Got a bunch of dirt and grime? Use this guide to clean your bike chain in minutes.
If your bike is making weird noises, it might be time to clean your chain. Because if your chain and gears are covered in muck, it won’t matter as much how well-tuned they are. Each pedal stroke will be less efficient than the last, and the sound of metal on metal isn’t exactly harmonious. So grab some degreaser or solvents, and use these tips to clean your bicycle chain in no time.
Prep some hot and soapy water for your bike’s drivetrain
Your bike’s drivetrain is the most important part to keep clean because this is where all the dirt and grime settle. Start with a basic hose down and use low-pressure water from a hose to clear any larger debris (like sticks) that might be on your frame. Then, rotate the chain and lightly spray it with a little water from every angle.
Next, get a bucket and fill it with some warm, soapy water — and grab an old toothbrush. Gently scrub the drive train with the soapy toothbrush as you continue to rate the chain. This will help you get in all the little cracks and crevices. Once your chain is looking like new, you’re ready to move on to the degreasing step.
Degrease your bike chain
Grab some degreaser to get rid of all the dirt you couldn’t get with the soap and toothbrush. Think of this like mopping after you vacuum a floor — it might not look dirty until you see the dirty water.
Start by rotating the chain again, but this time move it backward in the opposite direction and put a little degreaser on each and every link.
Once the chain has been fully saturated with a degreaser, let it sit and dry for a while. When it’s dry, use a cloth to remove all the degreaser and dirt — as you continue to rotate the bike chain backward.
You’ll know you’ve gotten everything clean if you’re able to rotate the bike chain and you don’t feel any grittiness. It should feel smooth and well-oiled as you rotate it.
Apply lubricant to the bike chain
Bicycle chain lubricant, chain oil, or chain lube keep your chain moving smoothly and prevent rust. It’s an important step and luckily it only takes a few minutes. First, make sure your bike chain is completely dry. You can use an air compressor to double-check that every link is free of water.
Then, take a little bit of your chain oil and put a thin, even coating along your chain. If your oil bottle has a drip cap, make sure to use it so you don’t spill everywhere or apply too much.
Once you’ve lubricated each bike chain link, you can rotate the cranks to further saturate the chain. Then rotate the chain backward and lightly dry the chain with a cloth.
After you’ve cleaned your bike chain …
Now that your bike chain is cleaned, degreased, and lubricated, you can give the rest of your bicycle a quick once over. Use a cloth to catch any leftover oil or lubricant on the frame or tires.
Remember that bicycle maintenance keeps your bike alive and well for longer! Revisit these tips every month or so depending on how often you ride to keep everything running smoothly.
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