How to Clean and Lube Your Bike Drive Chain

How to Clean and Lube Your Bike Drive Chain
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It doesn’t matter if you’re a daily rider or a weekend tourer at some point you’re going to have to give your bike chain a good clean. Keeping your chain clean and well lubricated makes for smoother, better running bike, and also helps to prolong the life of your sprockets, chainrings and prolongs the life of the chain itself.

Being proactive is better than letting your bike get to the point where your drivetrain needs a real deep clean. To be honest it only takes 5 minutes to give your chain a quick hose-down, wipe and use your best bike chain lube after each ride to ensure your bike is running smoothly with minimal maintenance.

But hey, nobody’s perfect, right? Most often than not the thought of cleaning your bike after a long ride is the last thing on your mind. So when that times comes when your drive chain needs a proper clean we have put together a guide on how to shift that serious grime. Our chain cleaning guide is the best way to clean a bike chain and we have included a list of the tools and material needed to get the job done (and in most cases where you can buy them).

10 Steps to a Cleaner Drive Chain

It seems like muck and dirt gravitates to your drive chain as soon as you hit the road, but cleaning your bike chain needn’t be difficult. Below is our ten step chain cleaning guide that will have your drivechain looking brands new and running a lot smoother too in less than 30 minutes.

Items you’ll need

Chain lube


Clean rags

 Stiff brush or old tooth brush

 Hose and hot soapy water


1. Wash Your Bike

wash your bike

Before you start it’s important to wash your entire bike not just the chain (why not you’ve already got the bucket out, right?). I’m sure you know how to wash your bike so I won’t go into details but a good tip to keep in mind is the hotter the water the easier it will be to get rid of grease and oil from your bike When it comes to cleaning your bike chain try using a hard brush making sure to get it into all of the chain links to help dislodge and remove oil and grime.

2. Clean Jockey Wheels

clean jockey wheels

The easiest and quickest way to remove dirt and grime from your jockey wheels is to use a combination of a thin, flat headed screwdriver, a rag, and some degreaser.

Poke around the jockey wheels to loosen up the grime, then use brush and rub each jockey wheel with a rag and some degreaser. It is possible to remove each of the jockey wheels but we don’t advise it unless they are really caked in dirt and grime.

3. Clean Rear Sprockets

Clean Rear Sprockets

Just like with the jockey wheels use a stiff brush and a combination of degreaser and a rag to “floss” between your sprockets. If the grime is hard to remove, try using your flat headed screwdriver to loosen. The cleaner your sprockets are the faster they will shift and the longer they will last, dirt acts as an abrasive “grinding paste” when in contact with any moving parts, so get rid!

4. Clean Chainrings

Clean Chainrings

Just like the jockey wheels and the rear sprockets the chainrings will hold dirt and grime. Using your stiff brush remove the worst dirt and grit and wash down with hot soapy water.

5. Rinse

Rinse your bike

Once you have thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned all of the above parts of the bike rinse off with water to ensure that any leftover soap or degreaser won’t contaminate the lube.

6. Wipe Chain

Wipe Chain

Before you start applying any lube give your bike chain a good wiping with a dry rag or cloth.  This will not only make sure that your chain is drive but it will also remove any leftover oil that may still be lurking on your chain (you’ll be surprised what comes off a clean-looking chain). As you are cleaning each individual link try and massage the links in between your fingers to help remove any oil and grime that might be hidden from view.

7. Lubricate The Chain

Lubricate The Chain

Once you are satisfied that your chain is dry and grime free its time to apply some lube. There are many different types of bike lubes in the market for various whether conditions; there is [easyazon_link identifier=”B002IDZXRM” locale=”US” tag=”bikingreviews-20″]dry lube[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B000WYCD5O” locale=”US” tag=”bikingreviews-20″]wet lube[/easyazon_link] and general multi-weather lube. If you are not sure just use a general [easyazon_link identifier=”B000QU8CGI” locale=”US” tag=”bikingreviews-20″]multipurpose lube[/easyazon_link].

When you apply lube to your chain try and use as little as possible and use a dripper bottle to easily apply lube to each link with minimal waste. Try and force the lube into each link (that’s where the lube is most needed) you can do this by spinning the cranks to force the lube to where it needs to be. Once you are happy wipe away any excess with a clean rag.

8. Lube Jockey Wheels

Lube Jockey Wheels

You only need to lightly lube the jockey wheels (they’ll pick up enough lube from the chain when the bike is used) and the lube only really needs to be applied to the point at which they spin. These jockey wheels seem to attract a lot of dirt and with lube being sticky it doesn’t pay to overdo the lube so wipe any excess off with a rag (they should look dry).

9. Unclip Cables Wipe and Lube

Unclip Cables Wipe and Lube

If your bike has internal cable routing this lube step may not be possible. Before you make a start set your rear gears into the largest sprocket and then shift into the smallest sprocket without letting your rear wheel spin. Do this will help to free up some of your inner cable allowing you to pop out the cable from the stops on the bike frame. With your cables unclipped you can easily clean and lube most dry cables can be reinvigorated and brought back to life with a little chain lube.

10. Ride Your Bike

Once you are happy that the chain is clean, well lubed and everything is back in place ride the bike for a few minutes, then check and wipe down the chain again with your clean rag to remove any lube that has dribbled out of the links and rollers. keeping your best mountain bike in tip-top shape will ensure it lasts for many years to come.

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