How to Maintain Your Electric Bike Chain

looking down a bicycle chain from behind

The chain on an electric bike will get more abuse and higher torque than a chain on a regular bike and therefore, proper chain maintenance is even more crucial.

The best practices for maintaining your ebike chain are to keep your chain clean, regularly lubing your chain, use the correct chain lube, and do regular chain inspections for issues.

Your chain does quite a lot and can take the full force of pedaling power that you supply and the motor contributes to.

Keeping that little feller happy is essential to keeping your bike happy. 🙂

What Tools Do You Need to Keep Your Bike Chain Clean?

All you need to keep your chain shiny is some chain lube, a rag (I use cut-up old t-shirts), and if your chain is really grimy then also use the Finish Line Grunge Brush! This is hands down my favorite chain cleaning tool.

One bonus tool that helps a ton is to have a home repair stand, but it is not necessary. My favorite home repair stand for the money is the Park Tool PCS 9.3 –

Park Tool PCS 9.s repair stand folded and opened up

Best Home Ebike Repair Stand!

The Park Tool PCS 9.3 is the best at-home electric bike repair stand for the money! It is collapsible, sturdy, and doesn’t cost a fortune.

I use it for all my home ebike repairs!

How to Clean Your Bicycle Chain

Shift your chain into the outside (highest) gear, dribble some chain oil on your chain while cranking the pedals backward, then use the grunge brush and scrub your chain while rotating the cranks, then wipe it down with your rag.

Here is a video of me doing exactly this – 

The great thing about this technique is that you are cleaning and lubing your chain at the same time.

How To Properly Lube and Oil Your Bike Chain

Ideally, you would first clean your chain, then apply lube to your chain while cranking the pedals backward gently by hand. Some ebikes do not spin the chain backward and these are best done in a bike stand.

You do not need to thoroughly coat your chain with chain oil. If you can only reach part of your chain, that is better than nothing, the chain oil will eventually work its way around to the rest of your chain.

Sometimes when I don’t have my ebike in the stand, I will just apply some oil to the exposed sections of chain and lift my back wheel up to spin the pedals forward a little, then apply a little oil to the rest of the chain.

How Often Should You Lube Your Bike Chain?

Ideally, you should clean and lube your chain after every ride. Most of us will not do this, so just lube your chain when you remember to. I leave my chain oil by my bike and have to see it every ride. This helps me stay on top of lubing my chain.

Wet chain lubes will generally last longer than dry lubes, which last longer than wax lubes.

As long as your chain stays relatively clean and you are using a wetter chain oil, you can get by only lubing your chain every other week.

If you ride in dry, dusty conditions, using a dry lube will help keep your chain cleaner but will need to be applied more often.

If you want to keep your chain the cleanest then a wax lube is your best bet, but you will want to apply wax lube every ride, to keep your chain lubed properly.

What Is the Best Bike Chain Lube?

Rock ‘N Roll and Finish Line have some of the best chain lube options. They both offer a variety of different chain lubes for different conditions.

As a mechanic, I would always say that the best chain oil is the one you use regularly, but there are different lubes for different circumstances.

Both Rock “N Roll and Finish Line have options for any conditions. Most of us will just find a good all-around lube to use all year.

Some of the best all-around lubes are the Rock “N Roll Gold, and for ebikes, the Finish Line Ebike Chain Lube.

Here is where you can find the Finish Line Ebike Chain Lube

Here is where you can find Rock “N Roll Gold Chain Lube

I have used both of these and find that they are great for just about any conditions.

Is It OK to Use WD-40 on Your Bike Chain?

I would never use regular WD-40 on your bike! However, WD-40 does now make bike-specific chain oils that you can use on your chain. 

WD-40, the regular stuff you can buy at the grocery store, is not designed to be a lubricant. It was originally designed to keep the noses of rocket ships from icing. 

If you use it on your chain you will begin to see your chain collecting dirt and grime and getting super gunky. This is the opposite of what you want from a chain oil.

Chain oils are designed to help keep your chain clean and moving freely. Using the proper chain oil for your particular riding conditions will give you the best chance at keeping your bike functioning properly and riding like butter. 🙂

It is also good to inspect your chain regularly and check for issues…

What Should You Be Looking For When Inspecting Your Chain?

You want to look for bent links, stiff links, and even possibly cracked links. If you are already experiencing skipping issues or shifting issues, it is possible you have a damaged chain.

Here are some examples of these as best as I could photograph them – 

bent bicycle chain link

A bent link can occur in a few different ways. 

  • Hard shifting (cranking hard into gear without letting up first)
  • A stick or rock getting caught in the chain
  • Hitting a rock while trying to go over it
  • A bent tooth on your chainring (generally also from hitting rocks, those dang rocks!)

A stiff link can also occur in a few different ways.

stiff bicycle chain link
  • Rust
  • Bent link (will sometimes cause a stiff link also)
  • Dislodged chain pin (means that one of the pins is starting to come out)
  • Cracked link

Some of these issues can be repaired by just finding the bad link and straightening it, or working the chain a bit with your hands to get it moving freely again.

Most of the time the bad link will have to be removed and replaced with a new master link.

bicycle chain master link

There will be times when the only way to fix your issue is a brand new chain. But, if your drive train is really worn, you will want to just put a new chain on.

You may need to replace some or all of your gears also. Best to take your bike to the shop if you are having chain issues and don’t feel comfortable fixing it yourself.

At the End of the Day

Keeping your chain cleaned and lubed is maybe the best thing you can do for your bike!

If your chain breaks while you are riding and you don’t carry the proper tools to fix it or simply don’t know how to fix it, then your ride will come to a quick end.

With proper chain maintenance, this is far less likely to happen and you can keep on riding as long as you want, or at least until your chain wears out. 

Bike chains do wear out over time and will need to be replaced. This is perfectly normal, but you should be able to get 1000 to 2000 miles out of a chain before it needs to be replaced.

Keep your chain clean and keep on Riding!