Chain maintenance – Lube it… in practice

This morning I put into practice some basic chain maintenance. I wiped down my chain. Too many rides through wet and grimy roads and then a few miles on crushed limestone path this past weekend had left too much grit accumulating on my chain.

Per Mike Kaelon’s advice in “Lube it or Lose it,” I followed the advice to “first wipe the chain down, and get it as clean as possible just using a rag.” I know I need to do better in my daily – post-ride – maintenance of my bikes. Unfortunately I usually allow too much time to pass between such maintenance and my chains often end up gunky and worn out more quickly than they should be.

I’m currently using SpinPower Superior Chain Lube and have yet to test the White Lightning “The Trigger” Clean Streak Chain Cleaner. We’ll see how ambitious I feel in pursuing my in-home mechanical skills or if my bikes just end up in the shop.

All the grit that came off my chain just from wiping it down this morning:
chain grit

A bit cleaner:

I still think my whole drivetrain could benefit from a thorough cleaning:
rear derailleur
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Grit still in the cassette:

Last week I took my commuter to the shop to get looked at since I couldn’t shift. The rear derailleur was so gunked up — just from my lack of regular wipe downs:

It’s time to get tuned up for summer riding! (hopefully this season will be less messy all around)


  1. Jack

    Nice clear photos!

    I have been using Simple Green lately. It works great. I just soak the chain in it, dry it with a rag, and then lube it up. Works great. I haven’t put my rear derailleur in it, but figure I could.

    Good luck.

  2. Elizabeth

    A shop guy told me to avoid Simple Green — as it can leave a residue film. But — I do have it and have liked it in the past. I used to used it to clean my rims, but now (per my LBS’s advice) just use alcohol on a rag for that job. Haven’t tried it on any drivetrain parts.

  3. Rusty Wright

    I use the citrus orange based stuff. I hold a rag against the underside of the chain and scrub the chain with a toothbrush dipped in the orange cleaner. Helps keep the orange cleaner from dripping on the rest of the bike and the floor. This gizmo makes it easier to manage the chain when you remove the rear wheel.

  4. Tejvan Pettinger

    Nice post. I just had a 10 spd Shimano Dura Ace chain snap, it was actually a little mucky as its easy to get into bad habits of spraying stuff on, but not cleaning muck off.

  5. middleagedmaninlycra

    I’m primarily a mountain-biker but the same rules apply whether you’re riding on or off road when it comes to the chain. A dirty chain will grind away at all the other components it comes into contact with and will reduce the working life of chain rings and rear cassette, etc. A clean chain will prolong the life of the other drive-train components and cost you less in the long run.

    It’s also safer–a clean, well-maintained chain is less likely to break.

    Incidentally, I did a basic bike maintenance course a couple of months back and the trainer poo-pooed all chain cleaners as a waste of money. He used diesel fuel, which costs a fraction of the price of branded cleaning fluids, and I have never seen a chain look so clean. Of course disposing of the diesel is an issue…

  6. josh

    Could use BIOdiesel…

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