Chain gang: five top tips for a clean chain

Our chain gang of mechanics share trade secrets on keeping your chain fettled

For a nation in drought, we’ve had a lot of rain.

While farmers will be dancing with joy, precipitation is worse news for cyclists trying to keep a bike in good working order.

Matt Fordham from Live2Ride measures the wear on a chain

We called on five mechanics to produce this short list of chain care tips to keep you rolling in the heaviest of weathers.

And if you have your own chain care tips, tried and tested over the years, why not share them in the forum? Here’s hoping for another dry spell soon!

Wear it’s at

For Matt Fordham, workshop manager at Frome’s Live2Ride, a £10 investment in a tool to measure chain wear is money well spent.

“Chain wear makes a huge difference,” he says. Matt recommends scrubbing the chain in a clip-on chain bath after every ride when the weather is particularly foul.

In such conditions, he uses Juice Lubes’ Viking lube, which he says doesn’t run off in the rain. He also uses Juice Lubes’ Ceramic lube, a ‘milky’ lube he says delivers exceptionally smooth shifting.

Purple Haze

Dave Padfield is a mechanic at Ride in Dorset and looks after the bikes of Topeak-Ergon’s Sally Bigham, the UCI world number one marathon mountain bike racer.

He uses Purple Extreme on Sally’s chains, a lubrication designed originally for the moving parts of oil rig drill components.

A chain bath is relatively inexpensive and the simplest way to clean a chain

His chain cleaning regime is simple but thorough. He begins by attaching a chain bath filled with degreaser, and works through all the gears, after which he hoses off the chain, fills the chain bath with hot, soapy water, and again changes through all the gears.

Then it’s time to blast the chain with an air hose or towel it dry, apply the Purple Extreme, wiping off any excess, and leave it to soak in. Finally, he makes a second application and leaves the chain to dry overnight.

Straight and narrow

Sam Humpheson, workshop manager at Look Mum No Hands, recommends “intelligent gear selection” to prolong chain life.

Riding in ‘cross-over’ gears – the large chain ring and the larger sprockets – is a sure fire way to introduce chain wear, he says, and in his experience, riders using compact chainsets are the worst offenders.

Sam recommends a ‘little and often’ cleaning strategy that will allow the use of a light lube that can be wiped off easily and replaced without the need to bathe the chain; ‘overlubers’ are among those who visit his Old Street workshop, he says.

Clean machine

Peter ‘Spike’ Taylor, who for many years worked alongside Chris Boardman at British Cycling, fettling the machines of Team GB, and now runs the Pro Tool School, is a fierce critic of ‘can’t-be-arsed-itus’.

Cleaning your bike takes five minutes if you do it regularly, says Spike Taylor

Cleaning your bike takes five minutes if you do it regularly, he says. Peter uses Finish Line and Juice Lube products and begins chain cleaning by applying an eco-friendly, water soluble degreaser with a one inch, nylon-bristled brush, before donning a pair of ‘sponge mittens’ to protect his hands, and washing the chain with a mix of salt-free car shampoo and soapy water.

Defeat the ‘cling ons’

“If you haven’t cleaned the ‘cling ons’ and you add oil, you’re creating a grinding paste,” says Greg Conti, lead mechanic at Mosquito Bikes.

Greg recommends taking a tooth brush to the detritus attracted to the jockey wheels. He’s not a fan of clip-on chain baths or other ‘half measures’ and says that cleaning a chain thoroughly is a difficult task for the home mechanic.

He recommends thorough maintenance of the cassette and jockey wheels and discarding a filthy chain. Oil should only be applied to chain’s rollers, he says, and strongly advises against applying lube to the outside edges of the chain.

Discuss in the forum


Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.