Keeping your bike chain clean and lubed is the best way to extend the life of your drivetrain, keep your bike shifting smoothly, and save money in the long run. And the best part is, you can do it all at home with the right supplies and some basic knowledge.
Just like checking your bike tires for proper air pressure every couple of weeks, you should keep an eye on your chain and make sure that it doesn't get too dry (check once a month, more if you ride in dirty or wet conditions).
If you're looking to clean (degrease) and lube your chain, continue reading. If you are looking for instructions just on how to lube your chain, jump down to step 4 below.
Before you start, this is your official warning that cleaning your chain is a dirty job. So take off that tux, pull on some gloves, and let’s get started!
1. Degrease your chain. If you have a designated chain cleaner tool, fill it with your bike-specific degreaser and wrap the tool around your chain according to directions. Then, use your free hand to backpedal. The brushes in your chain cleaner will clean all the nooks and crannies while collecting degreaser in its reservoir.
2. If you don’t have a special tool, use a brush to degrease your chain. A toothbrush or nail brush will do the trick. Just add some degreaser to the brush, hold it to the top of your chain, and backpedal. Repeat this step with the bottom of your chain, always brushing the section of chain below your drivetrain.
3. Rub down your chain with soapy water and a rinse to clean off excess degreaser.
4. Choose your lube. Use wet lube if you ride in wet, muddy conditions, and dry lube if you ride in dry conditions. We absolutely love Prolink Progold and Boeshield T-9 in a drip bottle for a great spring through fall lube. Both have lubricating qualities while including a property that will help shed dirt off the chain. You should never use WD40 as chain lubricant since WD-40 is NOT a true lubricant. It’s primary use is as a solvent or rust dissolver.
5. Lube your chain. Carefully place a small drop of lube on top of each roller in your chain. Make sure to aim the lube right into your rollers. Getting lube on the outside of the chain will just pick up more dirt.
6. Take a quick spin on your bike to get the lube to work into the links where the lube is actually needed. Wipe off any excess lube because all that will do is pick up dirt! Now, you’re ready to ride!
Now that you’re trained in the art of chain maintenance, be sure to keep an eye out for creaks and squeaks. These could be signs that your chain needs a little love. And if you ride regularly, remember to clean and lube your chain at least once a month. If you like exploring off-road and getting your bike muddy, you should clean it even more than that. Happy trails!