How to degrease and lube your bike chain

How to degrease and lube your bike chain

How can we keep your chain running efficiently
and prolong its lifetime? Well the answer is simple, keep it clean and well lubricated.
It all sounds pretty simple so far doesn’t it but it can be contradictory when you consider
that your lube can act as a dirt magnet so here’s some top tips for degreasing and lubing
your chain. Before you clean and lube your chain make
sure you have a clean bike. Clean your chain often and well. Leave the
chain on the bike and use plenty of good quality degreaser to get all the dirt and old oil
off. A paint brush with some degreaser is the best combination. You can also use a cut
down water bottle which can be placed in the seat tube bottle cage. This keeps the degreaser
close at hand and also reduces the chance of it getting spilt. Clean the rings, jockey wheels and sprockets
too. If you still have dried muck stuck in the sprocket, use a small screwdriver to help
remove this. Wash the degreaser off and dry the chain with a clean cloth before lubricating.
Lubricate the chain with a good quality bike specific lubricant – you need to apply enough
lubricant to flow into the space between the rollers and the side plates. Run the chain
round a few times and change up and down the gears to get some oil on the sprockets. Next,
wipe off the excess with a rag, pulling the rag along each section of the chain. For the majority of conditions, the Great
Britain Cycling Team use a wet lube. Wet lubes penetrate the chain and get to the crucial
roller pin interface and stay wet stopping rain and mud getting into the chain but they
do attract dust so wipe off any excess. Dry lube reduces the attraction of dust by
using a light solvent carrier to get the friction reducing additives into the chain, the carrier
evaporating once it has done its job. But experts say that the additives aren’t as effective
as wet lubrication. If you choose to use wet lube all year round, then in summer spend
a little more time wiping off the excess and a bit more care applying less of it in the
first place. And finally, check your chain stretch. Now
this isn’t actually stretch but wear to the chain pins and the internal surface of the
roller making the chain longer, hence the term stretch. You’ll need a chain checker
to do this but they don’t cost too much. The simplest ones slot into the chain and
measure 0.75% extension on one side over the nominal original length and 1% when flipped
over to the other side. 0.75% extension means your chain is showing signs of wear and you
should start thinking about getting a replacement. 1% means you need to change your chain for
a new one or you’ll quickly wear out your chain rings and cassette so it does save you
money further down the line. So by following these four simple steps for
degreasing, lubing and checking your chain, you’ll be prolonging the life of your drive

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. How can you tell when to lubricate the chain because i lubricated my chain a month or two ago but did not ride it at all, so should i lubricate it again?

  2. Did this look almost accidentally like three GCN episode about cleaning your bike? British Cycling separated the two but everything about degreasing and lubing was the same

  3. Don’t forget that if running an 11 speed Shimano chain then the manufacturer recommends replacement when wear reaches 0.5mm!

  4. Personally I never use degreaser it is much too aggressive and will remove all the oil between the pins and rollers. Use warm neutral (no salt) soapy water. Be very careful puting degreaser around the cassette sprockets as you do not want degreaser to pass the freehub seal and ruin the bearing. Rather than a screwdriver to clean between the sprokets use a cloth with something like GT85 on it.
    Wet lube is best in the UK but as do wipe off excess otherwise it will spray all over your bike, especially the rear wheel braking surface.
    I have seen many chains that have worn out prematurely because they have been "over cleaned" with degreaser.
    Check out the KMC site after all they do manufacture them.

  5. Best way to clean chain is to take it off. Then submerge the whole chain in to a jar of fuel. In Australia we call it petrol, in America you call it gas, I don't know what other countries call it ? Maybe Benzine ? Leave the chain in jar of Petrol and make sure you give it a good shake. After 1 hour pull chain out of jar and be surprised at amount of dirt and metal particles left behind in jar. Then submerge chain in another jar of methylated spirit . Shake it well, take it out and let it dry. Install chain on bicycle and lube the chain, one link at a time. be certain your lube goes into roller bearings. I use TF 2 dry lube and it does a great job. Smooth gear changes and so quiet. wipe off excess lube off your chain and ready to go. As a rule, after every ride I wipe chain well and lube again. And once a month it's chain off bike and clean as above, And my chain and drive never wear and no problems. You can't really clean chain properly on bicycle, specially when you run the risk of degreaser or detergent water entering bearing in your cassette.

  6. I always clean the chain BEFORE washing&cleaning the rest of the bike though. Degreasing with a brush (or spray degreaser) is a messy process because it creates oily-dirty spatter from applying while turning the cranks.

  7. After many decades of lubing a chain, I’ve found that adding one drop per roller is the best method. Anymore and it’s a waste and makes a mess.

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