How Can I Clean a Bicycle Chain – The Simple Way
Just Think What All That Grinding is Doing?
You’ve just returned from your favorite trail ride and found out that the weather in your area can change quite quickly. What started off as a nice sunny day became a series of torrential downpours. The rain wasn’t a big deal because you managed to stay quite warm riding; your bike on the other hand didn’t fair quite as well.
Riding home, you realized just how much mud your bike managed to pick up and by the looks of it, your bike chain took quite a hit as well. Pedal stroke after pedal stroke, you could hear the grit in your chain and it just didn’t sound all that happy. First order of business once you got home was to answer the nagging question of how can I clean a bicycle chain.
How Can I Clean a Bicycle Chain – An Easy But Important Task
Your chain is just one of the many bike components that people tends to get ignored from a maintenance point of view. I recently wrote an article for people that ignore their bicycle chains; it was called How to Replace a Bike Chain. If you choose to forgo the regular task of cleaning your bicycle chain, then you will be forced to replace it much sooner than you would normally have to.
Properly cleaning your bicycle chain is a very important yet extremely simple task to perform. To do it properly you will need a simple chain cleaner that fits over you chain. These cleaners can be purchased for less than $10 at most bike stores, so the price should not be holding you back. When cleaning your chain, why not degrease it as well to remove all the old chain lube that you had added previously. I like to use a natural degreaser like the one in the picture below but any type of degreaser should work.
Let’s Get To Work
First step in the cleaning process is to fill your chain cleaner with a degreaser/cleaner of your choice (there is usually a fill line marked right on the side of the cleaner). Attach the cleaner casing to your bike chain as shown below and start to spin the pedals.
The first thing that you should notice is how fast the liquid in your cleaner changes color (see picture below). You will also notice lots of little pieces of grit start to pool at the bottom of the casing. These are the same pieces that were grinding your chain and slowly wearing it down.
Once you have spun your chain for about 30 seconds, take the chain cleaner casing off your chain and discard the dirty degreaser. Fill it up again and repeat the process. I would suggest performing this task 2 or 3 times. You should start to notice your chain looking much cleaner and when it does, it is time to move to the next step.
Replace Degreaser With Water
The next step is very similar to the first with the only difference being that you fill the chain cleaner casing with water (pictured below) instead of with degreaser. Consider this your chain rinse cycle.
Even though there is no degreaser solution in the cleaner casing, you will be amazed at how much dirt still comes off your chain. Keep filling, pedalling and rinsing until the water stays relatively sediment free. By this time, your chain should be very clean.
Why Not Clean Your Sprockets While You Are at It?
Over time, your rear sprockets will also become “gunked” up with dirt and grease. While you have the degreaser out, you should also spray some of it onto your sprockets (see picture below) and then using an old toothbrush (as pictured) or any type of brush, gently scrub off the grease and dirt.
The last thing you want is to get your chain nice and clean, only to have your sprockets introduce more dirt back into them. In no time at all, you can also have your dirty sprockets cleaned up and ready to use once again. Make sure that you give all the metal parts a good rinsing once you are finished with the degreaser to ensure that all excess cleaner has been removed.
The end result (as picture below) is a bicycle chain that looks and sounds brand new.
Now to finish off you will need to re-lube your bike chain once again. Besides lubing the metal pieces of your chain, this step also helps to remove any remaining water from the cleaning process that you didn’t manage to dry up. Water left on a metal chain usually means RUST. Rust and your bicycle chain do not go well together.
So now you’ve answered your question of how can I clean a bicycle chain as well as the other moving metal parts that also tend to get greasy and dirty. Keeping your chain cleaned up on a regular basis will help prevent any unnecessary wear and tear on both it and your sprockets. This will save you money and time in the long run.