Keeping your bike chain in decent condition and cleaning it when it needs, is keeping it in a good health and in good working condition. In turn, it will reward you with the highest possible ride quality. And also, will last you as long as it should.
So, let’s answer the question of how often I should clean my bike chain. The best is to do a light cleaning after every ride, especially in wet or muddy conditions. But otherwise at least after each 60-70 miles riding.
Let’s get over the finer details.
How often should I clean my bike chain?
The best practice is to lightly clean it after every ride, though if you ride it only in dry weather only on pavement, you can get away with cleaning it only once a week.
The other rule is to clean it after a certain number of miles, depending on how and where you ride.
For cross, MTBs, and if driving it often in inclement weather; it is recommended to clean the chain at least after each 60-70 miles of driving it or once every week.
For road bikes, if you ride it only in dry conditions, you can extend this period to 150 miles or once every month. In these cases, a deeper cleaning is a must.
Why should you clean your bike chain?
For the bike chain to work properly it needs to be lubed. Otherwise, the friction between chain links and transmission parts will cause tremendous wear on all of them.
But lube catches dust, sand, dirt, and other grime and muck; that counteracts the lubrication and also causes excessive wear on the chain.
But also makes chain work less than optimal and leads to noisy, dirty rides and hard shifts. With proper care, a higher-quality chain can last up to 10,000 miles before needing a replacement.
When cleaning the bike chain is overdue?
Does it look dirty? Then cleaning is due. But it is overdue when you start hearing strange irregular noises coming from it when you are pedaling.
This will start happening quite a while after it starts just plain looking dirty and mucky, and in need of cleaning.
Difficulties shifting the gears is another sure symptom that cleaning is way overdue, along with the lagging sensation, as if there is a delay between pushing a pedal and the wheels turning.
What equipment do I need for cleaning a bike chain?
To do a light clean, all you need is a lint-free rag and a lube of your choice. Surprisingly little, but if you do it regularly works wonders, and I will explain how to do it later on.
If you wish to do a more proper deep clean, like a pro racing mechanic, you will need some gear:
- degreaser, citrus-based store-bought or home-made work equally good,
- brush with stiff short bristles, for the chain,
- brush with stiff longer bristles, for sprockets,
- a container for degreaser, a bidon with a cut-off top is big enough and can be placed in the bidon cage for easy brush dipping,
- garden hose or similar devices that can produce a water stream with pressure, like weed sprayers or squeeze bottles,
- A chain keeper, frame spacer, or plastic divider from a travel kit.
Are special cleaning kits, tools, or products really needed?
No, they are not necessary if you are doing proper cleaning often enough. Special cleaning kits, tools, and processes are very good at cleaning very dirty chains.
But if your chain is not embarrassingly filthy it will not produce better results than the two methods I’ll explain going forward.
How to do light clean up?
The easiest way is to do a light clean-up after every ride, and for that, you need just a piece of lint-free rag and lube.
Just wrap the cloth around the chain and backpedal it to wipe the dirt from its exterior. With the rag, you can wipe road dirt from the derailleur pulley wheels and chainrings.
Then you need to reapply the lube. The lube will bring dirt stuck between chain links to the surface, so repeating these two steps 2-3 times will give the best results.
How to clean a bike chain like a pro mechanic
Pro mechanics will tell you that there are no benefits to taking the chain off your bike to clean it, and the way they do it is more than good enough if you clean the chain always before the muck dries on it. So, how do they do it?
First, you need to take off the rear wheel and install a chain keeper or above mentioned alternative. Then with a longer bristled brush apply a degreaser to remove dirt from the derailleur, chainrings, and cassette sprockets. With the shorter, rub the whole chain with a degreaser.
Once done, you can let it sit for a couple of minutes before hosing everything with water. Lastly, you can speed up the drying with a clean rag or compressed air.
And it is important that everything is bone dry before replacing the rear wheel and applying the lube.
What happens if I don’t clean my bike chain?
If you don’t clean your bike chain all the road dirt will accumulate on it. It will get between inner and outer links, and rollers. Here it will cause a lot of problems, making the chain links not work/bend as they should.
And also cause excessive wear of the chain, leading to a loss of its performance and making lube inefficient.
What happens if I don’t lube my bike chain?
The bike chain is made of metal inner and outer links, and when the chain goes around, they rotate around rollers and rub against each other.
Metal-on-metal rubbing causes a lot of friction and very quickly causes catastrophic failure.
Read also > > Bike Noise When Pedaling (6 Reasons Why)
If you have ever wondered how often I should clean my bike chain, this should be a complete answer. The best practice is to do a light cleaning after every ride, especially if you ride only on dry pavement.
But depending on the riding environment, you should clean it after roughly every 60-70 miles, or every 150 miles.