Having a clean and well-maintained drivetrain means shifting will be smoother, your components will last longer and you'll generally have a more enjoyable ride as a result. Here's how to clean your drivetrain to keep it in top condition.
What do you need to clean your drivetrain?
Bike cleaning essentials
Apart from bike cleaner, degreaser, and lube, you should have most of these things already.
- Bike cleaner
- Cycle specific degreaser
- Chain lubricant
- Cleaning brushes - you can buy bike-specific ones but any non-abrasive cleaning brushes would work
- Old rags, cloths or a sponge
- A bucket of water or a hosepipe.
Bike cleaning extras
These are all nice to have as they'll make things a lot easier, but don't worry if you don't have them.
- Workstand to hold your bike off the ground
- Chain cleaner device
- Old toothbrush
- Chainkeeper - this keeps your chain in place when you remove your rear wheel
How to clean your drivetrain
The easiest way to clean your drivetrain is to have your bike lifted off the ground. A workstand is great but if you don't have one you could improvise with garden furniture or just flip your bike upside down. You'll need to remove the rear wheel so you can really get into the nooks and crannies.
- Use an old rag to wipe away any built-up dirt on your jockey wheels and chainrings.
- Keep a hold of the rag and grip the chain beneath the chainstay. Rotate the cranks backwards a few revolutions so that the rag takes any loose dirt and oil away from the chain.
- Apply degreaser, either using a brush or a spray, Avoid spraying directly onto cables so you don't risk removing useful grease.
- Using an old cleaning brush with stiff bristles (or an old toothbrush), scrub the chain, jockey wheels, chainrings and the inside of the derailleur plates. This should be relatively easy if you've kept up with cleaning, but if it's been a while you might need to remove individual components for a more thorough job!
- Rinse everything well.
- Use a cleaning brush or rag and clean any loose dirt from in-between the sprockets on the cassette, then apply degreaser.
- Use a brush with long bristles to remove any remaining dirt. If you need to really get in between the sprockets, you can use a torn-up rag to floss.
- Wash the cassette with bike cleaner and rinse off.
- Use bike cleaner and a clean sponge to wash away any dirty residue from the frame and components.
- Dry the components with a lint free cloth, then re-attach the rear wheel.
How to lubricate your drivetrain
Make sure you use the right amount of lube for the best performance. Here's how.
- Always ensure your chain is clean. Lube mixed with road grime can create a nasty paste that can cause wear on components.
- Starting from the joining link (so you know where you started), apply a drop of your chosen chain lube to each roller of the chain. When you have coated each roller, rotate the chainset backwards for 20 seconds to allow the lube to penetrate the internals of the chain rollers.
- Using a lint free cloth wipe any excess lube from the chain, chainring and jockey wheels.
- Follow steps 2 and 3 again.
- Carefully apply a couple of drops of chain lube onto the springs of the derailleurs.
For the finishing touch, be sure to consider protecting your bike with cycle insurance.
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