Introduction: How to Clean Your Bike Chain and Drivetrain

About: I love all things bikes! I love working and tinkering on random projects. Currently into bands like Delay, Donovan Wolfington, Hour of the Wolf, Tigers Jaw, and stuff like it.

Do you have legs that you use to ride a bike? If so, then you've probably had grease stains on your fancy pants more than a few times.


Don't worry. Keep your legs. They aren't the problem. A dirty chain is the culprit. With a few steps you can guarantee those stretch jeans remain ridiculous and dirt free.

A few Items you will need:

  • Rags
  • Solvent and Lube
  • Gloves
  • Firm Brush ( a toothbrush will get the job done)
  • Small screwdriver

Let's get started.

Step 1: Check to Make Sure the Chain Is Worth Cleaning

If you chain is worn than it might need to be replaced rather than refaced. ( it rhymed.... leave me alone)

  • Take a ruler and measure from the center of a link pin. The 24th pin down the line should be exactly 12 inches apart from the first pin you're measuring from. Each chain link is made exactly half an inch long. If the chain is stretched 1/16 inch or more it's time to start thinking about a new chain.

Step 2: Wipe the Chain Down

Usually your chain can be cleaned up with a simple wipe down unless it is caked with the really nasty stuff.

CAUTION! If you don't want to be cleaning your own finger meat out of your chain and rear sprocket then I would suggest taking it slow. DO NOT spin the chain through the rag at full speed. While you might save some time doing this you might save some digits by not doing this.

  • Snap those gloves on doc!
  • If it's caked on then take your brush and a little solvent and scrub scrub scrub. ( you can use a container and some solvent to dip the chain into to dissolve the tougher grime)
  • Dampen the rag with your solvent.
  • Proceed to scrub on the sides, top, and bottom of the chain with the rag.
  • Slowly move the chain along to clean the entire length.
  • Spend a few minutes going over the chain multiple times.
  • Wipe off the excess solvent

Step 3: Cassette Cleaning

Keeping your cassette clean will help you ensure a smooth ride.

  • Remove your rear wheel.
  • Place it flat with the cassette facing up.
  • Dampen a rag with solvent
  • Place the edge of the towel between each pair of cogs and use the same towel crotch flossing motion weird people use when they get out the shower ( or like a shoe shine)
  • Go through each pair of cogs while rotating to thoroughly clean them.
  • Replace the wheel on the bike.

Step 4: Crankset Cleaning

The crankset might have some tough buildup but it's worth cleaning.

  • Take the chain of the small ring.
  • Use the screwdriver to carefully scrape away the thicker deposits.
  • Use the brush to thoroughly scrub the large and small chainrings.
  • Take your rag and give it one last wipe clean.

Step 5: Derailleurs Detailing

By now you should be getting the hang of it. One last thing to clean.

  • Give it a little scrub with the brush.
  • Wipe any sludge away with a rag.
  • Run a rag through the front derailleur.

Step 6: Lube

WD-40 is not your best option. Using a lubricant designed for a bike will help keep your bike clean and riding smooth.

  • Add a drop of lube to each link of the chain.
  • Give it a slow spin to work it in.
  • Take your rag and wipe off the excess lube. ( if you leave to much on then dirt will stick and grime will build up easier)

Step 7: Maintain and Have Fun

You've spent all this time cleaning up your ride so make things easier on yourself and keep maintaining your bike. It's easy to do and it makes your ride more enjoyable.

Please let me know if there is anything else you would like to see added. Thank you for reading!