How To: Clean and Lube Your Bike Chain

How To: Clean and Lube Your Bike Chain


Hello, and welcome back to yet another bicycle tutorial brought to you by a bearded man wearing flannel! Keeping your bike chain clean and lubed is one of the best ways to extend the life of your drive train and keep your bike shifting smoothly. Even better, it’s an easy task you can do from home in between your regular tune-ups. On to degreasing. Keep in mind, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Leave your dress clothes in the closet. Although there are a lot of products out there, you’ll want to use a bike specific degreaser. They are formulated for bike components and some general degreasers could weaken or damage your chain. There are a number of degreasers you can choose from, including biodegradable options. Today, we’ll be using the new product from Bontrager. A quick and easy way to degrease a chain is to use a designated chain cleaner tool. These can be found at your local bike shop. Simply fill the reservoir with degreaser, wrap the tool around the chain according to the directions (this will place the chain through the brushes), and backpedal. The brushes will get into all the nooks and crannies of the chain where dirt likes to hang out. And, it will collect used degreaser, making the whole process easier and cleaner. You can still clean your chain without a special tool. You can instead use a stiff brush (even a toothbrush or nail brush will work). Add some degreaser to the brush and hold it to the chain as you backpedal. Make sure you hit both the bottom and top of the chain. Brush only the section of the chain at the bottom of the drivetrain. Brushing the top will only make a bigger mess, not to mention dropping used degreaser on your frame and newly cleaned chain. Your chain may look clean now, but you’ll still want to rub it down with soapy water and rinse it. This will make sure all of the degreaser has been cleaned off so the fresh lube will fully stick to the chain. When it comes to lubing your chain, you’ll want to choose a lube that matches your conditions. If the terrain you ride is wet and muddy, use a wet lube. Wet lubes are more waterproof and last longer, but they will attract dust and dirt in drier conditions. If you’re riding in drier conditions, use a dry lube instead. You’ll need to replace a dry lube more often, but it will make your chain less of a dirt magnet. Though we’re showing you this process on a road bike, this rule of thumb holds true for any type of bike. When lubing your chain, you really want to get the lube into the rollers. Getting lube on the outside of the chain will only pick up dirt on your ride. You’ll have to degrease and lube again that much sooner. Place a small drop of lube right on top of each roller, then wipe off any excess. And with that, you’re ready to ride! Now, how often you should clean and lube your chain is debatable. It mostly depends on how often you ride and what conditions you’re riding in. If you ride regularly, you should clean and lube your chain at least once a month. You may need to do this more often if you’re riding in dirty or wet conditions, or if you’re riding off-road. And of course, anytime you notice that your chain is noisy, show it some love! For more information, or to find tools that will keep your chain running smooth, check out trekbikes.com or drop in to your local Trek retailer.