth between the two. As such, a chain that's thrice as long (and expensive) should be expected to also last thrice as long, and thus be equally expensive as a replacement part over time. – cmaster Feb 24 at 19:08

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