One of the easiest ways you can lengthen the life of your drivetrain is by keeping it clean and lubricated. Continued use of a dirty drivetrain will not only increase wear and tear on parts, but will significantly decrease the quality and accuracy of your shifting.
As with any repair, different people have different methods. I find this method to be plenty efficient and easy.
Step 1. Clean your bike.
Find a degreaser, something strong enough to get the gunk off of your bike but not so strong that it could damage anything. Finish Line makes several products available at most shops that work great. For my bikes, and the purpose of this demonstration, the solvent of choice is Simple Green. You can pick up a bottle of Simple Green at any store like Walmart, Target, or most grocery stores.
To clean your bike first spray on the degreaser. If your bike has dirt and grease that’s caked onto it, you may want to allow the degreaser to soak and penetrate for 5-10 minutes. Take a cleaning brush and scrub all your parts. Then rinse with a garden hose and allow the bicycle to dry.
Step 2. Determine if you can remove the chain from the bike.
Many chains now come with a removable connecting link. Cycle through your chain until you notice a link that looks different than the others. It will most likely differentiate with color. You will also notice a small gap next to the pin as seen below:
Be cautious however, not all connecting links are removable. There are several 10&11 speed chains that are not designed to be removed. Sram Powerlock is an example of a connecting link that is not made to be taken on and off. On the contrary, Sram Powerlink is fine to remove. If your chain cannot be removed don’t worry, skip to step 5.
Step 3. Remove your chain.
Park Tool offers a pair of master link pliers that makes removing the chain very simple. Insert the end of the pliers on both sides of the connecting link and squeeze. The link with compress and release inwards
and then pull apart. The same process can be achieved with your hands. It can sometimes be difficult but stick with it, it will release.
Step 4. Ensure your chain is clean.
Often, when the chain is left on the bike during washing, there is still dirt and grease left on the chain. This is a great time to finish removing the build up off of your chain. Grab something that can hold your chain and some degreaser. A bottle, bowl, bucket, or whatever you have around will do fine.
Set your chain in your bottle or whatever you found and pour enough degreaser in there to fully submerge the chain. Let it soak for another 5-10 minutes. You may have to soak longer if your chain was in bad shape. Once it appears clean, remove the chain, rinse it off with water and dry.
Step 5. Lubricate your chain.
There are endless options for chain lubricants on the market. Many cyclists/mechanics have certain chain lubricants they swear by. If you already found a lube you love then stick with it. If not you may want to consider a few variables. Setup time is an important consideration. For a quick lube and go situation, Tri Flow is nice. It’s a teflon based lubricant that requires little to no setup time. It does, however, attract a little more mess than higher quality wax lubricants. T9 by Boeshield is my choice in wax lubricants. It stays clean, quite, and lasts through more rides and conditions than anything else I’ve tried. CLICK HERE to learn more about T9.
When lubing your chain you want to liberally drip your lubricant over each individual pin, roller, and plate. Once your chain is sufficiently covered with lubricant, allow for ample time to setup and develop a film of wax. I like to give this process up to 2 hours for completion.
Step 6. Remove excess lubricant.
After your lubricant has had adequate time to setup, there will be a film of excess lube. Simply take a clean rag and wipe it clean. Don’t worry about removing too much lube, it’s not a concern. You are now ready to install your chain back on the bike.
Step 7. Install your chain.
Route the chain back onto your drivetrain. Shift your derailleurs to towards the smallest chainrings, this will make reconnecting the master link much easier. Direct the chain through the front derailleur and inside the chainring down to the bottom bracket shell
Route the chain over your small chainring in the back and through the rear derailleur.
*Yes, I do notice the ironic dirt on the derailleur. Do as I say, not as I do!
Step 8. Connect your master link.
Connecting the master link back together is quick and easy. Place one half of the master link on the inside of the open chain link so that the pin is facing away from the bike. On the other open chain link, do the same only have the pin facing toward the bike. Insert each opposing link into the inner slot of the master link plate. Then pull the chain in opposite directions until the pins fully shift outward.
You are now ready to drip a little lube on your derailleur pivot points. Your drivetrain is now properly cleaned and lubricated. Shift through all your gears to make sure everything is functioning the way it should.
Step 9. Ride!
I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.