Cleaning a bicycle chain

Cleaning a bicycle chain is probably one of the yuckiest things to do in the world of cycling, other than having a broken chain in the middle of nowhere, at night and in the pouring rain.  And yet when you have a nice clean chain running over an equally clean cassette, your bike will running sweetly and smoothly.  You will enjoy smoother gear changes and be in the full knowledge that less wear is taking place.

For cleaning the drive chain, you can buy some special gadgets that will clean the chain in-situ.  These work best, I think, if the chain is frequently cleaned.  Here I am taking you through the steps of cleaning the drive chain in a good, thorough way.

  1. Find the “magic” link, if there is one.  Many modern chains have one.  The above photograph is a KMC type.  To break the link, grab the chain firmly either side.  Wriggle it from side to side as you push the link  inwards as the two halves separate.
  2. To clean the chain – that’s dissolving away all the horrible abrasive gunge – you need a jam jar and some white spirit.  All you need is 2cm in the jar, enough to slosh it all around.  Wipe the chain so it is as clean as possible, then repeat the process once or twice more
  3. Make sure the chain is nice and clean, then hang it up to dry while you turn your attention to the chainset and sprockets.  By the way, while you are doing this, you’ll need to make sure you have kept the “magic” link somewhere safe and naturally you’ll need to give that a wipe to clean it as well.  Hang the chain up to dry.
  4. Next, squirt some solvent over the sprockets and chainrings so they can be cleaned as well.  For the sprockets, an old paint brush might be useful to get the solvent working on the sprockets and then wipe between each of the sprockets with an old rag.
  5. Next, give the chainset a good clean
  6. Clean the front and rear mechs and then a drop of lube is needed.
  7. Time to refit the rear wheel and the chain.  When the “magic” link is reconnected, make sure you press down on the pedal to “click” it into place.
  8. Finally apply some lube.  There’s quite a choice but for most purposes I prefer the dry lube type.  Don’t put too much on, go for the minimum you can get away with.
  9. Lastly enjoy a nice clean drive chain.  You will probably experience smoother gear changes and a nice smooth sound.  Keep it like that in order to extend the life of the chain, sprockets and chainrings.
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