Dirt, grease and sand are arch enemies of your drivetrain but most people don’t understand the right way to take care of the chain and cassette. This step-by-step guide will take your chain from gross to gleaming in no time.
You can buy a chain cleaning machine that you fill with special chain cleaning fluid but I have found that system is wasteful and not that effective. A better way is to make your own cleaning kit. You need a cheap spray bottle, Dawn dishwashing liquid, an old toothbrush (or a current one from someone you dislike), and a few rags. Make your cleaning solution by putting about a quarter inch of Dawn in the bottom of the sprayer and filling the rest up with water. You will also need a bottle of high-quality chain lube like the stuff you can buy from my shop ;). Got all that? Great, let’s get started.
Liberally spray the chain and cassette with your cleaning solution while pedaling your crank backward (or forward if you have a way to prop up the back wheel).
Wipe the chain with the rag while rotating the chain. Don’t grip too hard, you don’t want to make the chain jump off the gears. Look at your formerly clean rag….Ick.
Spray the cleaning solution on again and get that toothbrush or other brush into the links and on the cassette. Wipe the chain with the rag again and repeat as needed until your chain and cassette look like new.
For even deeper cleaning, you can use some citrus degreaser.
Now your chain and cassette look great, but you are not done yet. Next get your chain lube and carefully position the bottle so the tip of the bottle lines up with the rollers on the chain links.
Rotate the chain allowing the lube to lightly drip on the links as they go by. Fight the urge to squeeze the bottle, you don’t want an over-lubed chain! Also, don’t put lube on the cassette, it will only cause trouble.
Ready for the last step? Grab a clean part of your rag and run the chain again wiping off as much lube as possible. I know, I know, it sounds wrong but the chain only needs lube on the inside of the rollers. Lube on the outside of the chain will only get dirty and nasty faster. If you ride several times a week it would be a good idea to clean your chain once a month. That will make your drivetrain last longer and save you future repair bills.