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Easy and effective on-the-bike chain cleaning

The fastest way to clean your chain and drivetrain

ClockUpdated 08:03, Thursday 14th September 2023. Published 11:00, Tuesday 12th September 2023
Alex Paton
Global Cycling Network
Alex Paton
GCN Tech Presenter

Impressive sprinter - quite possibly the fastest member of the GCN team

If you want to clean your chain in a hurry, this is the best method. You can do it without removing your chain from your bike, with just some running water, a clean cloth, a bottle of degreaser and a brush. It won't be as thorough as if you remove the chain and soak it in degreaser, but for a quick, post-ride clean, this is perfect.

Tools Needed

Change into the large chainring and middle of the cassette

Step 1

Prepare your chain

Carefully lean your bike against a wall or fence that you don't mind getting wet. If you have a work stand, place your bike in it.

Shift into the large chainring at the front and the middle of the cassette at the back. This creates a straight chain line, reducing the risk of the chain slipping off the cassette while cleaning.

Spray degreaser directly onto your chain

Step 2

Degrease your chain

Backpedal the bike and spray the degreaser directly onto the lower run of the chain, avoiding the disc brakes or wheel bearings.

Spray degreaser onto the brush, rather than directly onto the components

Step 3

Degrease the cassette and components, then wait

Spray degreaser onto a stiff brush then scrub the cassette and pulley wheels. Work the degreaser into all the areas using the brush while backpedalling.

Pay attention to hard-to-reach areas, such as behind the chainring and the gap in the derailleur.

Once you've applied the degreaser, give it a few minutes to work its magic.


Top Tip

If you have disc brakes, you can protect them from grease, oil or dirt by covering them with something clean, like a plastic bag.

Simple water at low pressure is enough to wash off the degreaser

Step 4

Wash off the degreaser

Take the hose pipe and use low-pressure water to wash off the degreaser from all the components.

Hold the hose over the cassette, backpedal the bike, and flush out the degreaser with clean water.

Assess the cleanliness of the chain. For regular maintenance, one cleaning application might be sufficient. If the chain is still dirty, repeat the process one or two more times, focusing on the inside areas of the chain.

Dry your chain and drivetrain with a cloth

Step 5

Dry your drivetrain off

Take a clean cloth and thoroughly dry the chain and drivetrain components. This step is crucial – now we've removed all the oils and lubricants from the drivetrain, the components will rust if left wet.

Grip the cloth firmly on the bottom run of the chain, backpedal the bike, and dry the chain off. Check the cloth for black marks, which indicate remaining dirt. If necessary, repeat the degreasing process.


Apply lube to each chain link

Step 6

Lubricate your chain

Apply a chain lube of your choice, placing one drop per roller for the entire length of the chain.

Backpedal the bike a few times to work the chain lube between the links, pins, and rollers.

Excess lube will attract dirt and grime

Step 7

Remove excess lubricant

Finally, wipe off any excess lube from the external surfaces of the chain, using a clean cloth. Excess lube on the outside of the chain won't help your drivetrain efficiency, and it'll attract dirt, dust and grime from the road.

GCN's Essential Road Bike Maintenance
GCN's Essential Road Bike Maintenance

For road, gravel, commuter and hybrid bikes, Essential Road Bike Maintenance is intended to be a proper bible to all those essential bike maintenance, repairs, and set-up tasks that we all need to know. Everything from basic bike set-up, how to get your wheels on and off, through setting up gears, bleeding brakes, and beyond to things like installing electronic gears, converting to a 1x transmission and more. In a nutshell, pretty much everything you would want to tackle on your bike (or bikes, plural) yourself. And then some. Like bike set up tips for taller and shorter riders; bottom bracket standards explained; common bike maintenance mistakes and how to avoid them; essential roadside fixes to keep you riding; how to make your bike more comfortable; how to puncture-proof your ride and much, much more. “A huge amount of knowledge, hacks, and know-how to help improve both your workshop skills and your ride” – Ollie Bridgewood, GCN Presenter Each chapter is structured with the tasks you’ll most likely need more of the time at the start (like how to adjust your gears, replacing brake pads, or changing a tyre), before running through to those that you’ll do much more infrequently (such as changing disc brake hoses, servicing a freehub or pedals, and so on). This also means that many of the tasks naturally ratchet up in difficulty as you go through each chapter which should also mirror your natural progression as you become more mechanically capable and confident. In short, 260 pages packed with all the essential knowledge you’ll need to confidently take on and complete pretty much any bike maintenance task. Get Some ‘Show-How’ With Your ‘Know-How’ Each walkthrough is linked to a companion video which you can watch for free from your computer, tablet or smartphone. To watch, either type in the walkthrough’s short-link URL – e.g. https://gcn.eu/GetPerfectShifting – into your browser, or scan the QR code with your smartphone or tablet so you can get the best of both worlds: know-how and show-how. Simple. All you need to know to fix your bike. Product Details: Pages: 260 (120sm) Size: 280mm (h) x 216mm (w) (portrait) Cover: Paperback Cover Finish: 300gsm, silk stock with anti-scuff matte laminate and spot UV gloss finish Please note: There may be some additional shipping charges for orders consisting of 2 or more books. However, our customer service team will contact you after you have placed the order to advise on delivery options. Click here to explore all GCN best selling books

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