rusty bike chain After Cleaning

Is A Rusty Bike Chain Bad and 8 Ways To Fix It

Bike riding is a superb activity. But on the other hand, it is never thrilling if you have a rusty chain. But you may ask, of all the chain problems, is a rusty bike chain bad? Let’s explore the answers to this question, plus the ways to repair it.

1. Is a Rusty Bike Chain Bad?

is rusty bike chain bad before after cycling


Image source: apmusicales

A bike chain getting rusty is something you do not want to happen or see on your bike. The rust is an eyesore, especially if you are a biker who relishes the shininess in chains. Furthermore, a rusty bike chain may cause more problems than you think. 

Despite the problems a rusty bike chain may cause, some inexperienced ones may still ask, is a bike chain bad? In fact, many think rust is no big deal and only destroys the aesthetics of a bike.

But nothing can be farther from the truth. If a bike chain is rusty, it will bring you problems. So, despite the question, are rusty bike chains bad, being asked severally, the truth is that it affects your bike’s performance and sometimes causes danger to you.

And bike chains get rusty for several reasons, with improper maintenance being the primary cause. This means chains will likely rust if your bike is not properly lubricated and cleaned.

Furthermore, bike chains get rusty because of wet and salt conditions. This happens when the chain is exposed to moisture and salt or if your chain slips off and becomes exposed to water. 

If your bike chain is rusty, several problems may develop. This means if you keep riding your bike with rusty chain and gears, you may experience issues such as:

A rusty bike chain and gears are much less efficient than a maintained, shiny, clean one. The links move slowly, meaning you will work harder to cycle your bike, resulting in lower energy output. 

Experts estimate that a rust on chain reduces your speed and performance by between 25-30%. Additionally,  bikes can’t move efficiently when the chain is rusty due to its reduced ability to rotate smoothly around sprockets.

  • Damage to the bike

If you have rust on the bike chain and cassette, it will affect the performance of your bike by making it harder to pedal, causing your chain to break, which is very dangerous. The broken chains may also damage the gears and sprockets, requiring expensive repairs.

Furthermore, this may lead to increased repair costs, especially if there are severe damages. There may also be high medical costs if you are involved in an accident.

So the above are the problems you will encounter if your bike chain is rusty. However, a quick look, diagnosis and repair will help you avoid them.

2. Rusty Bike Chain Repair

Rusty bike chain repair old bike chain daytime


Image source: Freepik

Which is the best bike chain rust fix? Can a rusty bike chain be saved? Generally, it is possible to fix chain rust. And with chains being crucial parts of a bike, rust may cause many challenges on what to do if my bike chain is rusty.

One of the crucial works of a chain is power transfer and holding the gears. But they can fail at any moment, especially if rusty, leading you to make one of the most challenging decisions—replacing or repairing it.

Here is what to do when the bike chain is rusty.

2.1. Remove Rust From Bike Chain With Vinegar

rust bike chain white remove vinegar


Image source: Bicycle 2work

A common problem with bikes is rusting. Rusting occurs when moisture gets into the link joints and causes corrosion. This can happen due to several reasons, such as if you do not clean your bike regularly or if you do not put enough lubricant on your chain after long periods of use. Furthermore, it can be due to negligence, such as leaving your bike in the rain.

Nevertheless, you can remove rust from bike chain with vinegar. This is a very effective cleaner, especially when removing rust. It’s also safe and cheap. Additionally, vinegar is a great natural remover and cleanser and is mild enough to be safe for any surface. It works because of its acetic acid content. 

Acetic acid is a weak acid that reacts with iron (a metal) to form iron acetate. The reaction produces hydrogen gas, which causes bubbles in the solution.

Therefore rather than go for the expensive products, why don’t you try simple home remedies such as the bike chain rust removal vinegar?

However, its effectiveness depends on several factors. One is the extent of the rust. If your chain has a light coating of rust or just needs cleaning, you can probably get rid of it quickly with vinegar. 

