How To Clean And Lube Mountain Bike Chain?

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If you’ve spent any time mountain riding, you’re well aware of how filthy the chain can become! While you can take it to a bike shop for cleaning and maintenance, cleaning a bike chain is a relatively straightforward process that you can easily perform at home.

  1. Increased chain wear rate.
  2. Chain links’ flexibility has been reduced.
  3. Derailleur assemblies and drivetrain cogs are subjected to additional wear.
  4. Shifting performance is impaired.

Why should I clean my bicycle chain?

Jason Smith of Friction Facts confirmed that a filthy chain reduces efficiency.

A dirty road chain can reduce efficiency by roughly 3 to 5 watts (at 250-watt rider output), which is about 1% to 2% of power loss, according to testing.

“Say a thoroughly maintained and lubricated chain consumes 7 watts. Road grit from a few ‘clean’ road rides can cost an extra 3 watts of frictional losses.” Smith explains the rise in grit: “Several road rides without cleaning or lubricating can cost around 5 watts. In extreme instances (MTB or cyclocross), a muddy chain adds 12 watts to the loss.

“If a chain is not properly cleaned and lubricated, friction increases at each chain link. As the chain snakes through the drivetrain at 95rpm with a 53t front ring, 40,280 chain link articulations occur every minute. Because there are so many linkages continually articulating, reducing friction is critical.”

Should I take my chain off my bike to clean it?

According to numerous how-tos and forums, the chain should be off the bike for a complete cleaning.

Degreasing a bike chain used to be routine practice, but not longer. As contemporary drivetrains incorporate more gears, our cleaning processes have had to adapt.

The chains were usually designed to be put on once and taken off only when worn out.

“If the chain contains a ‘connection rivet,’ you welcome generating a weak link every time you remove and replace a connection rivet,” says Calvin Jones of Park Tool. Ignore the Master Link.

“Better master links…” This functionality is removed by turning it off and on repeatedly. You’ve done it again.”

SRAM and Shimano recommend using a new joining link every time a chain is mounted on non-reusable links.

Despite brand prohibitions, many riders successfully re-use such ‘snap-lock’ linkages. If you’re willing to take the chance, a set of master link pliers will do the trick.

Older drivetrains with 7, 8, or 9 gears (or re-usable 10- or 11-speed links) may be more controversial.

Step by step guide to bike chain cleaning- 

  1. put a drop of lubrication to every link (roller) in the chain during gradual backpedaling, until the entire chain is covered.
  2. Let the bike sit down for a few minutes to make the lubrication move into the cracks of each link.
  3. Fold your clean cloth in half a few times to make a good cushion then softly backpedal it against your chain.
  4. Cycle the chain through multiple rotations and then alter the angle of the chain and repeat.
  5. Repeat until all sides of the chain are washed away and extra lubrication is eliminated.

Voila, you’re done!

So for cleaning you will need some equipment such as bike cleaner, bike chain cleaner, lubricant, grease remover, bike chain lube etc.

How do I apply chain lube?

A small amount of lubrication is enough to overcome the rollers, plates, and pins’ resistance and prevent rusting without accumulating excessive dirt. Back pedal the chain through the drivetrain, putting one drop per link (roller) to minimize duplicate lubing. Slowly move the chain up and down the cassette to help lubricate the rollers and pins. Wipe extra grease from the chain and back pedal with a dry towel. Remember to re-wipe wet lubes at the trailhead.

Most sites advise waiting a few hours between application and departure. Dry lubes take longer to set up than wet lubes. Plan ahead, lubricate up the night before, and always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. In a pinch, spritz it on, wipe it down, and go!

What is the best chain lube for mountain bikes?

Wet lube vs. dry

The “best” chain lube for your mountain bike depends on the weather and surroundings. Wet and dry lubes are the two main types.

Moisture-repellent lubes can be utilized in all situations. Using a wet lube is ideal for riding in the rain, puddles, etc. in the fall and winter.

Also, if you intend to cross creeks or rivers frequently, a wet lubrication is a good idea. Their anti-corrosion properties make them ideal for areas near the sea or where roads are salted.

The disadvantage of wet lubes is that they tend to attract more dirt and muck. Dry or desert locations exacerbate the problem.

Dry lubes are best suited to dry, dusty areas since they attract less dirt. Some dry lubes are only wax dissolved in a solvent to coat the chain easily.

A wax-like covering of synthetic polymers is used by others. Dry lubes are more typically used in the spring and summer, or when riding in arid conditions.

Dry lubes have a shorter lubricating effect than wet lubes. While they are simple to use, they require more frequent lubrication than wet lubricant.

The good news is that there is no “wrong” answer here. Everything will be OK as long as you clean and oil your mountain bike chain periodically.

Recommended mountain bike chain lubes

Knowing the basic distinctions between the two solutions, let’s look at some of the best mountain bike chain lubes available.

Top Wet Lubes

Finish Line Wet Bicycle Chain Lube – This product contains high viscosity synthetic oils that repel water even in the wettest conditions.

White Thunder Epic Ride All Conditions — Another famous synthetic oil.

Drip bottle of Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant – Performs in extreme temperatures and humidity.

Top Dry Lubes

Finish Line Dry  Teflon Bicycle Chain Lubrication — This synthetic lube works well in both dry and wet circumstances.

Squirt Long Lasting Dry Lube – Squirt’s main selling point is that it requires little to no washing or degreasing after the initial application! To get the best performance out of it, clean the chain with a degreaser before applying Squirt.

Muc Off Bio Dry Lube – Looking for an excellent chain lube that is also biodegradable? This wax-based product is long-lasting and comes with a pipette for easy application.

Problems to Watch for When Cleaning

Tight Links

These are broken links. To find them, slowly reverse your chain and watch each link pass through the rear derailleur’s tight bends.

Most are caused by dirt or corrosion between link plates, which can be cleaned, lubricated, and flexed. Incorrect pin installation (pin does not fully penetrate the links and rollers) or severe chain deterioration cause other failures. Poorly installed link pins can be pushed back into position using a chain tool or your hands. Damaged chains must be replaced.

Chain Stretch

Chains get longer with use. This is called stretching, although nothing truly stretches. Chains lengthen as rollers and link pins deteriorate. This causes slop or free play, which can lead to gear “skipping.” It also wears down your chain rings and rear cog teeth.

A chain is substantially cheaper to replace than a cog set. Use a chain wear indicator tool to see if your chain needs replaced.

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