Everyone should know how to clean a bike chain.
Maintaining a clean chain on your bike will improve performance, make it run more quietly, and increase its lifespan. Additionally, it will avoid those dreaded grease stains.
Table of Contents
Do You Need To Clean A Bike Chain?
A clean chain will obviously be faster than a dirty chain, but by how much? Various testing protocols have shown an average loss of one to two percent in power at a moderate 250w output, depending on the chain and its level of cleanliness. Friction losses, which can drain an extra three to five watts compared to a clean chain, are the main cause of the difference. And this is only after a few road trips.
Naturally, friction increases with chain cleanliness, increasing power output losses by increasing friction and, ultimately, chain lubrication. Three to five percent of your total power output can be lost due to a chain that is caked in mud, a common occurrence in cyclocross and mountain biking.
Soap Or Degreaser?
Choosing your cleaning solution, such as a soap or bike-specific degreaser, is the first step in cleaning your bike chain. Actually, you can complete the task without any fancy equipment, and you can even buy what you require at your neighborhood grocery store.
I only ever clean the surface of drivetrain components with Dawn dish soap because I’ve found that nearly every commercially available degreaser is too harsh. It eliminates all of the lubricant from the chain rollers’ interior, which cannot be replaced by simply drizzling lube on the chain’s surface but rather necessitates removing the chain and soaking it in a lube bath.
How To Clean Your Chain By Removing It From Your Bike
Having a quick-link instead of constantly using a chain breaker will make your life much simpler if you approach things in this manner.
Using an ultrasonic cleaner to clean your chain after it has been removed from the bike is advised by industry experts, with the caveat that they are only truly effective when used correctly. These devices can be pricey, typically costing between 50 and 100 pounds.
An ultrasonically cleaned chain combined with the best bike chain lube will undoubtedly reduce the frequency of cleaning required, so some of the costs may be offset. However, it may not completely replace the need for standard cleaning supplies like rags, degreaser, and sponges.
When cleaning your bike chain without an ultrasonic machine, use a sealed container filled with Simple Green cleaning solution. Simply place the chain inside the container, secure it, and shake ferociously. Even though this cleaning won’t be as thorough as an ultrasonic device, it will still be less expensive.
Check out our article on what an ultrasonic cleaner is and whether or not you should buy one if you’re still not sure if you want to spend the money.
Read More: How To Clean A Bike?
Problems To Watch For When Cleaning
These links are brittle and no longer bend easily. Watch each link of your chain as it travels through the narrow turns of your rear derailleur to identify them as you slowly pedal your chain backward.
Most are brought on by corrosion or dirt between link plates, which can be remedied with cleaning, lubrication, and a little back-and-forth flexing. Others are the result of poor pin installation (the pin holding the chain links together is not fully inserted through the links and rollers) or severe chain damage. Using a chain tool or your hands, you may be able to move improperly installed link pins back and forth inside their chain plates until they are in the proper position. Chains that are broken need to be entirely replaced.
Chains grow longer as they deteriorate. Stretch is the name given to this, but nothing actually stretches, so the name is misleading. Chains grow longer as the link pins and rollers wear down. This creates slop or free play that leads to gear “skipping” in some cases. Your chain rings and back cog teeth experience additional wear and tear as a result.
Compared to a cog set, a chain is much less expensive to replace. Use a chain wear-indicator tool to determine whether your chain is too worn and needs to be replaced.