Thursday, March 21, 2019

How I Clean My Bicycles- Answering Questions

Back in late January I posted this about how I clean my bicycles. If you missed that, please go back and read it (or re-read it if you need a refresher) before you ask further questions. I may have already answered them there. Drivetrain specific questions were answered the next day in this post. Again- go hit that link and read up before asking me anything else here. Anyway, I have a few new questions to answer since that post, so I thought I'd take the time to answer those now.

The first two are regarding chains. Here's one of them: "Do you strip the packing grease from new chains before using them?"

Answer: Yes. Longer Answer: (Because the follow-up question will be "How?") New chains are coated with......something. In the case of Shimano it seems to be some foul smelling light oil and with SRAM it seems to be a very tacky grease. Some folks will tell you to run the chain with whatever is on it from the package because, "It's the best lube the chain will ever have", or some such nonsense. Being a mechanic, I get to see the results of the "just leave it on" technique all the time. It doesn't work very well. Period.

So, strip the new chain with WD-40 bath, or parts washer fluid that is clean, or an ultra sonic cleaner if'n ya gots one. Then follow that up with a good scrubbing of water and Dawn dish soap with a brush. Make sure you scrub it so clean you'd put it in your mouth with no reservations. I mean clean! Shake the chain dry, blow dry it with a hair dryer, (if you don't have compressed air), and then immediately after drying lubricate the chain with whatever lube you choose according to label directions.

I drip one drop of DuMonde Tech on each chain roller, then I wet a rag with DuMonde Tech and wipe the chain, getting all the outer plates of the chain wet. Then I let it sit for 12 hours before installing it. Your lube choice will dictate what you do. Read the instructions.

Sound like too much work? Then pay someone to do it for you, or accept that your chain won't be the best it could be. Your choices there.

The next question was in reference to how I clean a chain when it is still on the bike. I did answer this to some degree in my first post (link above), but I will address this once again here.

Cleaning a chain is made far easier if you use a chain lube correctly. If you don't, you get a huge mess. If you don't clean your chain often enough, (you will have to use yer noggin' to determine frequency of maintenance for your bikes/riding style/conditions), you will have a mess. With that said......

First check your chain for wear. There is no reason to clean a worn out chain. Just replace it. (Check your cassette too while yer at it, and you very well may need to replace it also) Don't know how to check your chain for wear? Get a chain checker, or Google "how to measure for wear on a bicycle chain".

Now, refer to the image of the drive train here. See the run of chain that comes off the lower jockey wheel of the rear derailleur and which goes to the lower part of the crank? That's the "lower chain run". Now, shift your bike into a combination which leaves the chain as straight as possible. (Single speeders are already there) This will allow you to pedal the drive train backward without derailling the chain. Now, hold a crappy rag in one hand, cup it around the lower run of the chain, and spray on some degreaser, keeping the over-spray controlled with the rag so it doesn't get all over the place. (You maybe should put on some Nitrile gloves first before doing this. Sorry!) Spray downward through the chain allowing gravity to work for you. Backpedal the chain as you work through the cleaning procedure until you've shot the entire chain with degreaser. (Use whatever you are a believer in. I use WD-40 most often) Now set the degreaser down, clamp that rag around the lower section of chain with a light grip, but firmly, (if that makes sense), and carefully backpedal the chain through the rag. Be careful not to allow a loose end of the rag to get entangled in the chain/cassette!

Do the above a few times, then maybe work a brush through the chain links. An old toothbrush is brilliant for this job. Then I follow up with another blast of degreaser and wipe down with the rag. Wipe down the chain several times with a clean rag then lubricate with your favorite lube.

Dirtier than that? Need a cassette and crank cleaned? Stay tuned.............


Rydn9ers said...

Picked up some of that DuMonde Tech lube, so far it seems to keep things relatively clean and noise free. Thanks for the tip.

bostonbybike said...

Good advice overall but you should add that not every lube is the same and while I very much like DuMonde Tech lube for dry and dusty conditions, it's close to useless in the midst of New England wet fall or winter. It doesn't last longer than a couple hundred miles and gets washed out by rain way too easily. As such it needs to be reapplied more often. However in dry conditions it's close to perfect - keeps the chain clean and does the job.