How do you clean your chain and drivetrain...
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  1. #1

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    How do you clean your chain and drivetrain...

    I usually use quite a bit of water but I'm thinking there's a better way. Here's how I clean my drivetrain...

    I first use a chain cleaning device that wraps around the chain and has a bunch of rotating brushes inside the plastic unit. I put degreaser inside this cleaning device and attach it to my chain. Then I rotate the chain using the pedals about 100 times. This seems to work well for cleaning the chain. Then I use a brush, soaked in degreaser and use it to wipe down the cogs and chainrings. After all that, I use a hose and wash the whole thing down with lots and lots of water. This process usually works quite well at cleaning the drivetrain. Then I wait about 20 minutes for the water to dry and I lube the chain.

    I'm wondering if there is a better way to clean everything without drowning the entire drivetrain in water. It sure doesn't look very good for the bike and I feel guilty doing it but I don't know of any other way to do it.

    Any suggestions?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by innatehealer
    It sure doesn't look very good for the bike and I feel guilty doing it but I don't know of any other way to do it.

    Any suggestions?
    THEN YOU MUST LEARN THIS...

    Buy the nut which slips in your cassette's lockring, and a chainwhip. You grab the nut with an adjustable wrench, put the whip on a large cog, and twist the wrench the way it wants to go, while turning the whip in the opposite direction.

    And off your cassette comes. If you can take off your bottle cage, you can do this. I thought it was really complicated, before I did it the first time, and I was like "OH MY GOD, a 10 year old could do this." Don't delay, stop the water and clean it for real.

    Take off and soak the cogs and spacers in diluted degreaser for 20 minutes, wipe clean, then put on your sunglasses because they will SHINE.

    Clean your chain the way you have been doing BEFORE taking off the cassette, otherwise you just throw that dirt back on a clean cassette.

    Very simple...
    http://www.parktool.com/tools/FR_5BIG.shtml

    and...
    http://www.parktool.com/tools/SR_1BIG.shtml

    You could take your wheel to your big LBS and they will sell you the correct nut, or just take off the rear wheel and see what your lockring says....

    I was so happy when I learned this 'skill'.

    RedRex.

  3. #3
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    my ride has never seen soap and water during a cleaning, unless i get caught out in the rain and the bike gets filthy. for the drivetrain, all you need is a rag and some lube. this has been answered many times, but lube the chain liberally and then wipe off the excess by backpedaling the chain while holding a rag to it. i use old t-shirts. anyway, keep doing this till there's little to no black stuff coming off anymore. wipe your chainrings down as well. about every 4 or 5 lubings, i'll run the rag between the cogs to clean them off as well. this is so easy. leave the water alone, as it's unnecessary.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by filly
    i'll run the rag between the cogs to clean them off as well. this is so easy. leave the water alone, as it's unnecessary.
    A great method for sure, but you can't get to the spacers,freewheel, central cog like you can when you remove the cassette. The only way to go, removal. Less time, one rag, less work, more clean.

    RedRex.

  5. #5

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    does that really clean the chain?

    Filly, although I have not tried your method of cleaning the chain, it just sounds like all the little grit will still be there after wiping it off with a towel... don't you think? like on the inside of the chain?

    It just doesn't sound like it would clean it enough.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  6. #6
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    Get yourself a quick release link, pull the chain and drop it in a bowl of laquer thinner. Removes all the grease, dirt, muck, etc, and leaves no residue on the chain. Takes about 2 minutes. Just make sure to lube it well afterwords, cause it will be bone dry.

  7. #7
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    I run the chain through a dry cotton rag every few rides and relube. That's about it. When the cassette gets gunked up I pop off the wheel and scrub it with a toothbrush a bit and then floss it with a rag. I don't like getting solvents on my chain, and only use a water/simple green solution to clean my bike off with the wheels removed--doesn't get on the chain.

  8. #8
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    clean and lube...

    I would never use water for cleaning a chain on the bike. If you use the right process, you may never need to remove the chain for cleaning. The cassette does not need to be removed either. I use a toothbrush or small cheap paint brush and mineral spirits to clean the cassette, with the wheel off the bike. Just lean the wheel forward over a catch pan or newspapers to keep the dripping solvent off the rim and tire. Wipe with a paper towel at the end of the process, then let the wheel dry for awhile (still leaning forward) in case you get a few extra drips.

