How To Clean and Lubricate a Chain

How to clean and lubricate a bike chain

Looking after your chain is one of the easiest maintenance tasks to do but also one of the most important!

Regularly cleaning and lubricating your chain will extend the life of your drivetrain and keep it working and shifting correctly. 

In this article we’ll explain the importance of cleaning your clean, how to clean it, how to lubricate it and what type of chain lubricants you should use.

Looking After Your Chain

If you don’t look after your chain by cleaning and lubricating it, the lifespan of the chain will drastically decrease. The chain will build up with dirt and grit and will dry out and wear at a faster rate. This will also cause wear on the chainrings and cassette and will be very costly!

A very important maintenance task is checking your chain for wear or stretch


How to Clean a Chain

There are specific chain cleaning tools that can be used to clean your chain. One example is the Park Tool CM-5.3. Whilst a specific chain cleaning tool can be used, its not essential. A stiff bristled brush dipped in a quality degreaser will do the job fine, like what can be seen in this Park Tool CG-2.4 kit.

To clean the chain manually, dip the stiff bristled brush in the degreaser and scrub the chain clean. Now the chain is degreased, use soapy water and clean the chain once again. 

When using a chain cleaning tool, insert the chain in the tool, fill the tool up to the fill line with the degreaser and run the chain through the tool by back pedalling the drivetrain. It’s recommended to back pedal through thirty revolutions. Next empty the chain cleaning tool and refill with soapy water and follow the previous process again.

The final step to complete, whether you are manually cleaning your chain or using a tool, is to run the chain through a clean dry cloth to remove any excess water.

With the chain clean and dry it is very important to now lubricate it.

clean chain

How to Lubricate a Chain

There are two types of lubricants you should use on your bike chain and this depends on the conditions that you’re riding in and the type of riding. 

The first is a dry lube. As you can probably guess a dry lube is used when riding in dry conditions. This is because they’re designed to attract less contaminants on the chain and therefore have greater efficiency due to reduced friction. One major downside to dry lubes is that they can wash off the chain easily in wet conditions. Here’s an example of a dry lube.

The second type of lubricant is wet lube, and you guessed it….. It is designed to be used in wet conditions! Wet lubes are more viscous and contain more lubricant than dry lubes, this allows the lube to last longer on the chain and it’s less likely to get washed off. Here’s an example of a wet lube.

You should lubricate your chain before every ride by applying the lube to each roller/link of the chain and then wipe away any excess. You should apply the lube to the inside of the chain so the lube covers the teeth of the cassette and chainrings.

Click on the links below to learn more about the bicycle maintenance guide app