A clean chain will last a lot longer whereas a dirty chain will be noisy and prevent smooth gear shifting.
In the event that your chain falls off, a clean chain will not coat your hands in dirty black oil.
If you do nothing else to clean your bike after a ride, use a piece of cloth to wipe off any dirt and apply some fresh lube.
Ideally, you should carry out the quick method below.
After each ride and depending on the weather, a thorough clean is something you should do every couple of weeks.
Using this method to clean your chain will help your chain running smooth and quiet on a day-to-day basis.
Ideally, you will use this method to clean off your chain after every ride but it does not replace the thorough cleaning method that will be described later.
Before you get going, be aware that you do not want any spray to land on the braking surface of your discs as this can ruin the braking performance. Be very careful using any sprays close to your bike.
Take a large piece of cloth or a rag and spray some degreaser onto it.
Wrap the cloth around the chain and use your other hand to pedal backwards.
While the chain is running through the cloth, make sure that all outside surfaces of the chain are cleaned.
Use a fresh part of the cloth with a new dose of degreaser to polish the chain. To do this, wrap the cloth around the chain and use a back and forth motion.
Use the cloth to wipe off any dirt from the chainrings and jockey wheels. If you leave dirt on there, it will only end up on the chain.
Lube the chain (see below).
Once every couple of weeks or ten rides (more regular if you ride in wet and muddy conditions) you should give your chain a thorough clean. This method removes the dirt that the quick method cannot reach.
Chain cleaning tool
It is a good idea to cover your disk brakes before starting. Some chain cleaning tools have a tendency to flick out drops of greasy liquid which might contaminate your brakes.
Here is a look at the chain cleaning tool from Park Tool:
Fill the cleaning tool with degreaser and fit around the chain.
Hold the tool in place while pedaling backwards.
The movement of the chain will rotate the brushes inside, scrubbing off the dirt.
Cycle the chain a number of times through the tool and empty the dirty degreaser.
Repeat steps 1-5 until the degreaser comes out clean and the chain looks shiny. In between, clean off any dirt from the chainrings and jockey wheels.
Rinse the chain with water (you do not want degreaser sitting on it) and dry it as best you can with a cloth.
Leave the chain to air dry for a few minutes and lube (do not leave it for too long as it can rust).
How to Properly Lube a Bicycle Chain
It is not just a case of chucking some lube on and forgetting about it!
The first thing you need to do is make sure you are using the correct lube. While there are lubes that can be used in any conditions, making an educated choice according to your riding conditions will make your life easier and prolong the life of your chain:
For winter riding you will want a heavy duty lube designed to deal with wet weather, mud, grit, and snow. Look for a wet and thick lube that will keep your chain moving in all conditions.
You can use a winter lube in all seasons but the thick and heavy nature of a winter lube means that dirt tends to stick to it so you will need to clean it more regularly.
In dry summer conditions, you can choose a dry lube. As the name suggests, it goes on wet and will dry.
The chain will be lubricated but dust will not stick to it, helping to keep your chain clean. Do not use a dry lube in winter as rain and mud will remove it very fast.
For every other condition between very wet and very dry, you have a couple of choices. There are semi-dry lubes and lighter wet lubes available to suit your exact conditions. You may also want to look out for ceramic lubes for extra smooth movement.
Once you have chosen the correct lube, you can lube your chain. Only ever lube a clean and dry chain. If you put lube on top of dirt, it will mix with the dirt, leaving your chain coated in dirty lube.
Apply a drop of lube to each roller, ensuring it covers each plate. You want the lube to penetrate between each plate and get down to the pin on each connection.
Make sure you get each roller. Do not just squeeze the lube over the length of the chain as this will apply it unevenly. By going over each roller carefully, you ensure that each connection is lubricated and you can also check each link for damage.
Once all links are lubricated, pedal backwards slowly (so as not to flick off the lube) and cycle the chain a couple of times. This works in the lube.
Let it sit for five minutes.
Wipe off the excess lube from the outside of the chain using a clean cloth or rag.
A chain stretches as it wears, increasing the size of the links. If you do not replace the chain once it is worn, the teeth on the cassette and chainrings will get worn down to match the stretched chain.
Once this happens, you will have to replace all at once as a new chain will not hook up properly on the worn teeth. There is a special tool to measure if a chain needs replacing or not.
It is recommended to buy one or just stop by your local bike shop and they will check it for you.
Keeping your chain clean and lubed maximises its life. Replacing it as soon as it is worn will save you money in the long run.
– By JT Lyons of Moment Bicycles
JT grew up riding the canyons of San Diego on his single speed Huffy. After a stint working for Shelby American in automotive and then in the Aerospace industry. JT started Moment Bicycles. He developed a “better way to buy a bike” using his engineering problem-solving skills.