Keeping your bicycle’s chain properly cleaned and lubricated makes for a smoother ride, prevents rust and, prolongs the life of sprockets and chain rings as well as the chain itself. The guide below is a simple method to clean and lube your chain.
The frequency at which chain lube should be re-applied depends on how often you ride, in what conditions, the type of lube used, and your attention to chain care between re-lubing. For some, this means re-applying lube every day, while for others, it may be once a month or longer.
- Wash your bike, not just the chain. All you need is a soft brush and sponge and hot soapy water. Pay attention to the chain, working the brush into the derailleurs and rubbing the links to dislodge lumps of dirt and oily grime. Washing your entire bike has the added benefit of reducing the effects of the salt and sand we encounter living on the coast.
- Use a thin, flat-bladed screwdriver to carefully remove any dried on grime that has caked around the rear sprocket or, for multi-speed bikes, the jockey wheels of the rear derailleur. Try not to let the bits fall into the chain. The aim is to remove not redistribute the dirt.
- Use a clean rag to dry and remove any remaining grease, dirt and debris.
- Once dry, apply fresh lubricant on the rollers of the chain and not the outside. The trick is to only apply lube to the inner link rollers. Allow a single drop to penetrate each of the rollers which separate the link plates. Be careful, over-lubricating will attract dirt and sand.
- When the lube has been applied, allow it to settle into the deepest recesses. Slowly rotate the cranks to help get the lube into the rollers. Continue to rotate the cranks and use a clean, dry, lint-free rag to clean away any excess lube. Pay attention to the outer plates which should be more or less free of any lube.
- Ride the bike for a few minutes, then wipe the chain down with your rag again to remove excess lubricant from the rollers.
The type of lubricant you need depends on the type of riding you do.
- Wet lube is lubricant that stays wet to the touch until it’s washed off. This type of lubricant is very oily, which makes it fairly waterproof and ideal for rainy, wet conditions. However, it attracts a lot of dirt in dry conditions, so wipe down the outside of your chain to get any excess lubricant off before riding.
- Dry lube goes on wet and is left to dry before riding. It is designed to ‘soak’ into the bike chain to leave it lubricated without moisture. Because it is dry, it doesn’t attract small particles of dirt like wet lube. For this reason it’s better for dry environments where your bike chain will come in contact with a lot of sand, dust and dirt.
- Resist the urge to use WD-40 since it isn’t really a lubricant. It’s actually a de-greaser and will remove lubricant from bicycle chains, cables and other pivot joints.
Island Bicycles sells a variety of cleaning and lubricating solutions. Stop by and let our staff help you select the proper products for your cycling needs.