How to Clean and Lube Your Bike Chain

Cleaning bicycle chain and cassette
Bicycle Maintenance

How to Clean and Lube Your Bike Chain

It is super important to clean and lube your bike chain. Regular cleaning and lubricating your bike chain is necessary to keep it running properly as well as prevent premature wear. Not only will it protect the chain itself, but also the other parts of your drivetrain.

When cleaning, this is also a good chance to inspect the chain for wear and any damage. Riding with a worn chain can erode the teeth on your gears, which will make any repairs more expensive in the future, and it can be dangerous if performing sprint training.

How often should you do maintenance work on your bike? A good rule of thumb is to clean and lube your chain every week if you ride your bike every day. It is even more important to keep on top of cleaning when the roads are salted, so frequency in winter should be increased.

Cassette on clean bike with nice new chain.
SRAM Force Rear Mech

So where do we start?

The first thing you want to decide is if you are going to be taking the chain off for cleaning. This can be made easier if you have a SRAM or KMC chain that uses a quick link. Shimano chains use a pin and can be much more of a pain if you are a beginner. If you have a quick link chain, then the best thing to own is a set of quick link pliers.

What do we need to get started?

  • Cleaner & Degreaser: There are many degreasers on the market that would do a good job of cleaning the grit and old oil from your chain. Muc-Off 295US Bio Drivetrain Cleaner is one I have used for years and recommend to all my clients.
  • Some Old Rags: Big squares cut from old t-shirts work nicely.
  • Chain Cleaning Tool: This helps if you haven’t taken the chain off, there are many different versions of these and I’ve broken a few. My current chain cleaning tool is the BBB Cycling, Bike Chain Cleaning Tool.
  • Bucket, Water & Sponge: These are for rinsing off the degreaser and any remaining dirt and grime.
  • Lube: This really depends on the application. If you are riding in the winter with rain, you will need a wet lube. In the summer, you will want a dry lube. Then for racing, you may want to go the whole hog and get a ceramic lube for lowering frictional resistance.
  1. Muc-Off Dry Lube 120ml chain oil

2. Muc-Off 967US Wet Chain Lube

3. Muc-Off 872 C3 Ceramic Dry Chain Lube

  • Bicycle Repair Stand: Again this isn’t totally needed, however, if you are going to be getting into maintaining your own bike then you find it is a godsend. A bike stand was one of the best things I have ever purchased. It will make maintaining your bike so much more simple. It lets you turn the wheel backward with ease when using the chain cleaning tool. The Ultrasport Bicycle Assembly Stand from Amazon is perfect, it even has an attachment to keep the handlebars steady which is awesome.
  • Chain Wear Gauge: A chain wear gauge is absolutely essential especially if you are a racer and commuting on your bike. With a heavy training load, you would be surprised how quickly these chain wears out. When you take into account the salt, wet, and then sprint or big gear intervals they wear really fast. Check for chain wear before you start to clean as you maybe need a new chain instead.

Your bike chain has to be clean and lubricated on a regular basis to stay in good working order and to delay early wear. It will safeguard not just the chain but also the other components of your powertrain.

Cleaning provides a good opportunity to check the chain for wear and other issues. In addition to increasing the cost of future repairs, riding with a worn chain can be risky when sprinting. It can also erode the gear teeth.

How frequently should you work on your bike’s maintenance?

If you ride your bike every day, it’s a good idea to clean and lubricate your chain once a week. Let’s keep our chain clean more frequently throughout the winter months because it is even more crucial when the roads have been salted.

It’s crucial to keep your bike in good shape. While you’re riding, chains should be almost completely silent, and if they squeak or chirp, it may be due to grit, which might generate those sounds. The chain can be lubricated, but make sure there isn’t any grit or dirt on it first.

My favourite part…

Degreaser should be dribbled over or sprayed on the chain while slowly rotating the pedals backward from Muc-Off 295US Bio Drivetrain Cleaner bottle. Doing this in a location with access to a hose and drain is ideal. For this, a garage or backyard are practical settings, if not, outside with a bucket and cloth with suffice.

Continue spinning the pedals while holding the chain loosely in your hands and dipping a rag in degreaser.

Use the BBB Cycling, Bike Chain Cleaning Tool to degrease your chain when it is really dirty. These tools use brushes to work away the grit and dirt and flush it out giving you a really good head start on the clean-up job. Be sure to hold it nice and tight and watch your fingers on the chainrings and chain.

Now it is time to lube your chain!

It is up to you which lube you go for but for the sake of this article and coming into the winter season we will be using a wet lube. Take the cap off and hold the bottle upside down on the chain, turn the pedals back nice and smooth and let the lube trickle out onto the chain. Let the lube penetrate into the chain for a few minutes before giving the chain a wipe, we don’t want too much oil or lube all over the chain and on the outside, its not doing anything there apart from dirtying your legs

After lubricating your bike chain, make sure you wipe it down with a clean towel to remove any extra oil. Alternately, lightly wipe away any extra grease with an old, wet rag. If not, your chain will rapidly become scuffed and unclean once more, which may be a significant hassle.

I hope this helps and that you have the tools and knowledge to clean and lube your bike chain. Be sure to like, subscribe or leave a comment.

Coach McKinney