However, if you have a chain that has been heavily rusted for some time or is completely covered with rust, you may need more than just vinegar to eradicate it. Additionally, you may have to repeat the process until the eradication of all the rust.

The process is hassle-free and for excellent results, follow these steps:

Step 1: With a spray bottle or any other ideal container, apply the vinegar to the bike’s chain-rusted area

For even better results, add a spoon of baking soda

Alternatively, you can remove the chain and soak them in a bucket with  vinegar and baking soda mixture for about 15-20 minutes

Step 2: Remove the chain (if soaked) and rinse thoroughly using water. If you did not remove the chain, spray it with water to remove every trace of vinegar. This is because vinegar tends to corrode the chain if left improperly rinsed.

Step 3: Wipe and dry the chain entirely because leaving water on it can extend the rusting process.

2.2 Remove Rust From Bike Chain With WD40

remove rust from bike chain wd40 daytime


Image source: beachclub93

WD-40 is a lubricant that cleans and protects your bike chain from rust. It works by penetrating the surface of the metal, breaking up rust, and freeing it from the object it’s stuck on. This allows you to scrape or brush off the rust easily, leaving behind a clean surface that will not rust again so quickly.

To use WD-40 as a rust remover:

Step 1: Clean off any dirt or debris from your bike chain with a rag or paper towel before applying WD-40 to it. Remove grease or oil accumulated on the chain and dirt or grime.

This will make it easier for the WD-40 to penetrate the surface of the metal, removing more rust than if there were still stains left behind from previous uses of oil or grease on your bike chain.

Step 2: Afterwards, add the lubricant and let it work. If you have applied in excess, wipe it off.

2.3 Bike Chain Rust After Rain

man riding bike rain bike chain rust after rain


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A bike chain can rust after rain in three ways:

  • Water gets into the chain and mixes with the oil. This makes it harder for the oil to do its job. The water mixes with the oil and forms a sticky substance, thus preventing the oil from protecting your chain from rusting. The more friction there is, the more heat is generated, and this makes it easier for rusting to take place.
  • If you ride in wet conditions, such as when raining, your bike will get damp and become more susceptible to rusting. This is because water gets in the chain and creates favorable conditions for rusting.
  • Furthermore, the after-rain rust is also due to the salt on roads after rainfall. Salt is a corrosive agent that damages any metal surface. Therefore, when this water comes in contact with your chain, it starts rusting.

2.4 Bike Chain Rusted Overnight

rusty old bike bike chain rusted overnight


Image source: Gone Outdoors

Bike chains rusted overnight is a common problem many people face daily. And I’m sure you’ve experienced the same until you discovered a solution, or are you still struggling to find a remedy? So, how does a bike chain rust overnight? 

Generally, chain rust is caused by the presence of several different elements in the air, such as oxygen and water. When these combine with the bike chain, they cause rust to form.

The most common component of this combination is oxygen. This element is present in all air and water sources. Therefore, leaving your bike outside overnight or for long periods will make it susceptible to rust.

Water may also contribute to your bike chain rusting overnight. The chain will most likely rust if you rode in the rain and didn’t dry it or if some water falls on the chain.

2.5 Mountain Bike Chain Rust

mountain bike chain rust guy apply oil bike chain


Image source: Biketoworkday

A mountain bike chain rusts because of the challenging conditions it is exposed to. These bikes’ chains are exposed to water, mud, and dirt, with the water coming from the rain or washing. 

On the other hand, the mud is due to muddy terrains or a spill, while the dirt is from the road, trails, and dust kicked up by other bikes or cars. 

All the dirt and mud get trapped between the inner plates of the chain, igniting the rusting process and speeding it up, leading to tear and wear.Furthermore, a mountain bike can rust due to poor maintenance.

If you do not clean and lubricate the bike after all these conditions, you expose your bike chain to more risk of rusting. However, cleaning, drying, and lubing the bike’s chain can go a long way in preventing the chances of the mountain bike chain rusting.


