Posted in Cycle

Having a clean and well-maintained drivetrain keeps your bike in good working order. A contaminated drivetrain increases wear on your components leading too poor gear shifting - resulting in a non-enjoyable bike ride.

It's a great feeling when you see these components gleaming and shining after you've spent a little time and effort cleaning and lubricating them. This guide will provide you with the know-how and top tips so that you complete the job correctly the first time.

What do you need?

  • Cycle specific chaincleaner / degreaser - more on cleaning products can be found here
  • Cleaning brushes
  • Chain lubricant - more on lubricants can be found here
  • Old rags / cloths/ sponge
  • Bike Cleaner
  • A bucket of water/hosepipe

These are desirable but not essential:

  • Workstand
  • Chain cleaner device
  • Old toothbrush
  • Chainkeeper, this keeps the chain in place like a cassette would. 

Shop bike cleaner  Shop bike work stands

How to clean your drivetrain

The easiest and most convenient way to clean your drivetrain is by having your back wheel lifted from the ground. A workstand is very useful for this task as it gives you a stable platform for the bike and allows you to remove the rear wheel. This helps to make sure any dirt from the cassette isn't transferring to the chain you are trying to clean, and vice versa. Wiggle stock a great range of cleaning products check them out here.

  1. Use an old rag to wipe away any built-up dirt on your jockey wheels and chainrings.
  2. Grip the chain beneath the chainstay within a loosely clenched fist that you have a rag within, acting like a glove. Rotate the cranks backwards a few revolutions so that the rag takes any loose dirt/oil away from the chain.
  3. Spray the chain, chainrings and derailleur's with a cycle specific chain cleaner/degreaser. Alternatively, you can brush the solution onto the chain. Avoid spraying directly onto cables as this could remove useful grease from them.
  4. Using an old cleaning brush with stiff bristles (or an old toothbrush) scrub the chain, jockey wheels, chainrings and the inside of the derailleur plates. The dirt will come off with relative ease. In some extreme circumstances you may need to remove individual components to clean thoroughly.
  5. Wash the degreaser from the drivetrain with bike cleaner and rinse off.
  6. With the back wheel removed the bike, use a cleaning brush or rag and clean any loose dirt from in-between the sprockets.
  7. Spray or brush degreaser onto the cassette, and leave it to drip from the sprockets.
  8. Use a brush with long bristles to remove any remaining dirt. A rag in-between each sprocket may also help. If the cassette is very dirty, you may need to remove it to clean thoroughly.
  9. Wash the cassette with bike cleaner and rinse off.
  10. Using bike cleaner and a clean sponge wash away any dirty/oily residue from the frame and components.
  11. Dry the components with a lint free cloth. Tip: Shake the bike and rear wheel a few times first to dislodge any excess water.

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How to lubricate your drivetrain

Lubricating your drivetrain is very important and with a little time and effort the outcome is well worth it. Too much lubricant (lube) on your chain, is as bad as not enough lube. Too much lube will attract dirt and increase wear on your drivetrain components. Not enough lube and your chain may begin squeaking and develop stiff-links due to the lack of lube within the internals. This will affect gear shifting quality. This guide explains the different types of chain lube available.

Following these steps will make sure your drivetrain works as smoothly as the first time you used it.

  1. Always ensure your chain is clean. Applying lube to a dirty chain can create a type of cutting paste, increasing wear on the drivetrain components.
  2. Apply a drop of your chosen chain lube to each roller of the chain. When you have coated each roller, rotate the chainset backwards for 20 seconds to allow the lube to penetrate the internals of the chain rollers. Tip: Start applying lube at the joining pin so you know where you began the application.
  3. Using a lint free cloth wipe any excess lube from the chain, chainring and jockey wheels.
  4. Follow steps 2 and 3 again.
  5. Carefully apply a couple of drops of chain lube onto the springs of the derailleurs. This helps them remain working smoothly.

TIP: Using a lube from a bottle is a less messy way to apply lubricant and it also allows for more accuracy than an aerosol type.

For more information on bike cleaners and lubricants, check out our guide:

Bike cleaner and lubricant guide