Keeping that smooth feeling
It's really important to keep your gears clean and running smooth - you'll minimise wear and potential of snapping a chain or tearing off casssette teeth. You don't need any tricky skills or high end equipment. Although some neat tools will make it easier, you can get by with an old rag and some good quality chain lube and grease.
We'll go over chain maintenance - It's straight forward and should be carried out as often as possible and no fancy tools are required. Keeping your drivetrain as clean as possible will save you money in the long run as drivetrain components can get expensive.
You'll need an old sponge or dish brush, old tshirt or sock and some good quality chain lube. We have a few that we recommend here.
1. Start by giving your bike a blast with low pressure water, get the chunks off off the frame, wheels and put some focus on the rear cassette, chain and chainring. Put the chain in the smallest chainring at the rear, its easier to spin the pedals backwards like this.
2. Lather up the drivetrain with some car wash detergent, some mild dish soap or bike specific wash - break out the old sponge or brush. Avoid the the hardcore degreasers, they are too much for bike paint and anodised surface and they are pretty nasty for the environment as well.
2a. If have more time and want to do a thorough clean - put the bike on a stand and remove the rear wheel. If you have a Wash Buddy use it, it makes back pedaling and cleaning easy - and it keeps the junk off your wheels / rotors
3. Get the brush or sponge and give the whole drivetrain a liberal scrub and get 70% off the dirty grease off. Your sponge should be pretty grimy now.
4. Rinse off and get some compressed air, a leaf blower to blast out the droplets around the chain, chainring. You can always leave it to air or just sit in the sun for a bit. It doesn't have to be perfect
5. Set the chainring to the biggest on the front and smallest on the rear - like before it makes it easier to pedal backwards and scrub the chain clean. Rest the rear wheel against a wall or tree. With your old rag (you can use gloves to protect your hands from grease) cycle the chain backwards with the pedal and pinch the chain just at the exit of the rear derailleur - you can pinch from the sides and top to get all the gunk and old grease off. If it's really dirty you might need a new rag to get it 90% clean.
6. Apply your favourite lube sparingly. This method requires no specific tools (like chain cleaners, wash buddies etc and it means you can clean your chain wherever you are)
However if you are really into get the chain 99% clean, you can invest in some tools that will get you there quicker. Here are some that we recommend.
A chain clean is also a safe chain, it gives good sight to check for damage, bends and cracks in the links and makes a more accurate measure if you are checking chain length.
Quick Tip: You don't need to do a full clean every time, you can skip to Step5 and run the semi-dirty chain through a rug to clean the plates and rollers.