    If I really wanted to clean a chain, I'd soak in a water soluble degreaser or mineral spirits first. Place the degreaser and chain in an old water bottle and shake vigorously. Remove the chain and shake in a another bottle filled with a hot soapy water solution. Finish up with a hot water rinse. The water will rust the chain unless you then spray it with something like WD-40 to remove the water. The WD-40 has 30% oil, so it will provide enough lube fro an initial ride. After that, I follow my regular lube process:

    I use a mixture of 4 to 5 parts mineral spirits to one part synthetic motor oil to "clean and lube" the chain. Apply the mixture heavily, to the lower section of chain between the rear derailleur and the crank. An old Prolink bottle or contact lens solution bottle work great as applicators. Catch the excess with a paper towel, folded 8 layers thick, held under the chain. Wipe each section of the chain, before rotating the crank to the next section. When the entire chain has been lubed, spin the cranks several turns, wiping with the wet towel. The wet towel can also be used to clean the cogs, derailleur pulleys and chainrings. Follow up with a dry towel. The whole process takes less than 5 minutes. If done at least once a week (more often in dirty conditions), the chain will never need removal for additional cleaning and there will never be any lubricant build-up. If you happen to neglect the chain for more than a week, apply the lube twice, to enhance the cleaning effect. The lubing should be done after riding, to allow time for the mineral spirits to evaporate (leaving only a thin coating of oil) before the next ride. This stuff is a wet lube, so expect a slight wet/black look to the chain after riding. A wipe with a dry towel after each ride will keep the chain looking good.

    When I ride on dirty roads (almost always around Denver) I apply the lube after every ride, which is probably excessive, but I don't get a buildup problem and my chains show virtually no elongation after 3000 miles. I probably use a quart of this mixture every season.

  9. #9
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    Self cleaning

    Similar to the advice from C-40, but distilled down into a few simple steps for lubing with ProLink or the home brew lube:

    1 - wipe the chain, cogs, pulleys, and chain rings clean with a rag. Use the rag like dental floss between the cassette cogs and between the chain rings.

    2 - drip on lube while pedaling (forward is better) so that the chain just starts to drip lube. Aim the lube between the side plates and between the bushings and the side plates.

    3 - run through all the gears several times, front and back.

    4 - wipe the chain, cogs, pulleys, and chainrings clean with a rag again.

    5 - repeat 2-4 if the chain was really dirty

    If you do this every 300 miles or so, you will not get any significant gunky buildup, and you won't have to clean the chain.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    Use the rag like dental floss between the cassette cogs and between the chain rings.
    .
    It seems very odd to me to spend all that time flossing your cogs, when you can just unscrew the lockring, soak your cogs in degreaser, wipe, and have a sparkling cassette AND freewheel. Perfection is nice.

    Oh well. It's a crazy world.

    RedRex.

  11. #11
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    Time is on my side

    Since it takes about a minute to floss the cogs, "it seems very odd to me" that you would take all that time to take your cassette apart and clean it in solvent. Plus, there's the added stress on the lock ring of taking things apart every week. Not sure what you mean by "cassette AND freewheel" since you don't have both on one bike

    Different strokes for different folks.

  12. #12

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    I just tried this....

    ...this weekend the roads were pretty dirty and salty from the past weeks snow.My chain got gunked up pretty bad.When I got home I wiped the chain down by backpedalling through a rag.I then took my chain cleaning tool (Finishline) and filled it with the home brew that C40 described up to the fill line.I back pedalled until the fluid became almost black and then removed the cleaning tool from the chain.The chain looked very clean.I then wiped it again with a rag .The process took about 5 minutes and I had a clean and lubed chain for the next ride.This was the first time i"ve tried this method but it seems to be an efficiant way of cleaning and lubing after a ride.It wasn't messy either.Just keep an old towel under the chain and degrease the chain cleaner after your'e done.
    Charismatic Icon Animal Man

  13. #13
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    Mostly the same method here.

    [QUOTE=Kerry Irons]Similar to the advice from C-40, but distilled down into a few simple steps for lubing with ProLink or the home brew lube:


    3 - run through all the gears several times, front and back.

    3a - use a brush on the chain, the cogs and pulleys, and the chain again.

    4 - wipe the chain, cogs, pulleys, and chainrings clean with a rag again.

    I find my step 3a gets the chain much cleaner and takes very little time. I use air tool oil which I find to work much like ProLink at 1/4 the cost. I don't find miles or lengths of time between cleanings to be useful. If ride on wet roads, I clean the drive train. As soon as I hear the drive train, I clean it.
    We have nothing to lube but our chains.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by RedRex
    THEN YOU MUST LEARN THIS...

    Buy the nut which slips in your cassette's lockring, and a chainwhip. You grab the nut with an adjustable wrench, put the whip on a large cog, and twist the wrench the way it wants to go, while turning the whip in the opposite direction.

