Tech Tips

How to clean and lube your chain in 5 steps

Most of us can't often be bothered cleaning and lubing our bike chain, yet by following these 5 simple steps the job can be done quickly and easily.

Remember: Don't apply lube to a dirty chain!


clean jockey wheel with a small tool1. Clear away gunk

I have found it best to scrape away the larger deposits of gunk before degreasing. A good place to start is your rear derailleur. Ever noticed a build up off black tar on the derailleur jockey wheels? In a perfect world we perfect people wouldn't allow it to get this bad but...





wash drivetrain with a brush2. Wash

Use hot water, a stiff brush and some bike cleaning detergent (or the stuff you use for your dishes will do). Give the drivetrain a good scrub, particularly the chain. This will remove any dirt or grit hanging around the chain and cogs and prepares the area for degreasing.

Products: Bike wash



apply degreaser to bicycle chain3. Degrease

What to use? I recommend to always use a cycling specific product. Industrial degreasers are very powerful no doubt, but they can harm some of the more delicate smaller components in your chain. Products designed for bikes often use a non-corrosive citrus or similar biodegradeable formula. The other benefit is that it won't be as toxic for you.

Apply the degreaser to your chain, rotate the cranks backwards and let it soak into the links. Grab your partner's toothbrush so you can scrub around the tricky areas like the rear derailleur (make sure you return the toothbrush once used).

Products: Degreaser

wipe bike chain with a rag4. Wipe off

Wash any remaining degreaser away with water. Grab the chain with rag in hand and rotate the cranks. Even after all this cleaning you will get black tar coming off the chain - That's ok.

Your chain should be looking pretty sparkly now and will sound crisp as it runs through the cogs on the drivetrain. Oh, sweet music!



TIP:  Keep a rag handy where you store your bike. After every ride, give the chain a quick wipe off. This removes any excess lube or gunk collected from the ride and keeps your chain nice and clean. The lube remains where you want it- in the links, doing its job.


apply lubricant to the chain5. Re-lube

One of the reasons for the tar build-up we removed in the first step is over lubricating. We have all been guilty of this at some time or another and thankfully it hasn't been criminalized (although in some riding groups you wonder...)

Lube should only be applied to a clean chain and as little as possible is best. Ideally you want the lube to penetrate into the chain links as this is where the chain contacts the cogs, not the outside links. Rotate the cranks to get maximum coverage.

Don't worry if you over do it, the last step is to again grab the chain with a rag and wipe away any excess lube.

Products: Chain lube

TIP:  Use the lightest lube you can get away with for the conditions. If using a dry waxy lube, the trick is on the first use. Apply thoroughly and leave overnight if possible, then wipe off excess and apply again.



It is a simple job, but important an important one in order to have a smooth running bike. After lubing that crisp chain sound will now be the puuuurrr of a happy drivetrain.



ProfileAuthor: Christian Woodcock
Christian loves riding bikes. He has many years experience working in bike shops and has raced mountain bikes at a high level with success. These days expect to see him climbing and suffering on a road bike, or talking it up on the trails with mates.

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