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Cycling Mainetance: A Better Way To Clean A Chain (And the Drivetrain)

April 2014
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Last year a fellow cyclist left a comment on one of my bike maintenance posts about chain cleaning.  For the last (going on) three years I’ve stuck with the tried and true chain cleaning tool and I felt that it did a nice enough job even if it wasn’t perfect… His suggestion was to completely remove the chain and submerge it for an hour or two in degreaser before wiping it clean and reinstalling it for the re-lube. This seemed like a lot of extra work so I just filed it away in case I ever needed to cart it out.

Lo and behold, Mrs. Bgddy, in a spring cleaning frenzy, has placed my chain cleaning tool God knows where – I surely couldn’t find it. Yesterday was to be our first day in the sixties since October and with the sun is shining, there was no way I was missing out on an afternoon ride before taking my daughter to swimming practice.  We’re also riding this evening as the temps should be favorable yet again… and after Sunday’s ride, my chain needed a cleaning.  What to do?

I have a chain tool in my tool kit but I also use a SRAM Powerlink so with a pair of pliers I don’t even need the chain tool.  It was time to see if there was anything to that suggestion…  I started off with an instructional video on how to remove a chain:

I removed the chain as instructed (oh my, it was easier anticipated), and dunked it in a small bowl of degreaser.  While I was waiting, I took to the drive train to clean it and was quite pleased at how easy it is to clean everything with the chain off.  You be the judge (and keep in mind, I’ve got more than 1,500 miles on this chain):
IMG_4053 IMG_4056
Once everything was clean (<ten minutes), I just let the chain sit in the degreaser for another hour, wiped it off and re-dunked it for another half an hour.  I wiped it down and dried it off and it absolutely sparkled – I’ve never had a chain that clean before.  I reinstalled the chain (30 seconds) and after giving it an hour to air dry on the bike, I applied some new lube, Boeshield T-9 (the best, clean chain lube on the market IMHO).

I will never use a chain cleaning tool again.
Working around the cassette was too easy without the chain on and cleaning the chain rings took seconds without having to shift the chain to get at the other ring.  Also, because I didn’t degrease the chain on the bike, I didn’t have degreaser dripping all over things that I didn’t want degreased.  Now, I won’t lie, using this method doesn’t take any time off of the entire process, it just makes the tasks much easier and the end result is spectacular.  Previously I was never able to get my drivetrain totally clean because the chain would attract old, black lube while I was moving it around to get at all of the different sprockets clean.  It was close, but taking the chain off is much less labor intensive with much better results.

Now, I realize for some, the thought of removing and reinstalling the chain to clean it might seem daunting – I can make this leap because it was for me, but trust me, once you get the hang of it the process is too easy.


  1. Yes, there is really no excuse for not giving it an off the bike thorough cleaning once in a while. I typically remove the chain every time I clean it on my road bike. On the commuter, however, more often than not I’ll just wipe it down and add fresh lube once a week or so, then give it a good bath monthly (in warm weather).

    • bgddyjim says:

      Hey, good to hear from you brother. Hope all is well.

      It took a while to get over my ridiculous fear of taking the maintenance far enough to mess something up. I had my bottom bracket apart for a thorough cleaning last night too (stinkin’ BB30 setup is terrible for collecting dirt).

  2. Nick says:

    Great article! Next time I do a deep clean I’ll give this a try.

  3. Daniel Weise says:

    Ah, bike maintenance. I knew I was forgetting something. Of course I need to get on the bike and put in some miles before I have to do maintenance. Might just have to try this method when its time.

  4. t-9 is the best bike lube i use it on pretty much every moving part that i can

  5. fastk9dad says:

    I had been using T-9 until someone turned me on the Chain-L. It’s not quite as “clean” as T-9 but I don’t think I’ve ever had a quieter chain and it’s supposed to be long lasting… Only been running it for a couple of hundred miles now but so far so good.

  6. saltyvelo says:

    April Fool’s! Glad it worked out for you….

  7. […] haven’t worked my butt off to have some little punk in a bicycle shop tell me my business.  As Big Daddy Jim says, “When I’m right, I’m right.”  I like to pretend that is all the […]

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