The Short Answer is:
To clean a mountain bike chain, first, use a degreaser. You can use a designated chain cleaner tool or a brush to apply the degreaser. After applying the degreaser, wait for five minutes and then wash it off with water. You can clean the rest of the bike while waiting. Next, rub down the chain with soapy water and a rinse to clean off excess degreaser. Finally, choose the appropriate lube for your chain based on the weather and riding conditions. Use wet lube if you ride in wet, muddy conditions, and dry lube if you ride in dry conditions.
Mountain biking is an exhilarating sport, but it can also be a dirty one. Mud, sand, and other debris can easily accumulate on your bike chain, causing it to wear out faster and affecting your bike’s performance. That’s why it’s important to know how to clean a mountain bike chain.
In this article, we’ll provide you with some tips and tricks on how to properly clean your bike chain, so you can keep your bike running smoothly and extend the life of your chain.
Table of Contents
Preparing Your Bike and Workspace
Before cleaning your mountain bike chain, it is important to properly prepare your bike and workspace. Here are some steps you can follow:
- Position your bike: Position your bike in a way that allows easy access to the chain and drivetrain. One way to do this is to place your bike in a bike stand, but you can also flip your bike over and rest it on its handlebars and seat.
- Assemble your supplies: Gather all the supplies you will need to clean your chain. This may include a degreaser, chain lubricant, rags, brushes, and a chain cleaning tool. Make sure your workspace is well-ventilated and protected from spills.
- Clean the rear cogs and derailleur pulleys: Before cleaning the chain, clean the rear cogs and derailleur pulleys to prevent the chain from getting dirty again as soon as you ride. You can use a rag and degreaser to clean these areas.
By properly preparing your bike and workspace, you will make the process of cleaning your mountain bike chain more efficient and effective.
Removing Excess Dirt and Debris
To remove excess dirt and debris from a mountain bike chain, here are some steps to follow:
- Rinse off the cassette, chain, chainrings, and derailleur pulleys with a low-pressure stream of water.
- Avoid squirting water directly into any bearings or other parts that require lubrication.
- Wrap the chain with a clean, lint-free cloth, and then backpedal the drivetrain through it to wipe off the exterior muck.
- Repeat the process until the rag stays mostly clean.
- Use the rag to scrape the crud off of the derailleur pulley wheels and chainrings.
These steps can be done anywhere with just a rag and your choice of chain lube. However, there are also chain cleaning tools available that feature rotating brushes that you run your chain through.
This method, in combination with a good bike degreaser and a wipe-down with a microfiber cloth, should leave your chain free from grime and ready for lubricant. It’s important to avoid removing the chain from the bike unless necessary, as this can lead to damage and may not be needed for regular cleaning.
Choosing the Right Cleaning Method
Choosing the right cleaning method is an important step in cleaning a mountain bike chain. Here are some tips to help you choose the best method for your needs:
- Determine the level of dirt on your chain. If your chain is really dirty, you may want to use a chain cleaner with a degreaser. If it’s just lightly soiled, wiping it down with a rag may be enough.
- Decide whether to remove the chain. Some experts recommend removing the chain to clean it properly, while others suggest leaving it on the bike.
- Choose a cleaning tool. If you have a designated chain cleaner tool, use that to apply a degreaser and clean your chain. If you don’t have a special tool, you can use a toothbrush or nail brush to scrub your chain.
- Select a degreaser. Use a bike-specific degreaser to clean your chain. If you don’t have a bike-specific degreaser, you can use WD-40 as a substitute.
- Wipe down your chain with soapy water and rinse off excess degreaser.
- Choose the right lubricant for your needs. Use wet lube if you ride in wet, muddy conditions, and dry lube if you ride in dry conditions.
- Apply the lubricant to your chain and wipe off any excess lube before riding.
Cleaning the Mountain Bike Chain with Degreaser
Cleaning your mountain bike chain with a degreaser is an important part of maintaining your bike. Here are the steps to clean your mountain bike chain with a degreaser:
- If you have a designated chain cleaner tool, fill it with your bike-specific degreaser and wrap the tool around your chain according to directions. Then, use your free hand to backpedal. The brushes in your chain cleaner will clean all the nooks and crannies while collecting the dirty degreaser in its reservoir.
- If you don’t have a special tool, use a brush to degrease your chain. A toothbrush or nail brush will do the trick. Just add some degreaser to the brush, hold it to the top of your chain, and backpedal. Repeat this step with the bottom of your chain, always brushing the section of the chain below your drivetrain.
- Rub down your chain with soapy water and rinse to clean off excess degreaser.
- If your chain is particularly dirty, you may need to repeat the degreasing process.
