Can You Ride a Bike With a Rusty Chain (Is it safe?)

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Rusty bike chain

A rusty bike chain can be incredibly annoying. It produces noise and can be hard to pedal. Even if you can tolerate all this, is it safe?

Can you ride a bike with a rusty chain?

This article provides you with a full guide on whether it’s safe to ride a bike with a rusty chain. It also lists the causes of this problem, as well as prevention and treatment methods.

Is It Dangerous to Ride a Bike With a Rusty Chain?

Yes, it can be dangerous to ride your bike if it has a rusty chain. Rust can make the chain turn rigid, which makes it more prone to breaking with the force of pedaling.

Thus, you can still ride a bike with a rusty chain. However, you need to be cautious not to put too much force on it.

It’s not recommended that you ride a bike with a rusty chain. Instead, you can remove the rust or replace the chain altogether.

What Causes a Rusty Chain?

Corrosion is a common problem that bikers face every day. It’s usually a result of the oxidation process that takes place due to the reaction of metal with oxygen and water.

In other words, moisture is the main cause of rust. Thus, we recommend that you always keep your bike covered or indoors to protect it from the moisture in the air.

How to Remove Rust From a Bike Chain?

Spraying WD-40 on rusty bike chain

If the bike chain has minor rust, there might be a chance to clean it up. Follow these steps to turn your bike chains as good as new:

  1. Put a piece of large cloth on the ground.
  2. Turn the bike upside down and place it on the cloth.
  3. Apply a suitable bike degreaser on the rusty chain. We’ve got a post on the best bike chain degreasers.
  4. Rub the rusty parts of the chain with a steel wool pad.
  5. Apply some WD-40 on the persistent rust.
  6. Rinse the chain with clean water.
  7. Dry the chain with a clean piece of cloth. 
  8. Apply a suitable lubricant to the chain to prevent rust from accumulating again.
  9. Test your bike to make sure that the chain works properly.

4 Natural Rust Removers From Your Household

Natural rust removers

Interestingly, several common household items can remove rust, such as:


With acetic acid, vinegar can remove and prevent stubborn rust. Simply, apply some vinegar directly on the rust, or soak a piece of cloth to rub the rust off your bike.

The most important thing is to wipe the vinegar off your bike because leaving it on metal for too long can cause damage.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can be an amazing rust remover. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Mix baking soda with water to make a paste that’s thick enough to stick to your bike’s surface.
  2. Leave it on the rusted surface for some time.
  3. Scrub it off with a wire brush or steel wool.

Coca Cola

Coca-Cola and soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which is a common ingredient in rust removers.

However, there may be better methods to use than these drinks. They’re sticky and will require much cleaning afterward.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice can be an effective rust remover. You can mix it with vinegar or coarse salt for better results.

Remember that you need to rinse and dry your bike chain after applying such mixtures. We also recommend that you don’t leave it on the rusted area for a long time to avoid causing damage.

How to Prevent Your Bike Chain From Rusting?

Applying bike lube

Fortunately, you can avoid rust altogether in your bike chain. Here are some maintenance tips to help you keep your bike chain in good shape:

Apply Lubricants

To avoid rusting, apply a suitable lube on your bike chain once a week. That way, you ensure your bike is well-maintained.

Try to invest in a good quality lubricant to avoid clogging the chains. Lubricating your bike chains regularly can prevent their corrosion.

Avoid Getting Your Bike Chain Wet

Water is one of the major reasons behind rust. Therefore, the first precaution to take is to always keep your bike chain dry.

For instance, rub your bike dry immediately after a ride in the rain. In addition, keep your bike indoors or at least cover it with a waterproof cloth overnight. That way, you prevent it from getting wet from rain or dew.

How to Clean a Bike Chain?

To increase the longevity of your bike chain, clean it after every ride. It’s a simple process that won’t take much time.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Remove Dirt

After every ride, the first thing to do is remove the dirt from your bike chain. Always have a cleaning kit handy to clean your bike regularly.

In addition, your bike chain may get greasy, use a degreaser or a water solvent to remove the grease off your bike.

  1. Dry the Chain

Keeping your chain dry is the most crucial step to avoid rusting. After cleaning and degreasing your bike chain, dry it thoroughly.

You can dry it with a clean piece of cloth or apply cool air to it. We don’t recommend using hot air as it can cause your chain to get very hot.

  1. Apply Lubricator

After cleaning and drying your bike chain, apply high-quality bike lube to make sure your chain doesn’t get rusty.

In addition, lubrication prevents dirt and grease from sticking to your bike chain during rides. That way, you make sure your chain bike remains cleaner and lasts longer.

  1. Remove Excess Grease

The last step is to remove excess grease from your chain. After applying lubrication, use a clean piece of cloth to remove the extra grease left on the bike.

This step ensures that your bike remains clean. Otherwise, it might leave traces of grease everywhere, which gets very hard to clean once dry.

How to Replace a Bike Chain?

If rust covers more than 50% of the bike chain, you should better replace it. A heavily rusted chain can break with the least amount of force. Thus, it can be dangerous to ride for long distances.

Fortunately, you can replace the bike chain yourself. Simply, follow these steps:

  1. Squeeze the chain’s quick link to loosen the chain.
  2. Use a suitable tool to push the pain of the chain out. That force should be sufficient to split it.
  3. Clean the cassette and chainring with a suitable solution. Use this step to check on these parts and make sure they’re working fine.
  4. Thread the chain and cut it into a suitable size with special tools. Don’t use your hands because it may cause cuts or scraps.
  5. When you get the right size, link the chain links together and slot them.
  6. Use a pin to secure the link properly in place.


Can you ride a bike with a rusty chain?

Yes, you can if you won’t apply much force because it can be dangerous. A rusty link can become very coarse, which makes it easily breakable.

Fortunately, you can remove the rust with rust removers or natural household items, such as vinegar and baking soda.

If the damage is too high, you can replace the chain. This time make sure you use the prevention methods to avoid rust altogether.

Photo of author


Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.