Bike Repair: How to Clean & Lube Your Chain

Follow this 10-minute routine to keep your bike rolling smoothly

A well-lubricated chain is crucial to a smooth, quiet (dare I say, stealthy) ride. A dry, grimy or rusty chain, on the other hand, can make an otherwise healthy, well-cared-for bike sound and ride like an old rattletrap—squealing away while it jumps and bucks its way through gear shifts.

Chain maintenance is relatively simple—it's really just three steps—but it should happen with regularity to keep dirt and grime from wearing down the chain and rear sprockets. If you tend to ride regularly in urban environments, we recommend a full clean and lube every weekend. Here’s how you do it:

Get Rid of the Gunk
Flip your bike over, and apply degreaser (we like Simple Green) liberally along the entire length of the chain while you crank the pedals backward. Use a non-metal brush—an old toothbrush works perfectly—to scrub away the loosened dirt and grime. Give your cassette and chainrings a thorough scrubbing, too. Wipe down the chain with a dry rag, then let it air-dry for a few minutes.

Lube the Chain
Using your favorite oil, apply a drop to every single link, being sure to get the sideplates, too. If it sounds obessive, that's because it is. And to be sure you're extra thorough, spin the cranks backward so the oil penetrates into the chain links. Put a light coat on the rear cassette cogs, too.


Remove the Excess Lube
Spin the pedals again, using a rag to wipe extra lube from the chain and cassette. Though it sounds counterintuitive, do NOT skip this step. You want the moving parts to be covered by a thin film of oil that stays on and keeps them lubricated, not by a thick soaking that turns them into a dirt and grime magnet.