- Wait five minutes, or however long the manufacturer recommends, before washing the degreaser off. At that time, you could clean the rest of the bike. Wash off the degreaser using water. Wipe the chain with a rag or cloth until it is no longer black.
Note: Some experts recommend removing the chain from the bike to properly clean it, while others suggest that wrapping the chain with a clean, lint-free cloth and backpedaling through it is the quickest method. It’s up to you to decide which method works best for you and your bike.
Scrubbing and Rinsing the Chain
Scrubbing and rinsing the chain is an essential step in cleaning a mountain bike chain. To clean the chain, one can use a chain scrubber to remove the grit and dirt, followed by a degreaser to break down the grease. After using a chain scrubber with a degreaser, it’s best to follow up with a second wash of warm soapy water to flush out any grit that is left.
An alternative is to use a bucket of warm water mixed with a few drops of liquid detergent or soap, which will generally be sufficient to clear surface grime from the chain. Once the chain is scrubbed and degreased, it is important to rinse the drivetrain off with a gentle stream of clean water.
Drying and Lubricating the Mountain Bike Chain
Drying and lubricating the mountain bike chain are important steps in cleaning it.
Drying the chain:
- Dry the chain as far as possible with a rag/paper towel.
- Squirt GT-85 all over the chain to drive out water.
- Dry the chain again with a rag/paper towel.
- A quick solution for drying the chain in cold weather is to use a hair dryer, but be careful not to overheat and damage the chain.
Lubricating the chain:
- There are different types of chain lubricants for different conditions, such as wet, dry, and all-weather lubricants.
- Dry lubricants are good for loose and dry conditions because they don’t let dirt stick to the chain.
- Wet lubricants are suitable for wet conditions because they are resistant to water and don’t wash away easily
- Most dry lubes will have a paraffin wax or Teflon coating on the chain that, once dry, does a great job protecting the chain and letting it run smoothly.
- When applying chain lube, wipe off any excess with a rag.
- Some recommended chain lubes are Squirt Dry Lube, Chain-L No.5, and Finish Line’s Pedal and Cleat Lubricant.
Regular Maintenance and Chain Care Tips
Cleaning your mountain bike chain is essential for reducing wear and improving performance. Here are some tips for regular maintenance and chain care:
- Every few months or so, completely remove your chain using a chain-removal tool. Brush it well and completely immerse it in a degreaser solution.
- If you don’t have a chain cleaner tool, use a brush to degrease your chain. A toothbrush or nail brush will do the trick. Just add some degreaser to the brush, hold it to the top of your chain, and backpedal. Repeat this step with the bottom of your chain, always brushing the section of the chain below your chainstay.
- After cleaning your chain, you need to lubricate it. Use a bike-specific lubricant and apply it to the chain’s rollers while backpedaling. Wipe off any excess lube.
- Check your chain for wear regularly. A worn chain can cause damage to your bike’s components, including the cassette and chainrings. The easiest way to check for wear is to use a chain checker tool.
By following these tips, you can keep your mountain bike chain clean and well-maintained, which will extend its lifespan and improve your riding experience.
Frequently Asked Questions Related to Cleaning a Mountain Bike Chain:
Can I use household cleaners to clean my mountain bike chain?
While it is possible to clean your mountain bike chain with household products, it is generally not recommended, as household cleaners may damage the chain. However, there are some homemade bike chain degreasers that can be used to clean bike chains
How often should I clean my mountain bike chain?
It is recommended to lube your mountain bike chain every 100-150 miles or once a week if you are riding most days on the pavement in dry conditions. If you are riding mostly in dry conditions on pavement, you probably don’t need to clean your chain every time you lube it.
Aim to clean your chain every two to three lubrication jobs. However, if your bike chain is showing rust or squeaks while you ride, it’s definitely time to lube and clean your chain
Are there any special brushes or tools for cleaning a bike chain?
There are special brushes or tools available for cleaning a bike chain, such as the Muc-Off X-3 Dirty Chain Machine, Pedros Chain Pig II, Finish Line Pro Chain Cleaner, Park Tool Chain Scrubber, and STA-BIL SPORT Drivetrain Cleaner & Degreaser.
Conclusion: How to Clean a Mountain Bike Chain?
In conclusion, cleaning the chain of a mountain bike is an essential part of maintaining the bike’s performance and extending its lifespan. There are various methods to clean a bike chain, including using degreasers, chain cleaning tools, and household products like warm soapy water, a toothbrush, and a shoelace for the chain rollers.
The most effective method of cleaning is by placing the chain in a simple and inexpensive ultrasonic machine. It is important to measure for chain wear before each cleaning and replace the chain if it is worn.
Lubricating the chain after cleaning is also crucial to reduce friction and improve performance. With proper cleaning techniques, bikers can keep their chains running smoothly and ensure their bike is always in top condition.