2.6 Scrub Bike Chain Rust Off With a Toothbrush

Scrub the rust off with a toothbrush person hold bike chain


Image source: SportsRec

There’s nothing more annoying than getting a brand new shiny bike only to have your chain rust in just a few months of riding. Luckily, I know a thing or two about how to clean bike chain rust.

A toothbrush is one of the cheapest ways to clean bike chain rust. The method is more time-consuming but requires relatively less effort. This method works best for dirtier chains that have built up more rust than usual, so you may have to repeat this process several times until your chain is clean enough to use again.

2.7 Clean a Bike Rusty Bike Chain With Baking Soda

Baking soda is an alkaline powder that chemically reacts with the metal of your chain. The reaction helps loosen up dirt and rust, making removing it more effortless.

The baking soda also neutralizes any acidity left behind by other cleaning products, so you don’t have to worry about damaging your bike’s finish or paint job.

Mix one part of water with two parts of baking soda into a paste-like consistency and apply it directly onto the chain. Allow it to sit for five minutes, scrub excess, and rinse the mixture with warm water.

Alternatively, soak the chain in warm water mixed with baking soda, and wash off any excesses.

2.8. Bike Chain Rusty After Cleaning

bike with rusty bike chain Bike Chain Rusty After Cleaning


Image source: Biketoworkday

There are several reasons why a bike chain will still be rusty even after cleaning. 

  1. Inadequate cleaning 

If you don’t clean your chain often enough, it will become dirty and caked in grime which traps moisture inside your links. This causes rusting over time.

  1. Inadequate lubrication

If you don’t lubricate your chain regularly, it won’t run smoothly or last as long as it should because parts will wear down faster.

This also leads to more friction between parts in the drivetrain, which makes them heat up quickly and increases the chances of rusting.

Additionally, rust may develop over time if you do not rinse your bike thoroughly.

This happens if you rinse off the chain but don’t let the cleaner drip off before putting it back on the bike, some of that dirt will still be clinging to your chain and will cause rust over time.

3. Bike Chain Rust Prevention

person spraying bike chain Bike chain rust prevention


Image source: ChatterSource

The bike chain is an integral part of your bike. It connects the power from the pedals to the rear wheel. And if you have a bike chain that has been neglected, it will begin to rust over time. This will affect its performance and could cause damage to it as well.

However, negligence is not the only cause your bike chain may suffer these issues because it is metallic. When you store your bike in an area full of humidity and moisture, rusting can be an issue. Thus you must learn several methods to prevent your bike chain from rusting.

  1. Keeping your bike dry and clean as much as possible

Keeping your bike clean by washing and drying it regularly after every ride is one of the ways to prevent your chain from getting rusted, especially if it is dusty or during the wet season.

This helps to prevent the build-up of dirt and grease, which encourages corrosion, tear, and wear. After every wash, oil or lubricate the chain too.

  1. Oiling and lubricating

Oiling and lubricating your bike is an integral method to prevent rusting. The best time to do this is after every ride. Always use recommended oils and lubricants to avoid other problems. 

To apply the oil or grease, use a rag or brush to spread it over the entire length of your bike chain. You can also use a small aerosol can if possible.

  1. Use an anti-rust spray

This is a less common but equally effective method. These sprays contain unique ingredients that protect your bike chains against corrosion.

These sprays typically contain chemicals that inhibit oxidation, which causes rust. They will also help keep dirt and grime away from your chain so it won’t build up and cause more problems. 

After purchasing one, follow the instructions regarding the application process and frequency.


This post hopefully answers your question, “is a rusty bike chain bad?” Despite this being a common question, using vinegar,  cleaning, drying, and lubing the chain are effective methods both in preventing and removing rust.

If you don’t take care of the bike, the rust will cause more damage which will be more costly than if you had taken preventive measures.

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