Cleaning and Lubing Your Bike

  • Home
  • Cleaning and Lubing Your Bike

C-Sig Training Series

Cleaning and Lubing Your Bike

  1. Clean your chain every 200 miles, or when the chain gets wet, to prevent road dirt from wearing out the chain on the inside. This wearing is sometimes incorrectly called chain stretch because a worn chain is longer, but nothing actually stretches, the links just loosen. A worn chain will eventually wear out the front and rear gears.
  1. Mount the bike on a stand so you can freely turn the pedals backwards.
  1. Put newspaper or a drop cloth (plastic dry cleaner bags work just throw out afterwards) under the bike to catch excess oil spray and drips. Use another rag to shield the lower part of the wheel rim from oil.
  1. Using a clean cotton rag on the chain, backpedal 4 times to remove excess dirt and grit. Use a degreaser that will not harm the bike s paint such as WD-40 or a citrus degreaser from a bike shop. The WD-40 comes with a small straw that fits in the nozzle for precise application. The citrus degreaser is a non-petroleum product. Backpedal as you apply the product, then let it sit for several minutes to penetrate and loosen remaining old lubrication and dirt.
  1. Meanwhile, apply light bicycle oil or the WD-40 to pivot points on the derailleur. Wipe off any excess. (Don't use on the hubs, bottom bracket or pedals that are greased because the WD-40 or bike oil will can dissolve the grease.). An old-fashioned threaded quill headset (the kind held together by a big nut) could also use some oil, but not a modern unthreaded headset.
  1. Another approach to cleaning the chain is a plastic chain cleaner from the bike shop. Follow the directions to fill it with citrus (detergent-based) degreaser, snap it over the chain and rotate the pedals backwards twenty times. Clean out the little tank and do this twice. With practice, this approach can be less messy than hand cleaning and works fine for modern chains. The citrus degreaser can also be used with the hand cleaning approach. Here is the background on the changes in cleaning chains in recent years: Modern bicycle chains (since the mid- 80 s) lack bushings (inner metal tubes) at each link, so they are much easier to clean than before. In the old days, cyclists even cleaned their chains by soaking them overnight in gasoline. Modern chains, with no bushings to hold in the dirt, are very easy to clean so choose the most convenient method for you.
  1. Toothbrush off any dirt on clipless pedals, then brush excess dirt from the derailleur, bottom bracket and wheel hubs. Use a sponge or rag dipped in soapy water or a cleaner like Simple Green or Bike Wash to clean the bike frame, wheel rims and spokes. Dry thoroughly. To remove any oil from the wheel rims, wash the wheel rims with a very dilute solution of dishwashing soap and water using a clean oil-free rag or paper towels. As part of your post-ride tire check, make it a practice to wipe dirt off the wheel rims after every ride; it will prolong the life and effectiveness of your brake pads.
  1. Now it is time to lube the chain. Choose between wax-based oil like White Lightning and non-wax lube like TriFlo or ProLink. Each has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of wax-based products are that they somewhat pull dirt out of the chain and they protect well in wet weather. The disadvantage of wax-based lubricant is that it dissipates quickly and must be applied weekly or before each long ride. If you use oil, you will have to choose between light and heavier oil. The light stays cleaner and is good for day trips in dry weather. The heavier attracts more dirt, but is needed for wet weather or multi-day journeys when you might face many prolonged dirty or wet conditions.
  1. Oil products like TriFlo or ProLink must be applied very sparingly then wiped off the outside of the chain so they don't attract more dirt. Rotate the chain one time only as you add the lube by drops to the links, but don't worry too much about applying to every link. Then rapidly spin the wheel so that the lube applies itself evenly over all the links in the chain. Wipe down any excess with a lint-free cloth. Oil lubes will last several hundred miles between applications, but must be reapplied after riding in wet weather. If you can hear your chain, oil it!
  1. Check the wheel rims a final time to ensure that no oil has leaked on them; oil on the rim will adversely affect your ability to brake.

 Source: T.K. at Larry & Jeff s Bicycles Plus, 1690 2nd Ave., NY, NY (Since updated)


cycling trips