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A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling, Part 9: Chain Cleaning Made Easy

August 8, 2018


 Back in July, I thought my beginner's series was done. I had written about all sorts of beginner topics from buying a bike to how to ride it. I stopped with some basic ideas on chain lube because that is something that I think is important: it makes your bike more efficient, it helps your more expensive cassette cogs and chainrings last, and it keeps you from annoying everyone else on the ride when you squeak like an SOB because your chain is dry. 


The one thing I assumed was that people had a clean chain to begin with, and that was probably a bad assumption. I recently put on a couple new chains, and I keep the factory grease on for a while. When it starts to gunk up, I completely clean the chain and start anew. I noticed that my new SRAM chain was starting to gunk up, so I decided to use today's rainy weather to clean and lube the chain. I figured I would share how I did it.


1. Thorough cleaning

The first thing you need to do is to put some latex gloves on and remove your chain from the bike using the quick link. Set the quick link aside, and put the chain in a glass jar or plasticware of some kind. It's a real pain in the ass to use, but plain old gasoline is a great chain cleaner. Odorless mineral spirits also work quite well. Use just enough solvent to cover the chain (I have mine lie flat as I can get it), and agitate the solvent by shaking the vessel side to side. You will immediately see black gunk coming off the chain. Let it sit anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. 


Meanwhile, clean your cassette, chainrings, and pulleys. There is no sense putting a soon to be sparkling chain back on a dirty bike. I sit my rear wheel over a bucket and use odorless mineral spirits and a toothbrush to clean the cassette thoroughly. Then, I rinse down into the bucket, and give the cassette a thorough spray of Simple Green degreaser. I rescrub the cassette and then rinse again with water. This step removes any of the oils from the mineral spirits and gets the cassette clean as a whistle.


Then, I use the degreaser on a towel to get the chainrings clean, a