It's Easy to Clean Your Bike Chain

by Katherine A. Roccasecca

It's easy to clean your bike chain with a chain cleaning toolA clean and lubricated bike chain won't make any noise. If your chain is squeaking or sounding gritty, that means you are both wasting energy and wearing out your chain. Since it's easy to clean your bike chain (and kinda fun, too), just find a few minutes and get it done!

We'll tell what you need and describe how to do it. Then, you may be surprised how much easier it is to bike!

A Quick Relube

A quick relube will keep your bike chain running smoothlyAnytime the chain isn't running as smoothly as you like, give it a quick relube. To check, just grab the pedal with your hand and pedal backwards. You'll quickly learn what a well-lubed chain feels like compared to one that's wasting your energy.

What You Need

  • A rag
  • Some chain lube

We use Rock "N" Roll Gold at the shop. Like many lubes, applying it lifts dirt out of the chain to the surface where you can wipe it off. And, while letting the lube sit before riding improves performance, the wait time is not required, meaning you can ride right away. It is also suitable for both road biking and mountain biking. We carry many brands so you find a lube that works for you and the conditions you ride in.

How To

Lean the bike against the wall or put it in a bike stand. Make sure the pedals can spin without hitting anything.

Grab the chain with the rag on your left hand, and pedal backwards with your other hand to wipe any dust off the outside of the chain. Pinch each pulley wheel on the rear derailleur while pedaling to remove any dirt there. Then wipe the chain rings. (If you are removing clumps of gunk, skip down to "A Chain You Can Eat Off.")

Apply the lube per the instructions on the bottle. Pedal backwards to work the lube in. You should be able to feel the action getting smoother. Finally, and this is important, grab the chain with the rag and pedal backwards to remove the dirt and excess lube from the surface of the chain.

A Chain You Can Eat Off

Fun toys make it easy to clean your bike chainIf you've been gravel riding or mountain biking... If you've road riding in lousy weather... Or if it's just been a long time since you've cleaned your chain, you'll have more grime built up than you can remove with a quick relube.

This is where we bring out the fun toys!

What You Need

  • A rag
  • Stiff bristled brush
  • A chain cleaning tool
  • Degreaser
  • Some chain lube

For cleaning the cassette and chainrings, you can choose from many brushes designed specifically for bicycles or make do with an old toothbrush. A chain cleaning tool has a reservoir for holding the degreaser and built-in brushes that scrub your chain from all angles. We carry a variety of degreasers/chain cleaners for you to choose from.

How To

Lean the bike against the wall or put it in a bike stand. Make sure the pedals can spin without hitting anything.

Use the rag and brush to remove the worst of the dirt. Now is a good time to wash your whole bike from top to bottom. Use a bucket or a garden hose set to low pressure. (High pressure washing is a no-no and you'll likely get water into the hubs, bottom bracket, etc.—places water does not belong.)

Open the chain cleaning tool and add the appropriate amount of degreaser—check the instructions that came with the tool or look for a "fill line." Attach the tool to the chain and pedal backwards 30 or so times. Remove the tool. Wet the brush in some degreaser and scrub the cassette and chainrings. Fill the tool with water, reattach it, and pedal backwards again. Rinse the cassette and chainrings with water.

If the chain still looks dirty, repeat the degreasing and rinsing steps. Rinse until all the degreaser is removed.

Dry the chain with a clean rag. Leave the bike in the sun to dry completely. Then make sure you apply plenty of fresh lube and work it into the chain.

Finally, enjoy your clean, fast, quiet ride!


Check out our other bike maintenance articles.

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Katherine is our Content Champion. She has done triathlons in the past, and now focuses on cycling and mountain biking. She loves weird multi-sport events that don't involve running, like aquabike and bikeathlon.

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