    And off your cassette comes. If you can take off your bottle cage, you can do this. I thought it was really complicated, before I did it the first time, and I was like "OH MY GOD, a 10 year old could do this." Don't delay, stop the water and clean it for real.
    Better way, and safer, is the following.

    To remove a rear cassette, you need a lockring remover (around $10)(http://www.parktool.com/tools/FR_5.shtml) with 12 splines for a Shimano cassette, a chain whip (around $12)(http://www.parktool.com/tools/SR_1.shtml), and some elbow grease.

    Here's how I do it. I take the wheel off and put the lockring removal tool into place with the splines fit into the lockring (which has grooves for the splined tool). I then feed the quick release skewer through the non-drive side (which means the QR lever will remain on the non-drive side), then the hub which has the cassette still on it, then through the lockring removal tool (which has a hole if you look at the picture), and then I screw on the QR nut to secure the LR removal tool (tight enough to hold the removal tool in place so you don't strip the splines, but not TOO tight).

    I now turn the wheel drive side down, put the lockring removal tool (not the cogs, just the tool) into a vise and tighten it. I now put the chain whip on the SECOND SMALLEST cog (NOT the first) and turn it COUNTERCLOCKWISE just enough to loosen the 40 Newton-meter lock ring. (Do NOT hold the wheel when turning the chain whip)(too much loosening with the skewer in place and you'll also break the quick release skewer nut holding the lockring removal tool in place.)

    While many hold the chain whip with one hand and put an adjustable wrench (as RedRed mentions) over the lockring removal tool and turn it CCW to loosen, it is simply too easy to strip these thin splines (found that out the hard way). The QR skewer holds it in place beautifully and a vise is much stronger and secure than any hand.

    I now take it out of the vise and remove the loosened lockring by hand. Make sure when removing the cogs you put a string or wire through them so you keep track of the order of parts, as well as inside/outside orientation. They are designed with one side to face out, the other in.

    To replace, you don't need a chain whip since the rear hub doesn't turn clockwise, so it provides the resistance you need to tighten the lockring back to 40 N-M of torque.

  15. #15
    'brifter' is a lame word.
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    both of the rather long-winded explanations about getting cassettes off were great, although the second one is better for sure. one reason, the vise.makes things way easier. not that it's a big deal, but i find that putting the chain whip in the larger cogs works better, because you wrap the chain around more teeth, so it's less likely to slip off. makes sense, doesn't it?
    as for c-40's recipe, c'mon, motor oil on a bike chain? there are so many great lubes out there these days that don't attract dirt like oil does, you'd have to be nuts to use motor oil.
    and why wouldn't you want to get solvents on the chain? it's steel, all the sovent will do is clean it, not melt it away.
    if you don't want to remove the chain, try white lightning "clean streak", or if you want something really strong, use brakleen (w/ the garage door open...). they dry in a minute, and leave no residue. the aerosol also blasts a lot of dirt away. if you can remove the chain, soak it in solvent, doesn't really matter what kind, but if it leaves a residue make sure you neutralize it w/ alcohol before lubing.
    i'm also a big fan of using as little lube as possible to get the job done. extra lube is a waste and it attracts more dirt. 1 drop per roller is fine, then wipe off excess. best done after a ride, rather than right before one. if you ever see lube all over your cogs, you're using too much.

  16. #16
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    You're new around here, aren't you?

    The concept of oil-in-solvent lubes has been popular for several years. The principle is that the solvent both loosens contaminants and allows the oil to penetrate to the deepest regions of the chain. You apply a significant excess of lube and work the chain by shifting repeatedly through the gears. Then you wipe off the excess, which removes contaminants and surface oil. Removing the surface oil reduces dirt pickup. You're right that direct application of oil is not a great approach, as it is hard to remove the surface oil and it's difficult for that oil to reach into the interior of the chain because that space is already full of old lube and contaminants.

    ProLink is probably the leading brand of the oil-in-solvent lubes, and many report good success with the home brew of 3-4 parts of odorless mineral spirits with one part motor (or other) oil. No lube is "perfect." A brite shiny chain that is clean to the touch but is well lubed and gives long mileage is still not possible. IMO, ProLink is the best compromise. Where have you been?

  17. #17

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    That's great

    ProLink it is!!! No more water for me.

    Thanks for your help guys.

  18. #18

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    Read all about it...

    Quote Originally Posted by innatehealer
    ProLink it is!!! No more water for me.

    Thanks for your help guys.
    You can read all about this EXCELLENT product at:

    http://www.progoldmfr.com/

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