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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    7

    Cleaning chain/cassette

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    Ok, so forgive me if I don't get this all right, I'm pretty new to cycling and am slowly learning about bike maintenance. I had to have my chain replaced this year after about 2500 miles. I know that is probably normal, but it got me thinking about taking better care of my components. In looking at my bike, the cassette/chain/front rings (I have a triple) are really dirty. I have white lightning that I use on the chain, but when holding a rag against the chain and spinning the pedals, it never got rid of all the black gunk. Is that normal? Do I need to be using something else? My middle ring in the front is exceptionally gunky. How do I clean that and the cassette? Also, I'm confused about degreasing and lubing. What is the difference? So much to learn!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    325
    http://www.rei.com/product/722253

    I use this tool for cleaning my chain, with a degreaser. Gets my chain as clean and shiny as the day I bought it, in about 10 minutes. Then, I wipe the chain down with a rag, wait 24 hours, and apply lube to each link, and wipe off the excess. I do this every other week.

    To clean my cassette, I use this, with warm water and simple green:

    http://www.rei.com/product/697481

    Degreasing cleans all of the grease and grime from your chain/cassette. Lubing helps protect from the grease and grime.
    Last edited by rubywagon; 07-12-2010 at 07:16 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    325
    There are many "how to" videos on youtube, that give step by step instructions on how to clean your chain and cassette. I have learned a lot by watching them.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Troutdale, OR
    Posts
    2,604
    A common mistake after cleaning is to apply extra grease on the chain thinking that it will protect the chain and the components.

    Take a rag and remove extra grease off the chain else the extra grease on the outside of the chain will just collect the sand/dirt/grime. the sand on the chain is a sure way of wearing out the deraillures, rings, and cassetts.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    325
    I only apply lube on my chain, never grease. I save the grease for seat post bolts, etc. Am I doing this wrong, smilingcat?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Troutdale, OR
    Posts
    2,604
    getting late and I'm not quite here past my bed time (I'm up by 5:30AM). yes lube.

    Just make sure its for chains and not for bearings.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    Park Tool has a cassette brush that's narrow enough to get between the cogs.

    Some people remove their cassettes for cleaning. I think that's nuts, personally. But when I swap cassettes, the one I'm putting into storage does get a thorough cleaning while it's apart.

    Don't neglect your rear derailleur. Jockey wheels collect a LOT of crud.

    There are differences of opinion on solvents. It's a quick and easy way to clean. But they do strip the lubrication between the chain plates and pins, so it's a balancing act. If you know you're not going to take the time to clean your drivetrain often enough with soap and water, then it's probably best to get the external crud off with a solvent. If you're the kind of person who never puts your bike away dirty, use soap and water.

    If you use Simple Green or any other acidic cleaner, make sure you rinse well. Whether you use a solvent or water, be sure to dry your chain THOROUGHLY before re-lubricating (air compressor is helpful here).

    It does take some time and attention to get that middle chainring clean. Other time-consuming places to clean are between the arms of the brake calipers, and around the insides of the pivot points of the derailleurs. Needs to happen at least once in a while.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 07-13-2010 at 02:56 AM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Columbia, MO
    Posts
    2,051
    I think chain cleaning technique & practices is partly a function of how you use your bike. As a commuter, I clean my chain once a week and wipe it down any day it rains. If it does develop visible rust, such as if I forgot to wipe it down on a rainy day or if there's snow, ice & salt, I take the Simple Green to it and use the chain cleaner tool. Otherwise, I just run it through a rag.

    I am not so patient as to wait until it is completely not black. That takes forever, and a few applications of oil. Yeah, I guess the purpose of the lube is to clean the chain more than it is to lube moving parts. It took me a while to figure that out. Leaving oil on the chain just gives the dirt something to stick to.

    I replace my chain every 1500 miles. At the bike shop we check it with the tool and it's approaching 1/8 inch at that point. I was so proud of myself because my cassette lasted 5000 miles, and the mechanic said that was due to my diligent chain cleaning!
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Whitmore Lake, Michigan
    Posts
    930
    Reviving the thread to update with my experience using a new kit for chain cleaning...

    Santa brought a Parks Tool chain cleaning kit that has the blue gizmo with brushes and wheels and works somewhat like a golf ball cleaner. You fit this over your chain, fill with the cleaner/degreaser that comes with it, snap the top part on and hold it by the handle while you crank your pedals. I did this outside because it was such a sunny day yesterday that even with cool Michigan temps, it was fine to be outside tinkering with a project for a short while. While I will attempt almost anything I can be challenged at times.

    The first go-round was not too successful except that it did get a LOT of gunk off the chain, but in the process I managed to have the chain hop off and nearly tipped over the bike. I cleaned up my hands and decided on a different approach. I have way more success working on a bike upside down than I do right side up. (Don't have a bike stand and don't plan on getting one). Made all the difference in the world. On the second go round I managed to get the chain to hop off again but with the bike in this position and the chain now cleaner, it was easy to get back on. So after two applications using the cleaner I decided it was time to go to soap and water. I filled the vessle with hot sudsy water and ran it through with a couple of sudsy water changes. At this point I was becoming much more adept at it and figured out how to make this work easily WITHOUT knocking the chain off. I just didn't have the hang of it at first but once I got it, this is a very easy tool to use and incredibly effictive. I don't think my chain has been this clean since I bought my bike.

    Shiny clean and I also used the brush that came with it to clean the cogs and cassette and the little jockey wheels so the whole drive train is clean and grime free.

    Bottom line on this new toy is that I love it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,952
    Santa brought me a set of 3 brushes designed for bike cleaning, and this thick floss looking stuff that is meant for cleaning between the cogs on the rear cassette. Gotta love wish lists at the bike store All I now need is that chain cleaning thing that Bike Writer mentioned - I can't seem to clean it effectively without taking the chain off otherwise, and it can't be good for the chain to take it off every time I clean it.

    I wipe the chain after every ride for all of my bikes, clean the chain when it gets to the point that my other methods doesn't seem to be working (or every two weeks when I am able to do lots of riding), and "lube" the chain when it starts talking to me and tells me it is starting to dry out.

 

 

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