While ‘little and often’ is the best approach to chain care, don’t overlook a full degrease and clean as part of your regular routine. Here’s a simple four-step process on how to show your bike chain some love from Jenni Gwiazdowski, founder of London Bike Kitchen.
Start by using a firm brush to remove gunk from the chain rings and use a flat-head screwdriver on the derailleur jockey wheels. Now apply a generous amount of degreaser on the inside of the chain, chainrings, cassette and derailleur. Let it sit for a few minutes. Then give the chain a good scrub with a brush. If you’re feeling ambitious, it’s a good idea to give the chain ring(s) and cassette/freewheel a scrub at this stage too. Use an old rag to ‘floss’ in between each sprocket.
Degreasing is usually enough, but if you want a deep clean, you can follow up with a lather. We recommend using a proper bike cleaner here (there’s too much controversy around washing-up liquid). You can use a sponge, specialist scrubbing brush or even a pair of tooth brushes facing each other and scrub the chain and jockey wheels to break up the grime and flush out the remaining degreaser. Rinse off the cassette, chain, chainrings, and derailleur pulleys with a low-pressure stream of water, avoiding squirting water directly into any bearings.
Step 1: Degrease your chain
Step 2: Cleaning the chain
Dry your chain by spinning the crank backwards to ‘fling’ water out of the links. Then use a rag or an old t-shirt to finish drying, or let the bike dry naturally. Once dry, it’s time to apply lube. The type you use will depend on the weather, but an all-purpose biodegradable lube is the most versatile. Apply the lube by back pedalling slowly and putting one drop on each chain link, coating every link evenly. Start at the quick/connecting link so you can easily tell where to finish. And don’t apply too much. It shouldn’t take more than two or three rotations of the pedals to go all the way around the chain.
With lube applied, run the chain through all of the gears – this helps ensure proper distribution of lube on the chain. Let the chain sit for 15 minutes. Finally – and this is the most important part of the whole process – wipe off as much lube as you can. Take a clean rag and slowly back-pedal. Any excess lube on the outside of the chain will attract more grime and speed up the dirtying cycle all over again.
Step 3: Dry and lube your chain
Step 4: Sitting in and drying off
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