The thread that ties (literally) your drivetrain together is the chain and keeping that bad boy clean is the ticket to miles and miles of happy pedaling. You don’t want to be that guy squeaking it up on your group ride so here are the basics. These instructions are relevant for any type of bicycle with a chain.
Degrease The Chain
Start by degreasing the chain. We recomend a citrus based degreaser like Pedros Oranje Peels Degreaser or a similar degreaser. Coat the chain, cassette, jockey wheels and chainrings with your degreaser of choice and give it a good brushing. you can use a toothbrush or whatever you got laying around. You could use one of those chain cleaner widgets but I’m not sold on their usefulness given how muh of a hassle they are to setup and clean.
Wash Your Bike
Citrus degreaser can leave a residue on your bike and the chain so you do need to wash after using it. Which is fine for the average rider who should clean their chain about as often as they wash their bike. I wash my road bike after about 12 hours of riding unless there is rain. I wash my mountain bike after every 4 hours of riding when it’s dry.
Concentrate on the drivetrain by turning the crank while holding the chain in your soapy rag.
Lubricate Your Chain
After your chain is completely dry you need to lube it. Don’t wait over night or much more than a couple hours as you run the risk of rust. My personal favorite for all of my bikes is DuMonde Tech (no endorsement asked for/taken) but you can also do great with any number of other bicycle specific chain lubes. DO NOT USE WD40. WD40 is a cleaner for electronics…not a lube. If you have to you can get by with 3 in 1 oil or silicon based lube. What lube to use is entirely dependent on where you ride, what you ride and how you ride.
This takes longer than just slapping it on there but it is worth the time; drop lube onto each individual link. You may be tempted to simply spin the chain and hold the bottle of lube there and let it rip!
Lube the Bushings
This only place on the chain that needs the lube is in the bushings. Not the outside and all over the plates…that just attracts dirt. After you have individually dropped lubricant onto each bushing spin the crank for about 2 minutes to set it in.
Wipe the Chain
take a clean(ish) rag and grab the chain and spin the crank to clean up excess lube. If you want to take it to another level you can put a little bit of alcohol in another rag and ever so lightly do the same thing to get the excess lube of the outside of the chain. Be careful not to squeeze hard and push alcohol into the bushings.
If you’re lubing a geared bike now would be the time to check your shifting.
BONUS TIP: Wipe the chain with a rag after every ride. The forces of riding can push lube out of the chain and attract dirt and grime.