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How to Clean Your Drivetrain: A Step-by-Step Guide for Bike Maintenance

    Quick job

  • Remove loose dirt
  • Spray with degreaser
  • Scrub
  • Rinse
  • Dry
  • Lube
  • Ride

Why Is It Important To Clean Your Drivetrain?

If you love riding your bike, you will already know the importance of regular maintenance to keep your bike running smoothly. You will also know the cost to replace parts when you don’t. 

One of the most vital parts to maintain is your drivetrain. It's the heart of your bike and consists of a chain, cassette, derailleur and chainring/cranks.  

Over time these components attract dirt, grime and lubricant can build up, reducing the efficiency and sometimes causing damage.

But never fear! In this guide we’ll walk you through some simple steps to cleaning these components, so you can enjoy smooth, issue free rides.

What do you need to clean your drivetrain;

    - Brushes 

    - Water 

    - Chain Lube

    - Drying Cloth

    - Degreaser (Bike Specific)

We only sell products we use ourselves and believe in. Click below to see our range of bike cleaning products.

Clean & Lube

Bike cleaning extras;

    - Bike Stand

    - Chain Keaper

    - Chain Cleaning Device

    - Drivetrain Cleaning Tool

How To Clean Your Drivetrain

Dirty Bike Drivetrain

If your derailleur looks like this then its definitely overdue a clean

1. Rinse first to remove any loose dirt and grit. You can use a soft bristle brush to help with this. 

Cleaning Jockey Wheels

Some stubborn parts like jockey wheels can sometimes benefit from the scraper tool of a drivetrain cleaner, this helps get the really stubborn ground in dirt.

2.Spray the components with a quality bike specific degreaser and agitate with a brush. I say to use a bike specific degreaser as some other harsh chemical degreasers can actually damage your components and paintwork.

Squirting degreaser on cassette

Some cleaners require to be left on for a minute or so to work their magic and some do the job in seconds, so make sure you read the label for your specific cleaner.

3. Rinse and check all the parts for cleanliness. Sometimes you may need to repeat the process again to make sure it’s spotless. 

How To Clean Your Chain

Cleaning chain with nail brushes
CLeaning chain with a chain cleaning device

Now to give that chain a good old clean. You can use a chain cleaning device for this or alternatively, two nail brushes held together works just fine! This is used to clean the inner links of the chain itself. This is where the dirt collects and acts as a grinding paste on those expensive components like the cassette and chainring.

The next step is to give it all a final rinse. You must make sure all degreaser is rinsed from the chain and cassette. If not the degreaser will attack the fresh lube you are going to put on your sparkly chain.

Once you’re happy with the drivetrain its time to lube it up.

Clean drivetrain

Nice and clean, although this bike was left longer than it should be which has caused the chain to become pitted.

What do you need to lube your drivetrain;

    - Bike specific chain lube or wax

    - Lint free cloth

How To Lubricate Your Drivetrain

Contrary to popular belief covering your chain in lube, riding and then covering it in lube again isn’t the best way to do it. Unless you want a derailleur that looks like its been moulded from tar.
So make sure your whole derailleur is clean along with the chain and chainring. 

Now its time to lube! The lubes primary use is to lubricate the rollers on the inner of the chain. The outside links DON'T need to be covered in lube as that will attract dirt and have no benefit

The rollers inside the chain are the part that wears, which in turn causes wear to your cassette and chainring due to it not sitting snug in the teeth.

Lubricating the chain

1. Apply lube to the rollers of the chain, starting with the joining link (if your chain has one) this helps to know when you have gone the whole way round

2. Cycle your chain backwards a few revolutions to work it into the rollers. 

3. Now use a dry cloth to take off any excess lube from the outside of the chain. The easiest way to do this is by holding a cloth around the chain. Running the chain backwards through it. Repeat if necessary.

Removing the excess chain lube

When Should I Lube My Chain?

Its not a good idea to lube just before a ride as this will attract dirt to that fresh lube doing the exact opposite of what you are trying to do. 

If you ride straight after applying you also run the risk of contaminating your brake disks, as it flings the wet lube all over.

You really want it to have penetrated into the links. The night before you go out for a ride is a good time to do it. 

When Should I Clean My Drivetrain

You should really clean your bike after each ride. You don’t want to be doing it just before you go out, as we have mentioned above the bike needs time to settle and dry properly.

Replacing Parts When Necessary

It’s a good idea to purchase a chain checking tool if you can. Its an inexpensive tool that will help you gauge when your chain is starting to wear. If you change the chain early enough you will gain more life from your cassette and chainring.

Checking the chain for wear
Peatys cleaning, degrease and lubricate kit

Clean & Lube

Sram GX AXS Derailleur




Some say Gavin invented the wheel. They are lying of course, but he does build a mean set.
Chief of Cykel House, aging rider and father of 3. Gavin has been riding the majority of his life in multiple different forms. He created Cykel House out of passion and enthusiasm for the sport which cannot be matched.
Always on the hunt for the best products and latest trends his finger is right on the pulse.

Interesting fact - Gavin won a handwriting competition at age 7. What a legend.
Likes - A well built berm, beer and raw sprouts
Dislikes - Stainburn woods, headset cable routing and lycra

Gavin working on a bike

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