How to Clean a Bike Chain without Removing It

How to Clean a Bike Chain without Removing It
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Your bike’s chain is going to get dirty after a while. This is especially true if you go riding through muddy or dusty areas. However, it is also going to need to be cleaned eventually even if you stick to neatly paved roads.

As it gets dirty, the bike’s performance will suffer, and it is more at risk of wear and tear as well.

Is cleaning the chain going to be a terribly awkward and time-consuming job that involves taking it off beforehand and putting it back on again afterwards, though? Thankfully, you can carry out this maintenance task a lot easier than you might think and without even removing the chain.

The Easiest Way to Clean a Bicycle Chain – Wipe It Down

The simplest and fastest way of doing this is to wipe the chain down with a cloth. Be sure to use a clean, lint-free cloth for this job.

The Easiest Way to Clean a Bicycle Chain – Wipe It Down

You can then backpedal the drivetrain through in order to clean all of the dirt, dust, and other stuff stuck to it. It is a good idea to repeat this process a few times, until you can see that the cloth is pretty much clean after it has wiped down the chain.

The derailleur pulley wheels can be cleaned using a cloth too. If you prefer to use baby wipes, then they should do a good job for you as well.

Having cleaned your bike’s chain, you might need to reapply some lube to it. If you use an oil-based lubricant then this might cause extra dirt to get flushed out, meaning that you can wipe it down again.

You can do this indoors if you like, although you will want to put some plastic under the bike as you do it. 

How Often Should You Clean in This Way?

Having done this, the chain should look pretty clean. Of course, this sort of light maintenance is something that is best done on a regular basis. If you leave it too long, then you won’t be able to clean it effectively in this way.

Some people suggest lightly cleaning like this after every ride. If this sounds like too much effort, then you should definitely consider doing it after particularly tough rides where the bike gets very dirty.

If you leave it too long between cleaning sessions, then this method might not be good enough to get it clean again.

A More Thorough Clean

Another option is to give it a more thorough clean. You can do this by washing it with water and degreaser.

This is a fairly messy job that requires a few tools and is best done outside. The first step is to take off the rear wheel and put on a chain keeper instead.

Using a brush and degreaser, you can remove the worst of the dirt from the derailleur pulley wheels and the chainrings. Then brush degreaser into the chain as you backpedal it through the brush, using different angles to get it really clean.

You will also want to use a large brush to get degreaser onto the cassette sprockets. You could use a chain cleaning tool instead of a brush for this cleaning method.

After this, use a hose with low pressure to rinse off the different parts you have cleaned with water. Be careful not to get water onto the bearings. Use a dry rag to dry the bike as much as you can and then allow it to air dry completely.

Once dry, you can take off the chain keeper, put the rear wheel back on, and reapply lube.

How Often Should You Clean in This Way?

As with the first method we looked at, this is something that is best done on a regular basis. If you leave it for too long, then it will become a good deal more difficult to clean your chain like this.

How Often Should You Clean in This Way

However, the easier access provided by removing the rear wheel means that you can give the chain a better, deeper clean in this way. This doesn’t mean that you should neglect the maintenance of your bike, but it does mean that you might feel a little bit more relaxed about not cleaning it after every single ride.

Are There Other Options?

What if your bike chain is really filthy or you need to get it spotlessly clean? In these cases, you really need to take off the chain.

If you carry out these simple cleaning methods without removing the chain regularly then you might never have to give it a more thorough clean.

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