…is one sound that I absolutely hate. But why do so many people ride bikes with rusty chains? Surely it isn’t too much trouble to put a little bit of oil on the chain? Is it? How do these people think rust develops? More importantly, would they allow rust to build up on anything else, say, a door hinge? Maybe they would.

But it seems so obvious that moving parts that are exposed to the weather will need to be protected from moisture. The chain is one part of the bike that is pretty close to the road, so it will pick up water from the road surface. There’s no avoiding it. Yet the numbers of orange chains and cassettes that I see on bikes is staggering.

On my short ride today, I must have seen and heard a dozen rusty chains. I passed two people on bikes whose chains were so rusty that I felt compelled to comment on the state of their chains. But did they pay attention? No. In fact one of them dipped behind a parked car because, no doubt, he thought it was ‘safe’.

A couple of years ago, I was outside the Kings Mall Shopping Centre in Hammersmith (there is nothing there except mobile phone shops) fitting my pannier to the rack and unlocking my bike when some woman with a bike that had a very rusty chain said to me. “Don’t scratch my bike”! “I wouldn’t be worried about me scratching your bike”, I said, “I’d be more worried about the rusty chain”. Then I added, “You really should oil your chain”. To that she replied “A friend told me that it was bad to oil the chain”. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to meet this ‘friend’ and give him/her a good telling off.

So where does this kind of faulty information come from? Who knows, but one thing is for sure, if you allow the chain to rust, it’s only a matter of time before it snaps. And if that happens in busy traffic, you’re toast.

I wonder if her chain has snapped? Probably.