Everything You Need to Know About Cleaning a Bike Chain

Everything You Need to Know About Cleaning a Bike Chain

Your bike’s chain is a critical component responsible for turning your bike’s rear wheel and moving it forward.

A bike chain consists of hundreds of plates, rollers, and links, which are all moving parts. If there is grime build-up in the little crevasses of your chain, it will significantly affect your bike’s performance. Excessive dirt in your chain links and rollers will also result in wear, inefficiency, and defective gear shifting.

The importance of regular chain cleaning can’t be ignored. However, the idea of taking an old toothbrush to every individual link seems time-intensive and ineffective. Here’s how to clean your bike chain the right way.

The Easy Cleaning Method

With the easy cleaning method, you can remove most grease from your chain without removing the cassette. You also don’t need a designated workspace, and you can even clean it inside your home without making a mess on your floors.

For the easy chain cleaning method, you need baby wipes and an oil-based chain lubricant. You will also need a bike stand that allows the rear wheel to turn freely. Alternately, you can flip the bike and rest it on its handlebars.

While keeping the baby wipe in position around the chain, turn the pedals so that all the links move through the wipe. Replace the baby wipe regularly until it stays clean. Apply lube occasionally throughout the cleaning process to loosen the chain grease.

a man cleaning his bicycle chain

After cleaning the chain, use the baby wipes to clean the derailleur chainrings and pulley wheels as well. With this method, there will still be grime build-up between the chain links that is difficult to reach with the wet wipes. However, this method is highly effective for routine cleaning.

Bike Chain Detailing

With the chain detailing method, you can restore your chain to like-new condition. You will need several tools and an afternoon to clean your chain with this method, but you don’t need a lot of space.

A chain and drivetrain detail project includes an assessment of your chain and other drivetrain components such as the freehubs and chainrings. Ideally, you should clean your chain with this method every two to three months, especially if you ride every day.

Start with the Easy Clean Method

Before you start with the detailing, place the bike on a stand, and follow the easy cleaning method to begin the process. Getting rid of excessive grime and dirt will make it easier to remove the chain and do an initial inspection. It’s best to use wet wipes to clean the other drivetrain components.

Remove the Chain

After the initial cleaning, locate the chain’s master link, slide the link pin open, and then remove the chain from the drivetrain. Removing the chain will make it much easier to clean.

Do a Chain Inspection

After removing the chain, inspect each link for signs of damage or stretching. If the chain is old with extensive damage, you may need a replacement. Otherwise, carry on cleaning the chain.

Degreasing the Chain

The next step is to degrease the chain. There are several products to choose from, including Orange Citrus Degreaser, Shelite, and Kerosene. Orange Citrus Degreaser is highly effective and is the product that many professional cyclists recommend.

Place your chain in a plastic container with a flat profile. Then, pour the degreaser into a spray bottle and spray the liquid onto the chain. Wait for five minutes, then use a brush with stiff bristles to agitate the grease between the chain links before rinsing thoroughly.

If there is still grime and dirt on the chain, submerge it in the degreaser spray bottle or any other container. Close the lid and shake the bottle to loosen stubborn dirt. Then leave the chain to soak in the degreaser for at least twenty minutes.

Remove the chain from the bottle and place it in a container with warm water to remove the degreaser and any remaining grime. Then, use a rag to dry the chain. A wet chain may not lubricate properly (the next step).

Lubricate the Chain

a person lubricating his bicycle chain

After degreasing the chain, you have to reattach it to your bike’s drivetrain. Close the master link pin and apply a high-quality lubricant to your clean bike chain. Turn the wheels while applying the lubricant to ensure that you spread the oil evenly between the links.